What’s your “School of Thought” 

Did you ever wonder why there is so much confusion as to the application of essential oils? Do I just use in a diffuser/humidifier? Can I apply to my skin? Do I need to make a massage oil first? Are they safe for small children and pets? Can I apply directly to my skin? Will I have a reaction? Can they be ingested? 

Then… you get answers like NO! Don’t apply directly to your skin! NEVER ingest an essential oil. What about absorption through the skin? Sure, it’s perfectly fine for you to apply directly to your skin. Who do you believe? What information should you trust?

When you have a better understanding of essential oils,

where the studies came from and 

the methods of application,

you can better decide what to do.

I believe this is another case of information overload! We are getting all sorts of statements that conflict with each other. The various ways to utilize essential oils have given rise to three basic “schools of thought” when it comes to aromatherapy. Let’s take a look at the information for each:

The Germans: They tend to highlight inhalation as the best way to get the benefits of essential oils. These types of oils have very light molecules so they can get into the blood stream through the lungs and make their way to the brain. 

The British: They spotlight massage as the best way to receive benefits of essential oils. When you use a carrier oil (ex: olive or coconut oil) then add 5% essential oil, you will absorb through the skin in smaller amounts. Aromatherapy came to Great Britain in 1950 with Madam Marguerite Maury. She was a biochemist that studied in Paris, who later moved to Great Britain. She was not a physician and her focus was on non-medicinal uses of essential oils. Her model was on carrier oils with added essential oils for massage and beauty applications. The British rely on scientific research on animals, using oils that are often perfume or food grade.  Using just an isolated component from essential oils rather than the whole oil. The emphasis of aromatherapy can be unsafe and states many cautions and contraindications for oils taken neat or orally. These warnings are most likely true for adulterated food grade or perfume grade oils. 


The French: This model encompasses all 4 uses for essential oils. These 4 uses include: inhalation, applied neat (undiluted) on the skin, taking them orally in a capsule and other pathways of the body (rectum). This is because there are four portals to get essential oils into the body. They absorb through the lungs, skin, digestive tract and the other orifices of the body. Modern aromatherapy was started during the 1920’s and was developed by medical doctors whose interest was in healing and maintaining health. This was to include: relaxation, massage and the emotional aspects of wellness. One of these early pioneers was Jean Valnet MD, who dedicated his life to promoting aromatherapy. He wrote the first modern book (in French) on the practice of aromatherapy as a healing art.

There is a certain rivalry between the British and the French schools in the United States when it comes to aromatherapy and the methods to use. If you have read a variety of books or articles on the subject, you will have likely figured this out already. 




  • Inhalation of oils would be preferred to balance mood or emotions. Some of the common essential oils that work towards this goal are: lavender, peppermint and sandalwood. 
  • When you have had a long day at work or a great workout at the gym, and looking for something to soothe tired, overworked muscles, you would want to apply topically into the skin exactly where you feel the soreness. This is when you could reach for lemongrass, wintergreen or marjoram. 
  • Indigestion would cause you to reach for the peppermint. This could be taken orally in a capsule or added to a glass of water. 
  • Other pathways of the body would include the lining of the rectum, vagina or in the oral cavity  (you would not swallow) but allow absorption through tissue under the tongue and lining of the cheeks. 

The 2 most common methods are inhalation and topical application. You can usually interchange these methods for similar results. If you do not have access to a diffuser at a given time, you can easily apply topically. All of these methods are recommended by leading aromatherapists of the world. Such names as D. Gary Young, ND and Terry Friedman, MD of the United States, Daniel Penoel, MD of France and Kurt Schnaubelt, Ph D of Germany.

 When you are looking to purchase and use essential oils – The most important attribute is QUALITY. There are different grades of essential oils and you want to make sure you have clean, therapeutic grade oils.



Information contained in this article is from: The Chemistry of Essential Oils Made Simple by: David Stewart Ph.D., DNM

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