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Methods Of Use (And General Help & Information About Essential Oils)

There are many ways of using essential oils, and at least one of them will be right for you. Essential oils are the basic tools of aromatherapy. The oils, which are extracted from plants, can be used to treat all systems of the mind, and imbalances of the emotions.

There are many ways to use essential oils. Professional aromatherapists tend to favor massage as the most effective way of getting oils into the body. Massage also increases the healing potential of aromatherapy.

The medicinal properties of the essential oils and the nurturing power of touch combine to form a potent healing treatment. Massage can be relaxing or energizing, it can sooth the nervous system or boost the blood and lymphatic systems to improve pysical and mental functioning. Not least among its benefits is the way it can ease pain and tension from tense or overworked muscles and lift the spirits. Whenever possible, try to include massage in your home aromatherapy treatments; where this is not possible, use any of the other methods mentioned below. It is not an exhaustive list and you may well know, or you may discover, other methods.

Room Burner (oil burner; lamp ring; diffuser; vaporiser)

Room burners are specifically made for use with essential oils. You can buy them in many different shapes, sizes, designs and patterns. They can be electric, radiator fragrancer, candle powered or a ceramic light bulb ring that is heated by a light bulb, but most are ceramic oil burners warmed by a small candle. Also remember that a glazed ceramic oil burner will not crack, burn or stain, and is easy to keep clean. Always try to use good quality night lights with a good quality wick so that it will not smell when alight or smoke when blown out.

How to use: Place a small amount of cold water in the bowl, enough to fill it but leaving some space for water expansion. The essential oils of your choice are then dropped into the water ( 6-8 drops will normally be used depending on the size of the bowl and the amount of water being used). Place the candle in the chamber, light it and leave in a safe place. Use for 25-30 minutes this will, of course, depend on the size of the room or house etc.

Benefits: Psychological conditions can be treated very effectively with a room burner. Headaches respond well to this method and all respiratory problems can be treated in this way. A major use of the room burner is to scent and purify the air, clear germs and create a 'therapeutic atmosphere'.

Aromatic Baths

Aromatic baths are one of the most convenient and health-giving methods of using pure essential oils. When used in this way these healing essences not only affect the physical body but the mental and emotional levels too. They can be detoxifying, relaxing, invigorating, emotionally uplifting and sensual.

To some degree all essential oils have antibacterial properties, especially lavender and bergamot, while some like eucalyptus and tea tree are also effective when treating viruses. So regular aromatic baths can be useful to help prevent and treat a range of common ailments as well as uplifting or calming the emotions. These qualities plus the way the essences are readily absorbed by the body makes aromatic bathing an essential and luxurious addition to everyday life.

Recipes For Aromatic Baths

Invigorating bath: For an enlivening start to the day use the following blend of essential oils in a warm bath. To enhance the effect finish with a cool shower or splash your body briefly with cold water. For a more fruity aroma add 3 drops of lemon oil instead of geranium.

  • Sweet basil oil = 2 drops
  • Geranium oil = 3 drops
  • Rosemary = 4 drops

Relaxing bath: For a deeply relaxing bath at the end of the day add the following essential oils to a full, warm bath. For a more floral quality add 3 drops of neroli oil instead of sweet marjoram.

  • Clary sage oil = 3 drops
  • Lavender oil = 4 drops
  • Sweet marjoram oil = 3 drops

Revitalising bath: This combination of essences in a warm bath is ideal to use when you've had a long day and need re-energising. For a less fruity aroma but equally reviving effect add 3 drops of rosewood instead of grapefruit oil.

  • Geranium oil = 3 drops
  • Grapefruit oil = 3 drops
  • Myrtle = 4 drops

Emotionally uplifting bath: To melt away stressful or negative thoughts and uplift your spirits use the following combination of essential oils in a warm bath. Soak for at least 15 minutes inhaling the aromatic vapours. If you feel like treating yourself add 2 drops of rose or jasmine essential oil instead of petitgrain.

  • Bergamot oil = 4 drops
  • Clary sage oil = 3 drops
  • Petitgrain = 3 drops

Sensual bath: For a sensual bath for one or two add the following essential oils to a warm bath. Do make sure the blend is pleasing to both of you. For a more 'earthy' aroma use 3 drops of patchouli instead of myrtle oil, or leave out rose and myrtle altogether and substitute them with 3 drops of jasmine.

  • Sandalwood oil = 4 drops
  • Myrtle oil = 3 drops
  • Rose oil = 1 drops
  • Ylang Ylang oil = 2 drops

Purifying bath: Use this bath to help strengthen the body and combat infections like colds and flu. If desired use 2 drops of penetrating eucalyptus instead of bergamot oil.
  • Bergamot oil = 3 drops
  • Lavender oil = 4 drops
  • Tea Tree = 3 drops

Children's bath: If children see you relaxing in a fragrant bath it won't be long before they want one too! Mix the following essential oils into 2 to 3 teaspoons of base oil, then add warm water to create a delightful bath. The dosages are suitable for children over six years old. This combination is ideal for bedtime as it soothes the emotions.

