How do I choose and use essential oils?

The two most frequently asked questions we receive from folks about essential oils are, “Why use essential oils?” and “How do I choose an essential oil?” A more challenging question is “How do I choose and use essential oils?” otherwise known as the “I want to use essential oils, what do I do now?” question.

Essential oils have been used for centuries as perfumes, medicines, flavorings, and in many other ways. Today they are found in soaps, personal body care products, medicines, beverages, cleaning agents; anywhere a specific flavor or scent is needed or desired. But the use of essential oils goes beyond their capacity to add a nice flavor or scent. They have properties that can help heal the body and mind. The essential oil that you choose will depend on how you want to use it: do you want to help elevate your mood, do you need to treat a burn or itch, do you want to alleviate a headache or circulatory problem. Do you want an arousing perfume for a night with your lover?

How do I use essential oils?

For centuries they have been considered and used as medicines and there are precautions users need to pay attention to especially if they have pre-existing health issues. Some essential oils can cause skin irritation, sensitization or contact dermatitis if used incorrectly.

Essential oils enter the body primarily in three ways:

  • Applied to the skin
  • Inhaled
  • Ingestion

Within each of these methods, there are different ways of applying the essential oil, for example, using compresses, sprays, baths or massaging them into the skin.

Choosing an application method

The application method chosen depends on the desired effect and the essential oil selected.

Perfumes made from pure and natural essential oils can be created with a specific intent to entice, arouse, stimulate or pique attention. Wounds usually involve topical application by compress or cotton ball directly to the wound. Mood effects can be addressed by either topical application or inhalation via a nebulizer or diffuser. Baths and massage are an excellent way to use both inhalation and topical absorption.

Applying essential oils to the skin

There are a variety of techniques for applying essential oils to the skin. Perhaps the most common is via massage or as a perfume. It is important to note that most essential oils cannot be applied directly to the skin without first being diluted. Additionally, it is recommended that you perform a patch test to test for irritation or allergy before applying even diluted essential oils to your skin.

How do I dilute essential oils?

As a rule of thumb, essential oils should be diluted in a carrier oil (olive oil, jojoba or sweet almond oil) at no greater concentration than three to five percent. To make a three to five percent solution, if you take one teaspoon (5ml) of carrier oil and add three drops of pure essential oil, you would make an approximately three percent solution.

For massage or for application over large areas of the body, since more essential oil will be absorbed, a 1 percent solution (one drop of essential oil in one teaspoon of carrier oil) is generally a safe concentration.

Inhaling essential oils

The sense of smell is ancient and predates the sense of vision or hearing. When we smell an essential oil, molecules are taken up in the nose and interact with the mucous membrane at the top of our nasal cavity. This interaction stimulates the olfactory bulb. The stimulus passes directly to the limbic system deep in the brain and evokes an immediate response. The limbic system is a part of the brain associated with emotions, memory, and behavior: joy, anxiety, fear, depression, and memory are believed to originate from this region.


A diffuser is a device that disperses minute molecules of essential oils throughout a room, home, office or car. Simply add a few drops of essential oil and within minutes you will be enjoying the fragrant aroma.

Kinds of diffusers

Electric Diffuser – plug-in. The heat slowly releases the fragrance, creating a gentle relaxing environment

Terra Cotta Diffuser – pendant diffuser that can be hung in your closet, car, bedroom or bathroom. Place a few drops of the essential oil or blend on the diffuser to enjoy the scent.

Ceramic Diffuser – hand-thrown. Fill bowl 2/3 full with water, place 5 drops of essential oil or blend in the bowl and light the tea light. Remember; do not leave a burning candle unattended.

Nebulizer – a wonderful way to inhale and use the healing properties of the essential oil or blend. The nebulizer releases microscopic oil particles into the air without heating the oil.

How to use essential oils internally

Essential oils can be taken internally in several ways but internal use is only recommended under the supervision of an aromatherapist or licensed healthcare provider.

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