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There are many ways to use essential oils. Here are a few easy, commonly-used methods. For more information, please refer to the Essential Oils Desk Reference published by Life Science Publishing, or the Reference Guide for Essential Oils by Connie and Alan Higley, published by Abundant Health. The bottle labels also give some usage information, but also recommend some uses that should only be under the supervision of an aromatherapist.
Be sure to check references or consult a certified aromatherapist for safety information. Some oils should not be used while pregnant or on young children. There are also certain medical conditions for which some oil should be avoided.
Diffusing oils is a very effective and easy-to-manage method of using essential oils. Some things to consider when choosing a diffuser are a) no heat, b) easy to clean, and c) quiet.
Ultrasonic diffusers are great - you put water and the oil in the diffuser, which has a small disk that vibrates causing the oil and the water to break apart into tiny particles. Those particles mix and form a mist that is dispersed into the air with a small fan. These diffusers are good for putting a controllable amount of oil into a room, and the small particles are easily absorbed by the lungs. They also tend to be very quiet.
Nebulizing diffusers blow a stream of air across a small pool of oil, causing the oil to form a mist which then blows into the room. It's good for getting a large amount of oil into the air quickly, and is the way you want to go if, for example, you are using Thieves® Oil blend to kill mold in a room.Nebulizing, or atomizing, diffusers are a little more noisy because a larger fan is required.
Evaporative diffusers disperse the oil by having a fan blow through a pad or a filter that has oil applied to it. The air causes the oil to evaporate quickly and to be carried into the room. These are probably the least efficient diffusers, but are very handy when traveling because they can be made pretty sturdy and don't require water.
When you diffuse oils, it's a good idea to use a timer and diffuse for short periods of time at frequent intervals. That way your body has a chance to absorb and process the oil, and doesn't get more than it can use at a time.
The easiest way to get oils into your system quickly is to put a drop of oil in the palm of your hand, rub your hands together lightly, and then place them over your nose and mouth and breathe in. Be careful always to avoid getting oils into your eyes!** You can also carefully breathe the vapors from a bottle, even an empty one. Just be sure to hold it a couple of inches away from your nose so you don't inhale a droplet into your nostril. When applying oils topically, take a moment to also inhale the oil left on your hands to increase the effectiveness of your application. Direct inhalation is NOT recommended for those with asthma.
Applying oils to your skin is generally a safe and easy way to get benefits to a specific area of your body. Be sure to read the label or the entry in the Essential Oil Desk Reference or other essential oil reference book to see if the oil you are using should be diluted before using. Also remember, "more is not better". Using a small amount of oil more frequently is more effective AND more economical than using a large amount of oil less often.
Some people are sensitive to some oils. It is wise to do a patch test, by putting a small amount of oil on the gauze part of a bandage and applying the bandage for a few hours. Check for redness or irritation before using the oil on a larger area. Dilution doesn't hurt, either, even if your reference says the oil is okay to use neat (see Diluting Oils - Save Some Money!).
If you use an oil often you can become sensitized to it, so don't use the same oil every day. Take a break!
If your skin becomes uncomfortable or feels warm after applying the oil, apply a very pure vegetable oil to dilute the oil. You won't lose effectiveness; it will just slow down absorption to a rate more comfortable to your skin. The bottoms of the feet are a safe area to apply oils; the skin is usually thicker and less sensitive there, and the oils can travel quickly from there to any part of the body.
Remember that some oils, especially citrus oils, are photosensitive; you need to put them "where the sun don't shine", or stay out of the sun for several hours. And peppermint oil should never be used on children under the age of 3 years old.
Some oils are safe to take internally. It's always a good idea to consult a trained aromatherapist or professional (not just someone selling oils) before taking any oil internally, including GRAS-rated oils. Some oils are not safe for pregnant women or persons with certain medical conditions, and any oil can harm you if used improperly. You wouldn't take a powerful medication without consulting a doctor; essential oils are just as powerful!