  • Mandarin oil = 3 drops
  • Lavender oil = 3 drops

How to use: First ask yourself what effect you'd like from your aromatic bath, then select an essential oil whose aroma pleases you and also suits your physical and emotional needs. For example, if you have a cold, lavender oil will help to combat infection and has a very relaxing effect, on the other hand bergamot oil combines the ability to fight infection and induces an emotionally uplifting effect. Use only two or three essences in the bath. When you know each one very well you may choose to use a maximum of four, although just two can often have a more powerful effect than four - less generally means more with essential oils.

Fill the bath, add the essential oil(s) (up to 6 drops or as directed), then agitate the water to disperse the oil(s). Soak in the bath for at least 10 minutes, and make sure the bathroom door is closed so that you get the benefit of inhaling the aroma as well as getting the oil directly into the body via the water. For some conditions, or if preferred, the essential oils can be diluted in a massage carrier oil first, which will help to disperse the oil throughout the water. Alternatively, use ready blended (in carrier oil) or specially formulated bath oil, which has the added benefits of moisturising the body, giving a bubble/foam bath and helping to carry the essential oil out of the bath.

Benefits: The use of oils in a bath is useful for all conditions but will be particularly beneficial for muscular and skin conditions, while respiratory problems will benefit from the inhalation of the aroma. Stress, anxiety and other mental health problems will also be improved. Anyone suffering with insomnia will find a pre-retiring bath with Lavender, Bergamot, Petitgrain, Neroli as well as other oils a great aid to restful sleep.

Lotions And Creams

Essential oils can be added to fragrance-free lotions or creams, but make sure that you use a very good quality product that if preferably lanolin free (some people are sensitive to lanolin).

How to use: Add the essential oil(s) to a dark amber glass jar to help preserve the oil and prevent it from reacting with a plastic bottle. The recommended dosage is approximately 1-2 drops of essential oil to every 5mg of cream or 5ml of lotions. Apply lotion to the skin and rub until completely absorbed. Cream should be applied to the skin and gently rubbed in. Leave the rest to sit on the surface of the skin and gradually release the oil into the body and the aroma into the nose.

Benefits: This is a particularly good way of treating most skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, which will benefit greatly. A lotion is an excellent way to get essential oils rapidly into the bloodstream and is therefore useful for treating conditions such as circulation problems. Lotions and creams can be effectively used for headaches, while creams are a good way of treating respiratory conditions. Both are an essential medium for general body and skin care.


Inhalation is very useful for relieving congestion, easing catarrh and soothing the respiratory tract. The method of covering the head with a towel and inhaling the vapour from eucalyptus and camphor is still very popular today.

How to use: Pour a pint of very hot water into a bowl, then add up to 3-4 drops of essential oil(s) to the water. Cover your head with a towel and then lean over the bowl, keeping your head about 10 or 12 inches above the bowl. Keep your eyes closed and then inhale the vapours for a few minutes, then lean back and relax for a couple of minutes. Repeat for up to 10 minutes or as long as is comfortable. Repeat several times a day if required. A facial steamer may be used instead of a bowl with 3-5 drops of essential oil(s).

Benefits: Respiratory conditions will benefit most from this treatment method. Eucalyptus, Scots Pine, Niaouli and several other oils are excellent decongestants renowned for their ability to help most respiratory conditions. Inhalation is also a good way of treating facial skin problems as its effect is the same as that achieved by a facial sauna.


Compresses can be either hot or cold depending on the condition that is being treated. It is well-known and frequently used treatment method for sports injuries in particular, though its uses are much wider than this and can be very effective for pain, swelling and inflammation.

How to use: The method is the same whether hot or cold. Add up to 5 drops of essential oil(s) to a basin or bowl of hot or icy cold water. Use a face-cloth, lined pad, cotton wool or other absorbent fabric and dip this into water. Wring out the excess and place the pad on the affected area. Once the compress has achieved body temperature, renew it and continue as required. A hot compress can be held in place with crepe bandage on joints or with cling-film on larger areas, for example the lower back.

Benefits: Most conditions characterized by 'aches', for example earache, backache, etc, should be treated with hot compresses, while sprains, fevers, inflammations and headaches should be treated with cold compresses. Sprains and varicose veins respond very well to the 'hot/cold' treatment, ie start with a cold compress then alternate between hot and cold compresses over the next few days, finishing with a cold one.


Massage is a method favored by professional aromatherapists, who usually carry out a full body massage. Specific essential oils are chosen to suit the condition and temperament of the patient, and blended with a base oil, such as sweet almond oil or grapeseed oil.

