So you’ve decided to use essential oils, huh? Maybe you read that one post about aromatherapy and realized these oils are more than a fad. If you did, you might have read the follow-up post on choosing the perfect essential oil company. Now you want to “get your oils on” but you can’t figure out how to use them. I’m sure you weren’t surprised to find a million conflicting opinions either.
Some people say you shouldn’t ingest essential oils. Others say you should. Some raise their eyebrows at the mere thought of diluting an oil, while others feel it’s essential. A few people throw no caution to the wind when it comes to aromatherapy, while others regard an oil with the care of an oxygen tank near an open flame.
Been there. Done that. I understand. It’s confusing. Figuring out how to use an oil properly is like putting on pants while jogging down a hill blindfolded and backwards. But it doesn’t have to be. You simply need to keep a few things in mind.
Despite what you’ve heard, there is more than one “right way” to use an essential oil and you do not have to “ingest” an oil for it to work or sprinkle it on your bedpost and do an Irish dance around your bed for it to release its healing properties. In general, essential oils can be diffused, ingested, used topically, internally, and sniffed (not like glue but like a fresh-baked apple pie inhale). The “right” method for you should be based on the essential oil and your preferences, convenience, and health status.
Some oils can be ingested. Oils like Orange, Lemon, Oregano, Cumin, Coriander, Clove, Cardamom, Caraway, Anise, Basil, Chamomile, Fennel, Clary Sage, Helichyrsum, Grapefruit, Ginger, Geranium, Lemongrass, Marjoram, Peppermint, Sage, and Ylang Ylang are “generally regarded as safe for internal consumption” by the FDA, supporting research, and most authorities on aromatherapy. Although it’s personally my least preferred method of using an oil, ingestion might be attractive for those with gut issues, cancer, candida, and is the icing on the cake of a perfect detox.
If you decide that ingestion is right for you, do not, under any circumstances, chug-a-lug these oils and do not ingest any oils if it is contraindicated on the label. Even though essential oils are extremely safe when used appropriately, they’re highly concentrated and despite what you’ve heard, they pack a powerful punch.
There are many things you shouldn’t sniff: glue, paint fumes, gasoline, a dirty diaper…but oils aren’t one of them. People may think you’re nuts if they walk into your house and see the lights low, the music on, and your diffuser misting out some serious smell, but that’s only because they weren’t informed that you had taken up the art of germ combat.
Yes, a diffuser is a little “machine” that takes the goodies from your oil and disperses them into the air you breathe. Studies show that a mere 15 minutes of diffusion can kill almost 100% of the worst uglies hangin’ out in you home. Even the wellness committee at Vanderbilt University Medical Center added essential oil diffusion to their wellness program – next to the locker full of drugs for patients there’s a locker full of oils for the staff.
So pick out a diffuser (preferably one that does not utilize heat), add an oil, and inhale.
By far, the most popular way to use essential oils is topically. It takes one drop of oil a mere three seconds to absorb into your skin and get down to business. From there the oil gets into your tissues, the blood stream, and contains chemical properties that can pass through the blood brain barrier. Most of the studies conducted on essential oils have used the topical method of application. These studies show that essential oils are antimicrobial, antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and anti-everything else.
To dilute or not to dilute? That is the question. People go back and forth on this issue and where I stand could make or break my seat at the “cool kids” table. Some believe oils that are 100% awesome need no dilution. This is how you weed out the bad companies and the fake oils right? Others believe that even the purest of oils require the addition of a little something extra. I think the real answer depends on which oil you’re using, how you’re using it, and whom you’re using it on.
Although essential oils are derived naturally from plants, they aren’t found this concentrated in nature and many of them contain strong chemical properties that can cause a rash on your skin (or your child’s). Anise, Bergamot, Caraway, Cassia, Cinnamon, Citronella, Clove, Eucalyptus, Fennel, Geranium, Ginger, Melaleuca, Peppermint, Valerian, and Ylang Ylang are just a few associated with redness and skin irritation when used without dilution.
Wait a minute, you heard dilution makes an oil less therapeutic right? Actually, diluting an essential oil with a few drops of carrier oil can increase its effectiveness by decreasing sensitivity, increasing the surface area of absorption, and increasing absorption for those who have dry skin. The problem with buying diluted oils from an essential oil company is that you’re not getting what you pay for. You’re paying good money for watered-down product that might contain very little of its promised chemical properties and could have been diluted with a rancid oil or something that altered the therapeutic properties of the oil.
I have to be honest with you, all of the oils I use topically are diluted as a matter of course – especially the ones I use on my children. This isn’t a requirement for using oils, it’s just a personal preference and it might be yours too if you’re a newbie or don’t have the time or the energy to figure out how to use each oil and can’t sift through conflicting opinions.
Guidelines on dilution vary by company and oil, but most advocate diluting 1 drop of essential oil to 4 drops of carrier oil for adults (a 1/2 tsp. may be needed for sensitive skin) and 1 drop of essential oil with 1 teaspoon of raw coconut oil or organic cold-pressed olive oil for children. For our personal use we purchase 1 ounce amber dropper bottles and add 25-30 drops of essential oil and fill the rest with olive oil.
So, will you die if you put a drop of undiluted tea tree oil on bug bite? Absolutely not. How about a drop of undiluted ginger in your tea? No. Is it okay to add undiluted oils to your child’s bath? Yes. But if you’re giving birth and don’t want your hoo ha to burn when you place an oil near the rear or your child has an oozing open sore…dilute.
Having The “Right” Oils On-Hand
There’s a huge misconception that there is a different “right” oil for every health situation and you need to collect them all to be properly prepared. If you were told you needed 25 different essential oils in your “medicine cabinet,” you spent far more money than you needed to. Essential oils aren’t like drugs which are limited in scope and function; they’re multi-purpose. Sure, their chemical properties differ and there are oils that are great for targeting specific situations, and if you can afford to stock your shelf with every oil known to man, go right ahead. The rest of us with empty pockets will oogle over your collection with sheer jealousy, but truth be told, you could get by with a few essential oils and use them for literally everything.
Lavender and peppermint have always been my go-to oils. Simple. Inexpensive. Effective. Below the poverty level, above the poverty level, with kids, without kids, these two oils are our staples. Toothache? Peppermint. Fever? Peppermint. Cut? Lavender. Scrape? Lavender. Growing pains? Lavender. Runny nose? Peppermint. Crohn’s? Peppermint. Stress? Lavender.
When we feel like splurging we may throw something wild in the diffuser to karate chop some germs, and when I can’t sleep I sometimes overdose my smell receptors with some Valerian, but for the most part, we get by with only “two.” You just need to figure out which essential oils are “essential” to you.
Read the Label
Knowing how to use an essential oil appropriately is important. This is why it is crucial that you choose a good company and read and follow the label on your essential oils. If it says to dilute…dilute. If the label says not to ingest…do not ingest. If it says you should not use an oil if you have a seizure disorder, don’t do it. There are plenty of other oils you can choose from that are safe and just as effective.
Everything but the Kitchen Sink
If you haven’t figured this out by now, there isn’t just one “right way” to use an oil…there are many. Got a cold? Diffuse. Got a stomach bug? Ingest. Got abdominal pain? Apply a compress. Got a cut? Go topical. Want to detox? Bathe, diffuse, and ingest.
Aside from using essential oils for therapeutic purposes, they can be used as compresses, for cleaning and disinfecting, cooking, bathing, and personal care products. What can oil not do? I’ll get back to you on that.