Traditionally, certain application methods have been preferred or used exclusively. However, as the research surrounding essential oils continues to develop, a greater understanding of application methods is now understood. All application methods are safe when used appropriately, including aromatic, topical, and internal methods. One or multiple application methods can be used depending on the targeted benefit.

The sense of smell is a tool that can elicit powerful, mental, and emotional responses. Previously described in Module 3, essential oils are readily volatile and are quickly absorbed by the olfactory receptors. For this reason, essential oils have an especially powerful effect via aromatic application. Some essential oils induce uplifting or invigorating effects, while others are more calming. 

Diffusion is the most efficient method for applying essential oils aromatically and many types of diffusers exist. Some work directly on the whole oil by transforming it into a micro fine mist, while others use water to distribute the essential oils as microscopic droplets. Because of the delicate nature of the oil’s chemical profile, essential oils should never be used in diffusers that work by burning or heating the oil, as this can alter their chemical structure. Diffusers that use cold air or water are ideal. However, using essential oils aromatically does not require any special diffusing devices. You can achieve the same benefits by simply placing a few drops of essential oil in the palm of your hand that is then cupped around the nose as you breathe deeply.

Other Effective Methods of Aromatic Application:

  • Apply oil to a cotton ball and place in the air vents of your vehicle
  • Mix oils in a spray bottle with water and mist over furniture, carpet, or other linens
  • Spritz oil on clothing
  • Add oil to a batch of laundry or to dryer sheets
  • Use in household surface cleaners

Aromatic use of essential oils is very safe and is generally well tolerated; however, it is important to use this application method appropriately. As with all application methods, diffusion should be used in smaller doses, multiple times throughout the day to achieve the maximum benefits. Amount of oil diffused, proximity to the diffuser, and room size determine the necessary diffusing time length. The more oil diffused and a closer proximity to the diffuser will elicit a more potent effect. If you are using a water-based diffuser, it is generally recommend to use 1–5 drops of oil per diffusion period. It would be best to start with short diffusion periods (15–20 minutes) and then increase the time as needed to achieve the desired benefits.

Common Symptoms of Excessive Diffusion:

  • Headache
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion


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