How to Use Therapeutic-Grade Essential Oils Safely and Effectively
Tips on getting the most from your aromatherapy experience
Welcome to the exciting world of essential oils.
Nature's purest plant products — essential oils — have properties that will soothe the senses, invigorate the mind and body and promote feelings of health and well-being.
Aromatherapy has been used safely and effectively for much of mankind's recorded history, going back to ancient Egypt, before the time of Moses. While there are some groups that would try to raise safety concerns about untrained people — read that: non-professionals — using essential oils, the fact is: as long as you are using therapeutic-grade essential oils and following some common-sense guidelines, there is no significant cause for concern, in most instances.
The following information will help you get the most benefit from the oils — safely and effectively.
You can experience the unique benefits of essential oils in the following ways:
Topical application: Essential oils may be applied topically to sooth and promote wellness of body and mind. Because the oils are lipid-soluble, they easily penetrate the skin and cell membranes, travelling transdermally throughout the body. Within minutes of application, an oil can disperse to every cell of the body; with some applications, particularly using Vita Flex, the effects can be felt within seconds.
As long as you're using therapeutic-grade oils, many of the oils can be used without dilution (that is: neat). This gives the oils more "punch", since they will penetrate into the tissues more quickly than when diluted. Other oils, however, have constituents that make them feel "hotter", and these will require dilution, except for application to the bottom of the feet.
That said, when first getting acquainted with the oils, it is always a good idea to dilute the essential oil in dōTERRA's fractionated coconut oil, both to help minimize any possible skin sensitivity and to prevent too much of the oil from entering your system too quickly, before you know how you will respond to the oils. In general, the oils are very safe to use; but no oil is a good fit for everyone. It's best not to jump in with both feet.
Note: Often, these "hot" oils can also be applied neat, as long as they are covered soon after with another, cooler essential oil or a base oil — essentially diluting after the fact. The reason for doing this is that, while a diluted oil will have the same effect as a neat oil, its penetration of the tissues is much slower, and may not seem to give the same benefits as a neat oil. Personally, I prefer to use the oils neat, then cover them with another oil.
But, to re-state the point: As you are getting acquainted with the oils, dilution, with every application, is recommended.
Of course, any time you're applying oils on or near sensitive areas of the body, or need to cover a larger area of the body, dilution is recommended with any of the oils.
Concerns about neat application of the oils
For those who have concerns about neat applications: Problems that many American-trained aromatherapists find with the neat application of the oils are due to one or more of the following reasons:
- The prevalence of junk science concerning essential oils. Over the years, there have been quite a few so-called "studies" into the safety of an oil; but they were, essentially, designed to fail.
- The oils are of an inferior grade, and either lack some of the balancing constituents or are adulterated with synthetic — or toxic — chemicals.
- Toxicities in the person receiving the aromatherapy treatment. Some oils are great at helping to detoxify the body, and if the body detoxifies too quickly, it can cause discomfort, in a variety of ways.
- Toxic personal care items on the skin, over which the oils were applied. This is a significant concern, since essential oils can drive these toxins deep into the tissues, and may cause a variety of problems. This is why I only use natural products for my personal care, whether from dōTERRA® or another trusted source;
- Failure to drink enough water before and/or after the aromatherapy session. Adequate hydration is critical for clearing toxins, liberated from the tissues by the oils, out of the system.
- The bias of the aromatherapist. Virtually all training in massage therapy and aromatherapy in the English-speaking world is adamant on one point: Using essential oils in anything more than a 3-5% dilution is wreckless. And, with the oils that most of them use, that might be a good policy; but, we're talking about certified pure therapeutic-grade oils here.
With tens of thousands of people receiving the AromaTouch® Technique, and possibly millions more using quality oils in neat applications, the safety of using oils in this manner is indisputable. I've been using these oils neat for many years and never had an adverse event.
Massage: The relaxation and soothing effects on the body of an aromatic massage can be a restorative — even transforming — experience. dōTERRA's certified pure therapeutic-grade essential oils are designed to work aromaticially and functionally, and provide a well-needed delight to your senses.
