Aromatherapy is a complementary therapy for both the body and the mind. Essential oils are made of very powerful aromatic molecules that bring pain relief, protect from infections, etc. To enjoy only their benefits, you must know how to use them safely. It’s important to know how to dilute essential oils for different purposes.
In this post, you’ll be reading about:
- What are essential oils, plus some frequently asked questions about them. Learn why it is necessary to dilute them and what their benefits are. Also, find out how to choose the best dilution ratio and safety considerations.
- Guidelines for a safe essential oil dilution ratio, for different types of blends.
- All the ways in which you can use essential oils, with a recipe for each. This section will be especially inspirational if you’re new at all things Aromatherapy.
How to Dilute Essential Oils, Why and More (FAQ)
Essential oils are the most important ingredients in Aromatherapy. They are highly concentrated plant extracts, obtained via steam distillation. They can also be extracted through several other methods, but those are not as common.
Certain sensitive plants or flowers don’t yield enough oils. Thus, they’re CO2 extracted, from smaller amounts of plant material. Jasmine and Rose are good examples, though Rose can also be extracted with steam. These essences are usually very expensive.
Each plant stores around 1% essential oils in their special “chambers”. They are meant to protect the plant from infections and UV damage. These oils can also help the plant regenerate or emit scented warning signals.
Or on the contrary, a beautiful sweet scent helps them reproduce. Other plants like sage, keep other plants away from it with its smell.
Seeds for instance, give different types of oils (fatty). They’re the ones giving us vegetable oils for cooking and beauty. Their oils are meant to be used as energy and/or sustain young plants until they get their own roots.
Specifics and traits of essential oils:
- More or less fluid or viscous liquids.
- Volatile (they evaporate).
- Skin deep penetrating.
- Light and non-fatty.
- Highly aromatic.
- Generally long shelf life.
- Sensitive to light and heat.
- Not soluble in water.
- Soluble in carrier oils and pure alcohol.
Aromatic essences are not true oils. True oils are fat derived, like carriers (Olive, Macadamia, etc.). The component molecules of an essential oil are heavier than water. Thus they float above it, which is a common trait of oils.
The essential part comes from the fact that the oils represent the essence of the plant. In conclusion, plant extracts became known as essential oils.
These oils have many beneficial effects on our health and beauty:
- Calm down inflammations and skin irritations.
- Relieve local pain.
- Boost the immune system.
- Kill bacteria, germs, fungi and certain viruses.
- Protect and prevent viral infections.
- Repel insects.
- Soothe insect bites, scrapes and burns.
- Help speed up the healing process of wounds.
- Stimulate hair growth.
- Stimulate collagen production.
Knowing how to dilute essential oils is necessary. That can help you make the most effective blends for all needs and purposes. Too much may cause health or skin problems.
Too little may not have the effect you want. I intend to settle this matter next, under the form of questions and answers.
What are the advantages of an essential oil dilution?
Chemically speaking, to dilute means to reduce the concentration of a certain substance. This is usually done with another solvent.
In Aromatherapy, the best environments for dilution are carrier oils. Aromatic essences are very concentrated, and if not diluted, they can:
- Cause irritation and redness.
- Cause allergic reactions (swelling, inflammation, redness and even anaphylaxis).
- Sensitize the skin.
- Affect in a negative way other organs that are more sensitive. For example, the eyes are very sensitive to aromatic molecules.
- Burn mucus membranes (esophagus, stomach, nostrils, etc.).
Diluting essential oils can prevent all that and more. The benefits or advantages of a dilution are:
- The active oil molecules last a longer time on the skin. Essential oils evaporate, which means a big part of their concentration will get lost in the air. Or they can get inside the body through inhalation. Only a small amount will be left to be absorbed into the tissue. If not diluted, this may decrease the beneficial effects of the essence.
- Not being fatty, aromatic essences don’t spread on a large skin surface. Mixed with a carrier, they can do so and benefit the entire massaged area. This also leads to a longer lasting effect.
- A carrier oil can also keep the aromatic oils on a surface for a longer time. This is especially helpful in perfume blends.
- Reduce the chance of irritation, redness and sensitization. The latter, once done it can’t be undone. A sensitized area will always react to that specific oil or others that contain the same compounds.
- You get to save money. Because they are so concentrated, you only need to use a few drops per blend. That is what makes a tiny 10 ml bottle last even for years.
