Preparing blends and using essential oils requires knowledge of chemical constituents, therapeutic properties, systemic risks, dosage, anatomy and physiology, among other things. Unfortunately there is a currently a lot of information that is suggesting the use of essential oils undiluted (neat) on the skin or ingestion. This is being marketed to all ages, to all types of health, using many essential oils that are considered unsafe, not appropriate for aromatherapy or oils that should be used with great discretion. This page is dedicated to the safe utilization of aromatherapy.
Methods of Applications:
There is a lot of research to support the effective practice of inhaling essential oils. It is comparable to smoking and finding nicotine in your bloodstream through 'mere' inhalation. Essential oils are also absorbed into the body and into the bloodstream through several methods. This has been clinically proven by taking a blood test twenty minutes after exposure to an essential and seeing the active chemical components within the blood.
The most common form of absorption is through inhalation, whereby the molecules pass into the bloodstream in the lungs (much the way asthma medication diffuses into the bloodstream, as well as nicotine from cigarettes when inhaled.) These molecules go into the blood stream and act upon specific target organs or organ systems. Some have very healthy benefits for the systems that they support, but at the same time some oils can be dangerous depending on a persons overall health.
Oils are also absorbed via the olfactory bulb (the part in the nose that we recognize smell with) and this information travels to the limbic system in the brain. The neat thing about this is, this is where we store our memories and emotions, so essential oils can have a powerful effect on our frame of mind and mental well-being.
Using a diffuser is one of my favorite ways to use essential oils because of how simple it is and because the whole house benefits. I fill a diffuser with a little water, have a candle lit (a vegetable based or beeswax is preferred, however I use paraffin as well), then I add 3-5 drops of an essential oil for a whole room. As the water level goes down in your diffuser, slowly add a little water. If all the water evaporates, blow out the candle and let the diffuser cool down. Do NOT add water, or it will crack the diffuser. When it cools, you can wash it out with soap. I often have it lit in the morning for a few hours while the children and are schooling, or I have it going in the evening while I chill out making dinner. It's like a change of scenery when I can't actually leave the house. A diffuser can be used as a preventative/treatment during cold season, and as a pick-me-up on gloomy days outside. There are electric diffusers available that you can plug in, and these units can be as simple as an aromatherapy ball, or more advanced one with different settings.
Carrier oils dilute the essential oils so they will not irritate the skin, will cover more surface area and provide an appropriate way of diluting the essential oil to a dosage that is safe for your body to metabolize. Carrier oils nourish your skin, and when your skin is nourished and healthy, some load is taken off your liver.
Carrier oils are vegetable oils that are often mechanically pressed to render the oil from the plant. I believe that they are sacred, and just as important as essential oils in their own right. We take if for granted the volume of oil that we are able to purchase, when in ancient times, vegetable oils were expressed by hand and it took a tremendous amount of time and labor, therefore the costs would have been much, much higher. Each carrier oil has it's own unique benefits when applied. Picking an appropriate carrier oil is just as important as selecting your essential oil. It's worth noting here that Essential oils are not oils. They are terpenoids (think turpentine from a tree).
I select from about ten different carrier oils, but there are many more available.
Here are a few:
-Jojoba is not an oil, but a liquid wax. It has a very long shelf which makes it ideal for therapeutic perfumes and making blends that will be used over a long period of time. This oil has anti-inflammatory properties, is good for all skin types and balances sebum production in the skin making it useful to reduce blemishes. This is an expensive oil, however, you can use it at 25% dilution and still benefit. In the bath, I use it at 100% dilution.
-Apricot Kernel is excellent for sensitive skin, children, the elderly, and babies. Apricot kernel oil is softening and soothing for the skin. This oil is one of the most absorbing carrier oils, so for this reason, I use it a lot for treatments and seasonal blends when I want to maximize absorption rate. It's not expensive so it can be mixed with other oils.
-Sweet Almond- a very nice carrier oil that is used for alleviating and nourishing dry skin. Has also been used to ease irritation. This oil is not expensive and therefore useful to use for diluting the more expensive carrier oils.
Dilution for Children and during Pregnancy 1-2%
10ml of carrier oil 2-3 drops
15ml of carrier oil 4-5 drops
20ml of carrier oil 5-6 drops
Dilution for healthy adults 3%
10ml of carrier oil 6 drops
15ml of carrier oil 9 drops
20ml of carrier oil 12 drops
**These are general dilutions. There are essential oils that are NOT recommended for children and are used on healthy adults at 1 or 2 percent dilution.
