Techniques for Using Essential Oils

Learn different techniques and precautions when using essential oils in your life to help improve your mood.

| August 2018

  • When you breathe in an essential oil through the nose, the tiny oil molecules in the vapor contain the same properties that the oil contains.
    Photo by Getty/Madeleine_Steinbach
  • “Moodtopia” by Sara-Chana Silverstein is an easy-to-use guide that introduces herbs, essential oils, and other natural remedies used to combat stress, anxiety, and promotes peace of mind and general health.
    Cover Courtesy Da Capo Lifelong Books

Moodtopia (Da Capo Lifelong Books, 2018by Sara-Chana Silverstein is an easy-to-use guide that teaches readers natural ways to enhance emotional health and well-being. Readers will learn how to combat stress and anxiety, as well as promote peace of mind and general health by introducing herbs, essential oils, and other natural remedies into their wellness routines.

When we think of aromatherapy, we think of breathing in oils. When we inhale a fragrance, the scent molecules waft up the nose where they are received by olfactory receptors. When you breathe in an essential oil through the nose, the tiny oil molecules in the vapor contain the same properties that the oil contains. Oil molecules inhaled through the nose or mouth also move into the lungs and interact with the lungs and respiratory system and mind.

As a Precaution…

Be sure to keep your eyes closed and do not get any essential oil into your eyes. If you do happen to do so accidentally, dilute immediately with a carrier oil, such as sweet almond or olive oil never use water! It will burn quite intensely at first but will pass in a few minutes.

Important note: there are some essential oils you should avoid in baths. Don’t use spicy or strong oils in the bath as they can burn the skin. These include cinnamon oil, oregano oil, and thyme oil; phototoxic oils such as citrus, especially bergamot oil; and those with specific irritant potential, such as lemongrass oil.



There are many ways to incorporate essential oils into your life to help with your moods. Why not try some of the following:

  • Bottle inhalation method:

    Begin by holding the essential oil bottle at the level of your heart. Waft it and breathe deeply. If you like the scent and it seems appropriate, move it closer to your nose breathe more deeply. If not, move onto another oil.
  • Hand inhalation method:

    This is a wonderful method if you need a quick and easy way to stabilize your moods. Place 1 or 2 drops of oil on your palms, rub them together gently to activate it, then cup your hands over your mouth and nose. Breathe gently at first, and then, if you bond with the scent, breathe deeply, imagining the scent going into your lungs. However, do this only with oils that can be safely applied directly to the skin (what we call “neat”) without a carrier oil.
  • Drop on pillowcase:

    This helps you fall asleep or just de-stress at night. Put a few drops on the outer edges of your pillow, parallel to one another. Whether you roll to the right or left, you will inhale the fragrance. Use an inexpensive pillowcase that you don’t mind staining, as carrier oils will discolor fabric. This method also works well with children.
  • Use a cotton ball or handkerchief:

    Many of my clients who experience anxiety in school or work would never pull out a bottle and start sniffing it. In this case, I suggest putting drops of essential oil on a tissue and leave it in your pocket or purse. When you feel stressed, pull it out and take a few deep inhalations. Or you could keep a cotton ball infused with drops of essential oil in a resealable plastic bag. It traps the fumes. All you need to do is open the bag and take a whiff. Businessmen can carry a handkerchief in their pocket and wipe their nose, inhaling the oils throughout the day.
  • Steam bowl inhalation:

    This is a direct and intense method. The steam quickly vaporizes the oil. It’s rapidly absorbed into the throat, sinuses, and then bloodstream. You’ll need a stainless-steel or tempered glass bowl. Fill the vessel with filtered, boiled water (you don’t want any chorine) and add no more than 1 to two drops of your chosen essential oil to it — more than that can be overwhelming. Close your eyes or use swimming goggles as a protection (yes, your kids or roommates may laugh at you). Place a towel over your head, lean over the bowl, and breathe deeply. Don’t burn yourself!
  • Facial steam machines:

    Cute machines to steam your face for a home-facial are available online. They often have a plastic part to place your face in. These also work beautifully for aromatherapy. The same rules apply as with steam bowl inhalation.
  • Candle diffuser:

    You will need to add water to the top of the dish or receptacle to fill or nearly fill it. Add 6 to 8 drops of essential oil to start. The candle is placed beneath the water — otherwise, heat from a candle would be too intense and would burn the oil and not vaporize it. You may find you need more or less oil, depending on the type and strength of the oil and the size of the room. But please be careful. These oils are flammable.
  • Cool air nebulizing diffuser:

    This system uses air pressure generated by a compressing unit to vaporize the essential oils. A glass nebulizing bulb serves as a condenser, allowing only the finest particles of the essential oil to escape. Gorgeous diffusers are sold online.
  • Terra-cotta pendant method:

    Put a drop of oil on a terra-cotta pendant, fasten it around your neck (oil side facing out), or hang it from the rearview mirror in your car (yes, I have one). These work best in the summer when the heat of the sun will warm the terra-cotta and the oil so the particles can diffuse. If you wear it around your neck, you can enjoy the benefits of the oil as you move through your day.
  • Bedtime salt bowl method:

    Place about 1/4 cup of sea salt flakes or Epsom salts in a small bowl. Add 10 to 15 drops of your chosen oil to the salt. Keep it by your bed. The salt slows the evaporation rate of the oils, allowing them to diffuse throughout the night.
  • Ultrasonic diffusing:

    This device uses air, water, and ultrasonic vibrations to diffuse the oil. A fine mist is created and released into the air, so it also doubles as a humidifier. This method allows the oil molecules to remain air-bound for several hours. It doesn’t affect the structure or therapeutic value of the oil.
  • Electric plug-in diffuser:

    These are small units that plug right into an electrical socket. Small absorbent pads, onto which you dot a few drops of oil, are placed inside a heating chamber with ventilation. This allows the aromatic compounds to evaporate into the surrounding air.Car diffuser: Many companies make car diffusers for their essential oils that just plug into your car’s charger outlet. Imagine getting a great smelling, mood-controlling treatment right in the safety of your car as you drive to work or while running errands.
  • Essential oil massage:

    Because essential oils are made up of tiny molecules, they pass rapidly through our skin into the bloodstream. The bloodstream quickly and efficiently carries them throughout the body to your cells. Within several hours, they are metabolized and then leave your system. You can massage some essential oils into your body without dilution. Pure essential oils are about 70 times more concentrated than the whole plant, so consult your practitioner about which ones are safe to use directly on skin. You can also dilute essential oils by adding a natural carrier oil. When essential oils can be applied to the skin, they are quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. Some areas of skin — underarms, head, palms, soles of feet — are more permeable than others. Apply the diluted essential oils to skin areas with gentle massage strokes. Proper topical dilution is: for children aged five and under: 1 teaspoon carrier oil and 2 to 3 drops essential oil; for older children, 1 teaspoon carrier oil and 2 to 3 drops essential oil; for adults, 1 teaspoon carrier oil and 3 to 6 drops essential oil.
  • The foot absorption method:

    Before going to bed, massage a few drops of your chosen oils (either “neat” or diluted) into the soles of your feet. They contain some of the largest pores in the body, so the oils are easily absorbed and can reach your bloodstream in just a few minutes.
  • Instead of perfume:

    Rather than using store-bought perfumes, you can easily make your own from essential oils. This will have the double effect of causing you to smell good to others and calming you. Combine your favorite essential oils and wear them on your pulse points, behind your ears, on your collarbone, and on both sides of your neck. It is easy to buy amber roller balls online to carry your oil with you wherever you go. It’s best to put them in an oil base, but watch that your clothes not get stained.
  • Spray bottle:

    Spraying an essential oil mixture into the air is the easiest, quickest way to change the quality of energy around you. A variety of essential oil mists are on the market or you can make your own. All you need is a glass spray bottle. Fill it with pure or filtered water and add several drops of essential oil. The easy to follow guideline: 8 to 10 drops of your favorite essential oils to 8 ounces of water. You can make the mixture more concentrated, though, if you like. Shake it and test it. Experiment and find the right ratio for you. (Or you can purchase a hydrosol, which is not an essential oil, but can also freshen the air.)
  • Compress:

    This is a highly effective method for pain relief and emergency first aid. Use a hot compress for relieving chronic pain, muscle aches, or period cramps, and a cold compress for reducing swelling, sprains, and headaches. Put 4 to 6 drops of oil into very hot or icy water. Immerse a folded piece of absorbent material (such as pure cotton or wool) into the water, wring out the excess, and apply to the affected area. Finally, cover the area with a towel or wrap with plastic to keep the cloth either cold or hot. If you are using heat, you can cover the top of cloth with a water bottle or heating pad.
  • Essential oil bath:

    Add your chosen essential oils into a warm bath. This is also a great way to finish off those bottles of essential oils that just have a drop or two left in them. You can also add a few tablespoons of a dispersant, such as Epson salts or coconut oil, which will assist in the absorption of the oils through your skin. Then, just step into the bath and soak. Not only are you absorbing the oils, but you’re also inhaling them. A generally safe dose is 5 to 10 drops mixed with 1/2 to 1 cup of salt or emulsifier.
  • Sauna therapy:

    Add 2 drops of your favorite essential oil to 2 cups of water and place in a sauna. This is a yummy way to get your dose of essential oil calmness.

Can You Ingest Oils?

Unless you’re working under the guidance of a certified health practitioner, do not take an essential oil internally. You’ll need instruction as to which oils are safe, how much to use, and how frequently. You will also spend more money on these oils because they must be made especially for internal use, such as oils specifically labeled as culinary oils.

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