Diluting essential oils the right way can help you enjoy only their benefits. Adverse reactions may be avoided so simply! Keep reading to find out about the right dilution ratios you’ll need for various blends.
What to use for the dilution of essential oils?
Like I said above, the best dilutions are done with carrier oils. Carriers, also known as vegetable oils, need to be 100% pure and unrefined.
The extra virgin Olive oil you use in your kitchen is a good example. However, for cosmetic purposes, you’ll find a very wide range of vegetable oils available.
They each have their own benefits and properties. Some are better for dry, chapped skin (Avocado, Wheat Germ or Jojoba). Others are better for oily, acne-prone skin types (Grapeseed, Macadamia, Hazelnut, etc.). The latter enter the non-comedogenic category, which means they don’t clog pores.
Besides carrier oils, other good dilution environments for essential oils are:
- Salts (Epsom, Himalayan and sea). Essential oils are slightly acidic and salt is alkaline. This creates a chemical reaction that leads to the absorption of the aromatic molecules.
- Baking soda. Is also a salt that absorbs oil molecules (and odors).
- Fat milk or cream. The fatter the better, to mix with the oil molecules. Otherwise, tiny droplets will form on the surface.
- Pure alcohol. It is often used in spray blends for ambiance or perfumes. Alcohol evaporates even faster than oil molecules. That helps disperse the oils evenly, on large surfaces.
- Lotions, bath gels, shampoos, conditioners, etc. These products contain binders and fillers. They combine oils with water and keep them together (emulsions). Oils can be mixed with emulsions and dispersed evenly on the skin, hair and scalp.
How do you choose the right dilution?
To choose the right dilution is necessary to make sure your blends will be effective. For that, you’ll need to take into considerations the following:
- The age of everyone that may come in contact with the oil blend you’ll be using. Children and elderly for instance, need special attention when using Aromatherapy. Some essences may not even be recommended around them at all. Be sure to do some research before deciding on an aromatic oil.
- Your own age.
- The essential oils you want to use. Again, some may not be appropriate for skin application or diffusion. It is their concentration that makes them so.
- The shelf life of the therapeutic oils. Keep them stored properly to optimize their shelf life. Essential oils need to be kept in cool, dark places, away from heat sources and tightly capped. If they’re oxidized, you’ll feel an off scent or the color may become blurry. They can also become sticky. At this point, using oxidized essences doesn’t have much therapeutic effect. Dispose of them correctly, as per your city’s regulations for hazardous substances.
- Use only the maximum recommended percentage. This will help you avoid unnecessary complications (burns, redness, etc.).
- Health history and present ailments. Some essences may aggravate certain conditions. Consult a doctor if you have kidney or liver problems, diabetes or asthma, etc.
- Medicines. Some essential oils can also interact with medications and decrease or neutralize their effects. Lavender with blood thinners, for example.
- If there are pets around or not. Animals and cats especially, are more sensitive to these aromatic essences. They all have a better developed sense of smell and may find some oils too much to bear.
A correct and safe essential oil dilution ratio must take into account all the above mentioned criteria. But at the same time, the purpose and area you want to use a blend matter too.
The skin is rougher and thus more resistant in certain areas (elbows, arms, knees, feet, etc.). Other areas, like the face, chest, soles of the feet, etc. are more sensitive. Depending on this, your blend may have to be more or less concentrated.
At the end of this FAQ section, you’ll find a list of dilution guidelines. Use them for inspiration and don’t hesitate to talk to a doctor or pharmacist about an essence. Especially if you’re not sure what to do.
Certain ailments, like joint or muscle pain, may need a progressive treatment. You’ll have to slowly increase the dilution of the essential oils you’re using. Within safe limits and a good research in advance, of course!
How to use diluted essential oils?
The dilution of essential oils can be done for:
- Topical applications,
- Aromatic baths,
- Inhalation and diffusion,
- Disinfecting and cleaning,
In other words, dilution is necessary for pretty much anything else you want to use them for.
The last part of this post is all about how to use and dilute essential oils in all situations. I mean cosmetics and beauty, health, wellbeing, cleaning, kitchen, and so on.
What is an essential oil dilution calculator?
An essential oil dilution calculator is basically a tool that calculates, depending on ratio, how many drops to add to your blend. Such calculators use rough estimates based on an average of drops per ml.
