There are so many ways you can use them…
Every time you delight in the aroma of jasmine flowers, catch a whiff of rosemary when cooking or pop a peppermint in your mouth, you’re basically breathing in the power of essential oils. But did you know that these little miracle workers are not only to be celebrated for their scent?
Known for their healing powers for centuries, essential oils are true multi-taskers. They can help you sleep better, manage stress and anxiety, ease headaches and other aches and pains, alleviate coughs and colds, and even fix skin conditions. Think of a problem and there will probably be an essential oil that can help treat it…
But if your experience of essential oils has only been limited to inhaling the scent of a lavender sachet or indulging in a massage at a spa, how can you best use them yourself?
While most people associate essential oils with breathing in their aromatic benefits, there are two other ways you can take full advantage of them. You can use essential oils topically on your skin to ease pain, treat a sore throat and even help get rid of acne. And you can also ingest essential oils by adding them to food and drinks.
So, if you’re undecided how best you would like to experience the many health benefits, here are all the ways you can use essential oils through inhalation, topically and in food…
INHALATION: HOW TO USE ESSENTIAL OILS THROUGH BREATHING
By far the most common way people use an essential oil is just by breathing it in. It’s a simple and straightforward method for the oil to be quickly absorbed into your system and become effective almost immediately.
The nerves that detect aromas are actually in your sinuses - they're extensions of the olfactory system which is the part of the brain connected to smell. When you breathe in an essential oil, the evaporating microparticles very quickly reach the part of your brain that controls your emotions and behaviour.
So, no matter whether you’re using an essential oil for calming and inducing sleep, or to refresh and revive your body and mind, inhaling it is one of the most powerful ways to get results.
Here are some of the many ways you can use essentials oils by inhalation…
BREATHE IN FOR INSTANT RELIEF
The most immediate way to experience the many benefits of essential oils is to breathe them in directly, without the need for anything extra like a diffuser.
Place an open essential oil bottle directly under your nose, and take a deep breath to inhale and enjoy. Or rub a couple of drops between your palms, cup over your nose and inhale, breathing in deeply for as long as you need. Otherwise apply a little to your temples, behind your ears or on the back of your neck for all-embracing aromatic relief.
A quick and easy way to use essential oils is to put a drop or two on a tissue or handkerchief to take whiff of whenever you feel like it during the day. Or you can opt for a multi-purpose decorative essential oil diffuser necklace or bracelet and enjoy the aroma wherever you are.
If you have the sniffles from a cold or hay fever, apply 2 or 3 drops of eucalyptus essential oil onto a tissue and inhale directly for instant relief.
USE ESSENTIAL OIL IN A DIFFUSER
Diffusers operate differently - some involve water and others heat - so please ensure that you follow the directions, including how much essential oil to use.
The most common one is a water-based ultrasonic diffuser which releases a fine aromatic mist into the air. This is the simplest and best for everyday use. A nebulizer uses an electric pump to atomize the scent molecules and release them as a fine gas into the air.
The general recommendation is to diffuse roughly 3 to 5 drops of essential oil per 1 cup of water in an ultrasonic diffuser and 5 to 15 drops of essential oil in a nebulizer depending on the oil.
It’s best to limit your diffusing to 15-20 minutes a time which more than enough to time to saturate a standard size room with scent molecules. It’s worth noting that a study has shown that usage of these diffusers should not exceed more than I hour a day as this could be harmful to your health.
The good news? You could opt for simpler diffusing methods. A basic candle powered essential oil burner, often a pretty decorative ceramic, warms up the oil so releasing those aromas for you to enjoy. Or, if you want to skip the flame and heat, just use a reed diffuser where the fragrance seeps up into the reeds, softly dispersing the scent into the air.
Anxious or feeling down? The soothing scent of lavender can help lower your stress levels. Or try peppermint or rosemary in a diffuser to help improve your focus and sharpen your mind.
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EXPERIMENT WITH DRY EVAPORATION
You don’t need a diffuser to enjoy the many aromatic benefits of essential oils - you just need a cotton ball and a bottle of your favorite oil.
