As a massage therapist, I regularly incorporate aromatherapy into my practice to soothe my clients emotionally, and to aid in their physical well-being. Essential oils are extracted from leaves, stems, flowers, bark, roots, herbs, brushes, shrubs and trees through distillation. They have been used for medicinal and healing purposes for thousands of years. Clinical studies are currently underway in many countries to test the healing properties of various oils, and in the United States, many practices are starting to realize the benefits of essential oils.

It’s important to purchase the purest essential oils available. Research the product line to ensure the items are organic; anything else could do more harm than good. Avoid the temptation to go for the cheapest option, which is likely mixed with synthetic chemicals or heavily diluted. Also, be sure the oil is sold in a dark glass bottle. This will ensure light doesn’t get to the oil, deteriorating it over time. Keep the bottle in a cool place in your home to guarantee you get the maximum benefit each time you use it.

From the array of essential oil selections, each has its own unique properties. I suggest starting with the basics, such as lavender, rosemary, eucalyptus, ginger, peppermint, orange or lemon. It’s also helpful to purchase a dictionary/reference guide to familiarize yourself with the different oils and find what’s right for you.

I have a client who asks for a different essential oil for each new life occasion. I give her a recommendation based on what she is experiencing physically and mentally. For those who aren’t as oil savvy, I created an introduction to these items with the “how to use essential oils” short list.

Oil up:
  • The skinny. Most of the time, essential oils should not be applied directly to the skin (unless diluted). Do a skin test by placing a dab of oil on a patch of skin. Wait 24 hours to ensure a reaction does not occur.
  • Bath time. This is a great way to remove yourself for a bit. I use essential oils in my nightly bathing ritual. Add 8-10 drops to the water, inhale, meditate and let go of stress. Some of my favorite essential oils to bathe in—lavender, Roman chamomile, frankincense, jasmine and grapefruit—are known throughout the holistic world for their relaxation properties. When I get done with a good workout, I like to use eucalyptus for its soothing effects on the muscles and joints.
  • Inhale. This is my favorite use of essential oils because you really get a chance to see how positively oils can affect your mood. The inhalation of different essential oils can help balance the body, mind and spirit. Add 5-10 drops of oil to a bowl of steaming water (not boiling) and put a towel over your head. Deeply inhale the vapors from the steam, repeating the process as necessary. I also put a few drops of my favorite oils on my pillow before I go to bed which helps with deep sleep.
  • Humidifier. Add 5-10 drops to a room humidifier twice a day.
  • Compress. Compression is great way to apply essential oils to the body for relaxation, headaches, menstrual cramps, sore muscles, etc. Add 5-10 drops of essential oil (peppermint is recommended) to a small bowl of hot water. Dip the towel or washcloth, wring out the excess and compress the towel on affected area. Repeat as towel cools.
  • Create a massage blend. I love to massage with essential oils because it aids in the therapeutic aspects of the method. I make a lot of different blends based on a client’s needs. You can research the properties in various essential oils to create a mix that will be most effective for you.
  • Diffuse. I prefer diffusing essential oils, as heating or burning them can make the essential oil less effective. Diffusing disperses the oils in the air and you have a natural air purifier to fill your home. Diffusers also eliminate the need for harmful synthetic air fresheners.
  • Spray it on. I like to create spay bottles with my favorite essential oils and spray my linens, carpet and clothes. I actually clean my house with essential oil mixtures. They kill mold, bacteria, dust mites and unpleasant odors. I have one spray bottle made with Roman chamomile for bedtime and one made with frankincense for morning. My friends and family literally come to my house to relax.
  • Dryer sheets. Add a few of your favorite essential oils to a rag and put it in the dryer with your clothes and sheets. You will smell like your favorite essential oil all day.