How to Safely and Effectively Inhale Essential Oils

Learn how to safely and effectively inhale essential oils

Hi there. I hope you are doing well today.

Today I’m going to cover all you need to know concerning inhaling essential oils.

Taking in the healing qualities of plants via inhalation is a staple practice in aromatherapy. And for good reason. When we inhale essential oils deeply the highly sensitive cells in the back of our nostrils are stimulated and send signals directly to the brain.

Personally, I’ve found that I really enjoy inhalation as a way to consume my essential oils. And I think you might too.

Inhalation doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, the simpler, the better. Below you’ll find a variety of methods and recommendations on how to go about this effectively.

Related: 14 Uplifting Essential Oils for Energy & Wakefulness

By the end of this post, your mind should be brimming with ideas of great ways to inhale your favorite oils.

What are the Benefits of inhaling essential oils?

While people inhale and diffuse essential oils for a variety of reasons, it’s been shown that inhalation is most effective and best suited to treat a variety of respiratory complaints. Bronchial and sinus congestion, sore throats, colds, coughs, bronchitis, influenza… these are all remedied by inhaling the right mixtures of essential oils for your particular ailment.

Related: 12 Essential Oils for Sleep: Create a Relaxing Bedtime Routine

While essential oils prove most effective for the aforementioned uses, they can also support wellbeing in many other ways. But it’s good to remember that the experiences will vary when inhaling essential oils for emotional purposes. Results are often subjective to the individual. For example, bergamot essential oil is known to be soothing and emotionally stabilizing for some when inhaled, but others may not even enjoy the experience.

Methods and Best Practices for Inhaling Essential Oils

Now let’s go over a variety of ways that you can comfortably inhale your favorite oils.

The basic premise is simple: get the active compounds of your therapeutic oil into your throat/lungs/bloodstream. The methods listed below all accomplish this, with the steam inhalation method being the most immersive and enjoyable in my opinion.

Related: 15 Essential Oils for Anxiety & Stress Reduction

Inhalation method #1: A Few drops by your Pillow

essential oil inhalation pillow
Pictured: Aura Cacia Lemon 2 ounces , Aura Cacia Lemongrass 15ml

Since inhalation works over time, bedtime can be one of best times to apply your oils.

Simply place 3 to 5 drops of your oil(s) on your pillow or on a cotton ball near your bed to get a mildly diffused inhalation effect throughout the night.

Alternatively, place a small amount of salt or Epsom salts in a bowl or wide-mouthed jar and put 10-15 drops of essential oils in the salt. The salt slows the evaporation rate of the oils so you’ll get a longer diffusion throughout the night.

Related: 8 Essential Oils for Hair Loss, Thinning & Alopacia

Inhalation method #2: Tissue / Handkerchief / Pocket square

hankerchief inhalation
Pictured: Aura Cacia Texas Cedarwood 15ml, Aura Cacia Geranium 15ml, Aura Cacia Peppermint 15ml

This is another example that’s as basic as it gets. Well, compared to inhaling your oils straight out of the bottle (which is not very effective.)

To prepare, simply:

  • Add 1 to 3 drops (or more, if you fancy) of your favorite essential oil to your favorite tissue, handkerchief, or if you’re a dapper fellow; pocket square.
  • Carry it around with you and inhale liberally.

Related: 14 Potent Aphrodisiac Essential Oils for your Love life, Romance, Sex & Libido

Inhalation method #3: Using an inhaler that’s made for Aromatherapy


Purchasing a ready-made, portable inhaler gives another easily pocketable option for inhalation.

They’re like a small a tobacco vaporizer, sleek and simple. They actually remind me a few tampon applicators… But I digress.

To use your inhaler you simply:

  • add your preferred essential oil(s) to the insert that’s included (the soft piece that absorbs the oils.)
  • Slide your insert into the plastic inhaler tube.
  • Seal it with the cap.

There you go – a super small set up that’s great for keeping in your purse or pocket.

If you decide to buy an inhaler I recommend these inhalers from essentials. They’re inexpensive, made in the US with pharmaceutical grade plastics and feel very sturdy overall. There are some cheaper options available, but since we’re dealing with plastics, I’d recommend avoiding the cheap stuff since it’s most likely made in China.

