Essential oils are highly concentrated liquids that can be harmful if not used with care. Improper use of essential oils may cause harm including allergic reactions and skin irritation, and children may be particularly susceptible.
Essential oils can be safely used to enhance well being and be used as part of a healthy lifestyle. They are used by millions of people every day, most of them without incident. However, essential oils are powerful substances and can be harmful if not used with due care and diligence.
The essential oil in a bottle is 50-100 times more concentrated than in the plant, and safety issues apply to essential oils that do may not apply to the whole plant or herbal extract.
It is important to learn about and regard essential oil safety.
These safety guidelines are not a complete safety reference for the proper use of essential oils.
When in doubt, consult your physician and/or a qualified and trained aromatherapy practitioner.
The potential danger of essential oil is sometimes relative to its level or grade of purity, and sometimes related to the toxicity of specific chemical components of the oil.
POINTS TO CONSIDER WHILE USING ESSENTIAL OILS
Essential oils should never be used undiluted on the skin.
Essential oils should not be used undiluted on the skin. Due to the small molecular size of essential oils, they can penetrate the skin easily and enter the bloodstream. Undiluted use on the skin can cause severe irritation or provoke an allergic reaction in some people, and there are cases of people experiencing permanent sensitivity to a certain oil after using it undiluted on broken skin. Test any essential oil, diluted, on your arm before using on a larger part on your body
Internal Use of Essential Oils
Essential oils are extremely potent plant compounds that can have a very dramatic effect on the body. Do not take essential oils either undiluted or in water, as there is a risk of mouth/stomach irritation. This is like what happens in a bath, except that mucous membrane tissue is more sensitive than skin, yet our gut only sends out pain signals when erosion has progressed quite far.
Ears: Undiluted essential oils should not be dripped into the ears.
Eyes: Do not drip essential oils into eyes as this will cause a chemical burn and may
result in temporary blindness.
Baths: Do not put drops of essential oil into a bath and then step into it. Essential oils do not mix with water. Whenever essential oils are ‘mixed’ with water without a dispersing agent, there is a risk of irritation, since undiluted droplets of essential oil attach to the skin, often in sensitive areas. Therefore, essential oils always need to be fully dispersed in an appropriate base before being added to a bath. Essential oils can be safely added to any vegetable oil, properly diluted, if thoroughly mixed and then added to bath salts.
Inhalation and diffusion
It is not recommended to directly inhale essential oils for longer than 15-20 minutes, such as with steam inhalation. However, this does not apply to ambient inhalation from essential oils vaporized into the air. If you are diffusing essential oils, it makes more sense to do this intermittently than constantly, all day long. Ideally, diffuse essential oils for 30-60 minutes on, then 30-60 minutes off.
This is not only safer, but it’s also more effective as both our bodies and our nervous system adjust to essential oils after this period. Whenever you are using or diffusing essential oils, some air exchange (fresh air) is advisable.
Take note that diffusing essential oils can be toxic to cats.
Photosensitivity of Certain Oils
Citrus oils have certain constituents which can heighten the skin’s vulnerability to sunlight which can lead to blistering, discoloration of the skin or burning more easily from minor sun exposure. Though the risk of photosensitivity or phototoxicity varies based on the way the oil was distilled, oils generally considered photosensitive are orange, lime, lemon, grapefruit, and bergamot.
Some research suggests that individuals with asthma may find that certain essential oils trigger an attack.
Essential oils are flammable and should not be used in any way that involves proximity to a naked flame or similar fire hazard. Essential oils are not explosive, and they are safe when used in a diffuser, but there is some degree of risk with open flames.
Keep essential oils in a place where young children cannot reach them, and never let them handle essential oils bottles. To help prevent accidents, all essential oils should be kept in bottles with child-proof caps.
Essential Oils During Pregnancy or Nursing
The use of essential oils in pregnancy is highly not recommended due to inadequate published evidence to demonstrate evidence of safety. Pregnant women often report an abnormal sensitivity to smells and taste and essential oils can cause irritation and nausea.
Essential oils can affect hormones, gut bacteria and other aspects of health and extreme care should be used when taking them while pregnant or nursing. There is evidence that essential oils can cross the placenta and get to the baby. The effects of essential oils can be compounded in utero and extreme care should be taken with essential oil use during pregnancy. Even certain therapeutic grade oils can pose potential threats to individuals with epilepsy or pregnant women. Essential Oil use in children can pose a danger when misused because of their thin skin and immature livers. This might cause them to be more susceptible to toxic effects than adults.
Oils Considered NOT Safe During Pregnancy
Aniseed, Angelica, Basil, Black pepper, Camphor, Cinnamon, Chamomile, Clary Sage, Clove, Fennel, Fir, Ginger, Horseradish (should not be used by anyone), Jasmine, Juniper, Marjoram, Mustard, Mugwort (should not be used by anyone), Myrrh, Nutmeg, Oregano, Peppermint, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Wintergreen.
Use on Babies and Children
Essential oils should never be given internally to children or used undiluted on the skin.
Some oils have caused seizures in children and extreme caution should be used.Seizure reactions are rare, and most are in people who are predisposed to seizures, but this still isn’t a risk to take with small children.
Others, like peppermint, rosemary, eucalyptus and wintergreen should not be used around young children or babies. These herbs contain menthol and 1,8-cineole. These compounds can slow breathing (or even stop it completely) in very young children or those with respiratory problems.
They should never be used internally or undiluted on the skin for children. Since the effects of essential oils are more concentrated on children, it is prudent to exercise extra caution when using essential oils on them.
Essential Oils in Plastics
Essential oils should never be stored in plastic containers, especially in concentrated forms. Many essential oils can eat through plastics when undiluted, and even when diluted, they can degrade plastics over time.This caution also extends to other surfaces in the house. Be extremely careful about leaving any oils, especially citrus oils, on wood or other stained surfaces.
If you have a skin condition, are pregnant, have epilepsy or asthma, are on a course of treatment with prescribed medication, or are in any doubt about any condition you may have, you are advised to seek the advice of a doctor or suitable practitioner before using pure essential oils.
This is a set of general safety guidelines to help you use essential oils with minimal risk. And remember, risk and hazard are two different things to consider.
Some essential oils, such as lemongrass, clove or cinnamon bark, are more likely to cause skin reactions than others. This is not because these essential oils contain impurities. The same companies that tell us genuine essential oils can’t cause adverse reactions are the same brands causing most of the reactions.
The simple fact is, dilution and risk are directly linked, and this is a well-known phenomenon in dermatology and toxicology.
If you have an allergic reaction to an essential oil, your immune system has been primed, usually for life, so you might need to avoid that oil indefinitely. Irritation is different, does not involve the immune system, and usually happens from improper use.
Less IS More.
When using essential oils, use the smallest amount of essential oil that will get the job done. If 1-2 drops are called for, for example, don’t use more than that. Essential oils are very concentrated. It takes a lot of plant material (i.e. flower petals, leaves, needles, bark, wood, root, etc.) to obtain the botanical’s essential oil by steam distillation. It’s wasteful to use more essential oil than is needed for your application.