Using Essential Oils Safely

Understanding Basic Essential Oil Safety only comes by study and long years of use. It does not come by taking a weekend course in how to sell essential oils.

Avoiding bad usage advice is serious business and a necessity if you don't want to hurt yourself, your family, or your friends and loved ones. Before you go recommending (which in most cases, unless you are a certified aromatherapist you shouldn't be doing anyway) an oil to treat something, you need to understand some basic aromatherapy safety for those who are new to essential oils, especially.

Basic Safety Guidelines

Over the decades certain basic essential oil safety guidelines have been set by and for those in the aromatherapy industry. From educators, to chemists, to professional aromatherapists all have come to recognize and work to establish safe essential oil use guidelines. You can find in-depth information at any of the Essential Oil Safety Sources links at the bottom of this page. However, a quick list of do's and don'ts will get you started:

Do

  • Dilute essential oils before applying to skin
  • Educate yourself about reactions
  • Understand contraindications
  • Learn which oils should not be used when pregnant, lactating or on young children
  • Respect essential oils
  • Consult a professional rather than taking the word of a sales rep on how to use oils
  • Understand one can be allergic to an essential oil.
  • Understand there is no such thing "detoxing" caused by essential oils...that is an allergic reaction.
  • Call poison control if your child ingests an essential oil
  • Use quality pure essential oils, which are available from more than one or two sources or companies

Don't 

  • Ingest essential oils by mixing in water
  • Ingest essential oils unless guided by a professional aromatherapist
  • Apply essential oils neat to skin
  • Use essential oils near or in the eyes or in the ears
  • Use certain essential oils on children under 2
  • Continue using oils to treat an allergic reaction to another essential oil
  • Use essential oils on or in mucus membranes (vagina, rectum, mouth, eyes, ears, nose)
  • Use essential oils, especially citrus oils, on or around your cats.
  • Overuse essential oils; it is possible to develop permanent sensitization to an essential oil

About Essential Oils

·         Diluting: Essential oils evaporate quite rapidly; this is one reason for diluting in a carrier. Using a carrier, not only protects you from harm and sensitization, but it also allows you to less oil. A carrier can be a vegetable or nut oil, a cream or lotion, Epsom salts, alcohol, or witch hazel.

·         Sensitization: Sensitization can occur at any time, even by oils that you may have used neat dozens of times without an issue. All it takes is that one time and from that point on you’ll may not be able to use that oil on that place or in that way again.

·         Allergy: Allergic reactions can occur with essential oils. For instance, if you are allergic to lavender, chances are you are also going to be allergic to the essential oil.

·         Phototoxic: Some essential oils are phototoxic and can cause bad skin burns if applied to the skin within 24-48 hours of exposure to the sun. So if you are going to use such an oil, and plan on being outside, apply it in a place that will not be exposed to the sun.

·         Detoxing: There is no such thing as bad reactions to essential oils being just a sign of detoxing. Rashes, blisters, burns and pain are not signs of detoxing. They are signs of either an allergic reaction or damage being caused by the oil. Discontinue use immediately!

·         Ingestion: Essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause, and have caused, serious damage when used internally. Just because you’ve been able to ingest in the past, doesn’t mean harm isn’t occurring. When essential oils are ingested, the liver is going to treat it as a toxin that must be removed. This action by the liver can result, and has resulted, in a toxic buildup of essential oil in the liver, leading to permanent damage to the organ and even death. Oil and water do NOT mix, just shaking your metal/glass container is NOT going mix them.

·         Internal usage: The only time essential oils should be used internally is when under the guidance of a medical professional educated in aromatic medicine or a certified aromatherapist, and then only for a short and limited time to treat a specific, systemic ailment. This type of internal treatment does NOT include ingesting or drinking an essential oil. The essential oils in these treatments are delivered via vaginal or rectal suppository.

·         Babies – Never use essential oils of any kind on newborns. NEVER

·         Children – Follow dilution guides for using essential oils on children under two, under five, under six, and under 10. Certain oils should never be used on children in those age groups. As the child ages, more oils can be used, but always with proper dilution. Remember, you wouldn’t pour boiling water on your child because it would burn. Some oils, undiluted, can cause, and have caused, 2nd degree burns.

·         Pregnancy – Avoid certain oils, and even those “safe” essential oils should be diluted more than normal.

Essential Oil Safety Sources

·    Safety Essentials

·    Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy Injury Reports

·    NAHA Safety

·    Aromatherapy Trade Council

·    AIA Safety Statement

·    AEOTA - American Essential Oil Trade Association

From the Experts

·    Robert Tisserand

·    Aromaweb

·    Essential Oil University