How to Use Essential Oils

Essential oils are unique in that they are a combination of chemical constituents that influence different systems in the body. Scent, memory, and emotion as well as the biological system on the cellular level. When choosing a method of use, both have to be taken into account.

Essential oils can be used in different ways from inhalation to topical application. Generally, the method of use depends largely on the intent. If you are using a blend of essential oils for pain relief, then topical application is by far the best method. However, if you are hoping to clear your sinus passageways then inhalation will work best.


Inhalation is one of the most popular and effective ways of using essential oils. Essential oils can be inhaled directly, indirectly, via diffusion or even steaming.

Direct inhalation of an essential oil involves little more than opening a bottle and inhaling the scent of the oil. Start from approximately an arm’s length away from your face and then slowly bring the bottle towards you. Be very careful not to place the bottle directly under your nose as some oils are very intense and can cause your eyes to water and irritate the mucosal area of the nose. If the oil you wish to inhale has been patch-tested and you do not show any signs of being allergic to it, you can place a drop in your hands, rub them together and inhale.

Indirect inhalation involves the use of an object such as a wooden peg, pouch or cotton balls, to obtain a slower, sustained release of the essential oils. In colder climates, dropping a drop of oil on a scarf is a good way of using essential oils via indirect inhalation. A drop of lavender on your pillow at night is a method of indirect inhalation to aid sleep.

Steam is a useful vehicle when it comes to inhaling essential oils. It is a good method of clearing your nasal and sinus passageways when you have the flu, a cold or blocked eustachian tubes. It also works well for soothing a cough in the lower respiratory system.

Diffusion is one of the most popular methods of using essential oils in a large space or room. A diffuser uses steam to spread the essential oil particles in the air and can be programmed to go on for as long as 8 hours. It is important to remember to clean out your diffuser after use and ensure it is dry before putting it away. Leaving it damp may lead to fungal growth, which would pose a health risk when used to diffuse your essential oils.

Topical Application

Topical application involves placing the oil directly onto the skin. Essential oils can be applied on pulse points – wrist, behind ears, ankles-, and specific locations that require soothing e.g. back pain, neck pain, on the soles of your feet or on acupressure points. Most oils must be diluted with a carrier oil before applying directly on the skin. Undiluted essential oils can cause nasty burns.


Ingestion of essential oils is a controversial issue, with vastly differing opinions from different schools of aromatherapy, and essential oil users and producers. I certainly do not see the need to ingest essential oils. The therapeutic benefits can be harnessed fully via other methods that are safe and highly effective. Essential oils are hydrophobic and do not dissolve in water, making them more difficult to dilute and digest. There have been adverse reports of essential oil ingestion such as internal burns, respiratory issues and poisoning. If you do decide to ingest these potent oils, mix them with an oil or honey or use a hydrolipid, which is an emulsified form of essential oil.

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