How aromatherapy works & ways to use essential oils

Using essential oils for aromatherapy can be done aromatically (through inhalation) and topically (through absorption in the skin). And yes there’s a third way, & that’s internally (by ingesting them), but we’ll talk more about that later on.

Ways to use essential oils through inhalation

When used aromatically, essential oils enter the body via the nostrils. From there they travel to the olfactory system, the part of the body responsible for our sense of smell. This triggers a response in the limbic system, the emotional center of our brain responsible for controlling heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, memories, and stress levels. Have you ever had a certain smell trigger a long-buried memory? This is why! That specific smell activated your memory center & you probably felt a corresponding emotion (happiness, sadness, maybe even anger).

Molecules from the essential oils are also carried to the lungs and can interact with the respiratory system. Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) is a fantastic essential oil to use aromatically when wanting to support the respiratory system.

To use essential oils aromatically you can diffuse them in an electronic active diffuser or use a passive diffuser. You can read more about diffusing essential oils here. You can also make an aromatherapy inhaler. Aromatherapy inhalers are small & discrete. They provide a mess free, simple way to provide you with aromatherapy throughout the day. And you can get basic ones, like these, or cuter ones in bright colors, such as these here.

Ways to use essential oils topically

When used topically, essential oils pass through the layers of the skin to enter the body. Their active chemical components are absorbed just like common topical pharmaceuticals you may use. Areas of the body that are more permeable tend to be areas with greater concentrations of sweat glands and hair follicles, as reported by some researchers (Battaglia, 2003).

To use essential oils topically they should always be diluted in a carrier oil. Carrier oils, such as olive oil, jojoba oil, or sunflower oil, help to disperse the volatile essential oils more evenly across your skin. Dilution ratios (more about that here) are extremely important to follow so you don’t suffer any unnecessary reactions to your essential oils. Essential oils should never be applied ‘near’ or undiluted to the skin.

Essential oils can be used in a massage oil, a roller bottle blend, in an aromatic bath with Epsom salts, & in the form of a salve. I love to combine herbal infused oils as my carrier oils with essential oils & create a salve. Each of our AROMAtherapeutic salves at Airmid Holistics combine herbal infused oils with a unique essential oil blend. Roller blends are a convenient and less messy way to use diluted essential oils compared to say a massage oil. They are also easily transported with you & can be tucked neatly into a purse or pocket. That’s why many of our Aromatherapy Wellness blends are available in roller bottles (you can check them out here).

Topical use and inhalation are great, but don’t people ingest essential oils too?

There IS a third way that essential oils can be used and that is by ingesting them. This method is NOT recommended for the general public. There are many who would tell you otherwise, especially because ingestion is a more common practice in France (however, only physicians & trained pharmacists may prescribe & dispense them!).

Essential oils can be used multiple ways! Whether you decide to use a diffuser blend, make an aromatherapy inhaler, or follow the safe dilution guides found here to make a topical blend, you can use aromatherapy in a way that best suits your needs.

If you don’t feel confident yet in making your own blends, check out our pre-made aromatherapy blends here or contact us about scheduling an aromatherapy consultation. We want you to feel confident & excited to try aromatherapy so don’t hesitate to reach out to us!


Battaglia, S., (2003). The complete guide to aromatherapy. Brisbane, Queensland, Australia: The International Centre of Aromatherapy

Published by AirmidHolistics

Hi! I’m Melissa Murray, a certified aromatherapist, herbalist, & holistic health practitioner & founder of Airmid Holistics, LLC! I hold an Associates of Applied Science in Complementary Alternative Medicine, a Diploma in Holistic Health Practice, & a Diploma in Aromatherapy from the American College of Healthcare Sciences. I’ve used aromatherapy personally & professionally for over a decade & began to seriously pursue my formal education in holistic medicine after my military career ended abruptly due to an injury. I want to help people learn how to achieve their health & wellness goals with aromatherapy support & educate them on the safe use of essential oils.

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