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Essential Oil Safety

Essential oil Safety

by Penny Keay

This is a very important aspect of aromatherapy.  Essential oils are very potent and highly concentrated chemicals extracted from plants by distillation.

One needs to remember that only a drop or two of essential oils are needed in most applications.

Some essential oils are more mild (Lavender) while others are extremely strong (Peppermint, Thyme and Oregano) whether applied to the skin and  when inhaled.

Just because an essential oil may have a light smell doesn't mean it won't have strong properties for emotional and health reasons.

Any essential oil can be a potential poison and so caution needs to be used around children, pets and the elderly. Again, use only small amounts around children, elderly and pets. When using recipes, cut the essential oil amounts in half but always use the normal amount of carrier oils in massage, lotion or other applications.

Please keep all essential oils out of the reach of children!    And we don't mean just toddlers. Unless your teenager has been properly instructed, they too should not be using essential oils without adult supervision.

Some other major concerns are sensitization and skin irritations. To check to see if you have sensitive skin to any oil, you should test a small amount of essential oil (a drop diluted with carrier oil) on the inner arm (near the elbow). Observe for 24 hours, if no reaction, then you can proceed using on a routine basis. Of course, if at any time while using essential oils you see or feel an unpleasant reaction, discontinue use.
Can you use too much essential oils?   You bet.  Diffusing too much at one time can make you feel nauseous and develop a head ache.  If this should happen it is very easy to remedy by going out doors getting some fresh air and also air out your house or apartment by opening some windows. 
So, if you are diffusing essential oils and all of a sudden you develop a headache, feel nauseated, or even a bit woozy, get some fresh air and stop diffusing for several hours to a full day.   Next time – diffuse smaller amounts.   

Any Citrus oil can cause a photosensitivity reaction to occur if applied to the skin and then exposed to sunlight or UV light such as in tanning salons.  Avoid using citrus essential oils or blends for several hours prior to either of these.

About using essential oils during pregnancy; Just like any other drug or strong chemical, it is suggested that you limit the use of essential oils during the first trimester.

After those first three months many essential oils are safe to use in moderation.

Inhalation is preferred over skin applications.  Again, when used in massage blends, follow the recommended recipe when it pertains specifically to a pregnancy or if for the general population, cut back the essential oils in the recipe by half.  Please see our previous issue on Pregnancy for more detailed information about using essential oils while pregnant.

There is much controversy about using essential oils with those that have epilepsy and high blood pressure. Although there has not been much documentation done on essential oils causing problems with either affliction, if you feel you should avoid certain essential oils, by all means, do so.

Martin Watt (my aromatherapy instructor & advisor), in the UK, does state that there is documentation that suggests strong odors or smells can sometimes trigger an epileptic attack.  
If there is an Epileptic in your life, then one may want to avoid essential oils such as Eucalyptus globulus and Rosemary, other oils that may be included but are not limited to this list are Camphor and Tea Tree because of their strong pungent scents.

And before we forget, do not take essential oils internally. The term “Aroma Therapy”, means to smell the “aromas” for “therapy”.  It doesn't say to swallow them ever (unless prescribed by a licensed medical doctor).

Do not apply undiluted essential oils to mucous membranes (eyes, mouth, vagina, rectum).  Never EVER apply to the eyes and use extreme caution if applying oils and lotions that contain essential oils near or around the eyes.

If you are unsure about using an essential oil, then don't use it.  Often times there are other essential oils that can be blended that can bring about the desired effect you are trying to achieve.

As always, buy several books on essential oils and their uses. Then read, read, Read!!!

Our main safety points are:

  • Keep out of the reach of Children and Pets.
  • Use essential oils sparingly. More is not better.
  • Use half the amount on children and the elderly.
  • Avoid using the photosensitive essential oils for several hours before going into the sun or using a tanning bed or booth.
  • Do not used undiluted on the skin, if in doubt do a skin test before using any oil. 

    This safety precaution includes the often misinformation about Lavender and Tea Tree neatly.  Too many people are becoming sensitive to these and other essential oils because they have been touted as safe to use undiluted on the skin.  So ALWAYS dilute essential oils any time before applying to the skin.    You don’t want to risk not being able to use these wonderful natural gifts in the future due to skin sensitivities.

  • Do not ingest. Inhalation is the best way to use essential oils. They get into your body quickly and effectively.  Ingestion can be very dangerous and damaging to mucous membranes and intestinal linings of the digestive track. Not to mention the potential damage to the kidney and liver that could occur from ingestion of too much (even 2-3 drops can be too much for many folks).    Do not ingest essential oils period!
  • Use essential oils during the first three months of Pregnancy sparingly, then limit thereafter.  This is mainly because most pregnant women can develop sensitivities that would not normally be a problem while not pregnant.  Also just like any other drug, you should limit the amount used during the early stages of pregnancy. 
  • Use caution with strong smelling oils around those with epilepsy.  Although extremely rare, strongly diffused amounts of essential oils could trigger a seizure in susceptible epileptics.    Note the key word here is Strong Smelling.
  • Avoid using essential oils around the eyes and other mucous membranes.
  • Check with your medical practitioner if you have any health concern and/or are taking prescription medicines.
  • One special note about Cats and Essential oils. Cats liver cannot metabolize or break down most essential oils so if you own cats, use caution using essential oils around them. Never ever apply essential oils to your cat.  Provide them with a clean, scent free room they can retreat too when you are diffusing essential oils in a room.  Whole house use of essential oils is frowned upon if you have cats in the house.

Essential oils are wonderful products of nature. When used safely, they will truly enhance your life and the lives of those around you. Enjoy!!

~ Penny

The information provided on this Website is for informational and educational purposes only. 
You should not use this information to replace medical advice given by a licensed medical practitioner. Anyone considering alternative therapies should remember to consult with their licensed medical professional before using any alternative or complementary method.  We do not give nor is any opinion on our web site medical advice, they are merely suggested uses.

© 2006, 2014  Penny Keay - All Rights Reserved World wide.