To create your own custom massage oil, mix 3-4 drops of essential oil with ½ teaspoon of fractionated coconut oil or Hand & Body Lotion, or another pure, natural massage oil base for to help reduce stress and tension and promote emotional well-being. Pamper yourself and get in touch with your senses.
Dietary supplements: If an essential oil is identified as Safe For Consumption, it can be taken as a dietary supplement, to support your health and well-being. Some oils (e.g.: citrus oils, like bergamot, lemon, lime, grapefruit, wild orange, tangerine, etc.) are most effective when taken orally. In fact, over the past 5-6 years, I've ingested the oils at a significant higher amount than I have used them topically or aromatically. The difference they have made in my life have been amazing.
Things to remember when using essential oils as dietery supplements:
- Dilution: Remember to dilute the oils in oil-soluble liquids, such as coconut oil or some other vegetable oil, olive oil, whole, raw milk, or almond or hemp rice milk, prior to ingestion. More or less dilution may be required, depending on how strong the oil is.
Note: Most of the product pages on this site say to put one drop of oil into four ounces of liquid; however, if that liquid is water or juice, it doesn't really dilute the oil. The oil just sits on top of the liquid; and drinking the liquid would be, essentially, like ingesting an undiluted oil. The liquid must have a fatty base for the essential oil to be dispersed effectively.
- Encapsulation: Another option is to put the oils into capsules for ingestion. Some oils may still require dilution; dilution for any of the oils would not be a bad idea.
- Sublingual or lingual: With some oils, like frankincense and lavender, you can put a few drops of oil directly under the tongue, where they can by-pass the digestive system. Others, like peppermint and DigestZen®, can be place on the tongue. When doing this, be sure to hold the oil in the mouth, until it is absorbed or is well-diluted with saliva, before swallowing. While swallowing the oil won't hurt you, it can be a bit uncomfortable.
- Limitations: Usually no more than 1-2 drops should be ingested at one time, during any 4-8 hour period.
- For children: Essential oils should not be given as dietary supplements to children under 6 years of age. Parents should exercise caution in administering oils to a child orally, and all oils should always be diluted prior to ingestion for children.
Diffusion: Essential oils can be diffused, to uplift the mood and bring harmony to the mind and body, at home or in the workplace. They will also cleanse and purify the air, helping to guard against environmental and seasonal threats. The Aroma Ace cold air diffuser or Lotus UltraSonic Diffuser are specially designed to disperse a fine mist of oils that will generally fill a room within a few minutes.
Essential oils are renowned for creating a sense of calm and well-being, aiding quiet reflection and a positive mood, while purifying the air and refreshing a room. Research has shown that diffusing certain oils may also:
- Improve concentration, alertness and mental clarity,
- Promote whole-body relaxation, reduce stress and tension or energize the mind and body,
- Help support your weight loss plan,
- Cleanse and purify the air, protecting against seasonal and environmental threats.
I've also found it effective in keeping unwanted visitors — of the insect or rodent varieties — out of the house.
Start by diffusing oils for only 15-30 minutes per day. As you become accustomed to the oils and recognize their effects (and your body has had some time to detoxify), you can increase the time diffused up to 2 hours per day.
Guidelines for safe use
→ Skin testing for sensitivity: dōTERRA's oils have always been certified pure therapeutic-grade, the purest state for essential oils. They have never contained adulterations that can cause skin irritations or other problems, as you might find with other lesser-quality oils. However, because of their potency, and because skin sensitivity is highly personalized, always skin test an essential oil before applying it topically.
→ Testing for reaction to new oils: Due to certain properties of their specific chemical constituents, certain oils may cause a burning sensation on certain individuals. They are better when diluted. These oils include — but are by no means limited to — cassia, cinnamon, clove, lemongrass, oregan, thyme, and possibly On Guard® (which contains cinnamon, clove). (For a quick check, see GRAS.)
If you have a concern about skin sensitivity, apply one oil or blend at a time, when using them for the first time. When layering oils that are new to you, allow enough time (from 15-30 minutes) for the body to respond before applying a second oil.
Always keep a bottle of fractionated coconut oil, or any other pure vegetable oil (e.g.: olive oil), handy when using essential oils. If an essential oil causes discomfort or skin irritation, it can be used to dilute it, cooling and relieving the area of application. It would also be good to have some cotton balls on hand, just in case you inadvertently get some oil in your eyes. If you do, soak a cotton ball with the base oil and dab your eye; don't rub. It should cool down any irritation almost immediately.
