so, how DO I use essential oils?

March 6, 2015

so, how DO I use essential oils?

While I don’t use essential oils all day, every day, in ALL the things, I do use them often, in many ways, and in many things — I love essential oils. I also love hydrolats, essential waters, absolutes, CO² extracts, and carrier oils. (And herbs. And good, long walks in the woods…)

My use of essential oils is really only limited by my desire to use them safely. My concerns for safe and thoughtful use of essential oils impacts both the methods of application I am willing to entertain and the individual essential oils I use in various methods. (It wouldn’t make much sense to put a photo toxic essential oil in a summertime body spray…)

Some methods of use and application are commonly agreed upon as unsafe (or unnecessary), period. Other methods may be considered generally safe, but still carry risk of adverse reactions, especially over time. In addition, not every essential oil is equally safe for everyone or in every application. So, I limit my use against what I consider to be the safe use of essential oils in general, but also what I know to be safe in the context of an individual essential oil.

I probably fall on the more conservative side because a) I work with essential oils almost every day and b) someone I know was sensitized to a number of their favorite essential oils over time.

Please remember, even when I am not using essential oils personally all day, every day for myself, I am still engaging with them professionally for quite a bit of time, most days a week on behalf of my clients. So even if I am not employing them for personal use, I am consistently exposed both to their joys and their risks in my practice. It’s like sampling cake all day even when I’m on a diet. And I want to be able to do that for many years to come with as little risk of sensitization or adverse reaction over time as possible.

I’m also extra-cautious about essential oils in my home because I happen to have a heap of animals almost all of whom are sensitive or compromised in one way or another. (Seriously, I have “sucker” written on my forehead and they know me at the animal shelter….) There’s probably more I could be doing with essential oils that is still considered safe in their environment, but I don’t find it necessary to test that theory when I have other reasonable options at hand.

So, how do I use essential oils personally?

I sniff essential oils. (As in I smell them….) I stick my nose right over the orifice reducer of the open bottle and I inhale deeply. I slow down and experience the oil, let it speak to me. I take a moment to let it impact me, to listen. I get out of the crazy for a minute and just sit in relationship with my lavender, my jasmine, my lemon myrtle, my balsam poplar, my may chang, and so on….

I add essential oils to Castile soap or African black soap for shampoos and body washes. The specific oils in those blends change according to the seasons, my desired outcomes, and my moods. I also keep at least one bottle of plain, unscented soap for those days when I see massage clients who require a fragrance-free environment or days when I just choose to use plain ol’ soap.

healing rays scrubI make salt, sugar, coffee, and oatmeal body scrubs for use in the shower. I don’t necessarily use them every day because that’s just not my style–I don’t feel like I need them every day. But they’re in there for the days I want to indulge in one and I change them up based on my mood.

I use facial cleansers, masks, facial scrubs, and toners with essential oils when I want to. I tend to use scrubs more in winter to exfoliate dry, winter skin and cleansers and toners more in the summer when my skin is both more oily and more hydrated.

I use a homemade makeup remover on the days I wear makeup; there is ONE drop of essential oil in the four ounce jar…

I blend essential oils in premium, organic carriers for my face if I am experiencing a bout of acne, though admittedly this doesn’t happen often as my skin tends to be balanced thanks to my holistic attention to it in the first place…

I make bath salts, bath bombs, tub truffles, and bubble baths with essential oils. I have an enormous bathtub and I absolutely love soaking in it, especially in winter.

creamI create body butters, creams, lotions, and lotion bars with essential oils to nourish and moisturize my skin. I prefer butters in winter as their rich coating keeps me feeling warm and cozy; I look to lighter lotions in summer. I bring lotion bars in my suitcase when I travel.

I craft and wear blended perfumes made with essential oils and jojoba. Here, again, I’m not necessarily using them every day–sometimes I want to smell like my body wash or my body butter or my lotion. When it’s date night or I want to sit with a fragrance, I’ll pick one of the blends to wear according to what I want: a spicy, fiery blend, a sublime exotic floral blend, a blend designed to support, open, and balance a given chakra.

My husband wears a cologne I made for him using essential oils. It was created as a gift for his 42nd birthday to reflect the aroma and energetics he desired. He wears that cologne, called “42,” all day, every day. And he can’t be talked out of it. (Apparently, it was the best gift ever. He’s already excited about “43”….)

I make (and regularly use) foaming hand soaps and hand scrubs featuring Castile soap, aloe vera gel, and essential oils. I’ve got one in every bathroom and by every sink.

I make massage oils, creams, and lotions that can be used in my massage practice. I try to have several on hand to choose from based on my clients needs. I usually keep a seasonal blend and a deeply nourishing relaxation blend on hand. I also have massage blends for nerve pain and inflammation that I use only where indicated and appropriate for individual clients.

