The great thing about essential oils is that they are remarkably safe and easy to use. Plus, they have a wide variety of everyday applications. They can be enjoyed just for their pleasant aromas alone, or used for their therapeutic value. Perhaps the whole spectrum of their soothing and healing properties is what appeals to you. No matter what aspect of aromatherapy attracts you, there are a few simple, yet essential things to know before you get started.
Meet the Aroma Families
While you can most definitely start out with one essential oil and branch out from there, you may want to make yourself a starter kit. This basic kit would include at least one essential oil from each aroma “family,” so that you can get more benefits from your personal aromatherapy program. Plus, the advantages of essential oils are often increased when blended with other oils.
There are eight families of aromas; because of their complex chemical make-up, some essential oils can be classified under several families:
Citrus, which includes bergamot, citronella, grapefruit, lemon, lime, orange, and tangerine.
Floral, which includes chamomile, geranium, lavender, neroli, and ylang ylang.
Herbaceous, which includes basil, chamomile, clary sage, hyssop, lavender, and rosemary.
Camphoraceous, which includes camphor, eucalyptus, peppermint, rosemary, and tea tree.
Spicy, which includes allspice, anise seed, cinnamon, clove,- ginger, and nutmeg.
Resinous, which includes frankincense and myrrh.
Woody, which includes cedarwood, juniper berry, pine, and
Earthy, which includes patchouli.
Starting with eight essential oils may sound overwhelming. It’s perfectly acceptable to begin with less. However, it’s a good idea to start with at least two: lavender and eucalyptus are fabulous starter oils because they offer a broad range of health benefits, plus they blend well together.
In choosing your oils, it’s important to choose scents that you enjoy. If a scent turns you off, you may not get the full benefit of that particular aroma. Additionally, because the oils are concentrated, they may smell stronger than you first anticipated. This is where blending comes in handy. When compatible essential oils are mixed together, the scent can become more delicate and inviting.
The most important thing to remember is there is no wrong choice in aromatherapy. Choose the oils that make your senses happy, and you’ll do just fine.
Basic Aromatic Recipes and Applications
There are many ways to use essential oils. Following are some basic methods of use. The recipes that follow are general. For example, while the bath section suggests using 4-8 drops of essential oil, some essential oils are stronger than others so maybe only 2 drops would be required.
Aromatic Baths – Essential oils can be added to bath water just for pleasure alone or for therapeutic value. Either way, a long, luxurious soak in aromatic bath water is a treat for all your senses. The basic rule of thumb is to add 4-8 drops of essential oil to the bath after it’s been drawn. Use your hand to be sure and agitate the water so the oil will be well dispersed and not just floating on top, then hop on in.
Foot and Hand Baths – People with arthritis, rheumatism, athlete’s foot, and assorted skin problems can benefit from hand or foot baths. Use a bowl or small tub big enough for your appendages. Make sure the water isn’t too hot; it must be comfortable enough so that your hands or feet can enjoy generous soak time. Add five to six drops of the appropriate essential oil into the bowl or tub and mix it up with your hand to disperse it. Next, place either your feet or hands in the bowl and soak them for about ten to fifteen minutes. Afterwards, dry skin off completely. For added benefit, add a few drops of the same essential oil to a carrier oil and massage into the skin.
Aromatic Shower – As stated earlier, essential oils used with running water will vaporize the scent. However, a wonderful wake-up treatment using essential oils in a shower makes perfect sense. Choose an invigorating scent, and after washing place 2-3 drops on a clean cloth or sponge and rub it briskly all over your body. If using on your face, rub gently. Rinse as normal.
Sauna – The sauna is a wonderful appliance, and is a wonderful treat for both body and skin. The benefits of a sauna can be increased when an essential oil is added to the mix. Blend just two drops of essential to approximately 600 ml of water and throw it on the heat source. Do not use more than two drops, as more could be overpowering. Caution: Avoid using sweet-smelling aromas, as they may cause nausea or headache when inhaled in such a tight, closed space. Rose, geranium, and ylang ylang are three to avoid; eucalyptus, lemon, peppermint, and pine are four to use.
Hot and Cold Compresses – There’s nothing quite like a compress to help with muscular pain, sprains, and bruises. They also help to reduce pain and congestion in internal organs. However, it’s important to know when to use each.
A cold compress is best for recent injuries (sprains, bruises, swellings, and inflammation), and for headaches, migraines, and fever.
A hot compress is best for old injuries, muscular pain, toothache, menstrual cramps, cystitis, boils and abscesses. Additionally, some people with migraines may prefer a hot compress to a cold one.
To make a hot compress, add a few drops of the appropriate essential oil to a bowl of hot (not boiling) water. Take a clean cloth or bandage and soak it in the mixture. Wring out the excess, and place over the affected area. Repeat as often as needed. A cold compress is made in a similar manner, only using your choice of cold or ice water.
Massage – The basic rule is to add 2-3 drops to 1 ounce of carrier oil, and massage on affected area. However, because some essential oils are stronger than others, consult the essential oil section for specific guidelines.
Steam Inhalations – This is a wonderful way to clear the lungs and sinuses of congestion and infection. Add 2-3 drops of the applicable essential oil to a bowl of steaming hot water. Place your face over the bowl, drape a towel over your head, and breathe normally. Do this for a few minutes, then rest. You can repeat these steps a few times in a row, however discontinue if you feel any discomfort. This particular method directly affects the respiratory tract and the blood supply, therefore you may experience quick relief after this therapy.
Direct Application – Even though essential oils are natural and have a long history of safe use, they are highly concentrated botanical oils, and you should use them with common sense and caution. While experienced aromatherapists and reflexologists often practice neat application, individuals just starting to explore the wonderful world of aromatherapy should exercise caution. Essential oils can be inhaled directly from the bottle, and some like to add a few drops to a handkerchief for convenience.
Gargles and Mouthwashes – Some essential oils have the ability to fight bad breath, reduce the pain of a toothache, and to soothe sore throats. The best way to attack these health challenges is through a gargle or mouthwash. A simple way to make one is to add one drop of the applicable essential oil to two teaspoonfuls of cider vinegar, and add to a glass. Stir well to disperse the oil, then fill the glass with warm water; stir again. Gargle and/or rinse with the mixture. Use twice daily.
Vaporization – Two of the most popular and easy-to-use diffusers are the scent diffuser and the particle diffuser. A common scent diffuser is the “lamp ring” or “light bulb ring”, which is made to sit on top of a light bulb and use the heat of the bulb to vaporize the oil’s scent into the air. Usually 2-3 drops of oil is all that’s needed for a scent diffuser. A particle diffuser is a little more advanced, usually an electronic appliance similar to a humidifier that you add a specified amount of oil to. The oil is then diffused into the air. Scent diffusers only diffuse the aroma of the essential oil into the air, while particle diffusers offer greater therapeutic benefit by actually diffusing oil particles into the air. Caution: Never, ever place essential oils directly onto a hot light bulb. Never leave any diffuser operating unattended. Always follow manufacturer’s instructions.
These are just a few fun and easy ways to use essential oils. You can also add essential oils to scent-free creams, lotions, shampoos, conditioners, and massage oils. Some people add them to the dishwasher and washing machine, and some even place a drop or two on a washcloth and add it to the dryer. Be creative, and make up your own recipes!