→ Keep out of reach of children: This is really just common sense. Always keep essential oils out of reach of children. Treat them as you would any potentially harmful product. dōTERRA's oils come with safety droppers (oriface reducers) in the cap; but, even one drop of oil can cause problems, if it is ingested "neat" (i.e.: undiluted) or it gets into your child's eyes. Treat the oils with respect, and teach your children to do so, as well.
→ Photosensitivity: Some oils contain chemical constituents that can cause photosensitivity; that is, they may cause a rash or dark pigmentation, if applied to skin that is then exposed to direct sunlight or UV rays within 2-3 days. This includes most citrus oils, including lemon, bergamot, wild orange, grapefruit, tangerine and Citrus Bliss®.
→ Using essential oils during pregnancy: Pregnant women should consult with their health care professional before using essential oils. There are some oils that should be totally avoided, others that should be used with caution, during pregnancy. Unfortunately, there is a lot of dispute about which oils are which. You should consult your physician.
→ Allergies: People with allergies should test a small amount of oil on a small area of sensitive skin (such as the inside of the arm) before applying the oil to other parts of the body. The bottom of the feet is one of the safest, most effective places to use essential oils. Even people who are otherwise sensitive to the oils will most often get by with using them on the feet.
→ Storage of oils: Keep bottles of essential oils closed tightly, and store in a cool location away from light. If stored properly, essential oils maintain their potency and therapeutic properties almost indefinitely. (When Carter opened King Tut's tomb, he found essential oils that were still good.)
→ Oils with menthol: Essential oils rich in menthol (like peppermint) should not be used on the throat or neck area of children under 3 years of age.
→ Aviod the eyes and ears: Keep essential oils away from the eye area, and do not put them directly into the ears. Avoid handling contact lenses or rubbing eyes with essential oils on your fingers (it's always best to rinse your hands thoroughly after applying the oils). Oils with high phenol content (i.e.: oregano, cinnamon, thyme, clove, lemongrass, bergamot and On Guard®) may damage contacts and will irritate the eyes.
→ Epilepsy and high blood pressure: People with epilepsy or high blood pressure should consult their health care professional before using essential oils. Some oils should be avoided.
→ Ingesting oils: Before taking essential oils that are Safe for Consumption internally, it is recommended that you dilute them with an oil-soluble liquid, such as almond or olive oil, or almond or hemp milk.
→ Using essential oils in a bath: Adding undiluted essential oils directly to bathwater is not recommended. Oils should be mixed with Epsom salts or bath gel base, before adding to a bath.
If you have an emergency
As noted above, you should alway keep a bottle of fractionated coconut oil, or some other natural vegetable oil, close by when using essential oils. If your skin becomes painfully irritated, or if an oil accidentally gets into the eyes, immediate dilution in an oil-based solution is strongly recommeneded. Do not rinse with water. Since oils are not water soluble, doing so can actually drive the oils deeper into the tissues, making the situation worse.
If dilution does not provide relief, discontinue use and contact your health care professional.
If a child or infant swallows an essential oil:
- Administer whole milk (not a low-fat milk, you need the fat), or other safe, oil-soluble liquid.
- Call your poison-control center, or seek immediate emergency medical attention.
Consult your health care professional about any serious disease or injury. Do not attempt to self-diagnose or prescribe any natural substance for serious health conditions that require professional attention.
Essential oils and internal and environmental toxins
Exercise caution when applying essential oils to skin that has been exposed to cosmetics, personal care products, soaps and cleaners containing synthetic chemicals. Some of them — especially petroleum-based chemicals — can penetrate and remain in skin and fatty tissues for day, or even weeks.
Essential oils may react with these chemicals and cause skin irritation, nausea, headaches or other uncomfortable effects.
Essential oils can also react with toxins built up in the body from chemicals in food, water and the work environment. If you experience a reaction to essential oils, it may be wise to temporarily discontinue their use, and start an internal cleansing program before resuming regular use of essential oils. Drinking plenty of purified water is also important.