Simply add 2-4 drops of an essential oil to a cotton ball or tissue and place it in a bowl in areas where you want to disperse the aroma and scent a room. You can also tuck a scented sachet in your pillowcase for sounder sleep or hang it by an open window so the fresh flow of air helps it gently fragrance a room.
Match your living spaces to your desired mind set. Invigorating peppermint is the perfect choice to help sharpen your mind when at work, while relaxing ylang-ylang will help you unwind after a stressful day and would be best for your living room or bedroom.
And for a quick air freshener, add a few drops of zesty lemon or orangey bergamot to a cotton ball, and drop it into your garbage can, gym bag, car or anywhere else that needs an aroma overhaul.
CREATE A STEAM TREATMENT
Steam inhalation with essential oils is especially helpful for treating symptoms of the common cold and flu and a perfect way to clear up sinus and allergy troubles. However, it’s not only for when you need to treat the sniffles or a runny nose, as these same oils also have highly effective antimicrobial properties which kill off those nasty bugs. Aromatherapy steaming can also be hugely beneficial for your skin.
Add 3-7 drops of one or a mix of essential oils into a bowl with 2-3 cups of hot water. Place your nose about 12” away from the bowl, cover your head and bowl with a towel, and slowly inhale the steam. It’s best to keep your eyes closed as you inhale the vaporizing oils. Carry on for 10-15 minutes when the water cools or until you feel relief.
If you’re steaming to help your skin, you may want to add more water (about 4-6 cups in total) as essential oils are exceptionally potent. After you’ve finished, use a toner or micellar water to cleanse it of all the impurities, and then immediately add your favourite moisturizer.
Banish blocked sinuses and stuffy noses by steaming with eucalyptus, cypress or frankincense essential oils.
Steam your face with rose oil if you have a dry, mature, sensitive or inflamed skin. Or use tea tree oil to help get rid of clogged pores and blackheads on an oily, acne prone skin.
MAKE A BOTTLED SPRAY
If you want to deodorize a room, set a mood or transform a space into an aromatherapy pamper session, it’s as easy as creating a spray with your favorite essential oil - or a combination of 1-3 essential oils.
Simply mix 10-15 drops of essential oil and one ounce of water in a spray bottle and shake. Spray generously to immediately freshen up your bathroom, kitchen - and even your car.
Lightly mist your sheets and pillowcases to infuse them with the calming and soothing scent of lavender before you go to sleep.
And for immediate stress relief, combine lavender, rose and clary sage essential oils with water to instil a calming atmosphere in your home.
TOPICALLY: HOW TO USE ESSENTIAL OILS ON YOUR SKIN
Once you’ve become familiar with using essential oils topically on your skin, you’ll probably become a raving fan for life. It’s one of the most popular ways of using essential oils - not only because it’s highly effective but also exceptionally versatile.
Essential oils have a low molecular weight and are fat soluble, which means they easily penetrate and provide benefits to the skin. When applied topically, they are rapidly absorbed - it can take a mere 20 minutes for an oil to affect every cell in the body.
And in many instances, you actually get a twofold benefit as you also inhale the essential oil at the same time as you apply it topically.
Essential oils can be applied to the skin using a variety of techniques. However, it’s important to note that most essential oils cannot be applied directly to the skin without being diluted beforehand. And if you’re prone to sensitivity, always spot check for a reaction on your inner arm before use.
HOW TO APPLY ESSENTIAL OIL TOPICALLY
Essential oils are most commonly applied to the temples, pulse points, chest, stomach, the bottom of the feet plus the arms and legs. However, they can be used pretty much anywhere on your body where you have aches and pains or other problems, but you should avoid your eyes, ears and any broken skin. Essential oils can also be used to spot treat ailments like insect bites, burns and even acne.
Essential oils are exceptionally potent (about 3 lbs. of lavender flowers make up half an ounce of essential oil) so a few drops go a long way. In fact, most essential oils are too strong to be used directly on the skin and should be diluted using a carrier oil to make them safe for topical use.
