How to Use Essential Oils
- August 21, 2018
There are a myriad of ways to use essential oils to take advantage of their benefits. However, it is essential to get to know each oil you want to use, first, in case they have any safety precautions. We’ll get into more about essential oil safety in a bit.
Here are some of our favorite ways to use essential oils:
- Topical application – usually diluted in a carrier oil
- Aromatherapy inhaler
- DIY cleaning products
- Homemade liquid and bar soaps
- Handmade beeswax candles
- Bath salts and scrubs
Because of the potency of essential oils, it doesn’t take much to get the job done. Below are some common considerations to keep in mind when using essential oils with their various methods of use.
In a topically applied blend using a carrier oil, we recommend either a 1%, 2%, or 3% dilution:
- 1% dilution: 5-6 total drops of essential oil in each ounce of carrier oil or cream. This dilution is ideal for children, the elderly, chronically ill persons, and pregnant women.
- 2% dilution: 10-12 total drops of essential oil in each ounce of carrier oil or cream. This dilution is used for the average adult and daily or long-term use of the product.
- 3% dilution: 15-18 total drops of essential oil in each ounce of carrier oil or cream. This dilution is used for specific illnesses or acute injury. Blends made at this dilution may be used for a week or two, for an acute situation.
In an Inhaler:
- Place 15-18 drops of essential oil(s) on a smaller cotton wick.
- Place 18-21 drops of essential oil(s) on a larger cotton wick.
In a Bath Blend:
- Bath salts: Mix the essential oil(s) into a bath salt. Add 8-10 drops of essential oil to each ounce of salt. Use 1 Tablespoon of that blended salt in a full bath.
- Milk: Add 3-4 total drops of essential oil to a cup of milk. Add the milk to your full bath.
- Jojoba oil or other liquid carriers: Add 3-4 drops of essential oil to 1 tablespoon of jojoba oil and add to your full bath.
In an Essential Oil Diffuser:
- Add 4-6 drops of essential oil(s) in a small diffuser along with the necessary amount of water required by your diffuser (Most diffusers will have a fill line indicating the appropriate amount of water that is required).
- Add 8-10 drops of essential oil(s) in a large diffuser along with the necessary amount of water required by your diffuser.
Essential Oil Blends
One of the most enjoyable parts of aromatherapy is crafting your blends. It is a lot of fun making all-natural DIY products, and oftentimes the process is easier than one would expect. It can take some practice to get just right, though, so as you learn, don’t get frustrated. It can take years of practice and experience before becoming a true “potions master.”
As you get further in your studies and exploration of essential oils, you will discover that a whole other world exists within the synergy of blending essential oils. Combining just the right oils in just the right amounts can create blends that are truly magical. And who doesn’t love the idea of being able to craft your own plant-based medicine and remedies?
Blending takes practice and patience. To help make it as fun as possible, here are a few of our blending tips to get you started:
- Make sure all the ingredients and tools you will need are laid out and ready before you start. Here are some examples of what you might need:
- All of the essential oils and carriers that you want to use.
- Container(s) for the finished blend – Glass or PET plastic bottles or jars, tins, etc. TIP: Use dark-tinted glass for straight essential oil blends. For blends using carriers, you can use PET plastic or tins. Do not store straight essential oils in anything other than glass, as the oils can corrode through other materials after time. However, oils that have been diluted in carriers are fine in PET plastic containers or tins.
- Glass dish for mixing blend.
- Glass stir rods.
- Towels or paper towels.
- Notebook and pen.
- Double boiler or Pyrex/Glass measuring cup and pot with water for melting any carriers.
- A heat source for melting any butters, beeswax, etc. – either a stove top or hot plate.
- Scale for measuring ingredients, if needed.
- When creating your essential oil blends, add one drop of oil at a time, then mix and smell before adding more. Write down what you add so you will have the recipe if you want to make it again!
- If blending from a recipe, you can add all drops of each oil at once, but be sure to follow the recipe, as even a slight deviation can change the final product considerably. Although, there’s nothing wrong with a little experimentation once you’re comfortable enough!
- Do not leave your essential oils exposed to air or heat any longer than necessary, as exposure to air and heat can cause oils to degrade faster. More on that in our shelf life section!
