First of all, please only ever use doTerra Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade essential oils and make sure to do your homework to use them safely and effectively. (read more about why purity is important).

Essential oils are extremely concentrated and should always be used with care and lots of respect.  Just to give you an idea of how concentrated they are:

It takes

5,000 pounds of rose petals to make 1 pound of rose oil 

30 pounds of lavender to make a 15ml bottle of lavender oil

And, one drop of peppermint oil is the equivalent of 28 cups of peppermint tea.

Three main ways to use essential oils

Aromatically

Our olfactory system is intimately connected to the limbic system of the brain, which is why simply inhaling essential oils either right from the bottle or diffused in the air can have profound effects.  

The limbic system is our primitive, emotional center of the brain where memories are stored, emotions are triggered and hormones are released.  It is also directly connected to other parts of the brain that control blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration.  Therefore, when you inhale an essential oil and it stimulates nerves to fire in this area of the brain, it can effect you on many different levels physically and psychologically.

Due to their unique molecular structure, essential oils can directly affect the "master gland", the hypothalamus.  This means that essential oils can be highly beneficial for maintaining calm, and helping with occasional emotional distress as well as helping to boost energy as well as growth hormones (for longevity) and neurotransmitters like serotonin (responsible for calming and elevating mood).

Therapeutic grade essential oils can increase cellular oxygen levels by 21%!  Low levels of oxygen can disrupt manymetabolic functions in the body, such as circulation, digestion and assimilation of nutrients.  We also need oxygen to maintain our immune system and rebuild tissues.  Higher levels of oxygen can assist with learning, mood, hormone balance and energy levels.

You can inhale essential oils right out of the bottle, apply a drop to your palms and inhale, or put a few drops in a diffuser. I highly suggest finding an ultrasonic diffuser that does not heat the oils in any way since doing so can change the chemical makeup of the oil and may result in lowered therapeutic benefits.  

Another great way to experience the oils aromatically is to use them in your cleaning products.  Stay tuned for an extensive blog post with lots of great recipes.

Topically

Many sources insist on always diluting essential oils and never applying "neat" or directly on the skin.  I have experienced some sensitivity to certain oils, myself, and so I suggest doing a patch test on a small area of skin before applying the oils neat over larger areas.  You can do this by applying a couple of drops to the forearm and notice any reactions that may arise within the next couple of hours.  If you experience discomfort or a rash develops, dilute with a carrier oil such as fractionated coconut oil (or even olive oil).  Do not try to dilute with water as this will only drive the essential oil in deeper.

There are several oils that, regardless of your philosophy, you would never want to use neat. These are oils that are very "hot" and could cause a burning sensation: cinnamon, cassia, oregano, clove.  For some people, even lemongrass, peppermint, thyme, or the immunity blend need to be diluted for topical application.  Everyone is different.  

The oils are so concentrated that even diluted with a carrier oil, they will be effective.  The general rule of thumb for dilution is 3-5 drops of EO per teaspoon of carrier oil (doubling this for small children).

Never use essential oils directly in the eyes or ears.  If you ever get essential oils in your eyes, soak a q-tip in any vegetable or seed oil and hold at the corners of the eye.  This will draw the essential oil to it and the discomfort should subside more quickly.

Photosensitivity

The citrus oils used topically, can make the skin more sensitive to UV light, possibly causing dark spots or blistering.  Be extremely cautious when going in the sun for at least a day after using lemon, wild orange, lime, bergamot, grapefruit or any blends that contain these oils.

Anything that touches our skin is absorbed into the bloodstream.  The small size of the essential oil molecules allows them to be almost instantly absorbed into the bloodstream and affecting all of the systems of the body within minutes or even seconds!  

Where to apply essential oils?

They say that our biggest pores are on the bottoms of the feet, which is why you will see many EO enthusiasts applying oils here.  According to ancient Chinese wisdom which has influenced our Western study of reflexology, there are points on the feet that directly relate to different organs and areas of the body.  You can refer to a reflexology cart when applying essential oils to the feet in order to directly target certain areas of concern.

I also like applying the oils to the base of the neck so that they will quickly reach the brain.

