Help, I've got all these oils and don't really know what to do with them!
Can you relate to the above at all? You've got these pretty bottles of oil sitting around and occasionally you pop them in your diffuser, but that's about it. Your friends are raving about the benefits they've seen from 'using' their oils and you smile and nod and wonder what on earth they've done with them. Let us help you get more out of your pretties!
How can I use my essential oils?Inhalation
- Direct Inhalation
- Diffusers and Vaporisers
- Room or Pillow Sprays
- Steam Inhalation
- Lotions and potions
- Rectal Use
One of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to use your essential oil is by inhaling it. This is actually a very effective way to make use of its therapeutic benefits, particularly for conditions such as stress, anxiety and respiratory issues. Did you know that when you sniff an oil, it can reach your brain within 22 seconds? That is why you need to be mindful of inhaling oils - not only will they have an effect on you, but also on others around who can inhale them.
Grab your favourite bottle of oil, open it and have a sniff. Congratulations, you've mastered the art of direct inhalation! For some oils this is a great way to use them, but it can be tricky if they lose their scent easily or oxidize quickly when exposed to air. Inhaling oil directly is potent and sometimes this can irritate your nasal passages, depending on the oil. If you're wanting to use your oil this way, we'd suggest decanting a small amount into a 1ml vial to use for inhalation. That will keep the rest of your oil bottle 'fresh' for longer.
Other ways that you can enjoy the direct inhalation of oils is by simply placing a few drops onto various absorbent materials. If your nose is a bit clogged, put a few drops of your favourite breathing blend onto a hanky and pop it in your pillow case. No hanky, no worries - use tissues or paper towels (as long as they aren't already scented).
One of our favourite ways is to use a personal inhaler. Not only do they look pretty, but they're more practical to carry around in your handbag. Open them up, put a few drops of oil onto the wick and close it again - ready to go! You can get refill wicks so no need to keep replacing your inhaler. We recommend these particularly for work and school, to ensure that other people are not negatively affected by essential oils.
Diffusers and Vaporisers
Diffusers come in a variety of shapes, styles and sizes. Reed diffusers are generally used with fragrances, not pure essential oils. Tealight Candle Oil burners have a separate water dish which you fill with water and then add a few drops of essential oil. Light the candle and enjoy the scent of your oil. The naked flame is a safety concern, and they are more difficult to clean after use than other methods. Also, the heat produced can alter the essential oil and change its smell and therapeutic benefits. Electric versions are available which eliminate the naked flame issue. Our Banksia pod diffusers are even simpler - put some drops of oil into the pod, place the stopper on and let the pod do the work from there.
Ultrasonic diffusers don't use heat and as such are not only safer, but don't negatively affect your oils. These diffusers are filled with water and oil is added, according to the manufacturer's instructions. Both oil and water are dispersed into the air through the high frequency vibration emitted by the 'plates' at the base of the unit. Cleaning is easy and there are many styles and colours available on the market at various prices. They are obviously noisier than burners, and the aroma of the essential oil tends to 'wear off' after a while. Long term use of oils can lead to desensitisation, so its generally best not to keep your diffuser running all day. Best practice is to use it for short periods of time and to rotate your use of oils.
Nebulizing diffusers do not use water with the essential oil, rather they directly disperse the oil into the air. This makes for a more concentrated aroma, but also gives a more intense therapeutic effect. Nebulizing diffusers are particularly useful in situations where you need an intense 'blast' of oil for a short period of time - such as when you have a headache or your nose is completely blocked. Due to the concentrated essential oil vapour, you need to be careful using these around children or pets in particular.
Diffuser jewellery is also available - lockets or bracelets that you place a few drops of oil onto. Generally this is onto absorbent lava beads, or felt pads within the jewellery item. The aroma will gently disperse as you move, and for a more concentrated effect you can hold it close to your nose and inhale.
Room or Pillow Sprays
Sprays containing essential oils have become quite popular. You can use these as body sprays, air fresheners, deodorizers or just to create a pleasant atmosphere. Essential oils are not soluble so will not dissolve in water, which means that any sprays need to have solubilisers added. Check commercial sprays carefully for chemicals which you may wish to avoid - just because it contains essential oils, does not mean it's free of toxins! You can easily make your own Aroma Mists at home like these Christmas Sprays.
Steam inhalation is particularly useful for respiratory ailments and nasal congestion. Place steaming water into a bowl and add 5-10 drops of your chosen oil. Lean over the bowl with closed eyes, while placing a towel over your head and the bowl to concentrate the steam and aroma. Breathe in for a few minutes and repeat as necessary. You can also make use of a steamy shower by placing the drops of oil onto a face washer, placed on the bottom of the shower.
