There are three methods for the application of aromatherapy:
- Diffusion (subtle scent in the air)
- Inhalation (breathing in essential oil vapors directly)
- Topical (applying essential oils to the skin)
DIFFUSION is the subtle use of essential oils by scenting the air with their aroma. While you do receive some of the aromatherapy benefits of breathing in the oils, the result is a mild one because the power of the oils is traveling throughout the room – not directly into your system. This method is mainly used to impart smell into a room either for cleansing the air (such as a room where someone is, or has been, ill) or for the simple pleasure of scenting the surroundings.
INHALATION is when the essential oils are breathed directly into the system. Keep in mind, essential oils are NOT inserted into the nostrils. Rather, it is as simple as breathing in the scent of the oils using nothing more than your sense of smell. I always take a cotton ball and add several drops of essential oils to it and have my client cradle the cotton ball in the palms of their hands – then bring their hands up to their nose and breathe in deeply. And I always remind them of what I mean by deep breathes, that shallow sniffs won’t do – I want to see their back move up and down as they inhale. I have used this most often when a customer comes into our store with a tension headache. Just three drops of peppermint oil on the cotton ball, three deep breaths, and a ten-minute wait usually brings some relief. The inhalation method works well when seeking the emotional benefits or for immediate relief such as congestion.
TOPICAL aromatherapy is applying essentials oil directly to the skin. This can be achieved in many different ways. The most widely used method is through massage. When essential oils are used during a massage, they can be used to elevate the experience emotionally by using oils that calm and relax or with oils that are stimulating. On the other hand, the essential oils may be chosen specifically for their muscular and/or aches and pains benefits.
My own massage therapist uses both methods. Since my body is used as a tool in our business (I am constantly stirring batches of soap, lifting fifty pound buckets, and do a LOT of standing) my muscles are usually a knotted mess. When I am not manufacturing products, you will usually find me slumped over the keyboard writing or processing paperwork for orders. This is why I receive deep-tissue massages. During the massage process, she includes essential oils such as sweet marjoram for its warming effect and cypress for soothing muscular cramps. She begins the massage face-up, with the last half-hour face down. For opening up the nasal passages, she places a few drops of eucalyptus on a towel that hangs directly underneath the face cradle. On days when she knows I have been especially stressed, she may replace the eucalyptus with lavender, or even blend them together. While the latter oils mentioned are not an example of topical use, they add to the experience of the massage as a whole. The massage ends with a scalp massage with a few drops of relaxing lavender on her hands.
Another example of the topical use of essential oils is through skincare products. Lotions, creams, bath salts, soaps, and liquid soaps can all be scented with real essential oils. When these products are applied to the skin, they gradually make their way into your system. This would be especially true of lotions and creams since they are not rinsed off the body the way that soaps and body washes are. Placing a single drop of lavender essential oil on both index fingers and massaging the temples is another way to apply aromatherapy topically.
However, when including essential oils in skincare it is important to remember that less is more. Aromatherapy products are not supposed to smell as strong as the super-fragrant choices found in the big box stores and malls. If your essential oil lotion is competing with your perfume, you’ve probably added too much. For a full eight-ounce bottle of lotion, I usually use around fifteen drops. Half that amount would be plenty if you were using a potent oil such as pure peppermint.
PULSE POINTS – a form of topical application, scent is frequently applied to pulse points - meaning, the parts of the body where one can touch and feel the heartbeat. Perfume is usually applied at the wrists, the neck, or behind the ears – all of which are pulse points. When it comes to essential oils (versus fragrance) it is believed that application to the pulse points speeds up the absorption rate and allows the oils to work their way through the body at a faster pace. Some lesser-known pulse points are at the temples, behind the knees, the ankles, the inner elbow, and the groin area.