The Use of Essential Oils: How to Manage It Properly

The fragrant plant extracts called essential oils have been making waves in everything from lotions to household cleaners and integrative, complementary therapy for managing cancer symptoms. But how and why do you use them? Oils are extracted from flowers, leaves, bark, fruit, and other parts of plants to create fragrance. When inhaled, their scents can travel from the nose to the olfactory nerves that connect to the brain.


As with any health-related practice, following safety guidelines when using essential oils is important. These oils can be highly potent and cause many side effects, including a burning sensation on the skin or respiratory tract. For this reason, it’s crucial to follow the usage recommendations on each oil bottle. If you experience a reaction, there are ways to manage it at home. For example, if you’ve accidentally rubbed oil into your eyes, soak a cotton swab in food-grade fatty oil such as sesame or olive and wipe away the fat.

In most cases, this will eliminate the irritation and allow you to continue using the oil. It’s also important to remember that not all essential oils are created equal. Some may contain fillers or other additives that can alter their efficacy. To avoid this, look for high-quality essential oils of your choice that are pure and undiluted. Some women use essential oils during pregnancy to help reduce anxiety or enhance their labor and delivery experience. However, as every pregnancy differs, it’s important to consult your healthcare provider and midwife before applying essential oils. Exercising extreme caution and following safety guidelines is particularly important for infants and children, as their thinner skin and developing liver and immune systems make them more susceptible to toxicity from excess oil usage.

Topical application

Essential oils are greasy, as their name suggests, and they can be applied topically to the skin. This method allows you to enjoy the oil’s scent and benefits in a concentrated form. Before applying, dilute the oil with a carrier oil (such as coconut or jojoba). It helps reduce essential oil concentration and makes it safer for your body. It also allows the oil to absorb more quickly into your skin and prevents it from evaporating too fast, which can irritate. Applying the oil can be a great way to soothe and energize your mood and relieve aches and pains. Many add a few drops to their favorite massage lotion to make it soothing or refreshing.

Another popular, topical application is using the oil to scent laundry or linens. It can help deodorize your home and create a relaxing and refreshing environment. You can also apply the oils to a wool dryer ball and toss it in the dryer with your clothes. You can even apply diluted oil to a warm cloth and inhale the steam to ease headaches, tense muscles, or menstrual cramps. Bring a pot of water to a boil, take it off the burner, pour in a few drops of your preferred oil, and lean over the towel-draped steam tent.

Internal use

After bringing a pot of water to a boil and turning off the heat, add a few drops of your favorite oil, and then lean over the steam tent covered with towels. It allows them to reach their destination (such as the brain, muscles, organs, and joints) and have a therapeutic effect. When inhaled through the nose, essential oil compounds are absorbed quickly by the scent receptors in the nose. As these scents are transmitted to the brain’s limbic system, they can trigger a range of physiologic and psychological responses, including reducing stress, anxiety, depression, or feelings of loneliness and increasing focus, energy, and cognitive function.

The skin absorbs essential oils quickly after application. Because of their small size, they can penetrate the skin and reach the bloodstream, supporting the body’s natural healing processes. When applied via a carrier oil, essential oils can be used for massage and other skin care applications, including making homemade soaps and body lotions.

Ingestion of essential oils is another way they can be used. However, many critical oil users avoid this as it can have a strong, unpleasant taste and is only recommended in some instances by some professionals (e.g., frankincense to improve age spots). When using essential oils for ingestion, ensuring the oil you choose is safe to ingest and has been adequately tested is vital. It can be done by requesting GC/MS testing on an essential oil or using a smell test, as many experienced critical oil experts can tell if an oil is pure or adulterated by smelling it on a test strip.


Aromatherapy with essential oils can support emotional equilibrium and a sense of calm. They can also be used with other natural health practices, such as massage therapy or acupuncture. Regardless of the purpose, following proper safety and usage guidelines is essential. In general, skin contact with essential oils should be avoided. Alternatively, they must be combined with carrier oil at a maximum ratio of five drops to one half-teaspoon carrier. This dilution helps to prevent allergic reactions. It can also increase the surface area of absorption and prolong the effects of the oil. Inhaling and diffusing are the safest ways to use essential oils, as they’re less likely to cause physical irritation. However, many people are worried about inhaling the harsh chemicals in specific commercially produced essential oils, so buying pure, organic oils is best if possible.

Using a diffuser or humidifier will allow the scent to spread throughout your room and can have the added benefit of moisturizing your air. Take a few drops of essential oil, lean over the steaming water, and inhale the vapors. It’s a good idea to consult a certified aromatherapist before trying aromatherapy. They’ll be able to advise on which oils are safe for your particular needs, how to apply them, and the best ways to utilize them. It’s also a good idea to let your aromatherapist know about any underlying health issues, such as sensitivity to certain foods or medications or if you have a history of allergies.