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How to Use Aromatherapy

How to Make Medicinal Aromatherapy Preparations

On this page, you will find a general overview and explanation of essential oil application techniques. This will help you determine what type of product you need to buy or make to best suit your needs. Keep a few essential oils on hand so you'll be prepared to treat everyday problems. Just be sure to store them out of the reach of children.

Aromatherapy Compress

An aromatherapy compress concentrates essential oils in a specific area of the body and keeps the area moist. It is one of the quickest and easiest therapeutic techniques to make. Add about 5 drops of an essential oil or a blend of oils to a cup of water. Use hot or cold water, whichever is best for the particular treatment: Cold water helps relieve itching, swelling, and inflammation, while hot water increases circulation and opens pores, helping to flush out blemishes.

Fold a soft cloth and soak it in the water; then wring it out and apply it where needed. If you feel overheated, try a cold compress on your forehead. Cold is also usually the preferred temperature for relieving strained eyes. A cool compress can also help to get rid of a headache, although a few people find that heat works better for them. A hot compress against the back of the neck will relieve neck strain and tight muscles.

Aromatherapy Foot or Hand Bath

Soaking your hands or feet in an aromatherapy mini-bath is an excellent treatment for stiffness, aches, and skin irritations. In fact, your entire body will benefit since the essential oils penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream. To make a foot or hand bath, simply add 5 to 10 drops of essential oil to a quart of hot or cold water in a large basin. Stir well to distribute the essential oils, then soak your feet or hands for at least five minutes. Cold water reduces swelling while warm water relaxes stiff muscles. To improve leg circulation in conditions such as varicose veins, alternate between a hot and cold bath.

This aromatherapy foot bath will relieve aches and pains as well as improving your overall mood.
This aromatherapy foot bath will relieve aches and
pains as well as improving your overall mood.

Aromatherapy Gargle, Mouthwash, or Throat Spray

A spray or gargle brings essential oils into direct contact with the bacteria or virus responsible for causing sore throat or laryngitis. To make either one, dissolve 1/2 teaspoon salt in about 1/4 cup water and add 1/2 drops of an antiseptic essential oil such as tea tree. Shake or stir well. Be sure to spit out the gargle or mouthwash -- essential oils should not be swallowed.

Aromatherapy Inhalant

Steam inhalations are a great way to treat any upper respiratory or sinus problem. The steam carries essential oils directly to sinuses and lungs, where they fight infection. Additionally, the warm, moist air opens nasal and bronchial passages, making it easier to breathe. To create a steam inhalant, bring about 3 cups of water to a boil in a pan. Turn off the heat, and add 3-5 drops of essential oil to the water. Drape a towel over both your head and the pan to capture the steam, keeping your eyes closed and your head about 12 inches from the water. Take deep, relaxing breaths of the fragrant steam. You can also humidify and disinfect an entire room -- just keep the mixture on a very low simmer. Essential oils can also be used in many humidifiers.

When you’re away from home and steam inhalation treatments are impractical, inhale a tissue scented with the oils or use a natural nasal inhaler, which can be found at natural food stores.

Aromatherapy Liniment

Liniments increase circulation. Rub them externally on the skin to warm muscles and to reduce muscle and joint pain. Liniments also disinfect wounds and dry up skin eruptions. Fitness experts suggest applying liniment before exercising, not afterwards, so that it can work like a mini-warm-up, heating muscles so they will stretch better. (Don’t use this as an excuse to skimp on your stretches, however!) Make a quick and easy liniment by adding 15-20 drops of the appropriate heating essential oils, such as cinnamon, peppermint, and clove, for every ounce of alcohol, oil, or vinegar. Alcohol is cooling and quickly evaporates, leaving no oily residue. Oil heats up faster and stays on the skin longer, making it more like a concentrated massage.

Aromatherapy Massage/Body Oil

Massage oil consists of essential oils blended in a carrier oil. A small amount of healing essential oil can thus be evenly distributed over a large area of the body. Rubbing warms the body, relaxes muscles, relieves stress, encourages deep breathing, and helps the oils to penetrate deeply. All of these do their part in treating the whole person, rather than just focusing on a single symptom. To make either a massage or body oil, combine 1/2 teaspoon (50 drops) of essential oil with 4 ounces of any vegetable oil. A body oil made from essential oils is also a good alternative when the patient won’t swallow a pill or drink tea. For example, if a child with a stomachache refuses to take any medicine, rub a therapeutic body oil on his or her stomach.

Aromatherapy Salve

Salves are made of herbal oils that are thickened with beeswax, so they form a healing and protective coating that adheres better to the skin. They are used on almost all skin problems, such as minor cuts, bruises, scrapes, diaper or heat rash, insect bites, eczema, psoriasis, and swelling. You can make any salve aromatherapeutic by stirring 24 drops of essential oil into 2 ounces of salve. This is fairly easy to do with a toothpick. The resulting salve will be a little runnier than usual, but it will stick to the skin perfectly well.

Aromatherapy Sitz Bath

A “sitz” bath is simply a mini-bath that employs hot and cold water to increase blood circulation, primarily in the pelvic region. This makes it ideal for uterine or bladder problems. Add 5-10 drops of essential oil to a bathtub containing about 10 inches of water (up to your waist). The water temperature should be as hot as you can easily stand but not so hot as to hurt. Prepare a small tub of cold water and leave it nearby. Sit in the hot water 5 to 10 minutes. Quickly remove yourself to the tub of cold water and sit in it for at least 1 minute. The large plastic tubs sold at hardware stores are well-suited for this purpose. Continue alternating between the hot and cold tubs for a total of two to five times each. Repeat the treatment every day for 3 to 5 days. Unless otherwise stated in the Common Ailments chapter, rosemary is a good general oil for this purpose.

Aromatherapy can also help keep your skin looking younger and, of course, smelling great. In the next section, we will look at some cosmetic aromatherapy applications.

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.
  • How Essential Oils Work: In this article, you will learn how essential oils are produced, the difference between essential oils, and how to buy and store 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.