How Essential Oils Enter the Body
Essential oils primarily enter the body in three ways:
- Absorption through the skin (dermal absorption)
- Absorption through inhalation (olfactory and respiratory systems)
- Absorption through ingestion (internal metabolic pathways) or mucous membranes
The best way for a body to absorb the therapeutic qualities of essential oils is through inhalation and dermal absorption.
There are many online sites suggesting ingesting essential oils and many times people do not know consuming essential oils can cause gastritis or even more serious problems. Do not place any oil in your mouth or under your tongue, not to swallow any oil or do not use a syringe to inject any oil into your body or any body cavity through any opening.
***Do not intend to ingest or consume essential oils on your own without the guidance of a professional practitioner.
DERMAL ABSORPTION (THROUGH SKIN):
Our skin is the main surface through which essential oils absorption takes place. This is also the biggest surface area of absorption into the bloodstream. The outer part of the skin, the epidermis, consists of different layers which are partly oil-loving (lipophilic) and partly water-loving (hydrophilic). Essential oil constituents are lipophilic, and this means that essential oils mix well with oils, and poorly with water. When essential oils apply on the skin, the molecules pass through the outer layer of the epidermis then through dermis into the capillaries and bloodstream. Absorption also occurs through the hair follicles and sweat ducts.
There are many factors that affect absorption of an oil molecule: –
- Composition of oil
- The skin area of application. The larger the area of the skin is covered, the more essential oils will be absorbed.
- The permeability of the skin. Permeable areas include soles, palms, forehead, scalp, area behind ears and less permeable areas include trunk, legs, buttock, and abdomen.
- Clean skin pores that are free of dirt improves absorption
Both rates of circulation and the warmth of the skin increase blood flow to the surface, therefore increasing the skin’s ability to absorb the essential oils through massaging.
The other factor to consider when applying essential oils to the skin is the viscosity of the carrier oil in which the oil is diluted. The higher viscosity of the carrier oil will result in longer time the essential oils will remain on the surface of the skin. For instance, Sweet Almond and Grapeseed Oils are less viscous and will penetrate the skin more easily than thicker Olive or Avocado oils.
Many oils are generally safe to apply directly to the skin.
Before starting an essential oil application, you may want to test for skin sensitivity (refer to Essential Oils Safety And Usage Guidelines for patch test). Otherwise, apply the essential oil you want to use to the bottom of the feet (refer to the Vita Flex Foot Chart to identify areas of the best application). The feet are the second fastest area of the body to absorb oils because of the large pores. Other quick-absorbing areas include the ears (refer to Auricular Internal Body Points) to and on the hands (refer to Vita Flex Hand Chart).
To achieve the desired results, 1 to 3 drops of oil is usually adequate. Allow the oil to absorb for 2-3 minutes before applying another oil, if you are using more than 1 single oil.
A few guidelines for direct application of the oils are as follows:
- Start by applying a single oil or blend, spreading it over the bottom of each foot. 3 to 6 drops per foot are adequate.
- When massaging a large area of the body, always dilute the oils by 15% to 30% with the carrier oil.
- For first time application, do not apply more than 2 single oils or blends at one time. It is also best to avoid mixing oil blends. Commercially available blends have been specially formulated by someone who understands the chemical constituents of each oil and which oils blend well. The chemical properties of the oils can be altered when mixed improperly, resulting in some undesirable reactions.
- Layering individual oils are preferred over mixing your own blends. Layering is a technique of applying multiples oils at a time – applying one oil, massaging it until the area is dry and then applying another oil, and continue massaging. There is no need to wait for more than a couple of minutes between each oil, as absorption occurs quite rapidly. If dilution is necessary, the carrier oil may be applied on top to help enclose the essential oils, to help drive them in. The layering technique is good in physical healing and also for emotional therapy.
This application is mild and suitable for children and those with sensitive skin.
- Fill a basin with 2 quarts of hot (not boiling water), and add the desired essential oils, i.e., 5-15 drops. Note: If using cool water instead if suffers neurological conditions.
- Stir the water vigorously and let it stand for 1 minute. Lay a dry towel on top of the water. Since the oils will float to the top, the towel will absorb the oils with the water.
- After the towel is completely saturated, wring out the excess water (leaving much of the oils in the towel), and place the towel over the area needing the compress.
- To seal in the warmth, cover the location with a thick towel 15-30 minutes.
For deeper penetration, use a warm compress after applying essential oils.
- Rub 1-3 drops of essential oils, diluted or neat, depending on the oil used and the skin sensitivity at the location
- Completely soak the cloth or towel by placing it in comfortably hot water. By the time you wring out the towel and shake it, it will be a nice, warm temperature to be placed on the location. Cover the location with the warm, damp towel.
