The essential oil that you choose will depend on the purpose—do you want it to help elevate your mood or do you need something to treat a burn? There is no “laundry list” that specifies which essential oil is used to treat which health condition. Instead, you need to be proactive about doing research and talking with qualified individuals.
A good place to start is to get a book about therapeutic aromatherapy. There are many good books available and you will be able to find one that matches your needs. Here are a couple recommendations of books that I have found to be helpful.
Essential oils enter the body primarily in three ways—applied to the skin, inhaled, or ingested. Within each of these, there are many different kinds of application methods. For example, you can apply essential oils topically using compresses, sprays, baths, or massaging them into the skin.
The application method chosen depends on the desired effect and the essential oil selected. For example, some essential oils are irritating to the skin because of their chemistry. These would need more dilution or might better be used by inhalation.
Once you have purchased an essential oil, the application method depends on the condition to be treated and the desired effect. For example:
Note: If you are unsure about which application method to use, consult an experienced aromatherapist.
Essential oils can be inhaled using a variety of techniques and devices.
Essential oils can be applied to the skin using a variety of techniques. It is important to note that most essential oils cannot be applied directly to the skin without being diluted.
As a rule of thumb, essential oils should be diluted in a carrier substance (vegetable or nut oil, or water) at no greater concentration than 3-5%.
That means if you have one teaspoon (5cc) of the carrier, you would add 3 drops of pure essential oil. This would make a 3% solution that could be used on a portion of the body.
For massage or for application over large areas of the body, a 1% solution (meaning, one drop of essential oil in one teaspoon of carrier) is generally a safe concentration. For infants, using a 0.25% solution is recommended (.5% for toddlers).
Note: If you use water as a carrier, be sure to shake or mix your solution well before application.
Common carrier oils are often available in natural foods stores or stores that specialize in natural bath and body products. Organic and cold-pressed carrier oils are preferred, and examples include sweet almond oil, apricot kernel oil, grapeseed oil, jojoba oil, or avocado oil. These oils do not have a strong smell of their own. They should be kept refrigerated until used and should be discarded if they smell rancid. (Oils typically keep about a year if refrigerated.)
For wound care, an ideal essential oil would be gentle to the skin and antimicrobial. Some essential oils can be used in different ways. For example, true lavender essential oil (Lavandula angustifolia) can be used on the skin for cuts and minor burns, and it can be inhaled to promote relaxation and sleep. Lavender is one of the few essential oils that can be used undiluted on small areas of the skin.
Essential oils can be applied internally in several ways including oral ingestion and suppositories, but remember that in the U.S. the ingestion of essential oils is only recommended under the supervision of a licensed healthcare provider.