With the variety of ways to use essential oils, including some you may not have thought of before, how do you determine which is the most effective way for specific concerns? I have chosen four different concerns, some of them quite common for adults and children alike, and will share with you some methods of use that you may or may not have tried before. I will also touch on which methods would really not be useful and why, in order to get you more comfortable making these decisions at home.
Aches And Pains
There are a few different methods to finding relief. Now understand that the methods I am about to share are not a replacement for modern medicine. If you are currently working with a doctor, I do not recommend severing that relationship. Pain in any form can be challenging to manage, but it can be done. Just remember, essential oils are meant to be complimentary.
Emotions have been shown to alter pain perception. However, due to the fact that everyone has a different tolerance to pain, and the threshold can vary greatly dependent upon various circumstances in life, studying pain can be challenging. A randomized crossover study that was completed in 2004, showed that inhalation of Lavender essential oil altered pain perception (1). These were not actual analgesic (physical pain relief) findings, but anyone who suffers with pain, especially chronic pain, knows that emotions are very much affected and are an integral part of the discomfort. Altering the perception of pain can be very useful.
Diffusing Essential Oils for Pain Perception
Most all of us have diffused essential oils for shifting our frame of mind. If you suffer from aches and pains, try calming the mind by diffusing Lavender Lavandula angustifolia and see if it helps to shift your perception of the discomfort.
*Alternatively, you can try other oils that you know work best for you to center and calm, and see if you receive any benefits.
Topical use of essential oils should be the go to for discomfort. You can accomplish this via a blend in a carrier oil, or placing them in the bath.
These are a few of the essential oils (and CO2’s) that I would consider using topically when discomfort arises (the CO2’s will be more efficient in this regard):
Black pepper Piper nigrum
Frankincense CO2 Boswellia carteri
German chamomile EO or CO2 Matricaria recutita
Ginger Root EO or CO2 Zingiber officinalis
Kunzea Kunzea ambigua *My pick!
Juniper Berry Juniperus communis
Laurel Leaf Laurus nobilis
Roman Chamomile Chamaemelum nobile
Follow proper dilution ratios. If this is for a spot treatment such as a knee, elbow, shoulder, etc, you may go a little bit higher on the dilution. The type of excipient used will make a difference as well. For example, for longer lasting relief (chronic in nature), use a fatty based carrier oil such as Jojoba or Almond. The carrier oil facilitates slower absorption of the essential oils over a longer period of time. If you are looking for speedy relief (acute in nature), you may want to try Aloe Vera Jelly as your excipient, allowing for quicker absorption.
*I do not recommend taking essential oils internally for discomforts. It is not the best method of use, nor will it be as effective as topical and inhalation combined.
The oils above can also be properly diluted for the bath. Epsom salts is a great addition for discomfort levels. Make note that Epsom salts alone is not suitable with essential oils as a proper disbursement.
*Please follow this link here to learn about essential oils in the bathtub.
Soothing A Fever
Before I dive into a few of my ideas for soothing the discomforts of a fever, I want to state that fevers are our friend. Fevers are a sign that your body is fighting an infection, it tells us our body is in good working order. The goal here is to make yourself or your child more comfortable. Reducing a fever in most cases is not recommended. I understand how difficult it can be to see your child uncomfortable, and I have been there many times, but resist the urge to try to lower the temperature as this is essentially suppressing the immune system from fighting off the current invader.
Aloe Vera Jelly, when used on the skin has cooling properties on its own. Add the following essential oils (1% dilution will be effective here) for additional cooling effects.
(This blend is 0.3% peppermint, safe for children three and up)
Hydrosols can be used for children and babies alike (Peppermint Hydrosol is for three and up). Hydrosols alone, like essential oils, will soothe, but not lower the temperature.
Peppermint hydrosol Mentha piperita 1tsp
4 oz spray bottle of water
This is a 5% dilution and can be used for children three and up. You can substitute Rose Rosa damascena hydrosol for babies. An alternative to spraying this mixture on the skin to soothe is soaking a small washcloth for the forehead and neck.
*Use this product up in the course of one fever/illness as there is no preservative included. Read more about preservatives here.
*Just remember the goal is to make the patient comfortable. Neither essential oils nor hydrosols will physically reduce fever, but can go a long way to soothe and comfort.
*Responsible diffusing for limiting the spread of germs will be helpful here as well, but essential oils are not meant to be utilized in this way every day as a preventative measure.
It is not uncommon for children to have sluggish bowels; but adults can as well while taking certain medications, or for other various reasons. Aromatherapy can be useful to help maintain healthy moving bowels.
I first used abdominal washing after reading Madeleine Kerkhof-Knapp Hayes book Complementary Nursing in End of Life Care (2).
The theory of abdominal washing is that by placing a cool cloth on the abdomen, it triggers the thermoregulatory system of the body to send warmth to that area. The warmth that is created greatly relaxes the bowels.
You can greatly enhance this by combining aromatherapy. Here are a few possible additions:
What you’ll need:
-A terrycloth towel (a hand-cloth will be best for little ones)
-One half liter of cool not cold water (about 2 cups)
-You will need a proper emulsifier. My recommendation here would be a carrier oil.
