Before I get into the question of the “best” way to use essential oils, we first need to know what the ways to use essential oils are.
In essence (pun intended), there are four main ways, or methods, to use essential oils. They are:
This is by far the most common way to use essential oils.
Details differ, but the main idea is to place a few drops of essential oil in a diffuser of some kind and inhale the aroma of the oil.
And yes, you do reap the benefits of the essential oil by the simple action of breathing. In fact, you usually feel the effects more quickly than the other methods.
This is because the aroma is made up of tiny volatile molecules of the essential oil. These are breathed in, enter the bloodstream and from there, travel to the other parts of the body.
Not only that, the aroma is also processed by your olfactory system (the system that manages your sense of smell) and limbic system (the system that manages your emotions and moods). This is why essential oils can change or improve your emotions and moods too.
If you find it hard to believe that inhaling an essential oil can make you feel happier, more alert or less anxious, try sleeping in a lavender garden and then beside a sewage drain. Then let me know if you feel a difference 🙂
#2: Topical application
This is a very popular way to use essential oils too – by applying it on the skin or hair. But do take note that the essential oils should be diluted before you do so.
As I’ve said (several times by now), essential oils are very potent. Applying undiluted essential oils to bare skin can either burn the skin or trigger sensitization (or both). The extent of the impact varies from person to person and it’s not an area that I feel you should experiment with.
How much to dilute? Well, different oils have different safe concentration levels. This deserves an article all by itself, so I’ll write on this in a future post.
In other words, eating the oils. Or should I say drinking the oils?
Anyway, the idea is to take in the essential oils orally.
Of course, nobody (or at least I hope nobody) will gulp down a whole bottle of essential oil like they do a can of beer. Most of the time, people put a few drops in a cup of water or in food and ingest the essential oil that way.
However, as I’ve mentioned in an earlier post (see here), I don’t advise this method at home unless you have the guidance of a qualified medical practitioner.
#4: External application
This is where essential oils are added to household and other products and sprayed around the house or garden.
Strictly speaking, this method can actually be merged with Method 1 – Inhalation. But I’ve kept them separate because the purpose of the two methods is different.
When we put essential oils in a diffuser and inhale the aroma (Method 1), the purpose is usually therapeutic. We want to relieve a headache or focus our minds or strengthen our immune systems.
When we add essential oils to a household product, say a cleaning agent (Method 4), the purpose is to clean the floor or brighten our clothes or remove a stain without resorting to chemical ingredients. There could be some therapeutic effect, but that’s usually not the main goal.
Which is the best way to use essential oils?
As I’ve mentioned, I don’t advise taking essential oils by ingestion (Method 3) unless you have professional medical guidance.
For the other methods, the “best” way to use essential oils depends on your purpose and the nature of the oil.
If your purpose is to reap the therapeutic benefits of essential oils, inhalation and topical application will both work.
Inhalation is great when you want to change or improve your mood, relieve the symptoms of respiratory issues (such as cold or flu), sleep better at night etc.
Topical application is suitable when the minor ailment you want to treat is pain of some kind (headaches, muscle ache etc.) or relates in some way to your skin or hair. For instance, if you have an insect bite, itchy skin or dandruff to deal with.
For therapeutic purposes, external application isn’t the most effective method. But it’s a great method to deal with household chores and garden issues in a safe, natural and economical way.
And if your purpose is beauty-related (say to reduce acne or increase skin firmness), topical application is clearly the best way. It may in fact be the only way. I’ve not yet come across studies that show that inhalation will work for this purpose. Hmm, a possible subject to explore!
The oil used
Not all oils are suitable for all four methods. For instance, the majority of oils aren’t suitable for ingestion at all.
Some oils are also too heavy to be diffused, for example sandalwood.
So the method you choose will depend on the oil you want to use.
1. There are four ways to use essential oils: inhalation, topical application, ingestion and external application.
2. For therapeutic purposes, inhalation is the most common method and can be used for most oils. Next is topical application.
3. Ingestion isn’t recommended.
4. The main purpose of external application isn’t usually therapeutic. But it’s good for household chores and garden issues.
5. Which method is the best way to use essential oils depends on the purpose and the nature of the oil used.