Essential oils + basic usage

I wanted to write a post outlining the three main ways we can use essential oils: aromatic, topical and internal. Something I always emphasise is how versatile and practical the oils are beyond just "smelling good", because otherwise they just end up collecting dust and not used to their fullest potential, which is to support your body's internal function in all sorts of ways, your mood, your focus, your motivation, your performance, your stress levels...

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AromaticLet's start with the obvious. Using the oils aromatically means inhaling them! The constituents in essential oils are volatile aromatic compounds, which means that they quickly change from a liquid to a gas state - i.e. they evaporate quickly. That's why you can smell an oil as soon as you lift off the cap - those compounds are flying straight out and up into your nose. Using oils this way, while deceptively basic, actually interacts in a powerful way with the brain through the olfactory system. And you probably know this intuitively anyway, that smells can have a powerful emotional effect: like when you recognise a scent from your childhood, or a past relationship, or how you feel when you smell your favourite flower/freshly cut grass/onions cooking/summer rain/(insert your favourite smell here). Without going into too much detail, aromatic molecules attach to nerve cells in your nose, which causes impulses to be sent to the olfactory bulb (in the brain), which in turn sends impulses to several different other brain structures in the limbic system. It's way beyond the scope of this post to discuss brain anatomy in more detail but suffice it to say that the limbic system is involved with motivation, memory, behaviour, emotion and our stress response. It's for this reason - the connection between our sense of smell and our limbic system - that essential oils can have powerful psychological effects.
With that pre-amble out of the way, how does one use essential oils aromatically? Simple. Inhale from the bottle. Put a drop in your palm, rub hands together, cup over your nose and take some deep breaths. Put 2-3 drops on a tissue and inhale from that. Use a diffuser to get the oil dispersing in your indoor environment! (This has an added bonus of cleaning up your air quality with the antibacterial properties of the oils.) 

Topical. This refers to applying oils onto the body, usually the skin. Some oils are really beneficial for facial skin health (such as frankincense, lavender, melaleuca (tea tree) and geranium). But other oils are lovely to use all over the body too, diluted with a carrier oil (such as fractionated coconut oil, jojoba, almond, etc), as a massage/body oil. The constituents in the oil are tiny in molecular size and absorb easily through our skin and into our bloodstream (!) where they have functional effects on our body, e.g. reducing inflammation, increasing blood flow, fighting bacteria, combating free radical oxidation, and relieving pain.
Ideas? Add a drop of frank/lavender/geranium to your facial moisturiser. Add a drop of melaleuca to your cleanser. Rub 2-3 drops of oil onto the soles of your feet (lavender or cedarwood before bed, Balance or Motivate blend in the morning, or On Guard blend daily for immune upkeep). Pop a drop of peppermint behind your neck for a cooling + refreshing kick and for mental focus (SO GOOD!) Use your intuition to guide you in making a divine and comforting body oil blend, diluted in a tablespoon or two of carrier oil.

Internal. Many oils are regarded by the US Food & Drug Administration as safe for internal consumption. doTERRA's mega-stringent quality testing ensures there's no impurities or adulteration, and for that reason they're the only brand I would even consider taking internally. Do your own research and do what you feel comfortable with. I like adding a drop of citrus oil (lemon, wild orange, lime or grapefruit) to my glass of water; I like flavouring my food with a drop or two of lemon, for example, in my stir friend greens, or a drop of each ginger and lemongrass in my thai-style coconut milk curries; I sometimes place a drop of frankincense or copaiba under my tongue, because of its nervous-system-supporting properties.

doTERRA have an amazing range of e-books which expand on these different models of use, as well as others with ideas and inspiration!

Ultimately, use your oils in the way that YOU feel called to. Experiment, play, and use your intuition to guide you.