Aromatherapy scents are helpful in more ways than one might think. When it comes to the core of this practice, there are three ways you can literally “use” essential oils. They can be applied topically, inhaled, and ingested, although the last one is not a recommended use for many oils, which we will get to later.
These age-old methods have been used as healing solutions for centuries, but they have been modernized for the time. In this piece, we break down how to use essential oils into three categories.
Table of Contents
What Do I Need?
Depending on the method you plan on using, there is a myriad of supplies and machines that can be used for this article. Here are a few examples.
When breathing them in, you need:
- Your favorite essential oils
- Possibly water
- A possible outlet
- A diffuser of some sort
When applying them topically, you need:
- Your favorite essential oils
- Carrier substances like jojoba, sweet almond, or fractionated coconut oil
- Dark bottles for storage
- Dropper tops (optional)
When ingesting them, you need:
- To educate yourself on your favorite essential oils
- Make sure they are fit for consumption
- Consult a healthcare professional
- Know what you are doing
We dive into all of this later in the piece, but I want to point out that the one thing all three methods have in common is the need for your favorite scents.
How Do You Use Essential Oils?
Let’s label the three main categories olfactory, topical, and ingestion.
This word refers to our sense of smell, which is quite powerful when it comes to our memory, mood, behavior and how we feel. Can you think of your favorite scent? Is it freshly cut grass or possibly the atmosphere after it rains? Those two examples are loved by a lot of people but there are specific aromas that ignite emotions in you.
Our olfactory system is linked to the hippocampus and amygdala, regions of the brain connected to memory and learning. When I smell garlic sauteed in olive oil it brings me right back to my mother’s kitchen. Our sense of smell is a quick route to our brain, which is why it is one of the most popular methods of using essential oils.
This is possibly the most common method of inhalation for essential oil fans. There are several types of diffusers available on the internet and in stores. There are different types of diffusers, which I will cover quickly.
Diffusers that fall under this category have a basin and a small metal disc at the bottom that pulsates the combination of water and essential oils inside. The ultrasonic vibrations break them down into a cloud of molecule mist for inhaling.
You may recognize this name if you have ever head breathing issues and was administered medicine via a nebulizer machine. Aromatherapy nebulizers are not the same. They are typically made of wood and glass and use a vacuum to break up the water and oil into a mist.
This method is popular because it does not require water, which means the mist is pure essential oil particles.
Next, we have a diffuser that requires heat to break the compounds down into a mist. An example of this is a terra cotta ring that sits on top of a conventional light bulb. Heat has been said to break down the essential oils in a different way, which might alter their benefits. We couldn’t find any studies on the subject.
This is another wonderful way to let your oils fill the room that is supplying your breath. Reeds in a tall glass with essential oils at the bottom are one example of this type of diffuser. A terra cotta mold that hangs in the room, or even around your neck, is another.
As I’ve said in other articles, a cotton ball with a few drops of oil stuffed under a pillowcase is also a diffuser.
The Bath or Shower
You only need to add a few drops while the water is running and not only will you be breathing in your helpful oils, your body will be absorbing them as well. So, if you do this, be sure to know the risks of the oils you choose.
Why Use the Olfactory/Diffusion Method?
There are several reasons why you might want to diffuser essential oils in your home. Depending on the oil or blend of oils you decide to diffuse you can clean the air in your home from viruses and bacteria, you will rid the room of odors, you can use a scent to calm your nerves, or others to give the area a romantic vibe.
People who suffer from coughs and colds like to blend some scents to relieve their misery and others who inhale scents to lift their spirits. With a direct connection to the brain, you can even pick scents to help you focus and strengthen your memory.
This type of application simply means to administer the oils onto yours, or someone else’s body. Using oils topically allows their powers to penetrate the skin and move inside to remedy the problem. But before you do that it is important to know that you shouldn’t put any essential oil directly on your body without diluting it first with a good carrier substance.
