I was recently talking to a dedicated and loving mum who uses essential oils for her family’s wellbeing. She was a little shocked when I mentioned some safety considerations you need to be aware of and confessed that she had been making some of these common mistakes herself.
The thing is, we all do our best with the information we have been given. Unfortunately because essential oils are so readily available for purchase everywhere from the internet, essential oil companies and your best friend, you may be unaware of how potent they are and the possible interactions and side effects until it is too late.
Some of the side effects people have experienced include severe skin reactions, sensitisation, burns, acute respiratory failure, convulsions, miscarriage, kidney damage, liver damage and even death. Some of these have been in children. Toxic essential oils which should never be used in aromatherapy include; wintergreen, penny royal, sassafras, bitter almond, mustard to name a few. A complete list can be found here.
Whilst the greatest hazard with essential oils is oral toxicity the most common type of hazard is skin reactions and sensitisation.
Here are five common essential oil usage mistakes
1. Internal use; Due to safety concerns, internal use should only be recommended by a suitably trained doctor of aromatic medicine or medical herbalist with training in the chemistry and pharmacology of essential oils and human anatomy and physiology.
The great news is that for the issues you would use essential oils for at home, you can obtain great therapeutic benefit by using them in inhalation and appropriately diluted application to the body.
2. Applying undiluted essential oils to the skin; the most common side effects with essential oils come from undiluted topical application. Some essential oils can cause skin irritations, sensitisation, and/or photo-toxicity.
A drop of peppermint oil on the back of the neck could relieve a headache or cause redness, itching and burning. Bergamot oil can be calming and uplifting but if your skin is exposed to sunlight or a tanning bed within 12 hours of use it can cause quite severe burns and blisters. Did your friend who sells oils tell you that?
Skin irritations and sensitisation are less likely to occur if you dilute your essential oils in a carrier oil such as sweet almond, jojoba, or raw organic coconut oil.
It is a good idea to patch test to see if there is any reaction such as skin redness or inflammation. If any adverse reaction occurs, wash the affected area with mild unperfumed soap and apply cold pressed oil such as jojoba, coconut or aloe vera gel to soothe the skin.
Some commonly used skin sensitising essential oils include; basil, bergamot, cinnamon bark, clove bud, ginger, grapefruit, lemon, lemongrass, lime, orange, peppermint, tea tree, thyme, wintergreen.
3. Using essential oils with other medications or some medical conditions; some essential oils and methods of application can interact with medications and existing health issues causing adverse reactions.
There are some oils you should use with caution or avoid all together if you were on blood thinning medication, pregnant or nursing mother, asthmatic, drinking alcohol, epilepsy, with babies and young children, broken skin, kidney disease, transplant patient, homeopathic remedies, high and low blood pressure.
Did you know that? Do you know in what situations and what medications? Have you been informed for your specific health and wellbeing issues? See a qualified aromatherapist if in doubt.
4. Uninformed use during pregnancy; because of the potential for essential oils circulating in the mothers blood to reach the fetus, avoid using essential oils during the 1st trimester of pregnancy unless under the guidance of a qualified aromatherapist.
Thereafter there are many benefits of using some essential oils for the uncomfortable symptoms of pregnancy particularly nausea, inflammation, physical aches and pain, stretch marks, relaxation and stress relief.
Inhalation is generally safe during pregnancy and is beneficial for relieving stress and boosting the immune system.
You can find a list of essential oils that can be used safely for topical use during different trimesters here.
5. Not taking care when using with children; essential oils are very concentrated plant extracts. A little goes a long way. Essential oils must be diluted further when used with children, usually half the amount you would use for a healthy adult. There are some essential oils and application methods which are not safe to be used for young children and babies.
Simple massage with gentle and safe essential oils in low dilution or hydrosols are the best option for young children and babies.
Always keep your essential oils out of reach of children and keep the lids on tightly stored away from direct heat ans sunlight.
Here is some more information on using essential oils safely and dilution rate guidelines for babies and children.
For more information about essential oil safety and simple application methods for these common situations, book for one of my essential oil safety workshops here.
Yours in Living Well,