A significant portion of my practice is educating consumers on safe aromatherapy techniques. We all know essential oils are highly concentrated substances derived from plants. It seems counter-intuitive to dilute something that is all-natural and healthy. In this article I’ll give you five reasons why diluting essential oils is in your best interest.
1) Diluting Will Make You Use Less Essential Oil
When you use less of something, your dollars will stretch further. Who doesn’t like saving money? By following dilution guidelines (watch my YouTube video), you will consistently use the same quantity of essential oil, never an excessive amount, which saves you money.
Here are a couple helpful rules-of-thumb for dilution:
For general aromatherapy in adults (e.g. full body massage, daily use, etc.):
2% dilution – approximately 12 drops of essential oil per ounce (30 ml or 2 tbsp) of carrier oil. A shot glass is usually one ounce.
For local massage and treating an acute condition in an adult: 3% dilution – approx. 18 drops of carrier oil per ounce of carrier oil.
For children ages 6 and up: 1% dilution – approx. 6 drops per ounce.
1% dilution is equal to one drop essential oil per teaspoon of carrier oil.
5% dilution is equal to one drop essential oil per ml of carrier oil.
Check out some excellent infographics from the Using Essential Oils Safely website. I’ll summarize them below for you:
- Children ages 6 and up
- Pregnant women
- Elderly adults
- Sensitive skin
- Compromised immune systems or other serious health issues
- 1% = 1 drop per teaspoon of carrier oil (6 drops per ounce)
- Ideal for most adults and situations
- Daily skin care
- General adult aromatherapy
- 2% = 2 drops per teaspoon = 12 drops per ounce
- Short-term use for temporary health issues
- Local applications
- 3% = 3 drops per teaspoon = 18 drops per ounce
NEAT – NO DILUTION
- Very rarely done
- Lavender undiluted for minor cuts or bug bites
- Not recommended to be done long-term
2) The Carrier Oil Will Actually Increase the Effect of the Essential Oil
Again, this seems counter-intuitive, but the carrier oil (e.g. coconut oil) will cause the essential oil to spread out and absorb into the epidermis more readily. This is because the carrier oil acts as a vehicle to “carry” the essential oil into the layers of the skin. Undiluted essential oil, especially the more volatile types, would otherwise evaporate. I’m sure you don’t want your hard earned money escaping into the air.
3) You Will Be Less Susceptible to Dermal Irritation and Sensitization
As I mentioned in a previous blog article, applying essential oils “Neat” (full strength) can lead to irritation and sensitization. By diluting essential oils in a carrier oil, you will protect yourself from the effects of irritation and you will prevent (or significantly reduce) becoming sensitized to the oil in the future.
4) Avoiding Systemic Toxicity
I’ve already discussed the benefits of diluting essential oils in terms of preventing skin irritation and sensitization. Per Robert Tisserand, another less obvious benefit of dilution is avoiding systemic toxicity, such as fetotoxicity, hepatotoxicity, carcinogenicity, and neurotoxicity. This is because essential oils, after they are ingested, travel to the liver after they have been absorbed by the stomach lining into the bloodstream. The liver has to work hard to process the molecules in the essential oils. In the long run, hepatotoxicity (liver toxicity) may result.
5) You Can Avoid Putting Your Aromatherapist in an Unethical Situation
If you are working with an aromatherapist, keep in mind that he or she is not a doctor. We are not licensed to practice medicine. We therefore cannot give medical advice or recommend any techniques that are outside the scope of our practice.
I’ll give a few examples of activities that are normally outside the scope of practice:
- Applying essential oils to the skin “neat” (undiluted) – some exceptions apply.
- Orally ingesting essential oils.
- Recommending any technique the aromatherapist is not trained or qualified to administer. In my case, I would not feel comfortable in recommending essential oils for treating animals. Since I am not a licensed massage therapist or an herbalist, I am not qualified to practice in those areas either.
It’s not my intention to tell people how to live their own lives. Adults are free to make their own choices, however, if you are working with an aromatherapist, his or her boundaries and expertise should be respected. Any ingestion of essential oils falls under the gambit of internal medicine, and should only be done under the supervision of a licensed physician, such as an MD, DO, naturopath, etc.
I’ve given five great reasons why the aromatherapy community recommends essential oils be diluted before use. You’ll use no more than what is necessary, which saves you money, and prevents skin irritation and sensitization.
If you have any doubts about the information I’ve presented in this article, I would strongly recommend you check out the website of Robert Tisserand. He is a leading authority in aromatherapy with 45 years of experience and is an accomplished author and presenter. His credentials are listed on his website.
Have you have ever experienced irritation or a bad reaction after putting essential oils on your skin? Maybe you know someone who did? I’m interesting in hearing about your experiences. Feel free to comment in the form below.