The thing is that not all essential oils have the same viscosity. Some are very fluid (like Citrus oils), while others can be very thick (Patchouli, Jasmine, Rose, etc.).
It is true that there is an average of 25 drops of essence per ml. A bottle is usually 10 ml, but they can be bigger of course. Thus, in a 10ml bottle there are roughly 250 drops of essential oil. Like I said, this amount can vary a lot.
In my opinion, knowing these things may help you to quickly find out how much you need to use. You can do it much faster than accessing an online essential oil calculator. Since we’re talking about estimates, yours can be just as good as the calculator’s.
Say you need to find out the drops needed for a 1% dilution ratio. A 1% ratio is usually used for face blends.
Here’s a simple calculus formula for you to figure out the amount of drops you need, quickly:
If you have a 30ml (1 fl. Oz.) bottle, 1% of it equals 0.3 (30 x 1%). You can thus add 0.3 ml of essential oil into 29.7 ml carrier oil.
Using the rule of three, we have:
1 ml = 25 drops
0.3 ml of essential oil means 7.5 drops (0.3 x 25 / 1).
I suggest rounding it to 7 drops, always less because it’s simply easier to add than to take.
If you know exactly how many drops there are in an essence, you can estimate pretty accurately this way.
Peppermint and Lavender are very thin liquids. This means there might be more than 25 drops per ml. More like 35 drops. Lavender oil dilution ratios are pretty laid-back. The oil is generally well-tolerated and gentle enough. It is even used with babies (3+ months).
But how do you dilute Peppermint oil? It is known to cause a drop in temperature or hypothermia, if used in large doses and skin areas.
Diluting Peppermint oil should be done by the minimum amount or even less. It’s better to use it carefully, with medical advice if you are seizure-prone or asthmatic.
What about balsamic extracts? How to dilute Frankincense essential oil? Frankincense is a bit thicker than Lavender or citrus oils. It is generally safe to use at maximum dosage, but I recommend starting with a lower dosage.
In case you’re also wondering how to dilute Patchouli oil, which is quite thick, there might be 15 – 20 drops/ml. Patchouli is a strong fragrance (base note), which needs only a few drops in a blend. It can overpower other aromas.
I gave you a few examples, but as you can see, it all relies on the average of 25 drops per ml. If you know your chemistry really well, you can check out each oil’s density value. The PubChem website may help you there.
That’ll help you figure out how thin or thick an essence is. Otherwise, the most effective and safe blends are the ones that use less essence. You can go on progressively, after you’ve seen how your skin reacts.
What are the safety considerations for using essential oils?
Regardless of where you use them or what you dilute your oils for, you have to know a few things about their safe use:
- Never apply essential oils around the eyes and mouth or inside the ears or nose.
- Test each new bottle of oil for allergic reactions. The same applies for oils you’ve used before, even from the same supplier. Each lot of essences may vary in chemical composition. It usually depends on climate, soil, harvest method and processing.
- Avoid using citrus oils out in the sun, if they are cold pressed. They can cause phototoxicity (skin burns and irritations).
- Respect all precautions of each oil you use in your blends. Some oils can be used for short periods of times, others are not recommended to children under 7 years old, etc.
- Don’t take essential oils internally, especially not without medical approval and diluted.
- Dilute strong essences with citrus oils for all your diffusions and inhalations.
- If you’re pregnant, talk to your doctor before diluting and using therapeutic oils. The same goes for breastfeeding women too.
- Talk to your doctor if you suffer from medical conditions like asthma, seizures, diabetes, etc.
- Don’t diffuse essential oils continuously. Every 2 hours for 20 – 30 minutes tops is best. Also, keep your room or house well-ventilated while diffusing. Aroma oils can saturate the air and cause nausea and headaches. Your smell receptors can also become numb after about 20 minutes.
- Use Aromatherapy carefully around young children.
- Never inject essential oils!
- Some oils are considered toxic, especially in large dosages. Used in very small amounts, they can be very beneficial. However, it is necessary to talk to a doctor about such intentions.
To complete your knowledge on how to dilute essential oils, read this next guideline. Don’t hesitate to use the comments section below either, to ask me your questions.
Essential Oil Dilution Guidelines
There are many guides out there that can help you make an idea on how much essence you can use in a blend. The thing is, your skin is not equally resistant everywhere.
