Essential oils can be used in many different ways: aromatically, topically or internally. The recommended usage of the oil should be stated on the bottle.
Inhalation is one of the most popular and effective ways of using essential oils. Essential oils can be inhaled directly, indirectly, via diffusion or even steaming.
Direct inhalation of an essential oil involves little more than opening a bottle and inhaling the scent of the oil. The best way to do this is to start from a distance of approximately an arm’s length away from your face and then slowly bring the bottle towards you. Be very careful not to place the bottle directly under your nose as some oils are very intense and can cause your eyes to water and irritate the mucosal area of the nose. If the oil you wish to inhale has been patch-tested and you do not show any signs of being allergic to it, you can place a drop in your hands, rub them together and inhale.
Indirect inhalation involves the use an object such as a wooden peg, pouch or cotton balls, to obtain a slower, sustained release of the essential oils. In colder climates, dropping a drop of oil on a scarf is a good way of using essential oils via indirect inhalation. Inhalation via steaming is a good way of clearing your nasal and sinus passageways when you have the flu, a cold or blocked ears. Simply, place some hot water in a bowl, put a drop of oil in the water - eucalyptus works well for colds and flus – then drape a towel over your head to prevent the steam from escaping and then inhale.
Diffusion is one of the most popular methods of using essential oils in a large space or room. A diffuser uses steam to spread the essential oil particles in the air and can be programmed to go on for as long as 8 hours. It is important to remember to clean out your diffuser after use and ensure it is dry before putting it away. Leaving it damp may lead to fungal growth, which would pose a health risk when used to diffuse your essential oils.
Topical application involves placing the oil directly onto the skin. The oil is absorbed into the body penetrating the layer of skin and affecting the surrounding tissue. From here the oil particles pass into the blood stream and lymphatics to the organs in the body and are then excreted via the lung, kidneys and skin. Essential oils can be applied on pulse points – wrist, behind ears, ankles-, specific locations that require soothing e.g. back pain, neck pain, on the soles of your feet or on acupressure points. Most oils must be diluted with a carrier oil before applying directly on the skin. Essential oils are very highly concentrated and can cause burns. Some examples of carrier oils are coconut/MCT oil, Jojoba oil, Moringa oil and Tamanu oil.
The dilution ratios vary for children, adults and also where you will be using the oil. For example, the recommended dilution for children is 0.5%-1%.
And for adults, the normal range is between 2-3%. This means that for every 100ml of carrier oil, add 2 drops of essential oil for a 2% dilution. Similarly, to achieve a 0.5% dilution ratio for children, it would be 1 drop of essential oil to 200ml of carrier oil. For dilution ratios, please refer to the Dilution Method.
Ingestion of essential oils is a controversial issue, with vastly differing opinions from different schools of aromatherapy, and essential oil users and producers. Some dangers that have been reported from ingesting essential oils are internal burns, respiratory issues. Essential oils are hydrophobic and do not dissolve in water, making them more difficult to dilute and digest. If you do decide to ingest these potent oils, mix them with an oil or honey or use a hydrolipid, which is an emulsified form of essential oil. I do not feel there is a need to ingest essential oils, as the amazing benefits can be harnessed via many other methods that are safe and highly-effective.
Article by: Dr. Carolyn Goh
Integrated Health Consultant,
BEng., MSc., PhD (DIC)., MBBS