And a little FYI, there’s a money saving trick when ordering more inserts: Certain tobacco filters (like these) are a perfect fit for the inhaler I mentioned above. They’re cheap and work very well.  You’ll be spending a lot more if you instead buy the replacement inserts that are specially made for your inhaler.

Related: Essential Oil Based Remedies for Nausea, Vomiting & Upset Stomach

Inhalation method #4: Steam Inhalation

steam facial inhalation

Next up we have my favorite way to inhale essential oils. Though I enjoy having multiple methods handy, there’s just something about closing my eyes and relaxing over an aromatic bowl of steaming oil-infused water. It’s like a steam sauna for your face. Can’t beat that.

While the options I mentioned earlier are fantastic for on the go, if you’re relaxing at home and have the time to relax, go for the steam facial. You’ll thank yourself for it. : )

Related: 12 Essential Oils for Wrinkles and Aging Skin

Here’s how to set it up:

  • Pour hot water into a bowl and add 2-3 drops of your preferred oil(s). Sometimes I’ll add more, but that might be just me.
  • Thoroughly stir your oils into the water
  • Cover your head with a towel and lean your face over the steaming bowl (about 10 inches)
  • Close your eyes and inhale deeply through your nose for about one minute, up to 2 minutes at a time.
  • Repeat 2-4 times, as necessary.

If you’ve been stuffy you should notice immediate decongestant relief. If you are so stuffy that you can’t even breathe in through your nose, you might want to start with a Neti Pot before giving steam inhalation a try.

Related: 14 Essential Oils for Joint Pain & Discomfort

Inhalation Method #5: Using an Essential Oil Diffuser

Soap Stone 14-16
Pictured: Celtic Knot Essential Oil Soapstone Candle Diffuser

I’ve put this one last because it’s the least effective way to administer your oils via inhalation.

Don’t get me wrong – I love diffusers. When I’m in my room I pretty much always have a strong diffusion going, incense burning and my heater cranked. Mmmm.

But for the strong, therapeutic effects of inhalation – especially when dealing with sickness and congestion complaints – I recommend a stronger and more direct method like any of the ones I’ve listed above.

But again, it depends on what you’re looking for.

If you just want to set the mood and gently inhale your favorite oils, a diffuser is a fantastic tool.

There’s a few that I recommend. I’ve written a post about diffusers that also acts as a price guide. You can check it out here.

Related: 8 Essential Oils for Weight Loss with Recipes & Application Tips

Best Essential Oils and Mixtures to Use for Inhalation

There are many oils that go well with inhalation.

Below you’ll find a short list containing some of the best mixtures to address some common ailments

Mixtures for clearing out your sinuses and relieving congestion and sickness. 

decongest inhalation essential oils
Pictured: NOW Essential oils Eucalyptus 4 ounces

 Blend #1: Perfect for coughs, loosening and expelling mucus. It’s also strengthening the lungs.

Combine oils in a 1/6 oz (5 mL) glass dropper bottle and mix well. When needed just add drops for use with your desired inhalation method.

Blend #2: Respiratory Infection Blend

Blend #3: Common Cold Blends

For steam inhalation use 3-7 drops of the following:

For inhaling from a tissue apply one drop each of:

Oils for Inhalation that uplift, inspire and promote wakefulness.

uplifing inhalation mix
Pictured: Aura Cacia Sweet Orange 15ml

Alright, on to the cheerful and positive energy oils.

  • Lemon
  • Grapefruit
  • Sweet orange
  • Bergamot
  • Jasmine
  • Osmanthus
  • Ginger
  • Cardamom
  • Cypress
  • Palmarosa

Related: 7 Essential Oils for Headaches & Migraines with Recipes & Application Tips

Oils that calm, soothe and relax.

relaxing inhalation
Pictured: Aura Cacia Wild Chamomile 15ml
  • Chamomile
  • Lavender
  • Geranium
  • Peppermint
  • Coriander
  • Rosemary
  • Clary-sage

Related: 22 Essential Oils for Treatment of Acne

And lastly, I’ll leave you with my absolute favorite scent mixture for inhalation and diffusion:

  • Lavender
  • Eucalyptus
  • Cedarwood
  • Pine


I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, and find the information helpful.

If you have any questions or comments, please make yourself heard in the comment section below.

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