Do not ingest essential oils:
-They are not oils. (Not at all!) They are terpenoids. They are actually closer to turpentine then they are to anything else.
-Take care of the flora in your gut. You don't need potent chemical cocktails possibly disrupting the flora when there is heaps of research to support the effectiveness of essential oils via inhalation or dermal application.
-It takes ALOT of plant material to be distilled for an essential oil. You wouldn't consume that much as a cup of tea or for a whole pot of tea. Essential oils are very, very potent.
-There is debate among top experts about taking essential oils internally, the dosage, and the appropriate oil. This form of aromatherapy is practiced by doctors in countries such as France.
Taken from Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young Essential Oil Saftey (2014) pg.50
“....Digestive enzymes can break down some types of essential oil constituents, for example esters may be hydrolyzed in the stomach. After absorption from almost all regions of the GI tract, most substances pass directly to the liver, where a significant proportion is deactivated in first-pass metabolism but some, paradoxically, are made more toxic.”
“....With oral administration there is a greater risk of overdose, of gastric irritation, and of interactions with medications. Therefore only practitioners who are qualified to diagnose, trained to weigh risks against benefits and have a knowledge of essential oil pharmacology should prescribe essential oils for oral administration.”
- Take care of your liver and your kidneys. When you ingest terpenoids, as with all chemicals, your body has to process them.
- Use essential oils effectively. Essential oils are absorbed and utilized when inhaled or applied dermally at low dilutions in a carrier or placed in a diffuser. This means using less essential oils is effective while minimizing what your body needs to metabolize and process.
- We live in a time in history and in a country that has good hygiene. My point? We do not need to use essential oils that have very, very potent chemical components when simple hand-washing and proper nutrition will help most colds. There are very gentle essential oils that can be used effectively for colds that need not be ingested and can be used for short periods of time.
- We would not take penicillin everyday, or randomly. Use (ie/inhalation or dermally) strong essential oils for when you absolutely need them. There is strong controversy if bacteria and viruses can become resistant to essential oils. It is easier for us to err on the side of caution now and still reap the benefits of conservative and effective aromatherapy practices.
In some countries around the world, health care professionals do prescribe taking essential oils internally. It is typically administered by people who have taken extensive training in biology, chemistry, pathology, botany, etc. It is interesting to note there is a hospital in England that uses essential oils for open wound care and has a teaching program that facilitates this. All of these people are highly trained.
There is so much ongoing research in the field of aromatherapy that it is always best to follow safe dilution rates when using essential oils. Follow appropriate dilutions and remember that less can be better. If something isn't working, then perhaps a professional opinion would redirect you to an different essential oil or blend.
to be Avoided or Used with Care:
This is only a small list of a few oils that are currently being promoted.
It is important to know the species along with the chemotype of the essential oil that you are working with.
Hazards: Drug interaction may inhibit blood clotting; embryo toxicity.
Oral hazards: May interact with pethidine, MAOIs orSSRIs. Anticoagulant medication, major surgery, peptic ulcer, hemophilia, other bleeding disorders.
Max. dermal dose for healthy adults:
0.5% in carrier oil or less
Not for children 2 years and under. Known risks of toxicity in children under 6 through oral application;
Acidosis, deteriorating liver function, CNS depression, deep coma, convulsions, keturonia, low blood glucose.
Eucalyptus radiata is recommended over Eucalyptus globulus when working with children.
Do not apply to or near the faces of young children.
Known risks of toxicity in children under 6 through oral application; CNS depression, abnormal respiration, pinpoint pupils, ataxia, vertigo, epigastric pain, vomiting, weakness in the legs, cold sweats and headaches.
Cautions: It actively elevates blood pressure. Do not use if you are on blood pressure medication, have history of cardiac problems, suffer with anxiety, have epilepsy.
Keep away from the faces of babies and children due to the 1,8-Cineole content. Dilution is 3% for healthy adults.
Cautions: Used diluted on the skin at 1-2% dilution for healthy adults. Do not use on the skin of children unless working with a qualified aromatherapist.
Contraindications: Cardiac fibrillation, G6PD deficiency. Do not apply to or near the faces of infants or small children.
Our Cedar trees that are native to Canada are suitable as a dried plant for smudging and incense. The essential oil is very, very high in Thujone and with this there is the proven risk of nerotoxicity. The majority of leading textbooks do not consider it safe or appropriate for aromatherapy.