Dear reader, I’m afraid I’m going to recommend you do not ingest essential oils. Although ingesting essential oils can be done safely under the supervision of a qualified aromatherapist, any professional would also check with your physician first to make sure doing so is okay for you.
There is a lot written on the Internet about ingesting essential oils, but what many people don’t know is that consuming essential oils can cause gastritis and even more serious reactions.
Please don’t put peppermint oil into the water you drink, which can cause esophageal reflux. Since essential oils don’t dissolve in water, drops of peppermint (or any essential oil) can lodge on the delicate mucous membranes in your digestive tract. Instead, have an occasional natural mint or use an essential oil toothpick. And you can get a healthy dose of essential oils just by twisting a couple of slices of an organic citrus fruit into a glass of filtered water or organic tea. Less is always more when you use essential oils wisely.
Applying essential oils externally, to the skin, is another way to create a significant internal effect within your body. Though absorption is less immediate than inhalation (it can take as long as twenty hours to absorb an essential oil applied topically) and the amount of microparticles less great (when you apply an essential oil topically you absorb anywhere from 5 to 20 percent of it through your skin, depending on the dilution of the oil), the effects of the oil are potent nonetheless. And topical application has advantages inhalation does not. For example, with topical application, you experience a time-release effect.
If you apply a full-body oil (an essential oil diluted in a fatty oil) in the morning, it will help you sleep better that night, because the essential oil works on your nervous system throughout your day, long after the few hours of efficacy an inhaled or diffused oil has. And applying an essential oil product topically every day, over time, will affect your body in a deeper, more transformative way than the quick results of inhalation.
At the same time, while the oil is slowly absorbing, you are still inhaling its microparticles evaporating off your body. This aromatic cloud surrounds you like a protective aura, the microparticles flowing into your lungs and traveling to your brain. To take advantage of this dual action, essential oils applied to the face, neck, shoulders, and chest are most effective and are what I am recommending in this book.
When you apply essential oils topically, the microparticles mix with the natural oils of your skin and penetrate into the dermis below, which is why oils are so great for protecting the health of your skin (inside and out) as well as regenerating tissue. After penetrating the skin, the oils are absorbed through the lymphatic system and soft tissue underneath — your muscles, tendons, joints, and connective tissue — with numerous therapeutic results. Diuretic oils, like geranium, can move
fluids trapped in the tissue (like the edema you can get from flying), while antispasmodic oils, like peppermint, relax your muscles. In addition, anti-inflammatory oils, like German chamomile, can reduce the swelling and redness associated with arthritis. Warming oils, such as rosemary, increase blood circulation by bringing more heat to an area, which opens up constricted blood vessels to promote healing.
Regardless of whether the essential oil is undiluted or diluted in a fatty oil for full-body application, the microparticles applied topically follow a similar path as the inhaled oil, traveling through the bloodstream to the endocrine system and organs, and are finally excreted through follicles in your skin or through your kidneys.
It’s important to note both that when you apply oils topically, undiluted essential oils absorb faster than an essential oil mixed with another, fatty oil and that absorption happens more quickly when the skin is clean. But the most basic rule about applying essential oils is to target them right where you need them. If your sinuses are congested, put them at the opening of your nostrils. If your lower back is achy, apply them right there. The biggest benefit to targeting essential oils is that the journey to healing is shorter. Instead of having to work through your whole system put your hand where it hurs
Essential oils penetrate deeper when applied with heat, but never heat an oil over a flame because that will alter its chemical makeup. You can combine heat and essential oils through hydrotherapy, using water to heal. Simply apply the oils before taking a hot shower or add them to a warm bath.
“Water changes body temperature twenty-five times faster than air,” says ASTECC-trained massage therapist Cherie Rodriguez and operations manager at Spa Montage in Laguna Beach, California. “When your body is heated up with hot water, your autonomic nervous system adjusts your body temperature through your circulation by dilating the blood vessels, opening the pores, relaxing the muscles, and allowing any excess fluids trapped in your legs and hips to flush out. Altogether you will relieve your stress and definitely sleep better if you do this at night.”
During a long soak in the tub, you get hot and break a sweat, releasing toxins through your sweat ducts. Diuretic oils, like juniper, cypress, and geranium, can heighten this effect. The prolonged heat drives the oils deep into your muscles as
you trigger a shift in your brain chemistry, called the “relaxation response” (which I’ll explain more in chapter 4). Add some sleep oils to help release the sleep hormone melatonin and you will be down for the count.
If you don’t like baths, try a shower. When you apply an essential oil blend to your chest and stand under the showerhead, the steam lifts the oil and makes it even more potent to inhale. The microparticles go deeper into your lungs as you breathe in the hot, essential-oil-laced air.
In fact, a shower may be the best place to absorb oils into congested lungs, especially when those oils are strong decongestants, like eucalyptus and pine. A shower may also be a way to detoxify and minimize allergies (which can be caused by a hypersensitive, toxic-laden immune system). In chapter 2, I will discuss in detail how to use breathing exercises in the shower to reduce congestion and get rid of coughs, colds, allergies, and more.
My favorite method for combining heat and essential oils, however, is massage. With massage, the friction of the therapist’s hands on your body creates heat, and the massage manipulates the soft tissue to drive the oils deeper in. Plus, with massage, there’s the proven psychological benefit of touch. And a good long massage gives you the chance to lie down and completely let go.
Finally, you can introduce heat by applying an oil topically to a targeted area and then covering that area with a hot compress or heating pad.