How to use essential oils?

The oils used in aromatherapy are extracted from plants and are highly concentrated. They should therefore be used sparingly and never applied undiluted to the skin (except in the case of lavender on burns and tea tree on stings or small cuts) or used near the eyes. For the best results, buy the best quality, pure, organic oils. The oils should be stored in a cool, dry place, out of the reach of children.

Essential oils can be used in several ways:

Inhalation - place one to five drops on a handkerchief, in a vaporiser or diffuser, or on a light-bulb ring and inhale the aroma.
Baths - add four to six drops of essential oil to one teaspoon (5ml) of carrier oil (such as sweet almond or wheatgerm), add to bathwater and stir vigorously.
Massage - add one to five drops of essential oil to one teaspoon (5ml) of carrier oil and massage into the affected area. Carrier oils include sweet almond, wheatgerm, olive oil, apricot kernel, avocado or other plant or vegetable oils. Warming the oil increases absorption.
Compresses - add three to five drops of essential oil to 300ml of hot/warm water. Soak a clean flannel or soft cloth in the water, wring out and apply to affected part of the body (cold for bruises, sprains, headaches; warm for abscesses, boils, period pains, cystitis). Repeat two to three times a day until the condition improves.
Steam treatments - add one to two drops of essential oil to a medium-sized bowl of freshly boiled water. Cover head with cloth, lean over the water and inhale the steam, taking care to keep the bowl steady and to not get too close to the water to prevent scalding.
Gargles and mouthwashes - add one to three drops to a tumbler of water and stir vigorously before gargling or rinsing round the mouth. Spit out - don't swallow.

Essential oils shouldn't be taken internally. Although a fully qualified aromatherapist may occasionally prescribe this, it requires expert supervision. Dosages should be halved for children; professional advice should be sought for babies.

Some oils shouldn't be used if you're epileptic, have asthma or high blood pressure, or are pregnant. We've indicated where you need to proceed with caution. This list is for general guidance only; always check with a qualified practitioner before using an aromatherapy oil.


Citrus bergamia
Properties: A powerful antiseptic, diuretic, antitoxic, deodorant and insecticide.

Usage What it's good for
Massage or compress Skin complaints (acne or oily skin), cellulite, chest infections and sore throats. It can relieve the pain associated with shingles and chickenpox and can be used as an insect repellent.
Added to bathwater or vaporiser/burner Alleviates feelings of anxiety, depression or irritability and eases cystitis, urethritis and vaginal itching.

Caution: bergamot is phototoxic, so it shouldn't be used on the skin before being exposed to sunlight unless it's the rectified form (bergamot FCF), which has had the phototoxic ingredients removed. Never use undiluted on the skin as this can result in discolouration and a skin rash.


Cedarwood, Atlas

Cedrus atlantica
See Cedarwood, Virginian.


Cedarwood, Virginian

Juniperus virginiana
Properties: the two types of cedarwood (Atlas and Virginian) are antiseptic, astringent, diuretic, sedative (to nervous system) and tonic (to circulatory system).

Usage What it's good for
Massage, added to bathwater or a vaporiser/burner, steam inhalation Eczema, oily skin and acne, coughs, bronchitis, catarrh, cystitis, stress and tension.
Hair tonic Hair loss and dandruff.
In a burner Insect repellent, particularly useful for moths.

Caution: not to be used during pregnancy. Virginian cedarwood can cause skin irritation and should never be used undiluted.


Chamomile, German

Matricaria recutita
See Chamomile, Roman.

Chamomile, Roman

Anthemis nobilis
Properties: the sweeter scent of Roman chamomile is often preferred over the slightly bitter, seaweedy odour of German chamomile. Their actions are similar but not identical. Both are antibacterial, sedative, digestive and analgesic; German chamomile has a more anti-inflammatory action.

Usage What it's good for
Diluted and applied to skin Healing infected wounds, cuts, burns, rashes, insect bites, boils and abscesses.
Massage Into the abdomen to relieve menstrual cramps, digestive problems and cystitis, into the temples and wrists to ease headaches and migraine, into the muscles and joints for aches and pain, into the skin to relieve dryness and fluid retention and into the gums for toothache.
Compress Easing eye strain, conjunctivitis and skin irritation.
Added to bathwater Easing restlessness and insomnia.

Caution: don't use during the first three months of pregnancy. A small percentage of people experience skin irritation; sensitive individuals should do a skin patch test first.

Clary sage

Salvia sclarea
Properties: antidepressant and soothing, which makes it ideal in treating stress-related disorders and depression. Also antiseptic, antibacterial, astringent, deodorant, digestive and an aphrodisiac.

