Natural Living

By Irene Fogarty

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Recently, at an all-natural store I realized not only how much I love the aroma of essential oils, but how little I know about how to use them. So I asked a professional. Here’s what she told me. It’s a great cheat sheet every time you want to buy or use an essential oil.

Know what an essential oil is? Well just in case you’ve forgotten, essential oils are the volatile, aromatic oils obtained by steam or hydrodistillation of botanicals. Different parts of the plants can be used to obtain essential oils, including the flowers, leaves, seeds, roots, stems, bark, wood, etc.

Keep in mind the two basic types of effects when using essential oils:

1. Smelling: Has mainly a psychological effect through the limbic system and neuroendocrine functions that help with mood, feeling and mental functions as well an energy levels.

2. Topical Applications: Have a physiological effect on the skin and muscles, and a psychological effect as the evaporating oils are inhaled.

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Inhalation:

  • Put a few drops on a tissue and keep inhaling the scent until the desired effect is obtained.
  • Drop 1-3 drops onto a cotton ball, put in a ziplock bag and inhale the scent whenever needed.
  • Drop 1-3 drops on a wet washcloth in the shower or bath.

Steam Inhalation:

  • Drop 2-4 drops into a basin or bowl of hot water with a thick towel over your head for sinus and ear congestion.

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Diffusor:

  • Drop 2-8 drops into water diffusor with a heat source (candle, etc.,)

Nebulizer:

  • Fill the nebulizer glass pipe with about 3ml of oil

Bath:

  • Add 3-8 drops to a warm bath. Swish the water vigorously before entering. For a foot-bath, soak your feet for 10 mins.

Perfume:

  • Put 1 drop in a lotion base onto pulse points (wrist, temples, etc).

Liniment:

  • Use 30-50 drops per 1 oz. of vegetable carrier oil (a 4-8% dilution) and massage into the problem areas (e.g., feet, shoulders, nape of neck, forehead, low back, etc). Apricot kernel, grapeseed and sweet almond oil are the best carrier oils for liniments and massage.

Massage:

  • Use 15-30 drops per 1 oz. of vegetable carrier oil (a 2-4 % dilution). A lotion or cream can also be used.

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Caution: Never put essential oils or blends directly on skin without diluting them, except when placing just one drop on the pulse points as a perfume. Always keep the bottles out of reach of children. And check with you holistic healthcare practitioner about using essential oils and blends during pregnancy and postpartum.

Originally published September 2006
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