Incorporating Aromatherapy 101

Choose Your Path

You can incorporate essential oils into your personal, daily life in many ways—add a few drops to your bath or onto a tissue to place under your pillowcase. Generally there are two main ways to incorporate them: Topically or through inhalation.

If you plan to use essential oils topically, you must recognize that they are undiluted plant extracts that carry concentrated herbal properties. In a word, they are strong and some can be harmful if they’re not used with care. Most essential oils must be diluted with carriers to achieve concentrations safe for topical application. Popular carrier oils include sweet almond, olive, jojoba, sunflower, safflower, grape seed, and evening primrose oils.

As a beginner, I started my own personal practice with diffusion and inhalation. Diffusion is a method of doing just that—diffusing different plant-based scents into the air. While many people might do this to scent their homes and spaces, they’re also—whether they know it or not—influencing their mood as well. That’s because when you sniff, the molecules of the essential oil molecules are decoded by the olfactory bulb, the element in the front of the brain that then sends information to other parts of the brain. Because of their physical proximity, odor takes a short-cut of sorts to the other parts of the limbic system, including the amygdala and the hippocampus, the regions related to emotion and memory. The information sharing is essentially immediate; it only takes a few drops of essential oil in a diffuser, and you’re off to the emotional and memory laced races.

Through diffusion you’re getting the benefits from breathing in the essential oils but there’s also a more direct, intense version of this called inhalation. Inhalation is a core element of aromatic spa treatments and it’s actually even easier to incorporate than diffusing. Simply apply three to four drops of the oil to your palms, briskly rub your hands together, and then place your hands like a cup in front of your nose and mouth while they inhale deeply three times.

Choose Your Focus

Skin Benefits
Sometimes too much of a good thing can wind up being a bad thing. As is the case for using essential oils topically. That said, when used correctly, these plant-based ingredients can help you achieve your skin goals. From calming acne flare ups to helping to control oil production, to reducing inflammation, there’s something to address each of your concerns. Here are several of the most common essential oils to alleviate some of the top skin issues.

  • Acne
    • Clary Sage: This herb helps regulate sebum production (an overproduction of which is a common cause for a lot of acne flare ups) so it works for oily and dry skin. It’s also antimicrobial to combat bacteria driven acne. Add 4-8 drops to a non-comedogenic oil.
    • Lemon: Another essential oil known for its complexion clearing power, lemon essential oils can work as brightening exfoliators to unclog pores and gently slough off dead skin cells (the food source for the Acnes bacteria. Be sure to wear mineral sunscreen at the end of a treatment as skin may be overly sensitive to the sun after use. We use Lemon in our skin-clearing Watercress & Spirulina Detox Mask
    • Rosemary: Studies have shown that rosemary essential oil can actually kill the bacteria that causes Acnes bacteria and can also reduce redness and inflammation. You can find this essential herb in our powerful Naturopathica Rosemary & Salicylic Acid Acne Clearing Moisturizer.
    • Tea Tree: Possibly one of the most popular plant-based ingredients for acne, this antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory powerhouse has been used for centuries (including by Australia’s aboriginal people) to heal wounds. Mix 2-3 drops into a non-comedogenic carrier of your choice and apply to the skin.

  • Age-Defying
    • Lemongrass: ​​This is a powerful antioxidant which can help prevent oxidative stress that breaks down collagen which in turn can lead to wrinkles. Mix 1-3 drops into your favorite moisturizing carrier oil.
    • Frankincense: Shown to be a big help in cell regeneration and wound-healing along with calming inflammation. A couple of drops in your carrier oil of choice should do the trick. The woodsy scent will also help to keep them grounded.

  • Moisturizing
    • Calendula: This ancient herb is known for its super nourishing and soothing benefits. In our number-one best seller, Naturopathica Calendula Essential Hydrating Cream, we’ve combined calendula with borage seed oil and trehalose to moisturize but also lock in the moisture for a healthier skin barrier.
    • Marshmallow Root: No, this isn’t what you're making s’mores with. As the name suggests, marshmallow root is the root of a delicate white flower and has been used for centuries to help calm skin irritations, redness, and for being a soothing moisturizer to skin. The Naturopathica Marshmallow & Microalgae Sensitivity Soothing Cream is ideal to soothe, moisturize, and actually reduce sensitization in the skin.

Mood Benefits

Whether you’re hesitant to tackle skin concerns with essential oils or your treatments are more body (and less face) focused, try incorporating essential oil aromatherapy (aka diffusion and inhalation) into your practice for emotional benefits. You’ll want to blend the oils to find the right combination to achieve the benefits you desire.

Best of the Best

Blending can be tricky, and not a little intimidating.The easiest route by far is to use Naturopathica’s pre-blended Aromatic Alchemies. Compounded by Barbara Close, master herbalist and aromatherapist, these inhalation concoctions have are named for their mood altering benefits:

  • Chill Prized by herbalists for their relaxing effect, the sweet apple-like notes of chamomile are blended with sparkling citrus notes of lemon verbena and neroli blossoms and then delicately layered with the hypnotic powers of bee balm to calm anxious thoughts, soothe frayed nerves or promote rest and relaxation.
  • Re-Boot Invigorating lemongrass, peppermint and holy basil energize the senses.
  • Inspire Inspire the creative muse with this intoxicating melange of rich balsam fir needles, juicy pink grapefruit, red mandarin and mood-balancing St. John's wort to encourage self-confidence and ground the emotions.
  • Meditation Ancient sacred oils of sandalwood and frankincense are blended with grounding essences of ginger root, clove, cardamom and sweet orange. Practice mindfulness and promote clarity with daily meditation.

Ready to blend on your own?


  • Lavender: While it’s not a surprise to anyone, lavender has been shown to have an almost sedative-like effect and can improve the feeling of well-being while also suppressing feelings of aggression and anxiety.
  • Chamomile: Just as this gentle flower can calm skin irritations, it can also help to calm your mind. Its stress-relieving properties help suppress depression, worry, and ease an overactive mind.


  • Lemon/Citrus: The fresh, zippy scent of citrus has been shown to enhance a positive mood and lift the spirits.
  • Rosemary: Just as it boosts blood circulation to energize your scalp, it can also help energize your brain. One study found that it even helps school children focus and retain information.


  • Peppermint: Often used on sore muscles or tired joints to help perk them up—it can do the same for your mind thanks to its uplifting and invigorating properties.

Choose With Caution

Unfortunately there isn’t any standard regulation process in place when it comes to essential oils and how they are produced, marketed, or sold. So you must do your due diligence to ensure you are getting the best quality product—and in turn, the best results. Below are some helpful guidelines to navigating the market.

  • Look for brands that are transparent. The bottle should include the latin plant name, what ingredients are in the bottle, and the country the plant was grown in.
  • Choose quality bottles. Essential oils degrade easily in light and intense conditioners (i.e. super cold or hot) so you want ones that are housed in dark (brown or blue), glass packaging for a longer shelf life.
  • Stick with 100% pure essential oils. These should not be listed as fragrances or perfumes as that indicates the formula is also made with chemicals. The ingredient list should only contain the single essential oil.