Applying the oils to localized areas of minor occasional pain is also very effective.

Internally

Again, there are great debates about whether essential oils should be used internally.  I, myself, am cautiously using the oils internally, always mindful that "less is more".  Just a few drops can be very powerful.  Never use any essential oils internally that do not have the Supplemental Facts box on the side of the label.  If you were given a sample bottle of oil and you're not sure, consult a chart in a reference book to find out whether it is safe to use internally (contact me to find out which reference books I like best).  

 

Do not use essential oils on infants, small children, the elderly, pregnant women or those with serious health concerns without first doing your own research.

Other considerations

Pregnancy

Always use extreme caution during pregnancy.  Here is a list of oils that should not be used during different stages of pregnancy and nursing. 

§  Anise (essential oil): Avoid internally and externally in pregnancy, breast-feeding.

§  Basil (essential oil): Avoid during pregnancy and breast-feeding.

§  Bergamot (essential oil):  Avoid during pregnancy and breast-feeding.

§  Cassia (essential oil): Should be avoided during pregnancy.

§  Cedarwood (essential oil):  Avoid during pregnancy and breast-feeding.

§  Roman Chamomile (essential oil):  Avoid chamomile in the first trimester of pregnancy.

§  Cinnamon (essential oil):  Avoid during pregnancy, breast-feeding.

§  Clary Sage (essential oil):  Use with caution during pregnancy.  Only use after the first trimester.  Do not use when lactating.

§  Clove (essential oil):  Use with caution in pregnancy; externally, only after the first trimester.

§  Cypress (essential oil):  Avoid in pregnancy, breast-feeding.

§  Elemi (essential oil):  Avoid in pregnancy, with infants and young children.

§  Fennel (essential oil):  Avoid in pregnancy.

§  Geranium (essential oil):  Contraindicated in the first trimester of pregnancy.

§  Ginger (essential oil, teas):  Should not be used for morning sickness.

§  Jasmine (essential oil): Avoid during pregnancy and breast-feeding.

§  Juniper (essential oil):  Contraindicated during pregnancy and breast-feeding.

§  Lavender (essential oil):  Only after first trimester.

§  Lemongrass (essential oil): Avoid during pregnancy and breast-feeding.

§  Marjoram (essential oil):  Has the potential to stimulate menstruation, do not use during pregnancy.

§  Peppermint (essential oil):  Do not use during the first trimester of pregnancy or while breast-feeding.  Do not use with children younger than two years old.

§  Pine (essential oil): Contraindicated during pregnancy and breast-feeding.

§  Rose (essential oil):  Contraindicated during the first trimester of pregnancy.

§  Rosemary (essential oil):  Contraindicated in the first trimester of pregnancy and should not be administered to babies or children younger than the age of four.

§  Sweet Basil (essential oil, leaf): Contraindicated for use while pregnant, breast-feeding, and with infants or toddlers. Do not use the essential oil during pregnancy or nursing.

§  Thyme (essential oil):  Contraindicated during pregnancy and breast-feeding.

§  Ylang Ylang (essential oil):  Avoid during pregnancy and breast-feeding.

Don't use plastic!

I often put a few drops of Lemon or Metabolic blend in my glass or stainless steel water bottle and drink throughout the day.  It is very important to not put essential oils in plastic containers as they can break down petrochemicals.  It's funny how sometimes people do a demo at essential oils classes, putting a drop of lemon oil on a styrofoam cup and showing how it will eat a hole right through the cup.  People sometimes mistakenly think that this will happen inside our bodies, but we are not made of petrochemicals (luckily).  You should be more concerned about effects like this happening in your body when you drink sodas.  The essential oils will break down the toxic petrochemicals inside your body and flush them out, which is a good thing!

Storage and shelf-life

Always store your oils tightly sealed in a cool, dark place as air, heat and light will degrade the oils.  Kept this way, your essential oils should last forever.  (The same cannot be said of most other brands, because often they contain filler oils which can go rancid.) The only oils with a shelf life are the citrus oils, which should be used within a year.  doTerra is conducting shelf-life testing and have found no problems even after 5-10 years.