The English Aromatherapist

Nov
04

Essential Oils On Feet: Yes or No?

Essential oils on the soles of the feet: Yes or No?

There are many ways to use essential oils and, like everything in life, theories will fall in and out of fashion. At the moment, it seems like we can’t move for being told to apply essential oils to the soles of our feet – no matter what the problem is!

 

This habit is gaining popularity at an extraordinary rate, particularly among fans of those well-known MLM brands.

 

I can’t help but roll my eyes at some of the wild “advice” that pops up on social media about using essential oils.

 

It’s not entirely new – people have been slathering the soles of their feet with Vicks VapoRub for decades, despite an official statement from the brand that this practice is “not in line with what the product is for so we would not endorse it being used in this way”.

 

So, what’s the obsession with using essential oils on the soles of our feet? Let’s take a look at both sides…

 

Reasons For:

 

  • Advocates of this practice claim that the pores on the soles are larger than anywhere else on the body, allowing essential oils to be absorbed more quickly. It’s often quoted that, after applying oils to the feet, they can be detected in every cell of the body within 20 minutes.

 

 

  • It’s commonly claimed that the skin on your feet is less sensitive, reducing the chance of an adverse reaction. Some believe it is, therefore, a “safer” place to apply essential oils. In fact, it’s often stated that “hot” oils (e.g. oregano, cinnamon) can be safely used undiluted on the soles for this reason.

 

  • Massaging essential oils into your feet can bring added reflexology benefits, boosting the overall effectiveness of the treatment.

 

  • It’s often argued that applying essential oils to the soles of the feet allows them to “bypass the liver”. This is a somewhat spurious statement to make, often backed up by claims such as this gem: “When using the foot application, the oils will be bypassing the liver and will not accumulate there.  Instead of being processed by the liver, the oils reach the lower bronchial capillaries via the circulator system and the entire organism unprocessed”.

 

  • Applying oil to the soles can be safer for babies and children, as feet can be covered with socks and ‘sealed in’ to prevent little hands from rubbing traces of oil into eyes or mouths.

 

Is it safe to use essential oils on babies feet?

 

Reasons Against:

 

  • The skin on your soles is actually the thickest on the whole body, which contradicts the theory that oils would be quickly absorbed. When asked his opinion, myth-busting aromatherapy expert Robert Tisserand confirmed that essential oils actually absorb more slowly through the soles of the feet.

 

  • The soles are packed with sweat glands – in fact, your feet are one of the sweatiest parts of the body. As sweat is a water-based substance, we know it won’t mix well with oil. The absorption of any product applied topically to the feet will be hindered by the fact that it’s continually being sweated off. It’s unlikely that any significant percentage of essential oil can enter through sweat ducts, as they are designed for outward flow, rather than inward absorption. In fact, rates of skin absorption are actually lower on the feet than any other part of the body (Bronaugh & Maibach, 1999).

 

  • Despite claims to the contrary, the skin on your soles is incredibly sensitive. With as many as 200,000 nerve endings per sole, it’s no wonder that they’re the most ticklish part of the body! This calls into question the idea that “hot” oils can be safely used without dilution.

 

 

So, is there any point?

 

Massaging oils into your feet is undoubtedly pleasurable – particularly after a long and tiring day! You’ll also get the benefit of inhalation while applying them to your feet, which is considered to be the most effective method of aromatherapy.

 

A relaxing foot massage can certainly help to reduce stress and anxiety – but there’s a lack of scientific evidence to suggest that it’s a more efficient way for essential oils to absorb into the skin.

 

It seems that it is perhaps only worth doing to treat a foot-related problem, or when the feet are the only convenient part of the body to apply essential oils (if you’re fully clothed at work, for example).

 

For babies and children, it can be a safe way of applying essential oils – but I would advise extra caution, and ALWAYS dilute first. I can’t tell you the number of social media posts I’ve seen about adding drops of neat oils to the feet of babies – please don’t do this! Even if they do call themselves a “wellness advocate” or “essential oil educator”…!

 

Should we apply essential oils to the soles of our feet

 

What do you think?

 

I’d love to know your thoughts about applying essential oils to the feet – is it something you do? Let me know in the comments below!

 

 

What to read next: The Truth About Drinking Essential Oils In Water

 

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30 Responses to Essential Oils On Feet: Yes or No?

  1. I always read both sides of this debate with great interest. I understand the scientific reasons behind the no-feet side of the debate, but I have personal experience on the feet side, so I’m conflicted.