Usage What it's good for
Massage, added to bathwater, or a vaporiser/burner Digestive problems (dyspepsia, flatulence, colic, and ulcers), menstrual (such as scanty periods) or menopausal problems, asthma, throat infections, migraine, whooping cough, acne, boils and wrinkles and can lower blood pressure.
Diluted oil massaged into the scalp Hair loss, dandruff and oily scalp.
Compress Muscular aches and pain and skin complaints.
In a burner As an aphrodisiac it may be helpful for frigidity and impotence problems.

Caution: avoid during pregnancy and use with caution if taking HRT or the contraceptive pill. Avoid combining with alcohol as it can exaggerate its effects, and don't use before driving as it induces drowsiness.



Eucalyptus globulus
Properties: decongestant, antiseptic, detoxifying and a circulatory stimulant.

Usage What it's good for
Steam inhalation two to three times a day or added to a carrier oil and rubbed into the chest, or few drops on a handkerchief Sore throats, coughs, chest infections, such as bronchitis, asthma and in clearing the catarrh of colds, flu and sinus infections.
Compress For burns and healing cuts and other wounds.
Diluted and applied to skin Blisters, such as those associated with herpes, shingles and chickenpox, muscular pains and stiffness, poor circulation, rheumatoid arthritis, sprains, athlete's foot, nervous headaches, neuralgia and cystitis. It can be used as an insect repellent and can also help in treating insect bites and head lice.

Caution: may cause skin irritation. Only use diluted and not for more than a few days at a time. Don't use on babies or young children. Not advisable in early pregnancy or if you have high blood pressure. Toxic if taken internally. Don't use in conjunction with homeopathic remedies.


Boswellia carterii
Properties: anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, calming, digestive, diuretic, sedative and tonic.

Usage What it's good for
Added to bathwater, or a vaporiser/burner, as a steam inhalation or a few drops on a handkerchief Easing respiratory problems such as asthma, catarrh, coughs and colds, chest infections, sore throats and to relieve anxiety and promote deep sleep. It's also used for cystitis, haemorrhoids, irregular or heavy periods, ulcers and nosebleeds.
Diluted and applied to skin Smoothing wrinkles, rejuvenating ageing skin and helping wound healing.

Caution: best avoided during the first three months of pregnancy. Toxic if used internally. Dilute well.



Pelargonium graveolens
Properties: a mild sedative, so can be useful in treating emotional and stress-related conditions such as anxiety, mood swings and general apathy. Also anti-inflammatory, astringent and antiseptic and is commonly used as a skincare oil.

Usage What it's good for
Diluted and applied to skin Congested pores, oily complexions, acne, dermatitis, eczema, burns, nappy rash, blisters and wound healing. It can also be used to discourage mosquitoes, head lice and the spread of ringworm.
In massage, added to bathwater and in a vaporiser/burner Easing PMS (especially fluid retention and swollen breasts) and menopausal symptoms (especially hot flushes), postnatal depression, cellulite, poor circulation, cystitis, arthritis, sore throats, bruises, broken capillaries and haemorrhoids.

Caution: may irritate very sensitive skin. Shouldn't be used in the first three months of pregnancy and not at all if there's a history of miscarriage.



Zingiber officinalis
Properties: antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, expectorant, stimulant, relaxant, detoxifying and a digestive tonic.

Usage What it's good for
In a vaporiser/burner Winter ailments such as colds, sore throats, sinusitis, runny noses and irritating coughs. It can relieve appetite loss in convalescence, digestive ailments, nausea, morning sickness and travel sickness. It's also thought to stimulate memory and have aphrodisiac properties.
Added to hot water A warming footbath to improve circulation.
Massage Eases muscular aches, joint pains, back pain, cramps and cellulite.

Caution: may irritate sensitive skin and mildly phototoxic. Always dilute well.



Jasminum officinale
Properties: anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, analgesic, antispasmodic, tonic and expectorant. Also a powerful natural antidepressant and can produce feelings of optimism and euphoria.

Usage What it's good for
In a vaporiser or added to bathwater Easing catarrh, coughs and sore throats and relieving menstrual problems, uterine disorders, muscular spasms and sprains. Also lifts apathy, restores confidence, reduces stress and is an aphrodisiac.
Diluted and applied to skin Dry, irritated, sensitive or inflamed skin.

Caution: may cause skin irritation and gives some people a headache. Should also be avoided during pregnancy.

NB: because pure jasmine oil (jasmine absolute) is very expensive, many over-the-counter jasmine oils are adulterated and diluted with carrier oils. For the pure oil, it's best to order direct from an essential oil supplier.



Juniperus communis
Properties: detoxifiying, antiseptic, antirheumatic, tonic and an aphrodisiac.