-Your pick of the essential oils above. Blend 10 drops of essential oil into 20 mls (just under 1.5 tbsp) of you carrier oil of choice. Mix well.
After applying the cool (not cold) cloth for a couple of minutes, begin your abdominal massage. Re-wet the cloth and lightly wring it out. Use two fingers over the cloth for a baby or small child, moving up to four fingers for larger child or adult. Slowly massage the essential oil mixture on the cloth in the direction of the intestines slowly and with care. Begin on the right side and trace the colon in a clockwise direction as shown in the image below. There is no need to apply pressure; a gentle, rhythmic movement is all that is necessary.
If you do not have access to be able to perform the abdominal wash, an abdominal massage will still be very beneficial.
This action will greatly help to support a healthy moving bowel.
There are many things that can help ease the discomforts of respiratory congestion, helping you to breathe easier.
My go to for respiratory congestion is utilizing a steam tent or a steam bowl. Adults can utilize either, but for children I recommend using a bowl. Use stainless steel or glass as they are both non-reactive to essential oils, avoid plastic.
My first recommendation is a blend of two essential oils for an adult. Eucalyptus Eucalyptus radiata is the “smoother” of the various varieties of Eucalyptus, it does not have so much of an in your face effect, and the 1,8 cineole levels are great to help support a healthy respiratory system and ease breathing. The second oil is Pine Pinus sylvestris, containing a large amount of pinene, a great decongestant. These two oils complement each other well and will help to assist in more comfortable breathing as your immune system works to restore homeostasis.
My second recommendation is a blend of two oils for a child. Fragonia™ Agonis Fragrans is a shrub native to Western Australia and is a powerhouse for respiratory support. Fragonia™ essential oil has an impressive chemical makeup including: 1,8 cineole, alpha pinene, and terpineol, making this oil my choice in this blend along with Fir Needle Abies sibirica. Fir needle has an uplifting, fresh scent—is rich in monoterpenes, and helps ease congested breathing associated with seasonal illness. Paired with Fragonia™, this is a powerhouse blend.
It is important to know a few things in regards to a steam bowl for a child. The first is the amount of oil that you will be using. One drop is typically sufficient, but you can go as high as two drops. In order to prepare this blend, make a small amount of master blend, so you are able to use one drop at a time.
Make sure to supervise your child the entire time. Since this is pure oil in water, and very warm water at that, you will want to make sure they are not touching the water. You also want to make sure that they keep their eyes closed to avoid irritation.
Pour the water into the bowl and add your oil. Have them lean over the bowl and cover their head with the towel.
Instruct them to breathe through their nose and mouth, alternating as they go, until there is no longer steam present. The steam will likely last anywhere from 3-5 minutes. Steam bowls/tents are very effective; you can safely perform a steam bowl or tent every 2-3 hours as needed.
Topical use of essential oils can be helpful in a chest rub for respiratory congestion. I recommend a salve for this purpose as it will hold the oils on top of the skin longer, helping to open up the airways.
What you’ll need (you can half or double recipe if needed):
Over very low heat, place your carrier oil and beeswax into the saucepan. Melt the beeswax slowly, mixing often. Turn off the heat and let it begin to cool. You will have to keep a watchful eye on the saucepan, if you let it cool down too much the blend will begin to thicken/harden. Here are my dilution recommendations, they are on the higher end in order to be effective, yet safe. I always recommend using a scale when measuring your oils for accuracy. If you do not have one at your disposal, use a pipette for consistent measuring:
After blend begins to cool, add 80 drops Eucalyptus and 40 drops of Pine. Mix well and pour into your glass container. Let cool before covering with a lid.
Children six and up (3%)
Add 45 drops Fragonia and 27 drops of Fir needle.
Children two to six (2%)
Add 30 drops Fragonia and 18 drops of Fir needle.
This does not need a preservative as it is an anhydrous (without water) product. Best practice would be to scoop out the product using a tongue depressor or spoon, but at the very least make sure that you have clean, dry hands before using. Introducing moisture from your hands will increase the rate of spoilage.
*Applying oils in carrier oil will not be as effective in regards to length of time of relief, but can be done if you do not have beeswax.
*Diffusing/inhalers can help with respiratory support as well, but will not be as effective as a steam tent. Aromatic medicine can be utilized if you are working with a trained professional.
I hope that this helped you to determine which method would be the most helpful in these instances. If you have any questions, we invite you to reach out to one of our on staff aromatherapists at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(1) Gedney, J., Glover, T., Fillingim, R. (2004) Sensory and Affective Pain Discrimination After Inhalation of Essential Oils. Psychosomatic Medicine. 66(4): 599-606
(2) Kerkhof-Knapp Hayes, M., Complementary nursing in end of life care. (2015) Wernhout, NL; Kicozo publishing (p 98-99)
Leslie Moldenauer, CHNC, HHP, Certified Aromatherapist, has been studying natural living and holistic wellness for over 10 years. Leslie is a trusted resource that covers essential oil safety and encompasses all that natural living has to offer. She is passionate about providing education and tools to help others make decisions regarding safety above all things when utilizing aromatherapy in the home.