Essential oils can be used at home in a variety of ways, both for their aroma and for their cosmetic and medicinal qualities. There are several ways to prepare essential oils for different applications; as a massage, in skin oils and lotions, hair care, and for first aid treatment in compresses, gargles, and wound washes. It is always recommended to put safety first when employing essential oils.
This is a method favored by professional aromatherapists, who usually carry out a full body massage. Specific essential oils are selected to suit the condition and temperament of the client, and blended with a base oil, such as sweet almond oil or grapeseed oil.
The essential oil content in a blend should usually be between 1 percent and 3 percent depending on the type of disorder. A rough guideline is to say that 20 drops of essential oil is equivalent to one milliliter, so the following proportions are appropriate:
- 3 to 5 drops to one teaspoon base oil
- 7 to 25 drops to 25 ml base oil
- 20 to 60 drops of essential oil to 100 ml base oil
Massage is a relaxing and worthwhile experience in itself; both massage and warmth will enhance absorption of the oils through the skin and into the bloodstream. Essential oils enter and leave the body with great efficiency, leaving no toxins behind. A normal, healthy body will completely process and eliminate essential oils within 3 to 6 hours.
The beneficial effects of an aromatic massage:
- Relaxation and stress reduction
- Stimulation and pain relief
- Balance blood pressure
- Immune system enhancement
- Relief of muscular aches
For general well-being it is helpful to practice self-massage on specific areas of the body, especially concentrating on the feet and hands. It is also useful to rub a blend of essential oils into parts of the body that are causing discomfort; for example, peppermint (in dilution) can be rubbed on the stomach in a clockwise direction to ease indigestion; marjoram can help to relax a stiff neck and shoulders.
Skin Oils and Lotions
The essential oils are prepared in much the same manner as they would be for a massage, except that the base oil should include the more nourishing oils such as jojoba, avocado or apricot kernel oil. The focus here is on treating the skin itself and dealing with particular problems. A gentle circular movement of the fingertips is often enough for the oils to be absorbed; it is important not to drag the skin, especially in the delicate areas of the neck and around the eyes. Rose and neroli are good for dry or mature complexions; geranium, bergamot and lemon can help combat acne and greasy skin.
A few drops of essential oil can also be mixed into a bland cream or lotion, or added to a basic face mask, which might include oatmeal, honey, or clay together with the pulp of various fruits.
In some conditions, such as cold sores (herpes) and athlete’s foot, it is better to use an alcohol-based lotion instead of an oil or cream. This can be made by adding 6 drops of essential oil to 5 ml of isopropyl alcohol or vodka. This mixture can be further diluted in a litre of boiled and cooled water for treating open cuts or sores, such as those caused by chickenpox or genital herpes.
To make flower water at home, add about 20 to 30 drops of essential oil to a 100 ml bottle of spring or de-ionized water, leaving it for a few days in the dark and then filtering it using a coffee filter paper. Flower waters can be used in the prevention and treatment of skin conditions such as acne, dermatitis and eczema, and to generally tone and cleanse the complexion. Almost any oil can be used, but the more traditional ones are rose, orange blossom, lavender and petitgrain.
The hair can be enhanced by the use of a few drops of essential oils in the final hair rinse or added straight to a mild shampoo. An alcohol-based scalp rub can be made by adding 5 ml of an essential oil to 100 ml of vodka – this method can be used to condition the hair or to get rid of unwanted parasites such as lice and fleas.
A conditioning treatment can be made by adding about 3 percent (or 60 drops) of an essential oil to a nourishing base oil such as olive oil with jojoba or sweet almond oil, massaging it into the scalp, then wrapping the hair in warm towels for a couple of hours. The essential oils of rosemary, West Indian bay and chamomile all help to condition and encourage healthy hair growth; lavender can be used to repel lice and fleas; bergamot and tea tree can help control dandruff.
Hot and Cold Compresses
This is a very effective way of using essential oils to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. A hot compress can be made by filling a bowl with very hot water, then adding 4 or 5 drops of essential oil. Dip a folded piece of cotton cloth, cotton wool or a flannel into the bowl, squeeze out the excess water and place the cloth on the affected area until it has cooled to body temperature, then repeat. Hot compresses are useful for backache, rheumatism and arthritis, abscesses, earache and toothache.
Cold compresses are made in a similar way, using ice cold water instead of hot water. This type of compress is useful for headaches, sprains, strains and other hot, swollen conditions.
This can be useful in the treatment of common genito-urinary infections such as thrush, cystitis or pruritis. In the case of Candida or thrush, add between 5 and 10 drops of tea tree to a litre of warm water and shake well. This mixture can be used in a sitz bath, bidet or as a douche. The essential oils of lavender and cypress can also aid the healing process after childbirth.
As a rule, essential oils are not applied to the skin in an undiluted form. There are some exceptions to this rule; lavender can be applied undiluted to burns, cuts and insect bites, tea tree to spots and lemon to warts. Certain essential oils such as sandalwood, jasmine or rose make excellent perfumes, dabbed neat on the skin. If there is any question at all about skin sensitivity, it is best to first try the patch test before applying any essential oil directly on the skin:
Put 3 drops of the oil in 10ml / 2 tsp carrier oil and massage a small amount of this blend into the skin on the inside of your arm. Cover the area with a hypoallergenic Band Aid and leave it there overnight. Remove it in the morning – if the skin looks normal, then the oil is safe for you to use.
- Essential oils in a gargle: add 1 drop of essential oil in 1 cup of water. mix well. do not swallow.
- Essential oils in a mouthwash: use 4 drops of essential oil in 25 ml brandy. Add 1 teaspoon to a cup of warm water.
- Essential oils for a wound wash: add 10 - 30 drops of essential oil in 100 ml of warmed, previously boiled water. Agitate to dispurse the oil.
Essential oils should not be used at home to treat serious medical or psychological problems.
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