How to Use Essential Oils Safely

Essential Oils are very powerful components of plants and can be harmful if improperly used. They can be very helpful for some cases, supportive in others, and have little to no effect in others. They are not intended to treat or cure serious medical conditions; there is no substitute for a consultation with a physician for any matters regarding your health, or anyone else’s.

If you are pregnant, planning to get pregnant, or breast feeding, it is critical you consult your physician before using any essential oil and read the warnings on the bottles.  

ALMOST ALL ESSENTIAL OILS MUST BE DILUTED PRIOR TO TOPICAL APPLICATION to the range of 1% to 5% in your chosen carrier oil (almond oil, olive oil, etc.) - with exception of Lavender, Tea Tree and Chamomile Oils that are safe for most people to use without diluting them first.

Methods of Using Essential Oils:

1. Inhalation:

Most essential oils can be used undiluted in a diffuser or oil lamp (sometimes called a 'burner') safely. Fill the bowl with water and add a few drops of essential oils of your choice. The oil evaporates as the water is heated by the candle.

GO SLOW, START WITH A SMALL AMOUNT! You will know when you've had enough - we tend to notice distaste for the smell or even a mild headache coming on if the concentration of certain oils in the air is too high. Inhalation is effective for mood-altering; Rosemary for mental 'stimulation', Lavender for relaxation, etc. Often mixing a brighter or sweeter oil (Rosemary, Basil, Orange) with one more earthy and grounding (Patchouli, Frankincense, Cedar) produces a nice result.

2. Topical Application:

Topical application is the preferred method of use for many essential oils. However, MOST essential oils require significant dilution as they can cause skin irritation. Lavender Oil and Chamomile Oil are two essential oils that can be applied 'neat' or without dilution; others, such as Cinnamon Oil and Oregano Oil should not be applied topically in most cases - they may be applied once highly diluted to the bottoms of the feet. A VERY small amount should be tested first.

The interesting thing about topical application is that essential oils tend to pass through the skin fairly readily, as they are lipotropic (fat soluble) and their molecular structure is fairly small. Essential oils can pass into the bloodstream and surrounding tissues, so if one has digestive trouble, rubbing Peppermint Oil diluted in a carrier oil (olive, coconut oil, grapeseed oil, etc.) into the abdomen may help. Rubbing Chamomile Oil or Lavender Oil into the solar plexus may help relieve tension.

A common concentration of essential oils in carrier oil is 5%. This works out to 40 drops total of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil ~ or 1.5 milliliters per each ounce (an ounce is 30ml). Essential oils are rarely used in higher concentrations, and lower concentrations are found in both face care blends, and formulas for children.

One of the most effective means of topical application is reflexology, or more generally, foot massage. The feet are particularly suited to using the broad range of effects of essential oils, as they have many acupressure/acupuncture points corresponding to different parts of the body.

3.  Ingestion:

Finally, some essential oils are ingested, usually either in water or in capsules. Most commonly ingested oils are grapefruit, lemon and lime. However please consult you naturopathic doctor or a family doctor before using the oils in this manner.


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