Using Essential Oils: What a personal aromatherapy session looks like
Pointers on the topical application of essential oils for your personal use
It's great when someone can do the AromaTouch® Technique on you, or if you can have the pleasure of an aromatic massage. But, sometimes, that just doesn't work out. But, there are still very simple and effective ways for you to apply the oils on yourself.
A little personal background
I started using essential oils late in 2003, before there were many reliable and accessible guides on how to effectively use the oils. But, I had found a few things, and what follows is something of my personal application of the principles I found there.
It's not the intention of this article to give you any professional or technical advice on how to use essential oils. I will only paint a picture — of sorts — in your mind of what your typical session with some essential oils might look like. I'm assuming here that you already understand about diffusing essential oils, the AromaTouch® Technique and ingestion of the oils. And, I will not get into making any suggestions of which oils to use for what. My only intent here is simply to give you a primer on practical aromatherapy — some idea of how you can topically apply the oils for your personal use, to begin you on your journey into the wonderful world of aromatherapy.
Preparation: What to do before you begin
1) Start out clean: It's always best not to apply essential oils over anything toxic.
Since you're exposed to toxins every day — from the air you breath to the food you eat to the water you drink — and your body is continually trying to eliminate these toxins — largely through your skin — it's best to do a session with the oils after a shower. Unless you have some sort of water filtration system,1 showering presents its own set of problems, but you just have to do the best you can.
It's also important to avoid synthetic chemicals in your personal care products. Applying essential oils over these can drive these toxins into your system, creating skin sensitivities and irritations, or possibly even toxic overloads.
That said, I should qualify this by saying that getting a shower before you begin a session with the oils is not absolutely essential. As long as you are reasonably clean, there shouldn't be a problem.
2) Find a quiet, private place: Another consideration is, because the oils can be topically applied on many parts of the body (and I should say, dōTERRA® really emphasizes the issue of dilution, especially in sensitive areas), I try to find a private place where I can sit at least semi-undressed without embarrassing myself or others. This gives me easier access to whatever location I need to reach with my oils. It also provides a more quieted, restful environment in which to experience their wonderful fragrances.
Of course, more often than not, when I'm applying the oils, it's in a shorter, quicker session. Many times, all that is needed is to take off my shoes, reach under my shirt or apply the oils to the head and neck area. (Think of these as mini-sessions.) It all depends on the need of the moment.
3) Selecting the oils and safety precautions: I then select the essential oils I want to use in the session, and along with my fractionated coconut oil and a few cotton balls, I'm ready to start.
- The fractionated coconut oil is for dilution of some of the "hotter" oils, or for when I want to use an oil on larger parts of my body, when coverage — but not a large quantity of oil — is the primary concern.
- The fractionated coconut oil and the cotton balls are also kept handy just in case an oil starts to burn a little, or I get one where there is greater sensitivity — like too near the eyes. Applying some fractionated coconut oil to a cotton ball and dabbing the eye is an effective way to stop the irritation. (Note: Never use water, in an attempt to flush oils from the eyes.)
Steps in topically applying essential oils
Sitting in a straight chair — or on the coffee table (whatever works) — with my oils in easy reach, I cross one leg over the other to get ready access to my foot.
If I'm going to be applying more than two or three oils, I like to start with Balance®. I'll often mix it with roughly equal parts of frankincense, which seems to work well for me. Balance®, as its name says, is a very balancing oil, both physically and emotionally, and makes an excellent place to start. The frankincense, with its own ability to promote feelings of peace, relaxation and overall wellness, seems to enhance the effect for me.
When I have a few drops of the oil(s) in the palm of my non-dominant hand, I use the index and middle fingers of my dominant hand and stir the oil(s) clock-wise, at least three times. (I'm right handed, so I put the oil into my left hand, and stir the oil with the fingers of my right hand.) I then take a good, deep breath, filling myself with the aroma of the oils.
Then, using an adaptation of the Vita-Flex Technique, I apply the Balance® and frankincense along the points of the foot associated with the spine, giving extra attention to spots that are giving me any special problems. I run up those points at least three times. Then, I make sure to tweak the brain points on the big toe. Any leftover oil in my hand is spread over the entire bottom of the foot.
Once I finish the one foot, I switch over and do the same for the other.
I'll then apply Balance® and frankincense to my sacrum and base of the neck, to my temples, behind the ears and over the heart, just massaging the oil in slightly. Sometimes I'll massage it into the rim of my ears, working the acupressure points as I go.
After this, with the oils remaining in my hands, I'll cut my hands over my face and take several very deep breaths, relax for a few minutes and feel the oils working all through my body.
I will then follow essentially the same process for each of the oils I've chosen for the session: always starting with the feet, then applying the oil(s) topically over the area I'm wanting to address.
- Some oils are very supportive of the heart and circulatory system. These oils I'm sure to work into the heart Vita-Flex points, over the heart and at the pulse points of the body — where I can get a maximum amount into the bloodstream more quickly.
- Some oils work more to support healthy digestion, so I apply these to the Vita-Flex points on the feet related to the digestive system, and over the abdomen. I may also use the Vita-Flex roll to work the oils along the merridians for the small and/or large intestines (along the forearms; see a meridian chart for details).
- Some oils work well in support of the kidneys and urinary function. These I work into the kidney points on the feet, and apply more oil directly over the kidneys.
