How to Use Essential Oils

So you came home from a party having bought some oils because you were told you must have them. Now you’ve done a little research and you’re seeing conflicting information—you shouldn’t drink them, you shouldn’t put them neat in the palm of your hand and sniff. Now what?

This article will start you down the path of using essential oils correctly. I have been down the same path of trying to figure out who and what to believe. After 6 years of study, dozens of books, and a certification course under my belt I am far from knowing everything there is to know. But, I hope I can help you navigate the truth so you can use essential oils with a measure of confidence.

If you read nothing else

Let’s jump right in and set the record straight. Despite a lot of information on the internet saying otherwise, you should not routinely ingest essential oils, and you should not apply essential oils to your body undiluted.


Now, we are humans, which means that black and white rules don’t always apply. There may be very specific reasons why you may ingest an oil for a short period of time. Most aromatherapists will agree that this is not something people should be self-prescribing. In fact most aromatherapists would agree that you need more advanced training than even an aromatherapy certificate to make recommendations for internal use.

Personally, I think it is irresponsible for anyone to make blanket recommendations on the internet to use essential oils internally. The person recommending needs to take a client history including a review of the clients medical status and other medications. You can’t do that in a blog post, even if you have a doctor in front of your name (in fact people who are health care providers should know better!).

So, don’t let anyone convince you that you should ingest an oil. Aromatherapy is fantastic without swallowing.

Don't let anyone convince you to drink essential oils. Aromatherapy is fantastic without swallowing.Click To Tweet

Undiluted Oils

Some sources say that a select few oils are okay to use undiluted occasionally. Lavender is the most commonly cited oil for such use. There is a tendency towards a more conservative view in recent years. When you use an oil undiluted, you run the risk of sensitization (a type of allergic reaction caused by overexposure to a substance). Again, why risk that when aromatherapy is effective in other ways?

If you need to use an oil in a stronger concentration some oils can be used for a limited period at between 5-10%. You should always look up the maximum dermal dilutions before making a topical blends as a few oils have very dermal limits much lower than this.

So how should you use aromatherapy?

The two most common ways to use aromatherapy are topically and through inhalation.

When we speak of topical application, it means that you dilute essential oils in a carrier oil and apply it to your skin.

When to use essential oils topically

Topical application is the method of choice for skin issues. Some examples of skin conditions include acne, eczema, mature skin care, scars, or even cellulite. Muscle aches and pains is another great use of topically applied oils.

When using essential oils topically, use lower dilutions on children, the elderly, and for ongoing concerns. Use slightly higher concentrations when addressing a more acute complaint. When using higher concentrations, be sure to double check for the maximum recommended dermal dilution for that oil.

Chart of essential oil dilutions for different ages

Carrier oils are vegetable, nut, and seed oils. You can also use other fats like shea butter or cocoa butter (you will need to melt it first before you can stir in your essential oils).

So how do you get the proper dilution?

Dilution math made easy (seriously):

There are numerous dilution charts out there, but if you memorize just a couple conversions and rules, you can easily figure out your dilutions without needing to look it up every time.

Rule of Thumb: 1 drop of essential oil per percentage per teaspoon

Example: 1% dilution is 1 drop of essential oil in 1 one teaspoon of carrier oil; 2% dilution is 2 drops per teaspoon

Conversion #1: 1 teaspoon is the equivalent of 5ml

Conversion #2: There are about 30 ml in an ounce.

With just those few bits of information we can do a lot and the math is not scary, let’s see how this works:

Calculation Example
Goal: To make a 2% dilution in 1 ounce of carrier oil.

A 2% dilution means 2 drops of essential oil in 1 teaspoon (5 ml) of carrier oil. Using our conversions, an ounce is 30 ml, which means there are 6 teaspoons (30 ml divided by 5 ml) in an ounce. If we need 2 drops in one teaspoon, we need 12 drops (2 drops x 6 teaspoons) to make a 2% dilution in one ounce.

To recap: 2% dilution is 2 drops per teaspoon. We used our conversion rules to calculate that there are 6 teaspoons in an ounce. We multiplied the number of drops for 1 teaspoon by the number of teaspoons in an ounce to arrive at how many drops to include in an ounce of carrier oils.

Test your understanding:

Try to calculate the number of drops in this example. You can check your answer at the bottom of this post.

A 1% dilution in 15 ml (1/2 ounce)

Inhalation of Essential oils

The other common way to use essential oils is by inhaling them. You can inhale them from aromatherapy jewelry, nasal inhalers, a diffuser, steam inhalation, or a room spray.  Inhalation is easy, effective, and generally one of the safest ways to use essential oils.

Inhalation works in a couple ways. One is that essential oils entering your nose come in contact with the olfactory nerve and your limbic system. The limbic system influences our emotions, behaviors, endocrine system (hormones) and our pleasure center. Inhalation can be great for emotional concerns like stress and anxiety.

The second way inhalation works is the oils you inhale have direct contact with your lung tissue. For respiratory issues, this means you are bringing essential oils into contact with the affected area. Some oils may also pass through the lungs into the circulatory system as you breathe in and out.

You can inhale oils from a nasal inhaler, or in a bowl of steaming water, but one of the easiest way is to use a diffuser. Diffusion is best used 10-30 minutes at a time, 1-3 times per day. It is not necessary to diffuse every day.

Summary of the best ways to use essential oils

Chart of different ways to use essential oils including topical inhalation or either

So next time you use aromatherapy, try picking the application method based on what you are trying to achieve. You can pin this post for future reference.

Now, check your answer. How did you do?

Answer: 3 drops of essential oil.

1% dilution is 1 drop per teaspoon. 1 teaspoon=5ml. 15 ml divided by 5ml is 3 so there are 3 teaspoons in 15 ml. We multiply our number or drops (1 drop) by 3 teaspoons. Our dilution is 3 drops in 15 ml to make a 1% dilution.


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