How to use: The essential oil content in a blend should usually be between 1 per cent and 3 per cent depending on the type of disorder. As a general rule, physical ailments like rheumatism or indigestion demand a stronger concentration than the more emotional or nervous conditions. A rough guideline is to say that 20 drops of essential oil is equivalent to one milliliter, so to make a blend it is possible to use the following proportions:
  • 20 to 60 drops of essential oil to 100ml of base oil.
  • 7 to 25 drops of essential oil to 25ml of base oil.
  • 3 to 5 drops of essential oil to 1 tsp of base oil.

Benefits: Massage is a relaxing and nourishing experience in itself, not least because of the unspoken communication based on touch, but it also ensures that the oils are effectively absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream. For general well-being it is beneficial to practice self-massage on specific areas of the body, especially concentrating on the feet and hands. It is also useful to rub those. It is also useful to rub those particular parts of the body that are causing discomfort; for example, peppermint ( in dilution) can be rubbed on the stomach in a clock-wise direction to ease indigestion; Marjoram can help to relax the neck and shoulders if they are stiff.

Other Methods

There are many other methods of using essential oils. The following is a brief summary of some of them.

Room Sprays

Make a home-made room spray using a sprayer that has been thoroughly cleaned, to provide your own favorite aromas to freshen your home. It is perfectly possible to make a room spray using a simple solution of cold water with added essential oils (stick to a 5 drops to 10ml maximum). This will mean that every time you use it you will have to make sure you shake it vigorously to disperse the oils in the water. You can 'fix' the aroma and also help to disperse the oils equally in the water by using distilled water (boiled then cooled water) and adding 10 per cent alcohol (preferably vodka).

Radiators And Humidifiers

Drops of oil can be placed in a saucer of water placed on top of a radiator, radiator fragrancer, or on to a ball of damp cotton wool placed behind the radiator. Drops of oil can also be added to the water in a humidifier. All these methods can be used as an alternative to a room burner.

Foot Bath

For foot problems, and as a way of introducing essential oils into the body for other problems, a foot bath can be used. This can either be a piece of equipment specially made for the purpose or a bowl of warm water. Add 2-4 drops of oil to the bath, disperse and immerse feet for up to 20 minutes; adding a bath carrier will help. A hand bath can achieve the same result for hand problems, and achieved in the same way, but only immerse for 10 minutes.


Any method that allows inhalation of the oils is an alternative to steam inhalation. Some specific methods not mentioned so far are a tissue/handkerchief - add 1 or 2 drops of oil to your pillow at night so that the oil can be inhaled throughout the night.


Although not a recognized therapeutic method, a pot-pourri is a pleasant way of creating an aromatic atmosphere in a house or other rooms in the home. Adding essential oils to a pot-pourri will fragrance a room and introduce the essential oils into the body through inhalation.

Blending Oils

Essential oils can be used alone or blended together. Oils are blended for two reasons: to enhance or change their medicinal actions and to create a more sophisticated fragrance. In purfumery many oils are blended together. For therapeutic purposes it is unusual to mix more than four oils together. When blending oils at home it is best to mix no more than two or three oils. This is because blending has been shown to alter the molecular structure of essential oils and you may end up with a blend that acts differently from what you had intended. Make sure the properties of the oils are complementary.

Blending Guidelines

Choose two or three oils which you believe complement each other. Generally all flower oils work well together; woody oils enhance the resinous oils and other woody essences; the essential oils derived from herbs tend to blend harmoniously with each other; and the range of oils from fruits blend well with essences from their own botanical family .Mix a blend using a little of the strongest scented oils and more of the lighter fragrances. The best blend is usually the one you find most appealing.

Storing Oils

Essential oils are very volatile, ie they evaporate quickly when exposed to the air. Air will also cause oxidisation of the oils, and they are also affected by light and heat. Always buy and store your essential oils in brown amber glass bottles with air-tight, child-proof caps. Keep them in a cool dark place such as a refrigerator if it is kept at a reasonable temperature.

Most essential oils, if stored correctly, will keep for up to two years. Some citrus oils such as Orange and Grapefruit may only be effectively used for up to six months. They will then go cloudy through oxidization. Some oils like Sandalwood, Frankincense and Patchouli actually mature and mellow with age. Once blended with other oils, and in carriers, oils will begin to oxidise, weaken and go rancid. This process, however, does take three months or more, and if you store your blends under the same conditions as your essential oils they should be perfectly satisfactory if used within the three months.

Safety Precautions

Warning: Never use essential oils directly on to the skin. Never take essential oils by mouth. If swallowed accidentally, eat bread, drink plenty of milk, and seek professional help. Always consult a qualified practitioner for advice and treatment:
  • If you are pregnant
  • Have an allergy
  • Have a chronic medical condition such as high blood pressure or epilepsy
  • Are receiving medical or psychiatric treatment Are taking homeopathic remedies
  • When treating babies or very young children

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