I remember when I first discovered aromatherapy in my early 20s. I was fascinated by peppermint essential oil and its ability to soothe headaches. I kept a bottle in my pocket at work, applying peppermint to my temples and even dropping one or two drops on my tongue throughout the day.
Looking back, I realize I should have done more research before diving into aromatherapy. I certainly wouldn’t have been ingesting it!
Live and learn, right?! Here’s some advice I wish I’d had when I was an aromatherapy novice:
1. Invest in an Aromatherapy Book
Choose one or two books to start your aromatherapy library. Books that are comprehensive, general resources will provide basic information on each essential oil and help you discover the areas in which you have the most interest. A great option I recommend is “The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils: The Complete Guide to the Use of Aromatic Oils In Aromatherapy, Herbalism, Health, and Well Being” by Julia Lawless.
2. Join Aromatherapy Discussion Forums
Facebook Groups, Reddit, Instagram, and other forums are great resources for aromatherapy newbies. Search past discussions on relevant topics, ask questions, and learn from aromatherapy veterans.
3. Choose Five to Ten Essential Oils to Start
Although you may be tempted to buy more, start your aromatherapy collection with just a few different essential oils. Essential oils can be expensive, especially when you get into oils beyond the basics, so focus on experimenting with a few affordable options at first. You can always invest in more if you decide to pursue aromatherapy further.
Consider purchasing an essential oil kit to get started.
4. Make Sure to Buy 100%, Pure, Unadulterated Essential Oils
Before buying any essential oils, make sure you understand what you’re purchasing. Always opt for a well-known, reputable manufacturer. Synthetic oils, fragrance oils, and perfume oils are not essential oils; they contain man-made chemicals and have no aromatherapeutic value.
5. Choose a Carrier Oil
For nearly all topical aromatherapy applications, you will need to dilute essential oils into a carrier oil. Good, all-purpose carrier oils include sweet almond oil, sunflower oil, and grapeseed oil. Buy cosmetic grade carrier oils, and use only a few drops of essential oil(s) per ounce of carrier oil. I personally like the sweet almond oil by NOW Solutions.
6. Store Your Oils Properly
Essential oils should be stored in a cool, dark place – ideally in dark glass containers. Since essential oils are volatile, keep the lids tightly closed and away from heat and light. Carrier oils will eventually go rancid, so it’s best to buy smaller quantities and use them before the expiration date.
7. Perform a Patch Test
Essential oils can cause adverse reactions due to allergies or sensitization over time. A patch test helps determine whether you might react to a particular essential oil. Learn how to perform a skin patch test on yourself with each new oil you want to use topically.
8. Don’t Use Aromatherapy with Children or Pets
Until you are thoroughly familiar with essential oils and their associated safety issues, don’t use them on children or pets, or while pregnant or breastfeeding. Cats, in particular, may be adversely affected by essential oils. Make sure essential oils are kept out of reach of children.
9. Don’t Ingest Essential Oils
Although you will read conflicting information about taking essential oils internally, you should avoid doing this. Most of this misinformation has spread via MLM (multi-level-marketing) companies that misguide their sellers and inaccurately claim their oils are safe for consumption.
Some essential oils that are safe to use topically may actually be quite toxic if taken internally. In addition, some essential oils may interact with prescription or over-the-counter drugs.
As you experiment with and learn more about aromatherapy, you will become more confident using essential oils. There is so much to explore, so be safe and have fun!