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How to Use Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy and Carrier Oils

Mixing your essential oil with a carrier oil is the most popular way of preparing aromatherapy products. It is also the easiest way to dilute essential oils in preparation for use. There are several choices of carriers; the most common are vegetable oil, alcohol, water, and more rarely, vinegar. The carrier you choose will depend on how you plan to apply your treatment.

For a massage or body oil, vegetable oil is the best choice. For a liniment, you may prefer alcohol as your base because it doesn't leave an oily residue. A room spray only needs a water base, while aloe vera juice is perfect for a complexion spray.

You can also dilute essential oils in ready-made products that use vegetable oils as their base, such as salves, creams, or lotions that you purchase at the store. This is a quick way to custom-make your own products. Select products that have little or no essential oils in them already to ensure that you do not end up with too much scent in the finished product. Many natural food stores sell unscented cream, lotion, and shampoo bases.

Though commonly used in cooking, vegetable oil and vinegar can also be used as carrier oils in aromatherapy preparations.
Though commonly used in cooking, vegetable oil and vinegar can
also be used as carrier oils in aromatherapy preparations.

Vegetable Oil

Essential oils blend well into vegetable oils. Vegetable oils have other advantages, too: They are soothing to the skin, hold moisture in, and are easy to apply. Any high-quality vegetable oil such as almond, apricot, hazelnut, olive, grape seed, or sesame can be a carrier oil. You don't necessarily need to use "cold-pressed" oil. In fact, you should avoid the heavily scented olive and peanut oils because they have their own odor, which will cover up the scent of the essential oils you are using.

Vegetable oil's molecules are too large to penetrate the skin as essential oil molecules do, but they slide smoothly over one another and over the skin, making them ideal for cosmetic products. Eventually, when you're more familiar with the properties of the various oils, you may vary the oil according to the application. But when starting out, use any of the carrier oils listed earlier. Store the carrier oils away from heat and light to ensure their freshness. Keep the more expensive oils in the refrigerator if you won't be using them immediately.

Vitamin E oil is an excellent antioxidant, and adding it to any aromatherapy blend will help extend the life of most vegetable oils. One or two capsules (200 to 400 IUs) per two-ounce bottle of carrier is enough. Just prick the end of the capsule with a pin and squeeze.

To ensure freshness, make only enough of a blend to last for a couple months or keep it refrigerated. If you plan to keep a blend for a long time and are worried about rancidity, consider using jojoba oil. While more expensive than most, jojoba oil will never go rancid. If you're pinching pennies, use it as just a portion of your blend.


The same proportions suggested for diluting essential oils into vegetable oil will also work for alcohol. Although it is not used as often, alcohol is antiseptic and cooling and quickly evaporates, leaving no oily residue. You may choose between using a drinking alcohol, such as vodka, or a rubbing alcohol, which is poisonous.

If you choose drinking alcohol, any type will work, but vodka is often used because it has no additional flavors or additives. An 80-proof vodka is 40 percent alcohol and 60 percent water. If you use rubbing alcohol (alcohol made from wood), be sure that it is not ingested. By itself, alcohol is far too drying to use on the skin or hair. Witch hazel, which is a blend of alcohol plus an extract of the bark and leaves of the hamamelis virginiana, makes a good base for a mild astringent.


A few aromatherapy preparations incorporate vinegar. It is actually a better base for both skin and hair than alcohol, but it is not as popular due to its strong smell. The smell dissipates rather quickly, however, and you'll be pleased with the result if you try it.

Vinegar is antiseptic, although not as antiseptic as alcohol. Its acidity helps restore the acid mantle or pH-balance to the skin and hair. For this purpose, apple cider vinegar is best, although many people prefer white vinegar because it has no color. Vinegar is water soluble, so you can dilute it with distilled water if you find its smell or sting too strong for the product you are making. Distilled water is used because it doesn’t contain chlorine or other city water additives and has none of the bacteria found in well water.


For aromatherapy, you will primarily be adding a few drops of an essential oil blend to your bath, to a bowl of hot water for compresses, or to cold water in a bottle that you will spray. Nonchlorinated or distilled water is always preferred. Fill the containers with hot water before you add the essential oils so they won't evaporate too rapidly.

Not that we have the basics out of the way, it's time to learn how to make aromatherapy preparations. On the next page, you will find out how to make aromatherapy dilutions.

To learn more about Aromatherapy and other alternative medicines, see:
  • Aromatherapy: Here you will learn about aromatherapy, how it works, what part essential oils play, and how to use aromatherapy.
  • Essential Oils Profiles: We have collected profiles of dozens of plants that are used to produce essential oils. On these pages, you will learn the properties and preparations for the most popular essential oils.
  • How to Treat Common Conditions With Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy can be used to treat a number of conditions, from asthma to depression to skin problems. Here you will learn how to treat some common medical problems with aromatherapy.
  • Home Remedies: We have gathered over a hundred safe, time-tested home remedies for treating a wide variety of medical complaints yourself.
  • Herbal Remedies: Herbal remedies and aromatherapy can be very similar, and they stem from similar historic roots. On this page, you will find all of our herb profiles and instructions for treating medical problems with herbal remedies.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider