Essential oils are generally used in four ways:
Externally (i.e. around the home)
The aromatic application is the most widely known and used.
Essential oils are processed by the olfactory bulb and the limbic system, the same system that processes thoughts, memories, and emotions, which can help us feel calm, encouraged and stress free.
And the positive compounds and their properties, once within our blood stream, can encourage our immune system response or promote well-being in a multitude of ways.
This is because the “aroma” you breathe is actually a fine mist or vapor of the oil, containing all the same properties of the oil itself.
Here’s how to use essential oils with aromatic applications:
Diffusing: A good diffuser should use cool or room temperature air or ultrasonic vibrations to diffuse the oil into the air, which help the oil molecules remain air-bound for several more hours and do not affect the structure of the oil through heat, which can diminish the quality of the oil.
Direct Inhalation: Directly inhaling the oil can be done by holding the bottle of essential oil a few inches from the nose and breathing in the aroma, or by adding a drop to your hands and cupping them over the mouth and nose.
Indirect Inhalation: Adding a drop to a handkerchief, cotton ball, small square of fabric, shirt collar, hair, pillowcase, etc can all be beneficial. Try this with Lavender to encourage a calming effect of prior to sleep.
Hot Water Vapor/Steam Tent: Heat a pot of water (not boiling), add 1-3 drops of essential oil, place a towel over your head while leaning over the water, and inhale the steam. Try this with Eucalyptus for respiratory health.
Humidifier: Just like a diffuser, cool air humidifiers are best. Be aware that essential oils can damage plastic components over time, so choosing one made for essential oils is best. (Try tea tree oil to clean the air.)
Fan, Vent, Etc: Just like with the indirect inhalation, you can add the oil to cloth and place it in a vent or even in front of a fan. Try this with Peppermint in the car to calm motion sickness.
Perfume or Cologne: For perfume or cologne, add a 1 drop or a small dab to the wrists, behind the ears, or add 10 drops to 1-3 tsp of distilled water or alcohol to mist on the body or clothing.
How to Use Essential Oils Topically
Diluting NEVER hurts. It doesn’t decrease the effectiveness of the oil, and may help to increase absorption by preventing evaporation, as well as decreasing the likelihood of a skin reaction.
NEAT – NEAT means you can generally apply the oil directly to the skin without any dilution. However, it’s still a good idea to patch test your own skin first, just in case.
Those with sensitive skin, as well as children and the elderly, should do a patch test or dilute before use. Use a guideline of a 1:3 ratio (1 drop of essential oil to every 3 drops of carrier oil such as sweet almond or coconut).
If you’re pregnant or nursing, use more caution or talk to your naturopathic doctor. Avoid for children and pets.
Here are some other topical precautions to consider:
Citrus oils, and a few others, can cause a sensitivity to the sun. It’s usually recommended to avoid sunlight for at least 12 hours of applying topically.
It’s usually better to “layer” oils than to blend them. What this means is that if you’re using 2 or more oils topically, apply one, then wait between 5-30 minutes and apply the other over it (instead of mixing a drop of each in your hand and then rubbing this into the skin). Mixing the oils is as much an art as it is a science, which is why we tend to stick to the blends a company has already created, since we know they are safe and effective.
Here’s an example of LAYERING for sore muscles.
Here’s how to use essential oils in some of the most popular topical applications:
In a Massage: Massage is one of the most enjoyable ways to use essential oils topically. Massaging the oils into joints, muscles, and tissues is relaxing and beneficial.
Over the Area of Concern: The next option is to apply the oils to the chest, the abdomen, back of the neck, or directly over the area of concern (diluted as indicated). You can also apply to the energy centers of the body.
Hot or Cold Compresses: Soak a cloth or towel in cool water with drops of your favorite essential oil to place over the area of concern. Or wrap the cloth/towel in a hot water bottle to use as a warm compress. (Oils for muscles and joints and a cool or warm compress on the muscles is amazing.)
Bathing, Foot Baths, Etc: You can add essential oils to your bathwater, to your bath salts, or to a foot bath to soak in. (Melaleuca in a foot bath helps soothe itchy feet.) When using it in these ways, it’s often a good idea to mix with a carrier oil to help disperse the oil and protect your skin from getting multiple drops all in one (potentially very sensitive) area!
How to Use Essential Oils Internally
Important: Not all essential oils can be used internally, nor should all people use them in this way. The FDA has listed certain essential oils as “Generally Recognized as Safe” for internal use. Although our essential oils are of therapeutic grade – we do not recommend internal use until you speak with your naturopathic physician or other trusted health advisor.
How To Use Essential Oils Around the Home
We offer many suggestions HERE