Which works better: inhaling essential oils or applying them to my skin?

Aromatherapy can promote healthy functioning of all mind-body systems. Choosing inhalation or skin application depends on what we want to support: respiratory and immune health, relaxation and restful sleep, tight or achy muscles, digestive issues, or skin conditions.

Benefits of inhaling essential oils

Inhalation, such as with a diffuser or aromastick, is often the most effective way to use aromatherapy. When we inhale, essential oil molecules quickly enter our lungs and bloodstream. Inhaled essential oils also enhance activity in the parts of our brain that moderate our response to stress. Choose inhalation when you want support for respiratory issues such as colds or allergies, when you want to feel calmer or more balanced, and for help with a good night’s sleep.

Benefits of applying essential oils to your skin

Applying diluted essential oils to the skin is appropriate if you have achy, stiff muscles or minor skin imbalances. Essential oils deliver benefits primarily to the uppermost layers of the skin. Only a small percentage of the essential oil applied to your skin will penetrate more deeply and enter the bloodstream.

Properly diluted essential oil blends can be applied to the skin for benefits to our subtle energy system, or as part of a spiritual practice, making care of the body a sacred act.

Of course, when you apply an aromatherapy blend, you receive the benefits of inhalation at the same time.

Proper essential oil dilution

When applying essential oils to the skin, always dilute! Use 1-2 drops of essential oil in 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil, unscented lotion, or aloe vera gel.

A friendly reminder: Inform your doctor that you are using essential oils to support your health, as aromatherapy is not a replacement for medical care.

About Michelle Gilbert, CCA, APAIA, R.SPE.P.

Michelle Gilbert, CCA, APAIA, R.SPE.P. is a clinical aromatherapy educator and consultant based in Cleveland, Ohio. She is an instructor at the internationally renowned Aromahead Institute, a contributing writer for Aroma Culture magazine, and has appeared in Health Magazine and other publications. She also serves on the Education Committee for the Alliance of International Aromatherapists.

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