Most cold-pressed vegetable/fruit oils like coconut, olive, avocado, sweet almond, jojoba and grapeseed will work as a carrier oil. As these carrier oils usually contain their own anti-oxidants and vitamins, they also offer extra helpful benefits for your skin when used together with an essential oil.
As a rule of thumb, essential oils should be diluted in a carrier oil at concentration no greater than 3-5%, and can go as low as 1%. While diluting ratios can vary depending on a person’s health conditions and skin sensitivity, a general rule of thumb is that if you have one tablespoon of carrier oil, you would add 9 drops of pure essential oil to make a 3% solution.
USING ESSENTIAL OIL IN THE BATH
Using essential oils as part of a night-time bathing ritual is often encouraged as a calming and relaxing aromatherapy treatment to help you sleep, but can also help keep your skin healthy.
The important thing to remember is that oil and water don’t mix so you need to ensure the essential oil is properly dispersed before adding it to the water in your tub, otherwise the oil will separate and float to the top.
The easiest way to DIY is to add a capful of bath dispersant and then 6-8 drops of essential oil, or mix your essential oil with the dispersant before adding it to the water, remembering to stir well. Many types of dispersants can be used but some have drawbacks so check their pros and cons beforehand.
If this sounds like too much hard work, then opt for a high-quality bubble bath or bath salt product which uses 100% pure essential oil so you can reap the full benefits.
If you’ve had a stressful day, lavender is most well-known for its ability to calm and relax the mind, and keep insomnia at bay. A hot bath with lavender essential oil can also provide an ultra-detoxifying all-over body treatment for your skin.
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USING ESSENTIAL OIL IN THE SHOWER
Using essential oils in a shower will not help your skin as an oil-infused bath does, but you can still breathe in the aromatherapy benefits.
Sprinkle a few drops of essential oil on the walls of the shower to avoid it getting washed down the drain and then enjoy its advantages once the steam starts building up. Or you can add about 5 drops of your favorite oil to a washcloth and either place on the floor away from the full force of the water or hold near your face for a more intense experience.
If you want an instant wake-up-call in the morning, shower with stimulating oils such as eucalyptus, rosemary or lemongrass for an energizing start to your day.
Or if you need to destress at the end of a hard day, use a lavender infused shower gel with a gentle coconut cleansing formula and vitamins to nourish your skin and calm your mind at the same time.
USING ESSENTIAL OIL FOR A FOOT BATH
Are your feet complaining after a long day at work or a strenuous round of exercise? A quick pick-me-up foot bath can ease away aches and pains, refresh hot feet and even eliminate foot odors. You only need about 3-4 drops of essential oil in a large bowl of warm water, and after 15 minutes, your feet will feel nicely refreshed and energized.
Ease those aching feet with comforting oils such as Black Pepper, Lavender and Roman Chamomile. And when your feet are overheated, refresh with Peppermint, Rosemary and Lavender for some well-needed relief. Tea tree oil can be particularly useful in fighting unpleasant foot odors.
You can also do it the easy way. Relieve your sore or overheated feet by wearing lavender infused booties - simply pop into a microwave or freezer for either hot or cold options. You can also soothe and restore dry, overworked feet by using a multipurpose foot balm with invigorating peppermint and comforting lavender essential oils, while deeply moisturizing with mango butter.
USING ESSENTIAL OIL FOR A MASSAGE
One of the best ways to experience essential oils is through a massage. Not only do you enjoy the skin healing benefits of the essential oil but also the revitalising and detoxifying effects of the massage itself. And apart from the advantages you get from essential oils when they penetrate deep into your skin, your body also heats up the oil and releases its therapeutic aromas into the air.
You can pick one, or as many as five, different essential oils depending on the results you want to achieve. Mix them in with moisturizing carrier oils with a neutral smell such as apricot or grape seed oil. Add up to 15 drops of essential oil for every ounce of carrier oil or halve that amount if you have sensitive skin.
For a calming massage, Lavender, patchouli and cedarwood essential oils are all great relaxing options. And peppermint essential oil’s cooling effect can help rejuvenate muscles after a long workout.
