Disclaimer: This post is meant for educational purposes only. It is not meant to treat or diagnosis any condition and is not intended as a replacement for diagnosis by a licensed medical professional.
The recommended method of use varies depending on the essential oil and desired result. There are numerous books and website that tout claims of miraculous cures. The purpose of essential oils is to support the body's natural healing processes. Although different sources often suggest different uses for the same oil, there are three primary ways to use essential oils: inhalation, ingestion, and topical application. Of the three, ingestion is the least common.
Capsules for creating essential oil supplements may be found online. Also, many companies that sell essential oils also carry juice blends that include essential oils. Most of the classes that I've taken on essential oils say that ingestion is not recommended, although that may be more to do with liability than actual safety; however, I am not qualified to contradict my teachers. Most of my knowledge in this area is from reading books and taking the occasional workshop. The only experience I have with ingesting essential oils is adding a few drops of lemon or grapefruit to bottled water. Citrus's bright flavor uplifts, making the water pleasing to the palate. Lemon is purported to increase alertness and focus; grapefruit supports a healthy body image and self-acceptance. Beyond that, you'll have to look elsewhere for internal remedies.
Inhalation is the most common method of use for essential oils. Oils can be put in a diffuser to fill a room, mixed into a spray/mist, used in a steam treatment, or dropped onto a tissue for more concentrated effects. Using essential oils in a bath combines inhalation and topical application; however, for optimal dispersion, essential oils need to be mixed with salt prior to adding them to the bathwater. Also, heat changes the molecular structure, potentially reducing the healing benefits. A warm bath with essential oils may have more health benefits than one with that's scalding hot.
There is debate over how long aromatherapy should be used at a given time. The sense of smell fatigues quickly. After prolonged exposure to a scent, it becomes relegated to the background which allows the olfactory system to detect different scents or changes. With a cigarette smoker, for example, the smell of tobacco and nicotine is so familiar to them that they are often unaware of its lingering, pungent odor; however, that same smell can be highly offensive to a non-smoker. Once an essential oil becomes "white noise" to the nose, the healing properties may not be as effective. There is no set time-frame on olfactory fatigue, however, coffee grounds have been used to successfully refresh the olfactory receptors, a similar concept to eating pineapple between meal courses to cleanse the palate.
An example from personal experience, my youngest daughter has seasonal allergies that we treat with essential oils and local honey. We diffuse a 1:1 blend of lemon and eucalyptus in her room overnight when the pollen is affecting her. This blend supports respiratory health, helping to open her airways and allowing her to breath easily throughout the night. In the morning, she gets a small spoonful of local honey. By local, I mean from within a 50-mile radius of our home. Her body learns how to process the pollen, reducing the histamine reaction. Each year, her allergies have lessened in severity and she has none of the side effects from over-the-counter allergy medicine.
The topical application of essential oils is more common than most people realize. Most massage oils have essential oils added to enhance the massage experience. Hair products and skin care use essential oils. Bath salts and healing salves often contain essential oils as well as herbs. Essential oils can even be found in lip balm and pet products. There is a pattern with this use; the essential oils are mixed with something prior to being applied to the body. There are three reasons essential oils get diluted: safety, absorption and cost effectiveness.
- Some oils are caustic, meaning they will irritate sensitive skin if they are applied neat, or undiluted. When first experimenting with essential oils, it is better to err on the side of caution and dilute all oils prior to application. Allergies should also be taken into account. If you're unsure, test a small area prior to slathering your entire body.
- The skin allows some substances to absorb easier than others. By mixing essential oils with a carrier, they spread over a larger area and increase the absorption rate as well as providing dilution.
- Quality oils are not always cheap and diluting them for use makes them last longer.
Going back to the science for a minute, remember that essential oils are concentrated plant material. The higher the concentration, the more potent the oil. Most books recommend a dilution ranging from 3-5% and some even recommend as low as 1% for children or for sensitive skin. To calculate dilution, there is math and measuring involved. The simplest is a 1% dilution: add 1 drop of essential oil for each teaspoon of carrier (oil or lotion).
An example of a topical application is a simple compress. Take a clean dry washcloth and run it under hot water, wringing it out once it's thoroughly saturated so that it doesn't drip. Fold into thirds, creating a thick rectangular pad. Add 3-5 drops of an essential oil or blend and place over eyes or along the base of the skull.
Essential oils provide a natural way to detoxify the body and home. They promote well being on physical, mental and emotional levels. Experimenting with them can also be fun. There are dozens of oils available with endless blending combinations. Please let me know if you have any questions. We carry a limited amount of essential oils for retail, but we have a larger selection for massage. We're happy to let you try them and order the ones you like.
Would you like to learn more about a specific oil? Do you want to learn how to make your own products? Let us know in the comment section! Here is a great resource to get your started: An Introductory Guide to Essential Oils
- The Aromatherapy Handbook by Marian Johnson (2012)
- The Essential Oils Book by Colleen K. Dodt (1996)
- The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils by Kurt Schnaubelt Ph.D. (2011)
- Emotions & Essential Oils: The Five Stages of Healing (2012) *audiobook