13 Genius Aromatherapy Hacks for When You Don’t Have a Diffuser

Did you know that scent is one of the strongest triggers for our emotions and thoughts? If you’re having symptoms of emotional upset, feeling stressed, listless, anxious, or are having trouble sleeping, for example, you may want to consider using aromatherapy to help hit your internal re-set button.

Aromatherapy is the practice of using our sense of smell to enhance our psychological and physical wellbeing. The most common way to practice aromatherapy is by using natural, plant-based essential oils either by inhaling them, or by safely applying them directly to the skin.

Used correctly, essential oils have the power to seriously shift or enhance your mood. Some scents like lavender and chamomile are thought to be more calming, while others like orange blossom or lemon zest can have an energizing effect. If you’re interested in learning more about the properties of specific scents, check out our article on the 10 Essential Oils that Help Anxiety.

As with any wellness practice, it’s important to stay safe. Applying essential oils topically can irritate some people’s skin and be completely fine on others. It’s always best to do a test and see what’s right for you. Similarly, if you’re having trouble beating the blues it’s always a good idea to seek help. Aromatherapy is just one tool in the toolbox that you can use to boost your mood.

One of the best and safest ways to get the calming benefits of aromatherapy is through inhalation and our sense of smell. In fact, essential oil diffusers are sold pretty much everywhere these days!

But just in case you’re somewhere you can’t plug in a diffuser, like on the subway or at your desk at work, here are 13 genius ways how to use essential oils to get your aromatherapy boost during the day.


1. Inhaler

Use a tube like this. Add 15 drops of a blend of essential oils to a small dish. Take the inner cotton tube and soak up the essential oils until the cotton tube is saturated. Place inner cotton tube back inside. Seal the inhaler. Enjoy whenever you want a few moments of tranquility.


2. Cotton ball in a plastic bag

This one is almost TOO easy! Place 5 drops of an essential oil blend onto a cotton ball and place into a small plastic bag. Open the bag and inhale. Genius.


3. Stovetop

Simmer 4 cups of water and 20 drops of essential oil on very low heat on the stovetop. The steam will help the volatile essential oils spread throughout the room.


4. Make a mask with your palms

Place one or two drops of essential oils into your palms. Gently rub your hands together and cup them around your nose and mouth. Close your eyes and inhale. This is especially calming if you take 5 deep breaths counting in for 3 counts and out for 3 counts.  


5. Smelling salts

Blend 20 drops of essential oils and pour them onto one tablespoon of coarse mineral salts, such as Epsom salt or kosher salt. Transfer into a small container or bag and sniff as needed. Be careful not to actually inhale any salt, though, it can sting your nose!


6. Hot/Cool compress

This is the absolute best if you have muscular aches, pains, or menstrual cramps. Fill a sink or large bowl with approximately 1 liter of hot or cold water as desired. Place 5 to 10 drops of selected essential oils in the water. Place cotton or flannel cloth in the water and swish around the water. Wring out the cloth to the desired amount of moisture and place on the area to be treated. Repeat if needed.


7. Go to the source!

Easy as can be. Throw the entire bottle of essential oil in your bag and sniff as needed directly from the bottle! We do recommend putting the bottle in some sort of plastic bag though, just to be safe and protect your stuff from gettin’ all oily.

8. Hot Spa Towel

Fill the sink or a small tub with warm water. Add 3 to 5 drops of your chosen essential oil and mix. Add 5 to 10 small hand towels. Soak towels for a few minutes, wring out well, and roll or fold. Place in the towel cabinet or microwave in a glass dish for 30 seconds. Place on hands and face for 30 seconds to a minute for a quick pick me up.


9. Foot or hand bath

Fill basin with water at the desired temperature and add in chosen essential oils and/or hydrosols. Place feet or hands directly into the basin. Let soak for 5 to 10 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of Epsom or sea salts for enhanced benefits. (If this sounds appealing to you, check out our DIY recipe for Japanese Forest Bathing Bath Salts!).


10. Full body bath

The water should be at the desired temperature (warm but not hot), and the essential oils or hydrosols should be added to the bath once the individual is already in it. Placing essential oils in the bath prior to immersion can cause the oils to lose some of the desired effects, as well as increase the chance of irritation to the vaginal/rectal area. Once the individual is in the bath, add the appropriate essential oil/synergy drops (that have been combined with a dispersant like coconut or olive oil) and quickly mix the water to disperse the mixture throughout the bathwater.


11. Steam inhalation

This practice is best for when someone is sick with a respiratory infection. Bring 2 cups of water to boil on the stove, reduce heat, and let the water cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Pour water into a glass bowl and stand over the bowl. Add 2 to 5 drops of essential oil and inhale for 5 minutes. For added benefits, place a towel over head during inhalation. Eucalyptus is particularly excellent for this purpose.


12. Pillowcase

Sleep easy tonight with the pillowcase method. Place 2-4 drops on a pillowcase before going to sleep. Using something like eucalyptus or peppermint will keep the sinuses open throughout the night. This can also be done with a calming oil like lavender or chamomile if the individual has trouble falling asleep.


13. Linen spray

Fill a small spray bottle with purified water. Add 15-30 drops of your chosen essential oil(s) and shake. You may wish to add polysorbate 20 or another solubilizer to dissolve oil into the water. If polysorbate or soluble is not used, then be sure to shake the spritzer prior to each use. Spray onto your linens and bedsheets before bed. For a restful slumber.

Be sure to stay tuned for more on essential oils and aromatherapy.

Botaneri “Level-up” Tip

If you’re super into essential oils, you might want to try experimenting with solubilizers or dispersants. These are additives that allow the oils to be blended into a water-based solution. If you want to make your own spray perfume for example, this is a great tool to learn to use!

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About the author

I’m Drew, creator of Botaneri and an artisanal skincare formulator and certified aromatherapist who is here to help take the mystery out of DIY natural beauty. I started creating my own plant-based skin and body care products at home to deal with my own skin issues.

I love helping people create luxurious and effective self-care products right in their own kitchens. It’s a lot easier than you think. Trust me, if I can do it, so can you.

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