Recently, I got this email from a reader, and I thought I’d respond to it on my blog (since others are probably wondering the same thing):
Hello! I ran across your blog while searching the internet for information on balancing my hormones using essential oils.
Do you, in your vast knowledge of holistic living, have any information on essential oils and hormones? Specifically, I am wanting to know the best way to use them. Topically? Internally? Strictly aromatherapy? I can find all sorts of information on what oils are best for hormone balancing, but not much about the best delivery method. – K.L.
Let me address this in two parts. First, let me talk about how to use essential oils for therapeutic benefits. Then, in my next post, I will talk about the research on hormone balancing and some of the protocols I’ve come across in those areas.
How to Use Essential Oils
Basically, there are two ways to use essential oils for health purposes: topically and internally. Believe it or not, topical applications are actually very effective, since it is beyond dispute that essential oils are able to penetrate the fatty tissue of our skin and enter the bloodstream. From there, they will eventually enter the liver and be metabolized. When you take essential oils internally, they get to the liver faster, where they are metabolized (the exception to this is via suppositories, which I discussed a couple posts ago). So in my mind, the only reason you would ingest an essential oil is if a) it’s safe, and b) in the process of metabolizing the essential oils, there are by-products created that contain additional healthful effects.
Using Essential Oils Topically
First, I will make the suggestion that you use only organically grown essential oils – citrus oils, especially. Citrus oils are usually cold-expressed from the peel, so any pesticides they used on the fruit will go right into the oils too. My favorite method of using essential oils is to put about 20-24 drops (of a single oil or a blend of oils) in one ounce of carrier oil, and rub it on my skin. In addition to a carrier oil (which is usually something like Jojoba, sweet almond, apricot kernel, avocado, safflower, or sesame), you can also use apple cider vinegar, floral waters and other hydrosols, or light creams and lotions as your “base.” Just remember that the ratio is 20 to 24 drops to one ounce of base.
Another good method is in the bath or in the shower. If you want to use essential oils in the bath, fill up the tub and THEN add 6 to 10 drops of essential oils (otherwise, they will evaporate pretty quickly). I would also suggest adding a cup or two of Epsom salts for a nice, detoxifying soak (Epsom salts are high in magnesium, which helps relax muscles and stimulate the liver). If you want to use them in the shower, you would turn off the water halfway through your shower (so while you are soaking wet), and add about 5 to 20 drops of the essential oil to your skin. The oils will absorb immediately, because they won’t mix with the water on your skin (essential oils are repulsed by water), so the absorption into your fatty tissue will increase. You would obviously only do this with oils that can be used undiluted, and to which you do not have a reaction via a skin patch test.
Lastly, the bottoms of the feet are also a wonderful delivery mechanism. I like to apply my favorite immunity blend in this way, which I’ve found is highly effective (the nerve endings in the feet help carry the essential oil “signals” throughout the rest of the body).
Using Essential Oils Internally
If you’re going to use essential oils internally, be sure you are using the ones that are GRAS (generally recognized as safe), and not any of the ones on this list. Also, make sure they are organic (for the same reasons you would eat organic foods)! If you would like to use essential oils internally, you have a number of choices:
- In a glass of water
- On a spoonful of honey
Glass of water: Usually we suggest putting a drop of essential oil in a glass of water because otherwise, most of it will just get absorbed into the mucous membranes of the mouth, throat, and esophagus, which can delay absorption into the liver. So just put a single drop into a glass of water (8 oz) and stir it around. This way, when you drink the glass, you will take the oil into the stomach and hopefully, intestines.
Spoonful of honey: You can also put a single drop on a spoonful of honey, and then drop the spoonful into a glass of water (or you could just swallow the spoonful by itself). This method will also carry the oil to your stomach/intestines.
Inhalation: I consider this an internal application because you are, after all, taking IN the essential oils via your respiratory tract. To inhale an essential oil, you can put a couple drops on a cotton ball, on your pillow, or in a diffuser. If you have the time, you can also do a steam inhalation, when you put a few drops into a bowl of hot, steaming water and then put your face over it (use a towel to trap the rising steam).
Suppository: Essential oil suppositories are particularly good for respiratory ailments like chronic, severe bronchitis.
Phew, this was a long-winded answer. And I haven’t even really answered her question yet…I just thought I needed to provide a background on how to use essential oils before getting to the rest of the question! Stay tuned.