What is Essential Oils?
Essential oils are highly concentrated, volatile plant extracts obtained through different methods, including steam distillation, which is the purification of a liquid via heating.
Believe it or not, there are thousands of known essential oils with about 300 available commercially, all of which boast different health and lifestyle benefits.
The quality of an essential oil varies from plant to plant depending on the botanical families and respective tree species. Some oil products, even though they come from different plants, tend to exhibit similar scent characteristics due to their affiliation with a species.
Essential oils are aromatic isolates of distilled plant material. Steam distillation is the most common form of essential oil extraction; however, not all plants contain volatile oils that can be extracted this way.
Some plants require solvent to coax the aroma out, while others can be simply cold pressed, as is the case with citrus essential oils.
It is important to know that these essential oils are extremely concentrated and potent. Every essential oil contains a unique variety of chemical components which, when mixed, give the essential oil its distinct aroma.
These chemical components are indicators as to the essential oils’ beneficial uses as well as their safety considerations. These properties are also considered when determining how to use essential oils safely.
3 Ways How to Use Essential Oils Safely
There are 3 main ways on how to use essential oils safely. However, when you choose to use essential oils, always be sure to start slow and pay attention to how your body reacts. Remember, when it comes to essential oils, ‘less is more’.
This is the safest and easiest way to use essential oils. There are a few easy ways to safely experience the aromatic benefits of essential oils among which…
Essential oil diffuser
A popular method is to use a diffuser. Putting a few drops of your favorite essential oil in an aromatherapy diffuser will evaporate and create an aroma that helps your home smell better and can also offer an array of benefits for your mind and body.
A traditional method. A candle can be place inside a burner and some water and a few drops of essential oil can be placed in a cup-like section at the top of the burner. The heat below will cause the water and oils to evaporate, filling the air with aroma.
Making your own aromatherapy inhaler
Drop a few drops of the desired essential oils on the wick. Once the essential oil is absorbed, place the wick into the inhaler tube and close the cover. This inhaler can be used several times a day and is excellent for instant and on-demand aromatherapy.
Direct palm inhalation
This method offers quick and easy access to the benefits of the essential oil. This should only be used with essential oils that can be safely applied to the skin. Apply 1-2 drops of essential oil on the palm of your hand. Rub your palms together and inhale deeply. Be sure to keep away from eyes, as essential oils can and will be irritating especially Peppermint oil.
Steam inhalation of essential oils will help respiratory and emotional conditions. 1-2 drops of essential oils can be placed in a bowl of hot water. This is known as hot inhalation and can be placed a distance from the user to allow a gentle therapeutic application. Steam inhalations are traditionally used to relieve nasal and bronchial congestion of infection.
Preparing steam inhalation…
You just need a bowl (ideally ceramic, glass or metal), a towel and hot water.
- Pour boiling water into a non-metallic bowl.
- Position our head over the bowl and cover with a towel, this will help prevent the steam and vapours being lost. Ensure that our face is far enough away from the boiling water that it does not burn the skin!
- Add up to 3 drops of the chosen essential oils and ensure to keep our eyes closed during the treatment.
- Breathe slowly and deeply three times and then to rest before continuing.
This method can be used up to three times each day for up to three days or if needed.
First dilute with a carrier oil such as Olive Oil, Sweet Almond Oil, Grapeseed Oil, Avocado Oil, Jojoba Oil and few more.
Dilution ratios vary depending on the followings:
- What essential oil being used?
- Areas of application
- Age of the person using the essential oil
- Any sensitive skin or medical conditions issue
For topical or application, a dilution of 5-6 drops of essential oil with 30ml of carrier oil as mentioned above considered safe for most essential oils.
Keep in mind that some essential oils, such as Cinnamon or Clove, are considered HOT oils and have recommended dilutions of no more than 2-3 drops of these oils with 30ml of carrier oil.
Some essential oils can increase your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight. This is called photosensitivity and mainly occurs with but is not exclusive to many citrus oils.
Citrus oils i.e Bergamot, Lemon, Grapefruit, and Lime are the most notable culprits for causing reactions.
If these essential oils are applied to the skin and then exposed to UV light, photosensitivity can cause serious burns.
Be sure to avoid topical use of these essential oils if you will be undergoing UV exposure shortly afterward.
Not to worry, however — the plant kingdom provides many suitable alternatives.
Simple topical essential oil usage suggestions:
Natural perfume oil
Mix approximately 20 drops of your favorite essential oils (4% dilution) into a carrier oil of your choice. Apply to pulse points as desired.
Massage is an excellent way in which to apply the essential oils. The client will, not only receive the therapeutic effects of the essential oils but will benefit greatly from the massage itself.
The essential oils must be diluted in a carrier oil, sometimes called base oil, botanical oil or vegetable oil.
The massage is carried out using gentle, relaxing techniques and aids absorption of the essential oils into the body. Remember that essential oils are extremely concentrated.
A 2-3% dilution should work well for a healthy adult. This means using 8-15 drops of essential oil per 30ml of carrier oil.
Add a few drops of your favorite essential oils to a teaspoon of carrier oil or full cream milk and pour into a bath. Be aware that some oils are strong and that just because they smell good doesn’t mean they are great for the bathtub.
Cinnamon and Thyme are two such examples. Always do your homework!
Essential oils do not dissolve in water.