As far as I’m concerned, massage is my favorite use for my scents because I adore creating blends. You can figure out dilution ratios when you learn how to create a blend. if you have never created a massage blend for yourself, but, once you get the hang of it, you’ll know what you can do and how much is too much.
For example, you may want to create a blend for sore muscles after the gym. I would use my peppermint and lavender because they both work well with that issue. You select a dark container and a carrier oil like jojoba or sweet almond and start blending. But be sure to research other recipes before creating your own.
In Your Hair
I apply my own blend of fractionated coconut oil, lavender, tea tree, ylang-ylang, and rose in my hair every day. When I can’t wash it a little dab adds freshness for a while and it also smooths out the frizzies. Of course, a little goes a long way. There are a ton of scents with benefits for hair and scalp.
All you have to do is put a few drops of your favorite scent in a nonreactive bowl, add water and submerge a rag. Wring it out and heat it up in the microwave for 20-30 seconds. Apply to the affected area or forehead.
Topical treatments don’t only apply to the body. We have to clean our countertops and bathroom sinks with a solution that is applied this way.
Why Should I Use This Method?
Besides sore muscles, there’s a myriad of issues you can ease when you apply topical treatment with a well thought out essential oil blend. They include ridding our skin from acne, eczema, psoriasis, and other similar disorders. You would apply topically for arthritis help, to heal a burn, fight a shingles outbreak, or even to deodorize your body.
When you create your own cleaning solution with essential oils, depending on which scents you choose, you will have a formula that can deodorize the room while killing bacteria, fungi, and viruses that sneak their way into your home.
Our final method is consuming them internally. We NEVER recommend anyone start putting volatile compounds in their mouth because many of them can be toxic when ingested. There are exceptions to the rule, so we put together a list of essential oils that are harmful for ingestion and those that are considered safe.
Unfortunately, there is no definitive list of scents that are safe for consumption or ones that are not. One way to find out is to only purchase essential oil brands that are sold for the sole purpose of consumption, like the Vitality line from Young Living.
The important thing to remember is to thoroughly research the essential oil and the supplier. If you find that others have ingested that scent and claim to be better for it, then bring their information to your healthcare professional. Even though some essential oils are ingested by other people doesn’t mean they will for you.
Pregnant and nursing women, people who have just had surgery, those who suffer from issues like diabetes and liver conditions should consult their doctor before ingesting anything.
A Safer Way to Ingest
It’s easy to put a drop or two of lavender oil into a pitcher of lemonade but what about the other oils? Sometimes coming up with blends and drinks on your own is a hassle and you just don’t have the time. That’s why companies like Doterra and Aura Cacia have come up with products that include essential oils for internal health benefits.
Of course, you should read the reviews and find out what consumers have to say about any product that claims to improve your health, but if you are curious about the benefits these extracts have brought to users via capsule or drink then this is a fantastic place to start.
Why Use This Method?
Of all three, this last method is the riskiest if you consume them without knowing anything about the oil and the supplier. When it comes to preformulated blends constructed by a reputable company with a lot of positive reviews you are safer, especially when it comes to specific internal issues like nausea and indigestion.
Do Your Research
We can’t emphasize enough how important it is to know all you can about an oil before using it in any manner. Some citrus oils have phototoxicity so you shouldn’t put them on your skin if you plan on being in the sun. Yet some of them are safe to ingest.
There are volatile compounds that aren’t safe for babies, children, the elderly, or pets, so there is a lot you need to keep in consideration when deciding on a scent and methods. For example, we have a cockatiel and diffusing isn’t good for birds, so we limit it to the rooms he doesn’t occupy.
Once you get the hang of using essential oils in the methods we’ve mentioned you’ll be surprised how often you will reach for those little dark bottles every day. You might put a few drops in your morning shower, diffuse a little in the office when you need to focus, and then rub a little on your sore calves that night.
We can tell you how to use them, but only you know why you would.
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