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I’ve written about this topic previously, but I’m not sure it can be said enough. There is a safe way to use essential oils.
I know I’m guilty of this, but when you start looking into using essential oils for yourself or your family it feels like because it’s extracted from plants, it’s 100% safe. And that’s true – when used correctly. This is true of other herbal preparations, as well. Some plants have a stronger concentration of beneficial constituents, depending on the environment and it’s own immune response (not something I’ll get into now – just know plants behave similar to us in response to an external threat). For example, belladonna is useful for colic, motion sickness, asthma and whooping cough, and as a painkiller or sedative. However, in high enough doses this plant is poisonous.
There are also situations when a particular essential oil is advised against. For instance, Clary Sage is not recommended for women who are pregnant because it may cause pre-term contractions (which is why some women have told me they started using it once their labor had become established). If you spend a lot of time in the sun it is best to avoid topical applications of citrus essential oils like Lemon, Grapefruit, or Lime. These oils are photosensitizers, meaning they could cause irritation or burns when exposed to UV rays. And when you’re taking medications, whether prescribed or OTC, it’s important to discuss using essential oils with your physician before you start using them. Some oils may counteract your medications, either making them less effective or dangerously effective (think blood thinners).
I’m not trying to scare anyone who wants to use essential oils. I love that I have them available and use them regularly. However, I do want people to understand the importance of education when doing anything that relates to our health and well-being. I love this visual I learned about last week. Picture a pyramid. On one side is the concentration of the plant material, increasing as you go up. On the other, the bio-availability – or ease with which our body can use the plant – decreasing as you go up the pyramid.
I didn’t include all the different preparations in this image because I would never have room. I included teas and tinctures because they represent the most easily processed plant preparations, other than using the material directly, either internally or externally.
So let’s talk about how you can safely use essential oils. I promise it’s not difficult, though I’m sure I’ve made you nervous after the beginning of this post. All you need to safely use essential oils is something to dilute them with, first. Some of my favorites include:
- Mineral or vegetable oil (olive, jojoba, vitamin E, coconut)
- Epsom salt
- Baking soda
- Witch Hazel
These are just some of the options; I’m sure you have your own favorites. How can you use essential oils?
- Topically – massage, spray, roller, etc.
- Room spray
- Direct inhalation
I love that using essential oils gives you so many options when you want to use them. I do have some suggestions on safely using essential oils in each application.
Please see my disclosure page.
How You Can Use Essential Oils
This is probably my favorite way to use essential oils. I can prep my blend before I need it, in a dropper or roller bottle, and it’s ready to go as soon as I need it. The most common suggestion (though I know Doterra states otherwise) is that all essential oils should be diluted in a carrier oil prior to application. This means adding a few drops to olive oil, making it easier to spread across the skin, and also less concentrated.
According to David Crow, L.Ac. at Floracopeia, diffusing essential oils is the best way to use them. Because our olfactory system (our sniffers) are such an integral part of the process when we use essential oils, and especially on how we interpret events and memories, diffusion is the easiest way to get the benefits.
Follow the directions that come with your diffuser. The capacity of your diffuser will help determine how much essential oil can safely be added. In my experience, they suggest between 5-10% ratio.
I love putting together a room spray because I only have one diffuser that stays in the kitchen. So when I need a calming spray for the girls for bedtime, or the bathroom is a little extra smelly, I can mix up a room spray with some essential oils and witch hazel (you could also use a high proof alcohol). Mixing the essential oil with witch hazel or alcohol helps with dispersing the oil throughout the room.
This spray is one I mixed up for the girls last week. They’ve been having trouble sleeping – we’re transitioning some naps – and this has been super helpful. Just a few spritzes throughout the room or across the bed and you’re done. Just let it dry completely before letting your little ones lay down to sleep.
- 4 oz witch hazel
- 10 drops Lavender essential oil
- 10 drops Cedarwood atlas essential oil
I don’t know about you other mamas, but a soothing, relaxing bath at the end of a long day is the best. And when you add in some Epsom salt and essential oils or herbs, it’s even better. You could really add whichever oils you want, but if you’re using an oil like cinnamon, peppermint, or even tea tree, make sure you use just a few drops and really make sure it’s absorbed into the salt before putting it into the bath. Otherwise you’ll end up with some skin irritation and redness, or even a slight burn.
This blend is my favorite when I’m feeling congested and need to be able to get a good night’s sleep.
- 1 cup Epsom salt
- 15 drops Lavender essential oil
- 8 drops Eucalyptus essential oil
- 5 drops Peppermint essential oil
As I said before, inhalation is the best and easiest way to affect the body. And when you create a blend – or just a single oil – for direct inhalation, you can get an almost immediate response throughout the body. There are several ways to do this
- Put a drop or two in your palms, then cup your palms over your nose
- Open your bottle and directly inhale the essential oil from the cap (this is usually how I do it)
- For on the go direct inhalation, soak a small piece of cloth or cotton ball and keep it in a container in your bag. When you need it, just open the container and take a few quick sniffs.
How to Dilute Essential Oils
Dilution ratios, once you know them, are easy to remember. Here’s a few good rules for diluting essential oils:
- When addressing an acute (localized) concern, use a dilution of up to 10%
- Typically, essential oils should only be used for a short time in response to an acute condition. If it persists, it is a good idea to seek proper diagnosis from a medical professional.
- When using in a massage oil or over a large area don’t use more than 2-4% essential oil
- When working with children or the elderly, experts suggest not using more than a 1% dilution, unless directed by a trained professional
*It’s important to note that not all drops of essential oil are the same size. The thicker, or more viscous, the oil the larger the drop may be. So a drop of Frankincense essential oil may be larger than, say, a drop of Lemon essential oil. Keep this in mind when you’re creating your own blends.
Essential oils are wonderful. I use them daily for myself, in my diffuser, and for my children. Sweet Girl has started asking for “medicine” when she gets a scrape or really itchy bug bite. They are easy to use, quick to grab, and incredibly versatile. And when used correctly and safely, essential oils can be a wonderful addition to your daily routines.
Please see my disclosure page.