Various nebulizers available at chemists also use steaming water and essential oils, and these can be particularly effective for conditions such as croup. The large amount of humidity they produce can cause issues with condensation and mould in the room however.
Essential oils can also be absorbed through the skin - who hasn't dreamed of a relaxing massage after a stressful day at work? There's more to topical applications than massage though, so read on!
You've probably seen the studies about how massage is fabulous for relaxation as well as development in newborns. Touch is an important part of our lives, and the addition of essential oils makes it even nicer. If you're using oils for massage, you must dilute them in a carrier oil. The dilution ratio will depend on the essential oils that the massage therapist is using as some oils have to be diluted more than others. It also depends on the one being massaged - babies, elderly and those with health concerns should have a more diluted oil.
If you're giving (or receiving) a massage at home, we recommend you check the safety profile of the oil you are using to ensure proper dilution ratios. For a 1% dilution ratio, you would add 6 drops of essential oil to a 30ml bottle and then fill it to the top with your carrier oil. Keep your Dilutions, Measurement and Safety card handy so you always know how many drops to add!
Lotions and Potions
If you have nobody handy to give you a massage, you can always make up a 'potion'. These are generally used on specific parts of the body - such as using an ointment on your arm for a skin condition. The type of 'potion' you end up with usually depends on the base.
Lotions or Creams - the advantage of these over carrier oils is that they do not leave your skin feel oily after application, but are still able to emulsify the essential oils. Emulsify simply means a way of mixing oil and water that actually works! So you can use lotions or creams blended with oils for regular moisturising, certain skin conditions or even massage when you don't want to use a carrier oil. Lotion tends to be more liquidy, so creams generally hold more oils and are more moisturising (but also greasier).
Skin Butters - you can buy various 'butters' and blend them with essential oils to use for more serious skin conditions. They tend to be more protective than cream as they are thicker and won't wash off as easily. Some of the more popular ones are Shea Butter and Cocoa Butter.
Gel - there's nothing quite as good as an Aloe Vera Gel on a patch of mild sunburn! The cooling gel helps to dissipate the heat and the Aloe Vera soothes the inflamed skin. You can make your own therapeutic gels by adding essential oils to a homemade gel, or mixing them with Amigel.
Did you know you don't need a bathtub to enjoy an Aromatherapy Bath? A full or partial immersion in a tub filled with warm water and your favourite scented bath salts can be hugely relaxing. Unfortunately, it's not always practical (or achievable if you have small children). You can however grab a bucket of warm water and stick your feet (or even hands) into it and get similar benefits. We must warn you however, that you don't simply fill up your tub or bucket, add a few drops of oils and away you go. Remember back to your high school science classes where you had to 'mix' oil and water? Oil does not mix with water even if you whisk it around - it will eventually float on top of the water. This means the undiluted oil will come into contact with your sensitive skin, which can cause irritation. You need to disperse the oils through the water, and here's how you can do that:
Make your own Bath Salts - Use good quality magnesium flakes and drop the essential oil over the flakes. When they have been absorbed you can then add a handful to your bath. Magnesium is an excellent muscle relaxant and is best absorbed topically, so you've got the added benefit of upping your Magnesium levels! Alternatively, you can use Castile Soap or an emulsifier such as Disper and premix your oils, and then add them to the bath. Tisserand do not recommend using Epsom Salts, Bicarb Soda or regular salt for baths.
As we've stated before, essential oils are very powerful. They are concentrated molecules and we are still learning about their effects on our bodies. Like anything else we put into our mouths, essential oils have the potential to irritate our oesophagus or other parts of our 'gut'. They will be attacked by our stomach acid and processed by our liver, leaving some doubt as to how much of the oil will actually be absorbed.
Some people recommend mixing your essential oils with a food safe oil and putting this into a capsule which you swallow. This can still be a dangerous practice however, and any ingestion of oils should be supervised by your regular health practitioner as well as a certified aromatherapist who has been trained in how to safely use oils internally. Due to the lack of suitable qualifications available in Australia, you may need to find someone overseas to help you with this.
You may see oils that are listed as being Generally Recommended As Safe (GRAS) which simply means that they have been approved (usually by the FDA) as being safe to add to foods as a flavouring. This only applies for minimal amounts however - like adding a drop of lemon oil to homemade lemon squares, or a drop of peppermint oil to your peppermint slice.
Yes, we're talking about suppositories. Rectal use of essential oils helps to avoid the issue of possible damage to the oesophagus and reduces the burden on the liver. This method is frequently used by French medical practitioners when prescribing the internal use of essential oils. So please don't try it yourself at home!
We hope this has helped you learn more about how to use your essential oils safely. We'd love to hear from you so please leave your questions and comments below!