- Other oils are good for the lymphatic system, so I apply these to the throat, under the arms and in the groin area (which definitely required dilution).
- Other oils are good to support healthy hormonal balance, so I apply them to the Vita-Flex points at the ankles, to the back of the neck, lower back, around the navel and to the groin area (taking care to have proper dilution, to avoid burning).
If I don't have time to do the Vita-Flex Technique, I just quickly massage the oils in at the Vita-Flex points and move on.
Of course, when my schedule doesn't allow me to apply the oils all over my body, I make every effort to at least apply them to my feet. I've found this to have powerful effects, and would recommend it to anyone.
When you're done applying the oils
After I've applied the essential oils, I like to cover them with something, to seal in the volatile molecules and increase the amount of time they remain on the skin. I've found that the dōTERRA® Spa Hand & Body Lotion works great for this, but dōTERRA's Hydrating Cream would work even better, on small areas.
When I'm done with an aromatherapy session, I always rinse my hands thoroughly. This is recommended because it's normal for people to touch their eyes and nose many times during the day — it's an instinctive way we inoculate our immune systems against environmental threats in our world — and, if you have any essential oils on your hands, this can create some very uncomfortable situations, especially if you're away from home and can't get to your fractionated coconut oil and cotton balls (see above). I won't even get into what it's like using a restroom … .
Something else to keep in mind. When you're finished applying the oils to your feet, especially if you use very many oils, they will stay on the skin for quite some time. If you put your oils away and slip on your rubber-insoled flip-flops, the oils will dissolve the rubber, leaving you with sandals that will remain forever sticky. So, after you cover the oils with the Hand & Body Lotion, cover that with a pair of 100% cotton socks.
Another reason to add the socks is so you don't track the oils across your floor or carpets. Some of the oils will stain, and none are good for the finish on your floor — especially wood flooring.
Along that line, I've heard that some people try to apply the oils in the bathroom, while standing on a rug. Since natural fiber rugs are not the norm in bathrooms, this is a very bad idea for a couple of reasons. First, the oils will tend to dissolve bathroom rugs, just as they do those rubber-soled flip-flops. This will tend to draw the chemicals from the rug up, into your body. Secondly, after you apply the oil and set your foot down on the rug, the rug will draw the oil away from the foot (much more so than a pair of 100% cotton socks). That means you waste a good portion of the oils you use. If you want to apply your oils in the bathroom — it is private — try putting a chair in there, and use a cotton towel in place of the rug.
Mixing essential oils
Creating your own essential oils blends is something that I would like to do someday; but for now, the issues involved in that are simply beyond me. The good news is: I don't really need to. dōTERRA® has a large enough selection of blends to be quite adequate for most of my needs. All of them are great to use as is; but, for some, I've found that I get an even more powerful benefit from mixing a blend with a single oil .
I've already mentioned mixing Balance® and frankincense; but there are other combinations also that are really quite amazing together. The properties of some oils just make them work together well. I'll often mix marjoram or basil with AromaTouch®. And, of course, you can mix two or three single oils together, to create your desired results. I almost always use oregano and thyme together; and lavender, marjoram and peppermint make a very nice mixture.
Something to bear in mind, however, is this: You should only mix one single oil with a blend, or two or three single oils together. You should never mix a blend with a blend, unless you have advanced training into the chemistry of the oils. Also, you shouldn't mix the oils and let them sit (as in mixing them up ahead of time). That essentially creates a new blend, and will alter the properties of the whole. Mix up only what you'll use at that session, just before applying the oil.
Layering essential oils
The really good news is that you're not limited to one or two essential oils in any one session. The special characteristics of the oils allow you to layer them, for added benefits. (See Harmonies, Melodies & Symphonies with Essential Oils for an interesting take on this.)
Much the way you would in the AromaTouch® Technique, you can apply essential oils topically, one layer over the top of another. This is a simple and effective way to get the various benefits of different essential oils, without mixing the oils or needing to create your own essential oil blends. The benefits might not be as great as with knowledgable mixing of the oils, but they are more than adequate; and I've had very good results with this approach.
It is generally recommended to use no more three singles or blends at any one session; but I will typically use anywhere from six to 15 different oils and blends. I've been known to use quite a few more (although this is probably neither wise nor necessary). Essential oils penetrate the skin quickly and work their way into your system, which allows you to layer other oils over them in succession, without counteracting the unique properties of their respective chemistries.
A word of caution here: Until you're aware of how you respond to the oils, it's best to wait up to 10 minutes between each oil. The oils will work very quickly, travelling to every cell of your body within minutes of application; but, you won't really know how your system responds to the oils for a few minutes. Once you're more familiar with the oils, you won't need to wait between layerings.
Many approaches to using essential oils
As you can see from this article, there are many good, effective ways to use your essential oils. With a little common sense, you should be ready to start your journey into aromatherapy with a fair amount of confidence in your abilities.
It's a truly wonderful experience, and I hope that you enter into it with joy.
1 When my wife and I bought our first house this past year, we had a whole-house water filtration system installed. Since we have pretty hard water here, and the water is treated with chloramines — really nasty stuff — we went with a whole house chloramine system from Home Water Purifiers and Filters. For the first time in years, I could take a shower without feeling like I had just done three rounds with Mike Tyson. I highly recommend this product.