How to use essential oils

By Mike Miller  ·  Jul 01, 2013

Part 2 of a series.

Essential oils are popular and easy to find, but learning how to use them can be very challenging.

First, you have to decide which oil to use for which condition and, possibly, in what combination. Then decide how you’re going to use it—diffused into the air for inhalation, taken internally for digestion, or applied on the skin for absorption? Finally, you need to determine how much to use per application. A drop? Two?

“If there’s a challenge with essential oils, that’s probably it,” says Dr. David Hill, chief medical advisor for doTERRA Essential Oils, based in Utah. “There’s a little bit of experience required, but there’s safety in this, too: Knowing the broad spectrum, I’m less likely to make a bad choice. It’s better to gravitate to what works well for you. As complicated as they sound and as ambiguous as that seems when a person is introduced to essential oils, this dissipates very quickly.”

Websites selling the oils typically suggest uses, as do blogs by people who enthusiastically share their stories. You could buy something like the Essential Oils Pocket Reference ($25, Life Science Publishing) or The Essential Oils Handbook ($12.95, Duncan Baird) or any number of other books on the topic.

Or you can ask people.

We put out a query to fans of Samaritan Ministries’ Facebook page about their use of essential oils, and received several emails and messages in response.

Silena Salyer, for instance, said her family, members of Samaritan for more than a year, has used essential oils for more than four years.

“Essential oils are our first line of response when it comes to aches and pains, first aid, childhood maladies, and the treatment of skin conditions,” the Pennsylvania resident says.

Also important for their family of eight children is prevention of illness, especially colds and the flu.

“We use peppermint to treat light fevers by rubbing it on the soles of feet,” Silena says.

Jan Scott, a Samaritan member who lives in Wyoming, teaches essential oil classes. She says she has experienced several successes through essential oils and has been able to use them instead of pharmaceutical medication. She was able to slowly wean herself off medicines for rheumatoid arthritis, using instead a variety of essential oils and proprietary blends. She uses lavender to help her sleep and to treat severe burns.

“Lavender also brings instant relief for sunburns and insect bites,” she says.

She recounts what she says are two examples of essential oils’ effectiveness.

As a “graveyard cook at the local diner,” Jan developed painful corns on her feet, but “two or three months after I began putting a drop of clove oil on my toe twice a day, I was thrilled to watch the corns drop off,” she says.

When she had a bout of bronchitis this past January, she prepared a piece of toast whenever she could, during her shift, and put drops of lemon, peppermint, and oregano oils, which she calls “a natural antibiotic combination,” on the corner of the toast. She also diffused thyme oil into the air of her bedroom while she slept.

“Praise God—I didn’t have to see the doctor or get any synthetic antibiotics,” she says.

Jan also reports that the oils worked on abscessed teeth for her son and a friend.

“Melaleuca, oregano, peppermint, and lemon saved the day, preventing a trip to the dentist, the doctor, or the emergency room,” she says. “They completely eradicated the abscesses.”

Essential oils have also found their way into hospitals.

Tonya McBride, for instance, wanted to do something to reduce staff stress in Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s emergency department in Nashville, Tennessee, where she is charge nurse.

“We work in a highly stressful, high energy environment,” says Tonya, who is also a member of doTERRA’s scientific advisory board. “We are in a constant sprint a lot of the time. The nursing staff becomes fatigued and stressed. We were looking at ways to focus on nurse wellness and to make the workplace a more uplifting, more energetic environment.”

ER leadership started researching popular alternative and integrative health options that address such problems. They then took a survey of staff about their energy and stress levels before starting an aromatherapy program, rotating citrus and peppermint oils. A follow-up survey showed “great results” at reducing stress.

“We have diffusers located throughout our emergency department at our nurses’ stations,” Tonya says. “We also have a ‘stress locker’ with essential oils in it that staff can use, to just have a moment of their own personal aromatherapy.”

Further south, in Florida, anesthetist Nick Angelis deals with patients who sometimes experience nausea in a recovery room following surgery. As a way to avoid having to use synthetic anti-nausea medication, he’ll get their permission to use essential oils, usually a blend of jojoba oil with peppermint and lavender essential oils.

“I’ve noticed the sharp smell of peppermint and the calming scent of lavender work in synergy,” says Nick, author of How to Succeed in Anesthesia School (And RN, PA, or Med School). “There are no side effects, unlike the powerful anti-emetics I used to resort to.”

Most oils can be used for a variety of purposes and in a variety of ways.

Stacy McDonald, an independent distributor for Young Living, shown at right with her husband, James, says he uses peppermint oil to help his alertness while writing sermons to deliver at Providence Church in Morton, Illinois, but it has also worked for bad headaches. Lemon essential oil can be used in cooking but also in water to treat acid indigestion. Besides being good on burns, lavender has a calming effect for members of the McDonald family.

DoTERRA’s Dr. Hill says one of the strengths of essential oils is their versatility—in application and purpose.

“One of their greatest benefits is that they offer to individuals the opportunity to personalize their health care,” Dr. Hill says.

The chiropractor uses many oils internally, but his wife chooses to use them all topically.

“That works better for her,” Dr. Hill says. “She feels better about it and likes the aroma that they produce. Even though we use many of the same essential oils for the same reasons, we use them much differently and achieve the same results.”

The reason for that lies more in the chemistry of essential oils and their ability to interact with the body.

“They don’t need to be broken down,” he says. “They don’t need to be conjugated by the body to be used. They don’t need to be combined with enzymes to be used. Their chemistry largely is already in a usable model. And because of their ability to penetrate through tissue layers and planes in the body, we get this access regardless of how we use them.”

The use of essential oils is kind of like health care sharing: If you haven’t experienced it, you’re typically skeptical. If you use them, you’re typically a big fan.

Some people, though, aren’t big fans of essential oils, or are cautious about their use.

Related Articles

Part 1 of this series: Essential things to know about essential oils
Part 2 of this series: How to use essential oils
Part 3 of this series: Essential oils: Use spiritual discernment

Editor’s Note: The information in this article is provided for educational purposes and is not meant as medical advice. You should consult your own physician for advice on your particular situation.