How to Substitute Essential Oils - Everyday Essentials

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How to Substitute Essential Oils

We’ve all been there. You find a new DIY or a diffuser blend to try and you don’t have one of the oils. So you need to find an oil to substitute, but which one? Substitution, although intimidating at first, isn’t as tricky as you might think. You don’t need to have a degree in aromatherapy or extensive training in essential oils to find the right oil to use. You can always reach out to us with any questions, but we created an amazing tool to help you feel confident in substituting oils when you’re making DIYs and blends. By asking yourself the right questions, you can be a pro at working with what you have on hand.

Plant Therapy Lemon Myrtle, Lemon Tea Tree and Ravintsara Essential Oils

But First, Why You Shouldn’t Substitute

Before we get to the good stuff, there’s something to be said about not substituting oils in recipes. Whenever someone creates a recipe with essential oils, whether for therapeutic or aromatic purposes, the oils were chosen for a reason. No two oils smell identical or have the same chemical makeup. So whenever you alter a recipe, you are changing the end result. That’s not to say it won’t work or smell good, but it won’t be the same. At the same time, we understand that it might not be feasible or practical to own every essential oil ever (but that’s the dream though, am I right?). Before you rush to find an oil to use instead of the one you don’t have, just take a moment to make sure that changing the recipe won’t change the intent of the recipe.

No Two Oils Are Created Equal

When you’re substituting it’s important to remember that no two oils are created equal. This isn’t to scare you away from substituting, just to remind you that there are things to keep in mind as you do it. Here are things you’ll need to consider as you’re choosing an oil from your collection to use.

Plant Therapy Essential Oils

Is it KidSafe, Pregnancy & Nursing Safe or Pup & Pony Approved?

This one really only matters if you’re using the recipes on or around kids, pregnant or nursing women, or your dogs. As you’re looking through your essential oils stock, you can eliminate any potential oil substitutes by checking for a KidSafe label or referencing our Pregnancy & Nursing Safe and Pup & Pony Approved charts.

Are the dilution rates the same?

One of the easiest ways to substitute is to use a different variety of the same oil. But they won’t always have the same dilution rates for topical use. Steam Distilled Lime can safely be used topically when diluted to 2-4%, but regular Lime can only be used at 0.7%. Another example is Thyme Thymol, which can be diluted to 1.4%, and Thyme Linalool, which can be diluted to 4.5%.

Make sure to double-check labels to make sure any oils you’re using have similar dilution rates. If they don’t, you can adjust the number of drops used in the recipe. Unfortunately, there may be math required. But to make life easier, you can use our dilution chart!

Is it a top, middle or base note?

When it comes to aromatic blends, one thing that makes for an exceptional blend is that it has top, middle and base notes. If you need to use a different oil, try to choose one that falls within the same category. This should be fairly easy as similar oils tend to be grouped together. For example, most citrus oils are top notes. They’ll often be the first thing you notice in a blend and they’re usually the first to evaporate. Middle notes help give body and fullness to the blend. Base notes, often woodsy or rich oils, provide a foundation for the blend and will linger the longest. You can check out a complete list of top, middle and base notes here.

Helpful Resources for Substitution

We have many, many resources to help give you all the information you need to make a substitution and learn more about your oils. Here are some things you might want to take a look at as you make your DIYs and blends.

How to Substitute Essential Oils

And here we are! Armed with some useful charts and information about your oils, you can follow this flow chart along to find the right oil to use. Keep in mind, you might not even find a suitable oil to substitute, and that’s okay! Many recipes still work if you leave an oil out. You can either increase the drops of other oils to make up the difference or leave it out altogether. Just remember to pay attention to dilution rates. But above all, don’t let the fact that you don’t have every oil ever stop you from enjoying the ones you do have.

Plant Therapy How to Substitute Essential Oils Flowchart

For a printable version, click here.


12 thoughts on “How to Substitute Essential Oils”

  • I’m following a recipe where all the EO’s are kid safe except for Ylang Ylang. I don’t see it in the substitution chart, what can I use that is kid safe? Thank you!

    1. Hi Reyna, our substitution chart is just a guide to help you find something similar to use. It would depend on the purpose of the recipe and what you have on hand. If you follow the flow chart, it will help you decide what to use as a replacement.

  • Yes, I am also finding the blogs helpful. I appreciate the flow chart for substitutions above and have taken a snapshot of it for future reference instead of searching for it on the blog. Thanks PT.

    1. Magnolia is pretty unique, so there’s not a super close substitute. If you’re substituting for fragrance, your best option would be to use a sweet floral like Jasmine, Rose or Geranium.

    2. If it’s the big white flowers from the south, you might be able to use lemon or maybe lime.

  • When working with a diffuser blend what are the recommendations for the amount of water to add. Diffusers hold different amounts and I wonder if I should be altering my recipe for different amounts.

    1. Each individual oil will have a recommendation on how many drops to use per 100 mL of water. You’ll find most diffuser blends should be appropriate for most diffusers and spaces as they usually include about 4-8 drops. But you can adjust as you see fit if it’s a smaller or larger room. Another option is to create a master blend and only use 2-4 drops when working with smaller rooms or diffusers.

  • This article brings up a question I’ve been wondering about. Each oil carried by PT has a “Blends well with” section in the description. Does this mean that these oils will smell nice together, or that they have therapeutic properties that work well together? And something else I’ve been wondering is if there are oils that should NOT be mixed? Any that don’t go well together for any reason? Thanks for any insight!

    1. The “Blends Well With” is just a starting point for you when you create your own blends for aromatic purposes. But it’s by no means exhaustive, so you can still get creative! As for oils you shouldn’t blend, that’s entirely a personal preference. You can read more about blending oils in this post.

  • So many details to remember, I get overwhelmed! So what do I do? I go to PT’s website and read one article at a time about what I need.
    This blog is very informative. Thanks again, PT!

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