How do I use essential oils?

Traditionally, certain essential oil application methods have been preferred or used exclusively. However, as the research surrounding essential oils continues to develop, a greater understanding of application methods is now understood. All application methods are safe when used appropriately, including aromatic, topical, and internal methods.


The sense of smell is a tool that can elicit powerful physiologic, mental, and emotional responses. Essential oils are quickly absorbed by the smell receptors, which have a direct link to the limbic system by way of the olfactory nerve. The limbic system is part of the brain that supports a variety of functions including smell, emotions, behavior, and memory. For this reason, essential oils have an especially powerful effect via aromatic application.

Some essential oils induce uplifting or invigorating effects, while others are more calming. Diffusion is one of the simplest methods for using essential oils aromatically. Diffusers come in a variety of different sizes, colors, and styles, so you can get a look the suites your décor and the size of your room. Want to see some of my favorite diffusers? Click here!

However, using essential oils aromatically does not require any special diffusing devices. You can achieve the same health benefits by simply placing a few drops of essential oil in the palm of your hand that is then cupped around the nose as you breathe deeply.

Other ways to use essential oils aromatically

  • Apply a couple drops to a cotton ball and clip to the air vents of your vehicle (car diffusers are now readily available as well)
  • Mix oils in a spray bottle with water, vodka, or witch hazel and mist over furniture, carpet, or linens
  • Add oil to a batch of laundry or to dryer balls
  • Use in household surface cleaners


Topical application is a very simple, yet effective method for applying essential oils. Because essential oils have low molecular weights and are fat soluble, they easily penetrate the skin. Once absorbed, they provide localized benefit to the applied area.

Although essential oils are readily absorbed, they are also highly volatile and evaporate off the skin quickly.  This means that some of it does not soak in and is lost to the air.  There are ways, however, to increase the amount that penetrates the skin before evaporating.

Light massage will increase blood flow to the area of application, in turn improving distribution throughout the body.

Use of a carrier oil – called dilution – can also increase absorption, as it helps moisturize the skin and slow evaporation of the oil. This does NOT dilute the power or effectiveness of the essential oil, but rather increases its availability to your body and decreases the likelihood of a skin reaction.

IMPORTANT NOTE: To decrease the likelihood of developing a skin sensitivity – especially on young, elderly, or sensitive skin, but really for everyone – it is advisable to use a carrier oil to dilute your essential oils. Some examples of carrier oils are sweet almond oil, apricot seed oil, avocado oil, jojoba oil, or fractionated coconut oil.

ANOTHER IMPORTANT NOTE: It’s always advisable to use several small doses throughout the day rather than a single large dose. Start with the lowest possible dose (1–2 drops). A topical dose can be repeated every 4–6 hours as needed. Because every individual is unique, the dose will vary for each individual based on size, age, and overall health status.

Beneficial Areas You Can Apply Essential Oils

  • Back of neck
  • Forehead and temples
  • Chest and abdomen
  • Arms, legs, bottom of feet

Sensitive Areas to be Avoided

  • Some facial areas, such as  the skin around the eyes
  • Eyes and inner ears
  • Broken, damaged, or otherwise injured skin

Other Effective Methods of Topical Application 

  • Mix a few drops of oil with carrier oil and Epsom salts and add to a warm bath
  • Make a hot or cold compress by soaking a towel or cloth in water, adding essential oils, and then applying to the desired area
  • Add oil to a lotion or moisturizer and then apply to skin


Certain essential oils have a rich culinary history and can be used as dietary supplements supporting a variety of healthy conditions. When you sprinkle cinnamon on your oatmeal, sip a mug of peppermint tea, or add fresh basil leaves to your spaghetti, you are actually consuming some volatile aromatic essential oil compounds.

When in their concentrated form, essential oils can be used as dietary supplements for more targeted and potent health benefits. When ingested, essential oils directly enter the blood stream via the gastrointestinal tract, where they are transported throughout the body. Essential oils are lipid soluble so they are readily transported to all organs of the body, including the brain. Then, like all things we consume, essential oils are metabolized by the liver and other organs and are then excreted.

The composition of essential oils is highly complex. Each constituent possesses a unique set of biochemical properties that react with cells and organs in different ways. Although these mechanisms of action are not completely understood, the positive end results have been demonstrated. However, the body is only equipped to handle appropriate doses of essential oils.

Proper dosing according to labeling recommendations and other professional guidelines should be strictly followed to avoid toxicity.

Methods of Internal Application

  • Use oils in recipes for cooking or baking to replace fresh or dried herbs and spices. Remember that essential oils are much more potent than dried or fresh herbs and spices, so start with a VERY SMALL amount. You could even use a toothpick of a stronger oil (dip the end of a clean toothpick into the oil and then add to the food) rather than a full drop.
  • Add essential oils to smoothies, milk, or other drinks that contain fat or sugar. The presence of fat or sugar (like simple syrup) keeps the oil from pooling on top of your drink and protects your mucus membranes from irritation. 
  • Take essential oils internally in a veggie capsule or add to a small amount of applesauce or yogurt

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