Like I said, certain areas need a smaller dilution. While on other areas, you can use more of your favorite essences.
You’ve probably seen many percentages when it comes to mixing essential oils with carrier oils. These percentages, as long as they’re respected, are what make a blend safe and effective.
Generally speaking, a 1% dilution means 6 – 9 drops of essential oil (EO) per Oz (30ml) carrier oil. I always go for the lesser amount, just to be safe and avoid complications.
I’ve categorized them according to purpose and body area. Thus, you have:
0.1% – 2% essential oil dilution ratio:
- Face blends.
- Sensitive skin types.
- Babies (3+ months) and toddlers (max. 1%).
- Blends to use around the sensitive membranes (ears, nose and mouth).
0.5% – 5% essential oil dilution ratio:
- Body care blends.
- Repairing blends.
- Blends for the nervous system (anti-anxiety, well-being, etc.)
7% – 10% essential oil dilution ratio:
- Circulatory and lymphatic blends.
- Muscle and joint blends.
- Sports (warm-ups, cramps etc.)
30% essential oil dilution ratio:
- Strong local action (warts, mycoses, cellulite, etc.).
- Insect repellants.
14% – 40% essential oil dilution ratio:
- Perfume blends.
10 – 15 drops of essential oils dilution ratio:
- Aromatic baths.
5 drops essential oil dilution ratio:
- Tissue inhalation.
1 – 2 drops essential oil dilution ratio:
- Steam baths.
1 – 3 drops essential oil dilution ratio:
Certain essential oils may need special dilutions. They’re the ones you should pay attention to. Read all their pros and cons before deciding to use them.
Dermocaustic essential oils (0.5% dilution ratio):
- Holy Basil
- Clove bud
- Litsea cubeba
- Bay St. Thomas
Phototoxic essential oils (2% dilution ratio):
- Red Orange
- Lemon Verbena
Potentially allergenic essential oils (0.1% – 0,5% dilution ratio):
- Cassia cinnamon
Other very concentrated essential oils should be avoided by pregnant and breastfeeding women. There is a risk of neurotoxicity and abortion.
Children under 3, epileptic people and those with neurological problems should also avoid these essences:
- Atlas Cedarwood
- Himalayan Cedar
- Eucalyptus globulus
- Eucalyptus ct. menthol
- Spike Lavender
- Wild Mint
- Rosemary ct. Camphor
- Rosemary ct. Verbenone
- Annual Tansy
These oils should not be used pure (neat) or diluted, without your doctor’s consent!
Essential Oil Uses, Dilution and Inspirational Recipes
This is probably the most fun part now, as you get to learn about the many uses of aromatic oils. They’re considered a great complementary therapy.
With their beneficial effects on the mind, mood and body, essential oils are well regarded and popular. Knowing how to dilute your oils properly can make every day more beautiful!
Essential Oils in Cosmetics and Beauty
These aromatic essences are highly active beauty ingredients. They can be added to precious carrier oils, lotions, serums and daily skin care creams.
Aroma oils can also be added to shampoos and conditioners, body lotions, etc. They can be used to:
- Purify the complexion.
- Improve the aspect of fine lines and wrinkles.
- Soothe redness and irritation (rashes).
- Boost collagen production.
- Maintain the skin elastic and firm.
- Help scars and age spots fade away.
- Relieve scalp itching and dandruff.
- Stimulate hair growth.
Rejuvenating Essential Oil Serum
- Rose essential oil: 4 drops
- Frankincense essential oil: 4 drops
- Rose Geranium essential oil: 4 drops
- Argan oil: 1 Oz (30 ml)
Give the blend a good shake before each use. Apply on a clean, damp face, neck and décolletage and use circular motions. Avoid the eye area! Eye creams are especially gentle with the sensitive skin area around the eyes.
Essential Oils for Health and Well-Being
Local massages with essential oil blends can soothe certain conditions. They can also improve your mood. Aroma oils can help you relax, lower blood pressure and heart rhythm, relieve pain and anxiety, etc.
Restful Sleep Aromatherapy Blend Recipe
- Mandarin essential oil: 5 drops
- Vanilla extract/absolute: 4 drops
- Sweet Marjoram essential oil: 4 drops
- Macadamia oil: 1 Oz (30ml)
Apply on the solar plexus, temples and wrists, and even along the spine, if possible. Massage it gently into the skin and inhale deeply, 30 minutes before going to bed.