For a quick and easy self-massage option, opt for a rich, soothing massage oil infused with pure lavender essential oil and the moisturizing benefits of grapeseed, jojoba and sunflower oils, to create your very own luxe pamper session.
USING ESSENTIAL OIL FOR A COMPRESS
A compress is a highly effective technique to help with anything from relieving aches and pains, reducing swelling, to helping heal damaged tissue. It can be used hot or cold.
Heat therapy improves blood flow to an area. The increased temperature can help relieve chronic pain, period cramps and relax and soothe sore muscles. On the other hand, cold therapy reduces blood flow to an area. This helps ease any inflammation and swelling, soothe joints and sprains, and relieve a headache.
When used together with a healing essential oil, a compress can become doubly effective. Dilute 4-6 drops of oil in very hot or icy cold water, and using a small towel, cloth or absorbent dressing, soak up the oils, wring out the excess water and apply to the area to be treated.
Lavender for migraines and period pains, peppermint for tension headaches, eucalyptus for inflammation and swelling, and arnica for joint and muscle pain.
And if you don’t want to make your own compress, try a ready-made lavender infused neck pillow or a eucalyptus eye mask which you can either heat up in a microwave or chill in a freezer. You can apply them anywhere on the body.
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USING ESSENTIALS OIL TO GARGLE
With their many antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, essential oils can help kill germs, reduce inflammation and heal a sore throat.
Dilute one or two drops of essential oil in half a glass of warm water. Mix well, gargle the solution for a couple of minutes and then spit it out. Do NOT swallow it. Repeat the process every four hours if necessary.
For a potent bacteria-busting mouth wash, add 1 drop each of tea tree and Ravensara essential oils to a half-teaspoon of honey and mix together well in a glass of hot water.
USING ESSENTIAL OIL IN FACE AND BODY LOTIONS
No matter your skin type or concern, there’s an essential oil which can help restore and maintain your skins’ health. They can do anything from helping to treat acne to restoring the skins moisture balance and glow. And as the skin’s heat helps diffuse the essential oil, you can also benefit from inhaling its fragrance.
Simply add about 6-15 drops of essential oil (halve this if you have sensitive skin) to one ounce of unscented face or body lotion, mix thoroughly and apply to skin.
Good options for acne and oily skin are tea tree and rosemary, while rose and jasmine are best for dry or mature skin. If you have sensitive skin try either Lavender or chamomile. Lavender can also help reduce acne scars and age spots.
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INGESTION: HOW TO USE ESSENTIAL OILS IN FOOD AND DRINKS
Would you think twice about eating a cinnamon bun, drinking some lemon tea or adding basil to your pasta? Probably not. You are already eating the spices, fruit and plants that produce the volatile aromatic compounds that make up essential oils. In fact, the food and beverage industry have been using essential oils as flavorings and aromatics for many years.
But - and this is a big BUT - the essential oils used in foods and drinks are NOT the same as the ones you use for aromatherapy. So before you think of ingesting any of them, just make sure that they are food safe.
And if you’re considering using essential oils for cooking, remember that they are highly concentrated, so much so that it takes about 50 lemons to make half an ounce of lemon essential oil. That means there’s the potency of 5 lemon rinds in one drop!
That’s why you should proceed with caution when using them to prepare any food or drink recipe, and if in doubt, consult a qualified health professional with essential oil experience before you experiment. Do not give essential oils internally to children.
Replacing fresh or dried herbs and fruit essences in recipes for cooking and baking, bearing in mind the potency of essential oils when substituting. Or add essential oils to yoghurt, water, smoothies, tea, or other drinks.
You probably didn’t realise just how many ways you can use essential oils to help improve your mind, body and health. And most of them can be simply and easily included into your daily routine, whether you inhale the benefits, apply topically onto your skin or use them for cooking.
Just choose the ones you like best and enjoy…
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If you have any medical condition, please consult with your health care professional before you use an essential oil.
There's a difference between an essential oil and simply an oil, which is basically a perfume. If a label does not clearly state that it is an 'essential oil,' then it is not a pure oil and should not be used as suggested.