Scent is a powerful trigger. We’ve all likely experienced a time when we’ve walked into a room and were suddenly hit with nostalgia. The impact of scent on the brain has been realized for centuries – its therapeutic use in health care dates back to 2800 B.C. While the use of essential oils seems to have originated in the eastern world, aromatherapy is no new-found revelation to western society. Today, essential oils are catching their second-wind, most likely due to the natural health trends are picking up. If you’re curious about what all the hype is for and/or eager to dive into essential oils, here’s a beginner’s guide on how to use them effectively and safely.
Let’s start with the basics…
For those hoping to become essential oil connoisseurs, boasting a collection tantamount to an old school apothecary, be forewarned: Essential oils are pricey. A 10ml bottle of a single extract can run anywhere from $14-$50 USD, depending on the extract and the retailer. For beginners, it’s best to start modestly and shop based on the healthcare issue at hand. Many essential oil retailers will offer blends that target specific ailments such as headaches, nausea, PMS, insomnia or the common cold.
Saje, for instance, offers a ‘pocket farmacy,’ the perfect beginners kit of essential oil blends for headaches, immunity, digestion, stress and pain relief. There are also countless essential oil starter kits labeled as such that can be found online. Etsy has an impressive array of vendors specializing in aromatherapy, so your purchase could support an independent business while you stack your collection!
Now that you have your beginner’s kit, how do you use essential oils? Here are three ways to reap the benefits:
This sounds intense, but inhaling an essential oil simply means using a diffuser, steam or spray to experience the extract. Diffusers are a popular choice and there are tons on the market. You can even purchase a diffuser necklace to store your essential oil in so that you can enjoy its scent throughout the day. Some people will put a few drops of oil on their pillow before going to bed. Others may drop the oil on a tissue and gently inhale to experience the desired benefits.
Some essential oils work best when applied directly to the skin. Certain blends can be found packaged in rollerballs for easy topical application. This technique is best when you’re looking to target a specific area, like using peppermint oil directly on the forehead to ease a headache, or all over the face to enhance your skincare regime. Concentrated oils can be diluted with carrier oil, like coconut oil, or applied directly to the skin. When first testing out an oil, make sure to follow the dilution instructions to avoid potential irritation or an allergic reaction.
Because there aren’t usually dilution instructions that come with your essential oil, 2% essential oil dilution is generally considered safe for topical application. Measurement is typically done on a drop by drop basis, but since each drop can vary, please keep in mind that it’s not the most accurate form of measuring. That being said, to approximate a 2% dilution, add drops of the essential oil to 1 fl.oz (30ml) of carrier oil and even less if you’re using if for a child. Considering that one drop of peppermint essential oil is the equivalent of 256 pounds of peppermint leaf, the difference between applying one drop of undiluted oil compared to a diluted dose can be extreme. There are a few essential oils that are considered safe to use undiluted, sparingly: Lavender, chamomile, tea tree, sandalwood and rose geranium.
Photosensitizing oils such as bergamot, lemon, lime and cumin make your skin more vulnerable to sunlight. Reactions from over application of photosensitizing oils can range from discoloration to oozing burns. Pregnant women are recommended to avoid sage, mugwort, tarragon and wintergreen essential oils and should never use rosemary and spike lavender oils, as the effects of overexposure can be transferred through placenta and/or breastfeeding.
Other oils have the potential to cause skin irritation and itching like lemongrass, cinnamon leaf, citronella and bay. Too much oil application can even effect sexual sensitivity if they, like tea tree oil, share properties with antidepressants. Essential oils have the potential to penetrate skin easily and enter the blood stream because of their small molecular size, adding to the many reasons why diligence around dilution is crucial.
This is the most controversial form of application, so beginners should take extra caution when using this method. Essential oils are highly concentrated and ingesting large amounts can be dangerous. Dilution is key! Keep in mind that water and oil don’t mix, so dilute with another oil or honey. Some people also gargle essential oils like tea tree, lemon or eucalyptus when experiencing a sore throat. Oils like pennyroyal and wintergreen can be fatal when swallowed and some toxic oils can cause miscarriages when ingested. Overall, it’s wise to skip oral use unless you’re using oils under the supervision of a medical professional.
While essential oils can be a valuable natural remedy, always make sure to research each oil before purchasing or applying. Follow the recommendations for dilution and understand which application type is best. For example, some essential oils may be okay to ingest yet irritate the skin (or vice-versa).
Tweet @flurtmagazine to let us know your experience with essential oils and recommend your favorite to our readers!
Read the rest of the summer 2017 issue and order it in print here.