- Then cover the cloth loosely with a dry towel or blanket to seal in the heat. Leave the cloth on for 10-30 minutes, depend on individual need. The moist heat will force the oils deeper into the tissues of the body.
As the oil penetrates the skin, you may experience a warming or even a burning sensation, especially in areas where the greatest benefits occur. Of burning becomes uncomfortable, remove the cloth immediately, apply carrier oil on the location
When essential oils are inhaled, the molecules are quickly picked up by the tiny hairs in our nostrils (cilia) and are absorbed into the mucous lining from where the aroma reaches the ‘smell center’ in the brain (olfactory bulb). The olfactory center converts the aroma into a neural code, which is related to the limbic system, the part that controls emotions. The limbic system a complex system of nerves and networks in the brain and is well connected to those parts of the brain that control heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress levels, and hormone balance. Depend on the specific composition of the essential oil being used, and the responses can range from relaxing to stimulating.
There are several methods you can use to inhale essential oils.
Direct inhalation refers to the action of sniffing or inhaling an essential oil/s or blend directly from the palms of your hands, a bottle, a cotton-ball or a handkerchief. Direct inhalations are most commonly used to relieve emotional distress and respiratory congestion or other respiratory ailments. This can be done 3-4x a day or as needed.
- Place 2 or more drops into the palm of your left hand and rub clockwise with the flat palm of your right hand. Cup your hands together over your nose and mouth and inhale directly (Do not touch your eyes!)
- Put 1 to 3 drops of essential oil on tissue or cotton ball (do not use synthetic fibre or fabric) and hold it close to your face, and inhale. Or Put oil on a cotton ball, and attach it to a ceiling fan or an air vent. This can also work well in a vehicle, as the air is so small.
- Put 1 to 3 drops of essential oil to a bowl or hot mug/glass of hot (not boiling) water, and inhale. Note: Heat reduces some of the benefits, thus to increase the intensity of the oil vapors inhaled, drape a towel over your head and the bowl before inhaling
Steam inhalation is one of the best home remedies for cold/cough, relieve sinus infection and sore throats. It also can be used to enhance respiratory function.
To make a steam inhalation is easy by simply heat up the water to the boiling point on a stove or in an electric kettle. Remove the heat and pour the water into a large bowl. Add 2-4 drops of essential oil into boiling water and cover your head with a big towel while placing your face above the bowl. Be careful not to place your face so close to bowl as the steam may burn your face. Inhale the hot steam for several minutes. Keep your eyes closed.
Some of the most useful essential oils a for steam inhalations: –
- Colds/Coughs: Some antiviral and symptom-fighting essential oils like Clove, Eucalyptus, Ginger, Lavender, Lemon, Thyme, and Tea Tree. For dry and irritating coughs, try Frankincense.
- Sinus infection: A steam inhalation several times a day can relieve the pain, the congestion, and the infection. Try Eucalyptus, Lavender, Peppermint, Thyme or Tea Tree.
- A sore throat: Lavender and Thyme are good choices, and steam inhalations can ease irritation and soreness in the throat.
Diffusing is a simple and effective way to use essential oils. The diffuser disperses the oils without heating them, so they retain their therapeutic benefits. Diffused oils alter the structure of molecules that create odors, rather than just masking them. They also increase oxygen availability, produce negative ions, and release natural ozone.
A cold-air diffuser is designed to atomize a microfine mist of essential oils into the air, where they can remain suspended for several hours to freshen and improve the quality of the air.
When inhaled, the oils are easily absorbed through lungs. Some benefits of cold-air diffusing on certain oils: –
- Reduce bacteria, fungus, mold, and unpleasant odors
- Relax the body, relieve tension, and clear the mind
- Improve concentration, alertness, and mental clarity
- Stimulate neurotransmitters
- Stimulate secretion of endorphins
- Relieve headaches
You can diffuse a single oil or blend and each time allow the oil/blend to completely diffuse. Essential oils such as Tea Tree, Frankincense, Lemon, Lemongrass, Orange, Grapefruit, are extremely effective for eliminating and destroying airborne germs and bacteria.
Guidelines for Diffusing
- Start by diffusing oils for 15-30 minutes a day. As you become accustomed to oils and recognize their effects, you may increase the diffusing time to 1-2hours per day.
- If you do not have a diffuser, you can add several drops of essential oil to a dark-colored glass spray bottle with 1 cup of purified water and shake well before spraying. You can use this to mist your entire house, workplace, or a car.
- Do not use more than one blend at a time in the diffuser, as this may alter the smell and the therapeutic benefit. However, a single oil may be added to a blend when diffusing.
For cleaning the diffuser, rinse with soapy water or alcohol and let the diffuser dry completely. Use a blow dryer on low heat for quick drying.