Essential Oils for Aromatic Baths
You can feel really spoiled even without going to the SPA. Aromatherapy is great for pampering and its mood enhancing effects. It is great for skincare and an overall good health. An aromatic bath can:
- Improve your circulation,
- Help you relax,
- Soothe muscle and joint pain,
- Improve breathing,
Relaxing and Easy Breathing Aromatherapy Bath Blend
- Pine essential oil: 7 drops
- Lavender essential oil: 8 drops
- Himalayan/Epsom salt: 1 cup
Shake the salt until the oils are well mixed and pour the mixture into hot bath water. Relax and inhale deeply, massaging your skin, muscles, joints, etc. The salt will help disperse the oils evenly throughout the bath water.
Essential Oils in Perfumes
Homemade perfumes can be personalized and very unique. They can be oil-based, alcohol-based, or wax-based (solid).
Mix, match and dilute your favorite scents and make your own personal signature perfume.
Some of the best essential oils to dilute for perfumes are:
Essential Oils in Inhalation/Diffusion
Together with topical applications, diffusions are very effective in Aromatherapy. It is necessary to know how to dilute essential oils even when you diffuse them.
It must be done intermittently (20 – 30 minutes, every 2 hours). Your smell receptors become saturated after about 20 minutes. After that, you won’t smell the oils anymore.
Continuous diffusions/inhalations can also saturate the air and cause nausea or headaches. The room must be well-ventilated at all times.
Research shows that long inhalations (60+ minutes) may cause nervousness. It may also cause agitation and increased heart rate.
Uplifting and Joyous Diffuser Recipe
- Sweet Orange essential oil: 20 drops
- Peppermint essential oil: 10 drops
- Lime essential oil: 20 drops
Pour as many essential oil drops as the manufacturer of the diffuser recommends. For tissue inhalation, use only 5 drops of this blend. Inhale deeply for 2 minutes and relax. Keep the tissue close by.
Essential Oils in the Kitchen
Floral waters or hydrosols are the byproducts of essential oil steam distillation. It is not unusual for them to be used in cooking or baking. Oriental cuisine for instance, uses a lot of Neroli (Orange blossom) water for their desserts.
Nowadays, essential oils can be used in the kitchen also. Being so strong, you can use a few drops of Thyme, Rosemary, Oregano and others in certain dishes and sauces.
1 to 3 drops are usually enough, though you’ll need a bit of practice and tasting until you get the dose right. Keep in mind that aromatic oils have different flashpoints. This means that if the food is too hot, some can catch fire.
It is best to wait until the food has cooled off a bit to add the essence. For sauces however, this is not a problem.
Blueberry and Lavender Essential Oil Milkshake
- Blueberries: ½ cup
- Sugar: 1 tbsp.
- Fat milk: 1 cup
- Lavender essential oil: 3 drops
Add the Lavender oil into the fat milk. The milk goes over the other ingredients in a blender. Pulse for a few seconds, until everything becomes smooth. Serve fresh and cold.
Essential Oils in Green Cleaning
Some essential oils have very strong antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal effects. Studies also prove their germ-killing effects in diffusions. They can also change bad odors into fresh and lovely ones, and change the entire ambiance of a house.
Some of the best essential oils that work diluted for home cleaning:
- Tea Tree
- Rose Geranium
- Atlas Cedarwood
- Clove bud
Disinfectant Odor Eliminator Spray Recipe
- Lemongrass: 10 drops
- Clove: 5 drops
- Eucalyptus: 5 drops
- Lemon: 20 drops
- Lavender hydrosol: 2 Oz (60 ml)
- Pure alcohol: 1 Oz (30 ml)
Give the blend a good shake before each use. Spray onto surfaces and wipe out with a soft cloth. The oils don’t leave a greasy film on your furniture because they’re non-oily.
Learning essential oil dilution is not hard, especially when you have helpful guidelines. Now you know how to dilute essential oils for various purposes too.
Remember to ask a medical professional about their use and effects if you’re not sure if they’re good for you. It is always better to err on the safe side than to have to deal with unnecessary health complications.
Safety should be on the first place when diluting essential oils. It can help you get the best and most effective blends. What are your favorite aromatic oils and how do you like to use them?