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Yes, it certainly is normal. Getting the ‘aroma’ therapeutic aspect of an oil can certainly be different than smelling them – which primarily affects the limbic system of the brain. We do both, and find they may have different actions. Smelling them can be a gentle, experience, while applying them topically will actually have them absorb in your bloodstream. Even wearing them as a natural perfume can be stronger than simply diffusing them.
It’s best to experiment, to find the way you desire to ‘react’ to each oil.