Essential oils are one of the hottest natural products out there right now. Most of us crunchy folk have a set in our home. And for good reason. They can be a wonderful natural tool in your arsenal, along with a high quality diet, and targeted supplementation.
But a lot of people jump into essential oils and then don’t know how to use them.
We’ve been using essential oils in our home for several years, but I know there is a big influx of beginner essential oil users out there who want to use oils safely but don’t know where to start. This post is for you!
What are essential oils?
Essential oils are aromatic, volatile liquids that are found within many shrubs, flowers, trees, roots, bushes and seeds. Sometimes called the “life blood” of the plant. Most essential oils are extracted from the plant through the process of steam distillation.
Some say essential oils are the oldest form of a natural health aid, dating back to the ancient Egyptians. The Egyptians may have included a type of essential oils in their religion and cosmetics as well as utilizing them for wellness purposes. Distillation pots have been found dating back about 3,500 BC!
Today, people continue to use essential oils in three main ways:
1. How to use essential oils: Aromatic
This is the classic way to use essential oils–the art of Aromatherapy!
You’ve probably already noticed the connection between scent and emotions. Every time I smell lilacs, I think of my grandma. They were her favorite flower.
Fresh cut grass, ocean air, fresh baked cookies, and evergreen trees are some of the scents we associate with specific emotions. But it’s not just random memories or reminders. Aromatherapy can provide the same physical and emotional responses on cue.
There are a number of studies supporting essential oil use for physical and emotional benefits. When we smell something, we first process the input via the olfactory bulb, which is at the base of our brain and connected to the amygdala and hippocampus, the parts of our brain associated with emotion and memory.
“Interestingly, visual, auditory (sound), and tactile (touch) information do not pass through these brain areas. This may be why olfaction, more than any other sense, is so successful at triggering emotions and memories.” (source)
Aromatherapy is essentially inhaling essential oils. The easiest way to do so is by using a diffuser.
How to use an essential oil diffuser
Mix 2-8 drops of essential oil with water (either tap or distilled per the diffuser’s instructions) into a diffuser. The diffuser breaks apart the oil into tiny molecules and disperses them through the air. (See this post for detailed instructions on how to use diffuser, and why you want to.)
An essential oil diffuser is such a great alternative to toxic air fresheners and candles, which often contain nasty chemicals and even carcinogens. As a crunchy lady, I used to love the smell of incense and burned it in college. Little did I know it was toxic.
“Researchers found that most types of incense emitted significant amounts of particles, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and oxides of nitrogen, resulting in the inflammatory response.”
Yuck! That’s why I like to use safe essential oils to freshen and cleanse our indoor air.
2. How to use essential oils: Topical
Using essential oils topically is another way many people get the benefits of EOs.
Because of their molecular structure, essential oils are rapidly absorbed by the skin. When applied topically, it takes about 20 minutes for an oil to affect every cell in the body. The oil is then metabolized within a few hours.
The feet are an excellent place to apply essential oils since they contain thick, less sensitive skin and are far away from mucous membranes, which can be irritated by strong oils like oregano. Also, if you believe in Reflexology, you can target various health issues by applying to certain points along the foot.
The key to using essential oils is to dilute them properly. Most EOs are too strong to be used directly on the skin without being diluted. Aside from that, diluting essential oils help them spread over a larger surface area of the skin, which helps the oil penetrate your body better, and it’s more cost effective.
Properly diluting essential oils
While diluting ratios can vary depending on the health conditions and sensitivity of person, a general rule of thumb is:
- Add 1-2 drops of essential oil per 1 teaspoon of carrier oil for adult
- Add 1-2 drops of essential oil per 1 tablespoon of carrier oil for children over 2 years of age. (Always do your research before applying oils on kids as they are more sensitive than adults. Don’t use “hot” oils like cinnamon bark, oregano, wintergreen and even peppermint with children.)
What is a carrier oil?
A carrier oil is an oil that is used to dilute the essential oil to make it safe for topical use. Generally any cold-pressed vegetable/fruit oil will do like coconut, olive, sweet almond, avocado, jojoba and rose hip among many others. These are doubly great because the carrier oils usually contain therapeutic qualities like antioxidants or vitamins.
3. How to use essential oils: Ingestion
This is best done in conjunction with a health care professional with experience and EO education. Remember, essential oils are highly concentrated. For example, one drop of Peppermint oil is the equivalent to 26 cups of Peppermint tea! Some people, even Aromatherapists, believe ingesting EOs can be hard on the liver and digestive system. Others swear by internal use and have great results. You need to educate yourself and find what works for you. But, again, work with someone who is knowledgable about using oils internally before you experiment. Do not give EOs internally to children.
With all of that being said, I do like to use some essential oils for culinary purposes like Peppermint Bark or Orange fudge. It just takes a few drops to add the flavor or essence to the recipe so the total concentration of oil per food is very, very low. I also prefer to use in only raw/uncooked recipes since heat can change the molecular structure of the oil.
Which essential oils to use?
I refuse to engage in the “oil wars” regarding which is the best brand of essential oils (so please do NOT promote drama or controversy in the comments). Truth is, there are many reputable companies who sell essential oils. The key is to pick a high-quality brand that create powerful oils, which usually aren’t the ones you find at the health food stores. (Sad but true!)
I chose Young Living essential oils because I went to a physical therapist who used them and I fell in love. I couldn’t believe how great I felt after I left her office and the smells were unlike anything I had experienced before. (Pure, clean, herbaceous. Not a fragranced smell like I was used to.) I then purchased their Thieves oil blend for home use and was blown away.
I would encourage you to try a few different brands and find the one that is the most effective for the least amount of oil used. This will give you the best bang for your buck. Also, look for an authentic plant smell. Some oils may not smell “good” at first because our nose is used to manufactured scents. Compare different brands back-to-back and see which one works best. The proof is in the pudding!
Get my free guide on 88 ways to use essential oils!
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How about you?
How do you like to use essential oils? When was the last time you used them? Share with us in the comments below!