When you use essential oils with care and consideration for your individual health and well being needs, you can get amazing therapeutic benefits for many physical, mental and emotional issues.
With the use of essential oils becoming more mainstream, there is a lot of misinformation about the way to use them and some exaggerated claims as to what they can do. If you are using essential oils to improve your health and well being, it is so important that you be well informed on the safety considerations and appropriate application methods so that you get the best results without any adverse reactions.
So what are some of the most important safety considerations when choosing to use essential oils?
Internal use; due to safety concerns regarding toxicity of essential oils, internal use should only be recommended by a suitably trained individual such as a Doctor or medical herbalist who has extensive training in aromatic medicine, which includes pharmacological interactions of essential oils, human physiology and pathology.
Use only pure and unadulterated essential oils; make sure the bottle is clearly labelled with the botanical name, part of the plant used, country of origin, extraction method, chemo-type (if applicable) and expiry date.
Store your essential oils appropriately; keep your essential oils out of reach of children and pets, store them in a cool dark place away from direct sunlight, keep the lids closed tightly. Oxygen and heat can change the chemical makeup of essential oils and make them potentially hazardous, as can use after the expiry date. Essential oils are volatile compounds, do not expose them to a naked flame.
Adhere to appropriate dilution principals; an essential oil may have over 100 different constituents which in combination give it its unique odour, therapeutic properties and in some cases its toxicity or potential hazards. The greatest hazard with essential oils is from oral toxicity. Do not ingest essential oils unless prescribed by an aromatic medicine practitioner. Do not use undiluted essential oils on the skin, always use as directed, use less rather than more. Do not use essential oils directly on the eyes to treat eye conditions.
Check for skin sensitisation; some essential oils can cause skin irritations, sensitisation, and/or photo-toxicity. This is less likely if you adhere to appropriate dilution principals in a cold pressed vegetable 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.
Check for contraindications; some essential oils and methods of application can interfere with medications and existing health issues causing adverse reactions. Always do your homework and check with a qualified professional if in any doubt.
Hazards during pregnancy; because of the potential for essential oils circulating in the mothers blood to reach the fetus, it is generally considered prudent to avoid essential oils during the 1st trimester of pregnancy. Thereafter there are many benefits of using some essential oils for the uncomfortable symptoms of pregnancy. It is wise to do your research and adhere to appropriate dilution and dosage; essential oils used in pregnancy are diluted further than the amount used for a healthy adult. Consult a qualified aromatherapist if in any doubt.
Safe practice with children and elderly; essential oils are very concentrated plant extracts. A little goes a long way. Like anything you would use medicinally you should take care. Essential oils must be diluted further when used with children and the elderly ie. usually half the amount you would use for a healthy adult. There are some essential oils which are not safe to be used for children and babies and some which interfere with medications. Again do your homework and/or consult a suitably qualified professional.
Safety guidelines for applications
The healing properties of essential oils can be experienced from a range of different applications. Choosing a pure essential oil is important, ensure it is 100% essential oil and not a synthetic. Some essential oils can be harmful if applied incorrectly and in the wrong dosage. Use them as directed and consult a qualified aromatherapist for ongoing treatment advice.
Dosage/Dilution ratios – general
Many essential oils have been found to have a certain effect at one concentration and the opposite effect at another concentration. For example lavender can have a cooling, anti-inflammatory and sedating effect at a low dilution and a warming and stimulating effect at higher concentrations. Dosage and dilution guidelines do really depend on the desired therapeutic outcome and the age, health and well being of the person they are being used on. It is also so important to consider any other treatments the person currently takes which may interact adversely with essential oils.
Less really is best, halving the amount of essential oil will almost never detract from the therapeutic value of a treatment.
For children, the elderly or if used in pregnancy do your homework; are the oils you plan to use, dosage and application method safe?
When inhaled, pure essential oils provide many and varied physical, emotional and mental benefits. For example diffusing lavender essential oil can relax the mind, eucalyptus can decongest and basil can provide more focus and clarity to the mind. To inhale essential oils for therapeutic benefits you can place up to 2 drops on a cotton wipe or hanky and inhale regularly; place up to six drops in a diffuser and keep it running for up to 30 minutes, place up to three drops in a running shower or place up to 6 drops in a bowl of steaming water and inhale the vapor. Please note, steam inhalation is not recommended for someone with asthma. Reduce the amount of drops by half for children and the elderly. Inhalation is generally considered safe during pregnancy.
A very effective and enjoyable way to benefit from essential oils through the skin and via inhalation.
Always dilute your essential oils in a dispersing agent such as cold pressed vegetable oil before you add them to the bath water. Pure essentials oils do not mix directly with water; the risk of putting undiluted oils in the bath is skin sensitisation from clumps of essential oil coming in direct contact with the skin. Be cautious when using peppermint, citrus oils such as lemon or sweet orange and spice oils such as clove or cinnamon as they can irritate the skin. Place up to 6 drops of combined essential oils in 12mls of disperser and add to the bath water. If you feel a prickly sensation or see a rash get out of the bath, wash affected area with mild unperfumed soap and apply cold pressed vegetable oil to soothe. Be mindful your feet could be slippery so take care when getting out of the bath.
Always dilute essential oils in a cold pressed vegetable oil, gel or lotion at a ratio of up to 3% for healthy adults and from 0.5% to 1% for children, elderly and pregnancy . As a general guide up to 5 drops of essential oil in 10mls of carrier oil for adults and 2 drops in 10mls of carrier oil for children, the elderly and pregnancy. Patch test if in doubt. When using more than 1 essential oil in a massage blend the number of drops refers to the combined amount of all oils being used.
Procedure in case of essential oil poisoning
Telephone a general medical practitioner or state poisons information centre. Take the person to a hospital accident or emergency department and take the bottle with you.If the person is showing severe signs of poisoning such as loss of consciousness, call the ambulance.Do not induce vomiting, unless advised to do so by the general medical practitioner or poisons information centre.