Apply them topically
Essential oils may be used in skincare products or applied directly to the skin. For example, Ana uses Young Living’s Thieves blend (containing cinnamon, clove, rosemary, lemon and eucalyptus radiata) to build immunity. She recommends that those new to the oiling lifestyle start by applying one drop of the blend to the base of the feet.
She also rubs a drop of lemongrass essential oil on the tummy to aid indigestion, and applies lavender essential oil on open wounds, cuts, blisters and burns.
Cheryl Gan, director of Mt. Sapola Singapore, who is also a certified herbalist, advises: “If you’re blending your own skincare, the essential oil should not exceed more than 5 per cent of the blend.” She warns that bacteria can be introduced into the formula if you’re blending it at home. There is also the risk of getting an unstable blend, without the measures taken in commercial production, so it is always advisable to do a skin patch test before using DIY lotions or blends.
Be careful about the kind of oil you’re using, says Dr Salleh. “Many commercial essential oils designed for aromatherapy should not be applied to the skin because they are so concentrated that they may cause severe skin irritation, provoke an allergic reaction, and may cause liver damage,” he warns.
Dr Salleh adds that lavender oil, when applied to the skin, can be oestrogenic and anti-androgenic (it blocks the action of male hormones), and hence, may be harmful to pregnant women and prepubescent boys. A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine states that lavender and tea tree oils have been linked to breast enlargement in boys who have not reached puberty. Ana finds that ingesting some of the oils is the quickest way to benefit from them. “Veterans like myself swallow a drop directly from the bottle,” she says of the Thieves blend. She also uses one drop of lavender under the tongue as an antihistamine.
Essential oils have also found their way into her kitchen. “I make lavender lemonade with lemons, water and a drop of lavender oil, and salad dressing with olive oil and a bit of basil, thyme, oregano or marjoram oil.”
Medical experts say one should exercise caution and seek professional advice about ingesting essential oils in general, because of the nature of the products. “Unless the label states specifically that an essential oil can be ingested, it should not be used that way,” says Dr Salleh.
If there are any undesirable effects, Dr Salleh’s advice is to stop using them and to consult a doctor. “Conversely, if an essential oil has been used correctly and the individual sees its benefits without any side effects, then it will likely be beneficial and safe to continue using the product,” he adds.
Ana also cautions: “If you are new to this lifestyle, you should hydrate thoroughly as essential oils have a detoxing effect, and the toxins will be flushed out through your waste. But when you don’t hydrate properly, the body will purge the toxins through your pores – this is where redness or rash might occur.”