After writing about carrier oil substitutions, I couldn’t wait to write more about swapping this ingredient for that, and why things do or don’t work. So, today I’m writing about essential oil substitutions. There are fewer variables here, so it’ll be a shorter entry, but hopefully you find it useful!


First off, let’s look at the different roles essential oils can play in our various DIY projects:

  1. Scent
  2. Therapeutic benefits
  3. Physical benefits
  4. A combination of any of the above

This one is pretty obvious, of course. Sometimes, you just add essential oils to something because you want it to smell nice. I’d put lip balm, lip stick, perfume, and soap in this category. If the essential oils are just there for scent, you are almost always free to swap them out for something else if you like. Just keep in mind that you shouldn’t use citrus essential oils in anything you’ll be putting on your skin unless it is “bergaptene free”, as citrus oils make your skin photosensitive and you are very likely to get a sunburn with very little sun exposure. Sad, but true.


Therapeutic Benefits
This one is hardly a secret! If you start reading about essential oils you will quickly discover that there is an essential oil (or 12) for every ailment you can imagine, from acne to menstrual cramps to dandruff. Each oil has a different profile and a different set of ailments it is said to help, so when it comes to therapeutic benefits, it can be quite difficult to make substitutions as no two oils are quite the same. Here’s a rough chart of a few categories that you may be able to trade within, though.

Anti-bacterial Anti-viral Relaxing Healing
Tea Tree Oregano Chamomile Helichrysum
Honey Myrtle Lavender Violet Leaf Cinnamon Bark
Pine Scotch Ravensara Vetiver Cinnamon Leaf
Chamomile Tea Tree Vanilla Fir Needle
Ravensara Patchouli Fenugreek Myrrh
Savory Helichrysum Cypress Patchouli
Thyme Onion Ho Wood Rue
Garlic Hyssop Rosalina Spearmint
Lemon Myrtle Honey Myrtle Frankincense



Physical Benefits
Balms & salves like Tiger Balm use essential oils for the physical effect they have on your skin. Essential oils like peppermint and menthol have a cooling effect. Cajeput and camphor help clear the sinuses. Cassia and cinnamon increase circulation and provide a warming sensation.

Cooling Sinus Clearing Warming Pain Killer
Peppermint Cajeput Cassia Clove
Menthol Menthol Cinnamon Juniper
Camphor Ginger Chamomile


When it comes to oils you’re using for their physical effects, you can’t really swap them around—while oils may exist in the same category, that is generally all they have in common. Know that if you switch oils around the effect will not be the same, though it may be close.