Usage What it's good for
Massage or added to bathwater or a footbath Improving circulation and relieving fluid retention, cellulite, varicose veins and haemorrhoids, muscle and joint aches and pains, menstrual problems, cystitis, indigestion, flatulence and diarrhoea, skin and hair conditions such as acne, eczema, oily skin, blackheads, greasy hair, dandruff and hair loss.
In a vaporiser/burner It helps to reduce anxiety, relieve insomnia, lower blood pressure and ease colds and flu.

Caution: not to be used during pregnancy or by people with kidney disease. Dilute well as may cause skin irritation.

NB: the best quality juniper oil is distilled from fresh, new berries. Many poorer quality and cheaper oils are extracted from juniper wood or needles, or from berries fermented during gin making, and are adulterated with turpentine.



Lavandula officinalis
Properties: relaxant, antiseptic, antibacterial, antidepressant, decongestant, detoxifying, diuretic and restorative. One of the most popular oils with a multitude of uses.

Usage What it's good for
Added to bathwater Soothing tension and headaches, relieving stress and lifting depression.
In a vaporiser/burner Nervous system disorders, such as anxiety and insomnia and also shock, vertigo, hypertension and migraine.
One to two drops of the neat, or diluted, oil rubbed into the skin or applied as a compress Acne, boils, sores, spots, psoriasis, bruises, burns (including sunburn), dermatitis, eczema, athlete's foot, ringworm, scabies, insect bites and stings. It can also be used as insect repellent.
Massage (diluted in a carrier oil) Easing digestive symptoms such as colic, flatulence, abdominal cramps and indigestion, menstrual pain, cystitis, aches and pains, and stimulating circulation.
A few drops added to shampoo Treating dandruff and warding off head lice.
Steam inhalation Easing coughs, colds and congestion.

Caution: may cause skin irritation through repeated use, especially if used undiluted or in highly concentrated form. Avoid in early pregnancy if there's a history of miscarriage. Those who suffer with hay fever or asthma may be allergic.

NB: there's more than one type of lavender oil. Spike lavender (Lavandula latifolia) has a more stimulating scent and is most effective for respiratory problems.


Citrus limon
Properties: restorative, relaxant, antiseptic, antibacterial, antiviral, antihistamine and antidepressant.

Usage What it's good for
Added to bathwater Refreshing and stimulating.
Drops on a handkerchief Improving memory and aiding concentration.
Massage Easing headaches, migraine and vertigo, lifting depression, soothing the digestive system and relieving menstrual cramps and urinary pain.
Neat (just one or two drops), mixed with a carrier oil or made into a compress Insect bites and stings, eczema, cold sores, shingles and boils.
As an antiseptic gargle Relieving sore throats.

Caution: don't use before going in the sun. For sensitive skin, dilute well and don't use for more than a few days at a time. Use within six months of purchase as it's more likely to cause skin irritation once it has oxidised.



Commiphora myrrha
Properties: antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antifungal and stimulant.

Usage What it's good for
A few drops added to a carrier oil and gently massaged into the affected area or added to warm water and used to bathe the wound or rinse around the mouth Healing wounds, gingivitis, mouth ulcers, ringworm, athlete's foot and thrush (oral and vaginal).
Added to bathwater or a vaporiser Relieving respiratory disorders (such as bronchitis) and catarrh, stimulating the digestive system and appetite, easing diarrhoea and flatulence, balancing menstrual function and relieving stress.
Massage Improves circulation, eases arthritis, muscle and joint aches and pains. It can be used in skin care for oily or aging skin.

Caution: not to be used during pregnancy. Don't use in high concentrations or internally.



Citrus aurantium
Properties: a form of bitter orange which is antiseptic, antibacterial, antispasmodic and antifungal, as well as a stimulant and tonic.

Usage What it's good for
Massage, added to bathwater or a vaporiser Depression and stress-related disorders. Skin problems such as acne, eczema, greasy skin, excessive perspiration, scars and stretch marks or for rejuvenating mature skin. Eases digestive problems such as colic, colitis and flatulence, and helps to relieve PMS, menopausal problems, diarrhoea, dyspepsia and other stomach upsets, palpitations, high blood pressure and insomnia.

Caution: the distilled oil can occasionally cause skin irritation and be phototoxic.



Pogostemon patchouli
Properties: relaxant, aphrodisiac, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and antifungal.

Usage What it's good for
Massage, added to bathwater or a vaporiser Relieving emotional and stress-related problems, such as depression and nervous exhaustion, calming fevers and strengthening digestion. Widely used for skin and hair care, including treatment of acne, eczema, dermatitis, ageing skin, cracked and chapped skin, open pores, healing wounds and scars, stretch marks, dandruff and greasy hair.
Applied neat or diluted to the skin Anti-fungal treatment for athlete's foot and it's an insect repellent.



Mentha piperita
Properties: astringent, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antiseptic and an expectorant.

