Just like with everything surrounding essential oils, there is a polarization of opinions coming from EVERYWHERE. For each piece of advice you receive, you can Google and have five articles stating the exact opposite is true. Usually with emphatic assuredness.
Ingest. Don't ingest!
Use on children. That's child abuse!
Essential oils are nature's medicine. It's all snake oil!
Therapeutic quality matters. Buy oils cheap online because they have "therapy" in the title!
...and on and on.
So while there is so much we do not yet know about the 'why' of essential oils: why do they work so well in the human body, why is the way the oil was grown & harvested effect the end therapeutic action, among so much more - there are some things that we do know.
As those wisest in the medical community adopt an integrative approach to medicine and health, we see more and more studies being conducted proving what aromatherapists and natural living enthusiasts have been shouting for decades - ESSENTIAL OILS WORK.
But what is the best way to use them?
A well studied and thorough examination of the history, research, comparison of different schools of thought, and practical experience will answer emphatically to all three methods of use - YES!
Circling back to the topical application of essential oils on the feet, you have what appears as two distinct groups advocating against application of oils on the feet: aromatherapists trained in the English model that rejects ingestion, much of topical use & focuses on inhalation; and those who want to discredit "mommy bloggers" and small business direct sales owners (ahem, women like me). In an attempt to simply dismiss some good reasons to apply essential oils to the bottom of the feet they basically say its all a myth from MLMs & stupid moms.
But what ARE the reasons you might want to use oils on the bottom of your feet?
The skin on the soles of the feet is less sensitive than the rest of the body, which makes it a great place to try out essential oils. Using diluted essential oils on the bottom of the feet allows them to be absorbed into the body with less chance of a reaction. This is also the perfect location for using “hot” essential oils. Hot essential oils are oils that are known to cause sensitivity in some people. These include some citrus essential oils, clove, oregano, cinnamon bark and peppermint.
A reduction in sensitivity is also a good reason to apply for children, who have more sensitive absorbent skin. Plus a way to avoid the scent of "stinky" oils. Don't like the way Melissa smells but want the medicinal benefits? Massage onto the bottom of the feet and feel awesome.
According to the ancient practice of reflexology, every nerve line in the body ends in your feet. Specialists in reflexology maintain that certain areas of the feet correspond to the body’s organs. Thus by applying essential oils to your feet, it’s possible that these oils may have a stronger, more beneficial effect on certain areas of the body.
Considering that reflexology has been shown to have significant, scientifically-proven benefits, this claim may have some legitimacy to it. For example, a study which used foot reflexology to treat patients with breast and lung cancer found that there was a marked decrease in both anxiety and pain. Another study found that ear, hand and foot reflexology resulted in “a significantly greater decrease in premenstrual symptoms for the women given true reflexology treatment than for the women in the placebo group.”
Feet soles don’t contain sebaceous glands
Along with the palms of your hands, the soles of your feet are the only part of your body which don’t contain sebaceous glands. Sebum essentially acts as a fatty barrier. For this reason, it can act as an impediment to the essential oils which you want to absorb into your body. The absence of sebum on the soles of your feet means they may be the perfect place to apply essential oils.
Religious & Spiritual Grounding
From a less scientific perspective of using essential oils in energy & spiritual work, what better way than to apply the Earths medicine than to the part of our body that is connected at almost all times to the Earth? Historically, the feet have been venerated by ancient cultures as an important part of the body in spiritual practices.
Religious figures had their feet massaged and anointed with essential oils. Those seeking spiritual growth, use of oils in mediative & yogic practices, as well as emotional release often use the bottom of the feet for application.
So what are the arguments against this method of application?
Reading through many articles and opinion blog posts on the topic, weeding through nearly all of them making some disparaging comment (or five) about moms who blog and run their own businesses while simultaneously raising the next generation of human beings ('You mean their not also biochemists in their free time?! Then they shouldn't share knowledge EVER that they've learned from doctors & aromatherapists! Get the torches!') the arguments are fairly basic to follow so I'll summarize...
There are MORE absorbent places on the body than the large pores on the bottom of the feet. Not that the feet cannot absorb the minuscule essential oil particles, but that there are better places. To me this is not an effective argument, because more absorbent sometimes is what causes sensitivity, especially in children and/or with hot oils. The genital area was actually mentioned by a prominent "doctor" (chiropractor turned essential oil online 'educator') as a better place to apply oils in response to the foot issue! Seriously. Yes, that area may absorb oils quickly - but at what cost?
Next they say the feet sweat, so therefore wash away essential oils. This hasn't been demonstrated or proven, but is their rebuttal argument to the issue of the feet lacking sebum & therefore have no fatty barrier to absorption. When anecdotal stories of people apply oils to their feet can taste the essence of the oil in their mouth within a half hour they claim that is simply accidental inhalation. Inhaling the oils form your covered feet so much so that you taste it. Seems a stretch to me, but you can decide for yourself.
One commentator (who claims to be a scientist) actually stated that because he didn't get drunk soaking his feet in vodka that proves essential oils aren't absorbed through the feet.
Finally in response to the reflexology (or VitaFlex points) benefit to applying oils to the bottom of the feet, because using pressure in applying the oils to certain spots on your feet isn't the EXACT same as a trained reflexologists methods it couldn't possibly do any good. Many simply dismiss reflexology full stop - so conveniently toss these two together as quackery. Again, this argument falls short. When there is no harm but potential for good - why the naysaying?
Personally I know it is just one of many successful ways our family has used therapeutic essential oils for years, and I have also coached hundreds of others who've done the same.
The great thing about using essential oils is it is actually really hard to do it WRONG, despite the fear mongering & hype so prevalent online. What I found most interesting about the naysayers is they never say this method doesn't work AT ALL, they just said it wasn't the BEST. Two very different things. And while admittedly anecdotal, just like thousands and thousands of others anecdotal stories you can read about - it works for me and mine.
As long as you haven chosen the proper essential oil company to serve your family, are familiar with proper dilution for the skin, do what works best for you and yours.
*There is no governing body that qualifies an essential oil as "therapeutic grade." Any such claims of "certification" are misleading marketing terms. So are the terms: 100% pure, all natural , certified pure therapeutic grade, among others. The only way to know the chemical constituents will be present in the oil you are purchasing is to trust the company you are buying from. NOT from them simply saying on their website "Before we sell an essential oil we do everything possible to establish that it is 100% pure, natural, AND of the highest quality, making it appropriate for use in aromatherapy" For example. Those words sound lovely, but have no concrete guarantee or meaning.
You need to have knowledge of how the seeds were selected (non-GMO, selected for quality), were the plants grown chemical free on virgin soil, were they harvested within the exact 24 hour period of peak use, were they properly distilled for the correct amount of time and at the right temperature, & finally were the oils tested with the most advanced laboratory technology in the world (both in house & 3rd party) and have a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
Read more about the strictest quality controls for therapeutic essential oils in the world HERE.
Why all the talk about essential oils?
Health benefits of essential oils
Because essential oils contain the concentrated healing powers of any given medicinal plant, they truly are a force to be reckoned with. Providing a short summary of all the benefits that the hundreds of essential oils provide is a difficult task, but here’s a start:
Learn more about essential oils here.
Get started with the world's purest therapeutic essential oils here.