broad guidelines for diluting essential oils

December 8, 2012

broad guidelines for diluting essential oils

To avoid possible skin sensitization and the risk of over-exposure, essential oils should be diluted in an appropriate carrier before being applied topically. Since oil and water do not mix, you should look to an appropriate oil-based carrier to dilute your essential oils.

Use these handy guidelines to help determine which dilution is appropriate for your desired purpose and your intended recipient. From there, determine how many drops of oil to use to achieve your desired dilution based on the volume of your carrier.

Remember: you should always, ALWAYS, ALL WAYS check the individual oils you intend to use for specific safety considerations and possible contraindications unique to the blend’s recipient (such as the recipient’s age, medications, and the like). Essential oils can contribute to your wellness and thriving, but they are not a substitute for proper medical care and should not replace appropriate, professional medical attention.

Choosing Your Dilution

We recommend you begin with the lowest dilution appropriate for your intended recipient. Often, the lower dilutions will prove therapeutically effective—and prove to be more cost-effective, too!

1% Dilution — Recommended for children aged 6-12, seniors over 65, pregnant/lactating women, and those with long-term illnesses or compromised immune systems. This is also a good place to start with individuals who are generally sensitive to fragrances, chemicals or other environmental pollutants.

2% Dilution — Appropriate standard for general daily use by healthy adults in natural perfumes, bath oils, skin care blends, and the like.

3% Dilution — Use this dilution when creating a blend for a specific, acute health concern, such as pain relief, cold, or flu.

In the case of an acute issue such as muscle cramping or specific bruising, one may choose to use a >3% dilution for a limited time in a limited area; check safety information for individual oils against your intended recipient’s unique health history to ensure a safe and appropriate blend.

Dilution Guidelines

Carrier 1% dilution 2% dilution 3% dilution
1 teaspoon 1 drop 2 drops 3 drops
1 ounce 5-6 drops 10-12 drops 15-18 drops
2 ounce 10-12 drops 20-24 drops 30-36 drops
3 ounce 15-18 drops 30-36 drops 45-54 drops

Blending for Perfumes

When blending exclusively for a perfume, be aware that many essential oils prized for their aroma are both expensive and strong. A 2% dilution of many favorite perfume oils (such as Ylang Ylang or Neroli) would give most people a heckuva headache AND break the bank! We recommend blending drop-by-drop and sniffing as you go when blending perfumes to avoid creating an overpowering (and prohibitively expensive) blend that you won’t like. You can limit yourself to 10-12 drops per ounce for safety, but you’re likely find you like your perfume (and its cost!) even better at 5-6 drops per ounce…

Neat/Undiluted Application of Essential Oils

Generally speaking, essential oils should not be used neat or undiluted on the skin as many are skin sensitizing, others are phototoxic, and reactions to individual oils will vary from person to person.

The only essential oil I typically entertain using neat is Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), and then only in a small quantity in conjunction with a bug bite or minor burn when I have no carrier available. (Frankly, even if I did think it was safe, I would think neat/undiluted topical use of most essential oils is wasteful and cost-prohibitive…)

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