The use of essential oils and aromatherapeutic techniques have been practiced by numerous cultures for centuries. Though he didn't call it aromatherapy, Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine used aromatherapy baths and scented massage infused with herbs and plant extracts among his treatments as far back as 400 BC. Back then they did not master the refined extraction methods used today to produce pure essential oils such as steamed distillation, carbon dioxide, cold pressed and solvent methods. The ultrasonic diffuser yet alone electricity was not even invented then.
An ultrasonic aromatherapy diffuser uses millions of vibrations per second to agitate water and essential oil, changing it into a micro fine particle. Because this vapor particle is micro fine, it can remain suspended in the air for hours after diffusing extending the exposure. Since there is also no heat involved in this process, it allows for the full benefit of the essential oil to be emitted safely. An ultrasonic diffuser is perhaps the most effective way in your home to obtain the health benefits associated with using essential oils.
The benefit of aromatherapy can be achieved by absorption through the skin or through your olfactory system. The olfactory system is simply the formal term for the parts of your body that interpret smell from the nasal passage that receive scents to the neurons in your brain that interpret them. There are however many ways to obtain these benefits without a diffuser. Here are a few examples for you to try:
- Directly from a bottle - open a bottle of essential oil and take a few gentle whiffs every 5 minutes for approximately 30 minutes. You can also put a small amount in a glass aromatherapy pendant and wear it around your neck.
- Drops on a cotton ball - This is a great way to enjoy oils while you rest. A few drops on a cotton ball or pad tucked in to your pillow will work wonders. Many people use sweet marjoram essential oil to help alleviate the symptoms of sleep apnea and snoring and find this as a very effective method to obtain the benefits without diffusing the oil across the entire room. The same can be achieved with lavender to help promote a restful night's sleep or even placed in a pet cage to calm your dog in times of travel.
- Spray Bottle - Mix 3-5 drops of essential oil with 100 ml of water into a spray bottle, shake well and spray it on a pillow, blanket or your linens. You can use any fine mist spray bottle like ones used for plants. You can use this technique in a hot shower or a steam shower without the high cost of an aromatherapy steam appliance. You can also try the same dilution with 50 ml of water and 50 ml of witch hazel or isopropyl alcohol for a linen spray. The alcohol will help break down the oil into the water so it does not separate.
- Topically - Always mixed essential oil with a carrier oil such as coconut, rice bran, jojoba or almond oil as examples when applying topically to the skin. Mix 3 to 5 drops with every 10 ml of carrier oil as a guideline. Apply it on your skin during the day or after a shower. You will not only absorb the essential oil though your skin, you will receive the benefit through your olfactory system as well. You can try a smudge on your upper lip directly under your nose or behind your ears and wrists as you would a perfume. When using any oil topically for the first time, remember to test it on a small area of the skin before broader application to ensure you do not have an adverse reaction.
- In bath water - Adding pure essential oil or a blend to your bath water is an effective method bringing you into a restful state. Fill a bath with warm to hot water, add 5-10 drops of essential oil and let the aroma works its magic. You can also detoxify you body with natural peat and essential oils by taking a aromatherapeutic mud bath.
- Gentle heating with hot water - This is a very common method with essential oils such as eucalyptus to help treat colds and sinus conditions. Although, using a diffuser creates a micro fine particle that is much smaller and easier on your lungs than that produced by steam, the hot water method can also be effective. Remove a pot of hot water (not boiling) from its heat source and add a few drops as soon as the temperature reduces slightly. Put your face near the gentle steam and inhale deeply. Be sure that the water has cooled from boiling or you will risk burning yourself. If the steam is too hot for your hand, it is way too hot to inhale.
- Cool or Warm Compress - Mixed 5-10 drops in 1 liter of cool (not cold) water. Soak a facecloth or compress, wring it out so it is not dripping and place over the area requiring treatment. This is a great way to sooth sunburns, cuts, boils, bruises and insect bites. Using warm to hot water, place a compress over your forehead or face to help alleviate the signs of headaches, migraines, anxiety and stress.
You should always use caution when heating oils. Heating oils is often a controversial topic and you will find mixed messages supporting or contrasting this position. Many health care professionals and scientists agree that high heat alters the chemical composition of an essential oil. Using ceramic light bulb rings or heating over an open flame such as a tea light can be hazardous for several reasons. Firstly, it results in a reduction of the benefits of each essential oil. It is analogous to boiling vegetables. The more you cook them, the less nutrients they retain. More importantly, heating can potentially change the composition of an oil releasing toxins into your environment that can be hazardous to your health. Lastly, essential oils are also flammable so if you insist on heating an oil, never leave it unattended. To get the most benefit out of your essential oil and to be safe, use a cold diffusion process or try the methods listed above. Avoid any techniques that will heat an oil to its boiling point or above 100 degrees Celsius.
Many people ask if they can or should ingest essential oils. Essential Oils are highly concentrated and have the capacity to cause serious damage if used internally without the necessary expertise required in administering it. This is supported by the International Federation of Aromatherapists who does not recommend ingestion of essential oils unless under the supervision of a medical professional who is also qualified in clinical aromatherapy. This goes for any essential oil from any supplier. Many essential oils contain compounds that are found in today's modern medicine. Factors such as age, weight and current medical conditions must be considered. Always take care when ingesting and remember that there can be dangerous drug interactions as well as risks to your health if you have certain health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure or infections as an example. It can also cause damage to your liver and kidneys if not administered correctly. Be responsible and accountable for your health and get advice from a trusted qualified source if you insist on ingesting.
If you are new to aromatherapy or would like more information on essential oil benefits or on using essential oils safely, see the articles on this site and explore our blog further. There are many other ways to enjoy essential oils and we would appreciate your thoughts if you have tried any of these or alternate approaches not mentioned here. As always, comments are welcomed.