- If blending for aroma, be sure to include an oil from each type of fragrance note: Top note, middle note, and base note. This will create a balanced aroma. To find out more about the different fragrance notes, check out our Aromas page.
- Choose your blending space wisely. Don’t blend in an area where an accidental splatter or missed drop could cause oil spots or stains. Also, keep everything out of reach of children and pets!
- Have fun and don’t hesitate to get creative! Just make sure you read up on any safety precautions that the oils may have.
Shelf Life and Storage
Whether it is months or years, every oil has a shelf life. As oils age, they go through a process called oxidation. Oxidation can cause skin irritation as well as sensitization. This process begins when the oil is distilled; therefore, shelf life is determined by distillation date (year and month) and not when it is purchased. It is important to note that the shelf life of an oil is only an estimate and not a definitive answer. There are factors that can affect an estimated shelf life, such as whether or not the oil is stored properly, as heat and exposure to light can cause oxidation, as well. There are ways to extend the shelf life of oil by adding a substance such as argon gas to the bottle to prevent air from coming in contact with the oil. This is something we do at Aromatics International to store our bulk oils to ensure they stay as fresh as possible!
As an example of how shelf life can differ, Frankincense Boswellia carterii has a shelf life of 3 years. If a batch was distilled in June of 2017, that batch would expire in June 2020. Patchouli Pogostemon cablin, on the other hand, has a shelf life of 20 years. So a batch distilled in November 2016 will not expire (if stored properly) until November 2036. This is all provided the oils are Holistic, of course!
Proper storage is key to getting the best-estimated shelf life out of your oils. Exposure to light, heat, and air can accelerate the oxidation process. Here are a few simple guidelines for storing your oils properly:
- Store in a cool and dark location.
- Keep the bottles tightly closed.
- If a small amount of oil remains in a large bottle, transfer to a smaller bottle to reduce the risk of oxidation.
- Store essential oils in dark-colored glass bottles only. Carriers and carrier blends can be stored in PET plastic containers.
If you find that you do have oils that are expired or close to the end of their therapeutic shelf life, don’t throw them away! Expired essential oils make lovely oils for cleaning blends, such as kitchen and bathroom disinfectant sprays, etc. To learn more about shelf life and storage, head on over to our Shelf Life page in our Learn section.
Essential Oil Safety
Because essential oils are extremely concentrated, it is to know how to use them safely. Using some oils at full concentration can lead to adverse reactions such as skin irritation, nausea, headaches, phototoxicity, or sometimes even serious allergic reactions. That doesn’t mean you can’t use any oil straight, though. Some oils can be used directly on the skin, such as using a single drop of lavender oil directly on a bee sting. That’s where familiarizing yourself with your oils comes in handy. But you don’t necessarily have to memorize them all! Keeping a great reference manual on hand— such as Essential Oil Safety, by Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young—does the trick, just fine. Another favorite reference that many aromatherapists have in their collection is The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, by Salvatore Battaglia.
Additional caution should be used when using essential oils on children. Children lack the ability to metabolize chemicals as quickly or efficiently as adults. Because essential oils are highly concentrated chemicals, albeit natural, they can cause problems with young children who are still rapidly developing. (Likewise, many oils should not be used while pregnant and breastfeeding, as well!)
Here are a few tips regarding usage for children:
- Children under 5: It is best to avoid essential oils entirely. It is okay to diffuse kid-friendly Holistic oils at low dilution for short periods of time. If looking for a topical application, we recommend using hydrosols in place of essential oils, as they are much gentler. If you want to learn about hydrosols, check out our blog: “What is a Hydrosol?”.
- Children between the ages of 5 and 10: It is best to use a 1% dilution when applying essential oils topically.
- While there are some great essential oils to use with children, it is best to stay away from oils containing chemotype 1,8 cineole with children under 10. This would include essential oils such as a Eucalyptus, Saro, Ravintsara, etc. Also, avoid the use of “hot” oils such as Cinnamon, Tulsi, and Clove. With children under 5, avoid Peppermint near their face, to avoid potential breathing issues.
It is always good practice to check the safety info for each essential oil, as some essential oils may be contraindicated by certain conditions, such as epilepsy or liver disease, or medications, such as anticoagulants. Always consult with a medical professional if you are undergoing treatments of any kind or are on any medicines or homeopathic remedies.
With proper safety knowledge in your pocket, you can easily and confidently use essential oils safely!