I make organic bug repellents as sprays and candles using essential oils. This mattered to me less back when we lived in New Mexico, but, here in Idaho? HOLYMUDDAHOFGAWD. My husband has always said he doesn’t need repellent because he has me; I’m an attractant. If there are 100 mosquitos, 99 of them will bite me. So I’ve created a bug repellent that allows me to hike in the woods without needing a blood transfusion every two miles. I use the essential oils in that blend in outdoor candles so I can relax on my patio without being eaten alive.

Bucket and gloves for cleaning isolated on white

I make and use my own green cleaning products with ingredients like essential oils, hydrolats, baking soda, white vinegar, carrier oils, and Castile soap. I wash floors, polish  furniture, disinfect surfaces, deodorize carpet, clean toilets, manage mold/mildew, wipe cutting boards, scrub tubs/showers, clean grout, and wash windows with blends made with simple, natural ingredients, essential oils, and/or other distillates.

I use inhalers to brighten my mood, calm my restless mind, ease my anxiety, and support my immune system, especially when I travel. I keep an allergy inhaler, an immune support inhaler, and an antidepressant inhaler in my purse at all times. My husband carries an immune support and cold and flu inhaler with him most every day.

I blend and keep butters, creams, inhalers, gels, and oils made with essential oils readily available to support my wellness. I always have bath salts for cold and flu in the cabinet. I also keep a pain cream, trauma oil blend, bruise blend, and anti-inflammatory butter on hand for when we need them.

steaming for a coldI steam essential oils in hot water if I begin to feel under the weather. I blend my oils according to what I think my body needs (and what’s safe to use) when I first begin to feel “off” and sit briefly with my head under a towel and my eyes closed to inhale the steam.

I spray hydrolats with a single drop of essential oil on myself and my bed before sleeping some nights to facilitate rest and turn down the volume of the circus in my head. If I’m traveling in a hotel, I’ll bring a specific spray to freshen both my room and my bed before I touch ’em. I also keep a “sweet dreams” chest cream beside our bed at home.

I make aromatherapy candles and incense sticks/cones with essential oils. While I have crafted them for general use in my home (especially around the holidays), I typically create candles and incense to be used in conjunction with meditation, ritual, or contemplative practice. That means I am burning them for a limited time and always with awareness around the other souls in the space who will be exposed to them. They reflect the magical associations I want to draw down, ground me, and both protect and enrich my meditative space.

And that’s probably not even the half of it….

The fact is I use essential oils often and in many ways in my life. The things that limit me are my consideration of sustainability on the front end, my attention to safety in the middle, and my imagination on the back.

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9 thoughts on “so, how DO I use essential oils?”

  • Yep. I like this. This and the other post on when you don’t use them. What I’ve noticed is people go one extreme or the other and few seem to care about the middle ground. I think you hit the middle ground very nicely. Thanks.

  • This is great as well as your other post on when you don’t use them!

    I would love to know your prefered carrier oil and where to purchase it and I would love to know your mosquito repellant as I am planning a trip to Brazil in October of this year and I really don’t want to be carried off by them. 😉 Thanks for the article. My e-mail is in the details below if you care to get back to me or send me a link regarding those concerns.

    • Thanks for your kind comments, Crystal!

      I actually work with a wide variety of carrier oils–I typically have over 20 carrier oils on hand at any given time! Just like essential oils, carriers offer unique properties that may be more useful in one circumstance than another. I sometimes spend as much time considering carriers for a blend as I do others. For those who aren’t interested in having a wide variety on hand, don’t necessarily use a carrier up quickly, and just want something simple, I often recommend jojoba. Because jojoba is a wax and not an oil, it doesn’t go rancid. It also has a profile that is uniquely parallel to human sebum, the oils human beings naturally produce in their skin.

      Since I sell my bug repellent, I don’t share the recipe. 🙂 I can tell you there are two wonderful bug repellent recipes readily available from Aromatics International at the links below.

      Hope that helps!
      Kristina, the Untamed Alchemist

      Aromatics International’s Bug Spray Recipe:
      Aromatics International Back Country Repellent:

  • thank you so much–this has been very helpful as i’m new to the world of essential oils, being introduced by some overzealous novices…. i’m trying to do my research and use them wisely. is contact sensitization a danger for all essential oils–for example, if one used lavendar topically, diluted a bit, every night, might one gain sensitization to that or is that one safe? or are only some, such as cinnamon or oregano or lemongrass, that are prone to sensitization?

    • You’re welcome! 🙂

      Sensitization happens very rarely, but it does happen, particularly where there has been little/no dilution and prolonged use. The risk is greater with those oils that are known to carry increased risk for potential sensitization (such as cinnamon bark, lemongrass, etc.), but there are no guarantees. Still, as Robert Tisserand points out, it would be unfair to the lump the risk of well-diluted lavender with a 1% dilution of a known sensitizer like cinnamon bark.

  • Hey, great article. I saw you suggest using essential oil to make perfume or cologne, could you please advise me some recipes? I would love to make some for my husband, he is kinda sensitive to normal/ department cologne. Thanks in advance.

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