Milk is a good medium to use to dilute essential oils before adding them to the bath. It needs to be full cream milk so that the oil can combine with the fat. 4-6 drops of the chosen essential oils can be mixed with milk and added to the bath.
Hot compresses are used where gentle heat is required, such as on a stiff joint. If there is swelling, this method should not be used.
Cold compresses may be used in cases of swelling to help reduce inflammation.
It is important that the temperature is kept constant during either hot or cold treatment and that the affected area is not over-treated.
Treatment plan for compresses:
- Blend the chosen essential oils with carrier oil such as Olive oil, Grapeseed oil etc.
- Add the oil to a bowl of either hot or cold water, depending on the treatment.
- Using either a towel or flannel lift the oil off the surface of the water and apply to the body. If applying a warm compress, insulate the area with warm towels to keep the warmth in. If applying a cold compress keep it cool with ice and ensure it is covered well.
- Remove the compress when the client indicates there is a change in temperature.
Neat application of oils
Essential oils should not be applied neat on to the skin without first being mixed with carrier oil. Many essential oils can irritate the skin if applied neat to it. However, there are a few exceptions: Lavender can be applied to burns, cuts and insect bites. Tea Tree to cold sore and spots and Lemon to warts.
The third category of essential oil usage is internal.
While it is true that a few essential oils are used in the food and flavor industry, we do not recommend using essential oils internally unless under direct supervision of a qualified health practitioner or Aromatherapist who is properly educated in the safety and risks of doing so.
The reasons that essential oils cannot be consumed because they may damage the mucous lining or irritate the stomach and can also be toxic. In France only medical practitioners or Aromatherapist can prescribe the use of essential oils to be taken orally. These essential oils are usually in capsule form and are made safer for ingestion.
To Take Note on How to use Essential oils safely
One of the most important things to note when it comes to using essential oils safely is that quality varies drastically on the market.
In order to receive any real aromatherapeutic benefits, it is important to use only pure, unadulterated essential oils.
There is no regulatory body ensuring that all essential oils on the market are truly pure. Essential oils can often be adulterated with less expensive chemical isolates, synthetic oils or vegetable oils to extend the oil and increase profit margin.
Knowing your supplier is helpful
Source your essential oil from a supplier who has done their due diligence to ensure essential oil purity that have COA or MSDS certificate, as well as suppliers who work directly with a global network of farmers and distillers.
Then, you will have the best chance of getting a truly pure essential oil – and all its accompanying benefits.
Know the chemical composition of the oil
Essential oils can be made up of anywhere from a few to dozens of chemical components, collectively making up an oil’s unique therapeutic and aromatic profile.
Some chemical components are known skin irritants or can even cause possible drug interactions.
Aware of this beforehand can give clues to safe usage. These essential oils may still be used, but at a much lower dilution in topical or aromatic use.
Method of application
Note that aromatic usage of essential oils is the lowest risk for potential irritation. However, always use caution and pay attention to any known safety considerations so that you can use essential oils safely.
Most topical applications of essential oils will be approximately 1-5% dilutions. As dilution percentages increase, so does the risk of skin irritation.
Integrity of skin
Damaged, inflamed or already irritated skin may have increased sensitivity to essential oils. Be sure to properly dilute essential oils before using topically to use essential oils safely.
Age of user
Infants and young children are more sensitive to essential oils than a healthy adult. As a result, essential oils should be avoided or used only in a highly diluted form for these and other sensitive groups.
The elderly, pregnant lady, people with sensitive skin, or those with medical conditions should also use caution when considering essential oils.
Be cautious when using Essential Oils
- Do not overuse essential oils. Even when diluted, an essential oil can cause a bad reaction if you use too much or use it too often. That’s true even if you’re not allergic or unusually sensitive to them.
- A cosmetic chemist Perry Romanowski points out, “Aromatherapy is not a proven science,” he says. Essential oils have not been studied thoroughly enough to be proven cures for disease. And there’s another big myth that we need to dispel: the idea that essential oils are totally innocuous. We believe essential oils are inherently safe because they’re natural.
- However, there are times when essential oils can have adverse effects that irritate the skin and should be used with caution and care.
- Whether you’re an experienced essential oil user or a total beginner, it’s always a good idea to consult an expert. Additionally, remember to use safe practices when using essential oils, which means diluting them with a carrier solution and ensuring your oil comes from a reputable source.
- Essential oils are plant-based, smell amazing, and contain chemical compounds that can do everything from kill acne-causing bacteria to help regulate hormonally stressed skin.
- Essential oils are chemically active and potentially harsh compounds and creams with lots of them sound nice but can irritate sensitive skin.
- We should be conscious of which essential oils you’re using. Gentle ones, like Geranium, Chamomile and Ylang-ylang, are low in aldehydes and phenols, which are compounds found in plants that can irritate skin. Seek for advice if you are not sure.
Final Thoughts On How to Use Essential Oils Safely
Essential oils are one of the best aromatherapy products available. If the product is properly applied, the result can be amazing.
However, it is important to use essential oils safely.
Essential oils should be used in accordance with prescriptions, and cautionary measures should always be considered.
These measures include ensuring that the chemical composition does not contain any allergens and that proper quantities are mixed with the recommended ingredients. If unsure, it is advisable to consult with your clinician or your aromatherapist.