    When I was brand new to EOs and decided to try them out for the first time, my husband had whooping cough. I bought some cypress, diluted it down to 50% (at least I knew to dilute it), and put it on the soles of his feet. He stopped coughing for 12 hours. As long as he put it on morning and night he did not cough, but if he felt he was cured and stopped using it, the coughing came back as bad as before. It was like magic. Whooping cough is such a violent affliction, and the results from the cypress were so dramatic, that I was immediately hooked on EOs.

    So, did the whiff of cypress he got between rolling it on and putting on his socks do him enough good to last for twelve hours, or was it slowly absorbing through his feet and into his lungs? Inhaling it from the bottle never directly stopped the coughs, nor did diffusing it in the bedroom at night. (He hated the smell and strength of diffused oil, so we only did that once.) I don’t know the answer, I only know it worked in such a dramatic and magical way that I cannot deny SOMETHING was going on.

    For the record, I got whooping cough a year after he did, and cypress did nothing for me. Not diffused, not on my feet. I rotated through a variety of other oils but never had the magic moment he did.

    • Thanks for your comment, it’s really interesting to hear about your husband’s experience with using oils on the feet. Many people swear by it, so I’m always interested in people’s different opinions about it.

  2. I use an essential oil blend on the soles of my feet for a sedation blend that I do not like the aroma of. It does work well. Yes it may absorb more slowly but I do not need quickly to stay asleep all night.
    The following quotes from your post are stating that it actually does work, just is not the most ideal place.
    “Robert Tisserand confirmed that essential oils actually absorb more slowly through the soles of the feet.” – MORE SLOWLY – so it does actually absorb!
    “For babies and children, it can be a safe way of applying essential oils
    when the feet are the only convenient part of the body to apply essential oils” – CONVENIENT PLACE- if this works for convenience what is the problem?
    ” lack of scientific evidence to suggest that it’s a more efficient way for essential oils to absorb into the skin.”- MORE EFFICIENT – so therefore it is efficient
    ” skin absorption are actually lower on the feet than any other part of the body”- LOWER – not impossible therefore.
    Why is it such a big deal that people must be continually told that oils on the feet are not effective. Let them use blends where they work for them and stop berating them.

    • Hi Julie, thanks for your comment. I’m open to opinions about this topic – I think perhaps you may have misunderstood the article, as I’m not saying “Don’t put essential oils on your feet” AT ALL. I’m simply questioning the mentality that it should always be the go-to place for applying EOs, and the way it is promoted as being “the best way” to apply them topically. There’s nothing wrong with applying them to the feet, but there are some wild and spurious claims made about it that I felt needed addressing. It’s great to hear people’s different opinions and experiences about it though, and I welcome that 🙂

      • Hi, yes I may have slightly misinterpreted the purpose of your article. So many articles are about how useless foot application is. For a purpose I think it is good, but not for the likes of a blend for pain in the elbow. 🙂

  3. I remain a huge believer in using essential oils on the feet because I am such a huge believer in the benefit of reflexology. I have seen reflexology bring a father out of the hospital when he was on the brink of death for a month. I have seen reflexology open the airways of those with asthma attacks so bad that an ambulance was en route. I can relieve terrible sinus headaches, stomach aches, etc. with it. I believe all of this is possible because reflexology sends important messages to the central nervous system (and thereby oxygen and blood to the parts of the body in need). I have no scientific proof…I just know by proof of my own eyes that it works. That being said, it is completely logical that the use of essential oils in this process could only help the matter as I believe they are also of such great benefit.

    • Reflexology works, yes, and I am sure essential oils used in a reflexology treatment work well. However, most advice from the MLM “experts” is to just swipe a roller bottle in the general area of a reflexology point, which is not reflexology in any way.

  4. I am a reflexologist from Christchurch.
    I would like to share my experience using essential oils via the feet.

    About 20years when I first arrived to live in New Zealand, I suffered a sever heatstroke.
    I’d been out all day in the sun and returned home with a massive throbbing headache, nausea and my body felt on fire.
    I was about to head for bed when i remembered that I had a bottle of peppermint essential oil!
    I added a few peppermint essential oils to a cold water foot bath and popped my feet in….with in minutes my symptoms had subsided.
    It was a long time ago, but I will never forget the amazing relief/shift I experienced….in minutes.
    It certainly demonstrated to me, the powerful benefits of ‘pure essential oils’.

