Essential Oils – How to Use Them Properly

Essential oils are concentrated and should never be applied directly to the skin unless properly diluted. They can also cause a reaction in some people when ingested and should not be used by infants, children, the elderly or pregnant women.

When used in moderation, high quality essential oils can add a wonderful flavor to food and can help promote better health. Always purchase high quality essential oils from a reputable brand.

What are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are volatile liquids containing the powerful, aromatic chemical compounds of various potentially beneficial plants. The plants release these concentrated essences for their own protection and to attract pollinating insects and repel predators.

Each oil has its own signature aroma and can be used in a variety of ways to enhance a mood or create a particular atmosphere. For example, orange blossom oil may help reduce stress and tension while chamomile may promote relaxation.

You can use these oils to apply to your skin or add them to DIY beauty and cleaning products. Essential oils are also often inhaled or taken internally as dietary supplements.

When shopping for essential oils, look for bottles labeled as 100% pure to ensure you’re getting the most potent and pure version of each oil. Avoid perfume or fragrance oils, which are often mixed with synthetic ingredients.

What are the Benefits of Essential Oils?

Essential oils are gaining popularity as natural, safe and cost-effective therapy for a variety of health concerns. They have antidepressant, stimulating, detoxifying, antibacterial, antiviral and calming properties.

People can inhale the aromas of essential oils or apply them to their skin for a variety of benefits. Typically, they’re mixed with a carrier or base oil like jojoba or castor to improve absorption and safeguard against possible allergic reactions. For example, a massage therapist may use diluted wintergreen oil to help relax tight muscles during a rubdown.

Many essential oils promote healthy lungs and respiratory system, and act as mild diuretics to flush out toxins. They also clean the home and help kill pathogens that can cause infection, such as oregano oil, which has displayed antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties in lab research. Despite their many uses, more research is needed to determine how effective they are as therapeutic agents for certain conditions. For instance, they may not be safe for pregnant women because some of the oils could cross the placental barrier and affect hormones.

How to Use Essential Oils

There are many ways to use essential oils, depending on what benefit you’re after. You can ingest them in water or capsules (be sure to check with a qualified aromatherapist for safe dosage recommendations). You can also add them to household cleaners and use as seasoning. Topical application is another option — again, be sure to do a patch test on your skin before applying any new oil.

Inhaling the scent of an essential oil can help elevate your mood, calm your nervous system or soothe aches and pains. When inhaled, the scent molecules travel from your olfactory nerves directly to your brain’s limbic system, where they affect emotions and memory.

Certain oils have specific benefits for health conditions — for example, peppermint can ease irritable bowel syndrome symptoms while lavender can relax your muscles and soothe a headache. For maximum effectiveness, use the right blends and apply them correctly, says Davila. And keep them out of the reach of little hands — undiluted essential oils can be very strong and potentially harmful.

How to Avoid Essential Oils

Essential oils are highly concentrated and can be toxic when used in the wrong way. The most common adverse reaction, experienced by hundreds if not thousands of people every year, is skin irritation caused by applying undiluted oil to the skin.

The best way to avoid this is by blending them with a carrier/base oil before using them on your skin, and making sure to follow the appropriate dosage chart.

It’s also important to keep them out of reach of children. Kids are the canary in the coal mine when it comes to essential oil safety. They are more susceptible to overexposure because of their small size and the fact that their livers aren’t as mature.

Always look for a high-quality oil from a reputable source that has been tested and analyzed by a third party. It’s also a good idea to perform a patch test before trying out any new oil on your body.