Best Methods for Using Essential Oils
Essential oils are very powerful plant allies in our wellness toolbox.
They can play a remarkable role in optimizing our emotional and physical wellbeing when used sensibly and wisely.
The method of application in which we use an essential oil can make a difference in how effective the essential oil will be in delivering the results that we want.
For example, if we want to use an essential oil to help quit smoking, applying the essential oil to our feet isn't the most ideal method of application. Instead, essential oil inhalation using a personal inhaler may be a more effective method of use in order to aid in smoking cessation. For more information, see Essential Oils and Aromatherapy Tips to Help Quit Smoking.
Another two quick examples:
Even though we know that Ginger Essential Oil can be helpful for digestion and that Lavender Essential Oil can be relaxing, we also need to know what the best ways are to use Ginger Essential Oil in order to help our digestion and what the best ways are to use Lavender Essential Oil to help us relax or get to sleep.
Essential Oil Methods of Application (Use)
Within the scope of holistic aromatherapy and essential oil therapy, the following are the four primary ways that essential oils are generally utilized. Each of these methods will be discussed in more depth later within this article.
- Topical Application
- Ingestion (Not Recommended!)
- Use in Household Cleaning Products
Essential Oil Inhalation
Inhalation methods include methods in which we inhale an essential oil. Such methods include but are not limited to using an essential oil diffuser, a personal inhaler, fragrance test strip, wearing aromatic jewelry* or an aromatherapy patch* and other methods that facilitate inhaling essential oils as we breathe.
For emotional applications, I find that a diffuser, personal inhaler or use of a fragrance testing strip is most effective for me.
The aromatic molecules present within essential oils are very lightweight. They evaporate quickly into the air and can quickly enter the lungs and then enter our blood system. As such, essential oils have the potential to have an immediate effect on our emotions.
Essential oil inhalation is typically helpful for these applications:
- Emotional Wellness
- Respiratory Support
- Immune Support
- Digestion (Cross Listed)
* Although essential oil jewelry and aromatherapy patches typically rest against our skin, they are designed for inhalation of the essential oils that are applied to them. Jewelry and patches should be designed so that the oils do not come into contact with you skin unless properly diluted for topical use.
Essential Oil Topical Application
Essential oil topical application methods include applying properly diluted essential oils to the skin, scalp or hair.
Topical application is helpful for these uses (the first two are rather obvious):
- Skin Care
- Hair Care
- Wound Care
- Digestion (Cross Listed)
- Gentle Massage
- Perfume/Personal Fragrancing
Topical application works best to directly support the area that you are applying the diluted essential oil blend to. For example, if I have joint or muscular discomfort, I may apply a properly diluted blend directly to the area of discomfort.
Applying a properly diluted essential oil (or essential oil blend) onto the sore muscle is usually always more effective than essential oil inhalation methods. Soothing, anti-inflammatory balms and ointments can be made using natural vegetable oils, vegetable butters and essential oils.
Some people use lotions, roll-ons and other topical formulations to help promote sleep, calm the nerves or conversely, help energize the body. For emotional applications however, I find that a diffuser, personal inhaler or use of a fragrance testing strip is more effective than using a roll-on stress blend or applying oils topically.
Having said that, Massage using a properly diluted essential oil blend can be a synergistic way to help ease stress and support emotional wellness. Applying essential oil blends topically can be soothing and offer benefit during the moments when you are able to inhale the essential oil molecules present in the blend. However, topical application of skin-safe essential oil blends may not be as effective as directly inhaling essential oils using a diffuser or personal inhaler.
I have heard recommendations to apply essential oils to the feet to help ease stress and support emotional well-being. The act of massaging a diluted essential oil blend onto the feet can be very soothing, so this indeed can be a lovely comfort measure. However, the aromatic benefit is significantly eliminated once you no longer can smell (inhale) the aromatic essential oil molecules.
Essential Oil Ingestion (Not Recommended!)
Even though essential oils are cold pressed or steam distilled from a range of citrus and common spices like Lemons, Oranges, Grapefruits, Allspice, Basil, Black Pepper, Cinnamon, Clove, Fennel, Ginger, Rosemary and a number of other botanicals that are routinely ingested without the need for precautionary usage info, essential oils are highly concentrated and should not be ingested without thorough understanding of appropriate usage and risks for each oil. For more information, read Internal Use of Essential Oils.
To help support this important point, I will cite a statement found within the second edition of Essential Oil Safety written by aromatherapy experts and educators Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young. They recommend the following: "...only practitioners who are qualified to diagnose, trained to weigh risks against benefits, and have a knowledge of essential oil pharmacology should prescribe essential oils for oral administration." [Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young, Essential Oil Safety (Second Edition. United Kingdom: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, 2014), 50.]
What About for Digestion?
When I have occasional digestive upset, I tend to use supportive essential oils in a personal inhaler and/or safely diluted and gently massaged onto my stomach.
Although it may seem appropriate to ingest essential oils when our digestive system is causing us distress, you could potentially cause more harm than good by doing so.
Ingesting essential oils is not recommended, even for digestive issues, unless you have significant experience/education working with essential oils or have been properly advised on how to do so by a qualified aromatherapy practitioner.