  5. Great article. Highly informative and interesting. Robert Tisserand is The Man when it comes to aromatherapy.

    Based on my 100 classroom hours of instruction in clinical aromatherapy, here are a couple dilution guidelines:

    For general clinical aromatherapy on adults (e.g. full body massage), two percent dilution is recommended. This is the equivalent of 12 drops of essential oil per 1 ounce (30 ml or 2 tbsp) of carrier oil.

    To treat an acute condition (e.g. eczema), you can go as high as 3 to 5 percent dilution.

    For children under the age of 12, the guidelines recommend 1 percent dilution.

    I would not recommend essential oils be used on children younger than 3 years old.

  6. I absolutely believe it’s a quick effective way to get oils quickly in my body. Within a minute after using a flu bomb rollerball on my feet (one short roll) i can sense/taste the oils in my mouth. If i hadn’t experienced it myself on a number of occassions i never would have believed it!

    • That’s amazing, thanks for your comment. I love hearing about all your experiences with essential oils! 🙂

    • How interesting to hear your experience! I also have the experience of “tasting” the oils on my tongue since recently having begun using them regularly and wondered if this was “normal.” Sometimes the taste sensation lasts for hours it seems.

      • Yes I have heard of this. Similarly, lots of people use the example of rubbing a garlic clove on their feet and tasting it in their mouth a few minutes later. A likely explanation is that it’s due to inhalation, which is difficult to separate from any experiment.

    • I was wondering if I was tasting them in my mouth after applying to my feet or if it was psychological and it was just the smell that made me think I was tasting them! I’m pretty sure I was able to taste them after applying the essential oils to my feet! I think that’s pretty interesting! Glad I’m not the only one who noticed that!

  7. Brenda Bloomfield

    Great article. Thank you. I may use an essential blend added to a carrier oil or lotion to be used at the end of a reflexology session during the ‘desserts’ which is a nice series of foot and leg massage techniques but never during the actual foot reflexology treatment.
    I believe it is more the inhalation of the essential oils than the absorption, which I agree is very minimal. Even for a foot bath, there is some absorption through the overall foot but the inhalation of the essential oil bath is more prominent.
    Even a wonderful aroma massage is a combination of both inhalation and absorption, the inhalation being primary. I have learned from professionals and do not rely on Pinterest and sales reps.

    • Thanks for your comment, Brenda. I love your term ‘desserts’ to describe the treats at the end of a reflexology session! I agree with your comments about inhalation. There’s so much crazy advice on Pinterest, it’s what inspired me to start this blog. Have a great day 🙂

  8. I have gotten a bad cold and sinus infection every October for the past 5-6 yrs and ended up at the doctors office every time. This year after getting into oils in April of 2016, I started putting fighting five diluted to 2% on my feet at bedtime, this is the first year with no colds or sickness so far and it is the end of January 2017. My husband works with the public and brings home germs every day. I however really don’t go out much except for doctor appointments and weekends ( when hubby is home to take me) as I had a stroke in 2009 and no longer can work or drive. I do however diffuse fighting five or immunity when I come home after a shopping trip or dinner out. Putting it on the soles of my feet works for me, so I will continue probably until cold season is over and restart in the fall. Of course my feet are not really calloused any more since I am in a wheelchair My husband got a bad cold in the fall started putting it on his feet which seemed to get him well faster, now he oils up his feet at night too. I say “different strokes for different folks”

    • Thanks for your comment, Charlotte, it’s really interesting to hear your experience. I agree, it’s whatever works for you. I just wanted to show both sides of the argument, as sometimes the facts can get lost in marketing hype. Kind regards x

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  10. Thank you for your article. I been hearing soo many mix information about oils on feet . Could you please do a blog or tell me , we’re are the best spots on body to apply oils ?? I’m new to essential oils. But overwhelmed by mix information friends tell me

  11. So then where should you apply the oils for best benefit. You left me hanging here. Can’t reach the feet anyway, bad back.

    • Generally, the best place to apply essential oils is to the affected area. You can apply them to the feet, but it’s not always going to be the most effective place – that is, unless your feet are the site of the problem! 🙂

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  13. This is not a myth. I use neem oil on my feet and it does get absorbed by my body fast! Most people in India and China do this.

  14. I am a Mum of a boy blessed with numerous quirks and we had tried western medicines which did not work well on him so as we work with crystals etc we headed to the more alternative avenues and crossing paths with an EO lady … so as one of my boys is super super sensory the feet work well in conjunction with all the other spots he puts the oil on himself

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