Usage What it's good for
Added to a vaporiser/burner or diluted and rubbed into skin Bronchitis, catarrh, sinusitis, asthma, spasmodic coughs and sore throats. Eases mental fatigue, nervous stress and palpitations. Also an insect repellent.
Massage or added to bathwater Nausea, diarrhoea, neuralgia, indigestion, colic, stomach cramp, dyspepsia, flatulence and travel sickness.
Applied to skin (diluted) or as a compress Oily skin, acne and dermatitis, ringworm, scabies, toothache, headache and muscle fatigue.
As a mouthwash (diluted) Bad breath.

Caution: not to be used during first three months of pregnancy. Can irritate skin, so dilute well; don't swallow when using as a mouthwash. Don't use while taking homeopathic remedies.



Rosa centifolia and Rosa damascena
Properties: creates a feeling of calm and wellbeing. Also antidepressant, antiseptic, antiviral, sedative, tonic and an appetite regulator.

Usage What it's good for
Massage Improving circulation and as a digestive tonic. Relieving PMS, menopausal problems, broken veins, constipation, nausea, gastric ulcers and liver problems. Calming puffy skin, alleviating dry and itchy, chapped, sensitive or inflamed skin and beautifying wrinkled and ageing skin. Also used for wound healing.
Added to bathwater or vaporiser/burner Relieves stress related or emotional problems including depression, postnatal depression, nervous tension and insomnia. As an aphrodisiac can help with low libido and impotence problems.

Caution: not to be used during first three months of pregnancy and not at all if there's a history of miscarriage.

NB: rose oil is obtained from the fresh petals by means of steam distillation (rose otto) or solvent extraction (rose absolute). Rose otto is the most expensive but preferred oil for aromatherapy.



Rosemarinus officinalis
Properties: antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal, diuretic, astringent and a relaxant. Has a stimulating effect on the circulation.

Usage What it's good for
Steam inhalation or few drops on a handkerchief Colds, catarrh and nasal congestion.
Diluted and applied to skin Skin conditions, such as dermatitis and eczema.
Massage (diluted with a carrier oil) Into the temples to ease headaches, into the chest to clear phlegm and into the joints and muscles for sprains, strains and pain, into the abdomen to ease indigestion, flatulence, irritable bowel, constipation and menstrual cramps.
Added to bathwater Relieving exhaustion and stress.
In a burner Insect repellent.
Few drops added to shampoo Cleansing hair and preventing head lice.
Few drops diluted and rubbed into scalp Encouraging hair growth and alleviating dandruff and greasy hair.

Caution: shouldn't be used during pregnancy or by those with epilepsy, high blood pressure or insomnia. May irritate sensitive skin.



Santalum album
Properties: antiseptic, antibacterial, expectorant, antidepressant, sedative, tonic and an aphrodisiac.

Usage What it's good for
Steam inhalation Dry, persistent coughs, catarrh, bronchitis and sore throats.
In a vaporiser/burner Easing nervous tension, stress, depression and insomnia.
Added to bathwater or basin water Alleviating itching, inflamed and sensitive skin, dry, cracked and chapped skin, acne, greasy skin, psoriasis, eczema and shaving rash and can help ease urinary infections such as cystitis and urethritis.

Caution: may occasionally cause irritation for those with sensitive skin.


Tea tree

Melaleuca alternifolia
Properties: a powerful, natural antiseptic. Also antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory.

Usage What it's good for
Applied neat to the skin or added to dressings and compresses Abscesses, blisters, cuts, warts, pimples, burns, insect bites and stings, cold sores, dandruff, herpes, oily skin, rashes (including nappy rash), acne, blackheads, verrucae, wound healing, athlete's foot and ringworm.
Steam inhalation, in a vaporiser/burner Relieving coughs and colds, catarrh, sinus infections, throat infections, fever, flu, bronchitis, asthma and whooping cough.
Added to bathwater Easing uro-genital infections such as vaginitis, cystitis, pruritis and urethritis.
Added to water for mouthwash Gum inflammation or bleeding, mouth ulcers and bad breath, and oral thrush.
Added to vaginal douche or few drops (diluted) on tampon Vaginal thrush.

Caution: may cause skin irritation when applied neat. Often sold adulterated; check labels for purity.



Cananga odorata
Properties: sedative (to the nervous system) and stimulant (to the circulatory system), antidepressant and an aphrodisiac.

Usage What it's good for
Added to bathwater, or in a vaporiser/burner Relieving stress-related disorders, such as insomnia, depression, anxiety and nervous tension, high blood pressure and palpitations.
Massage Easing skin complaints such as acne, irritated, dry or oily skin, insect bites and stings.
Scalp tonic Promoting hair growth and regulating a dry or greasy scalp.

Caution: can cause nausea or headache if not diluted enough; is best used in moderation.


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