Thursday, April 16, 2015

Safely Using Essential Oils

I give workshops throughout the year, and, I am always alarmed at the amount of misinformation that exists about the proper use of essential oils.

Because essential oils are derived from plants, so are "natural," and they have been used for literally millennia, people often assume they are safe. Not necessarily so.

They should never be ingested. They should always be diluted...a lot! before being applied to the skin. Occasionally, someone will have a sensitivity to an oil and develop a skin reaction, even if the oils were indeed diluted before use. There is nothing in existence that is incapable of provoking an allergic reaction in a sensitive individual. Sure, some substances are more likely than others to cause a problem, but even very "safe" products can cause reactions in some people. Very few essential oils have been tested in the same way, and with the same intensity, as pharmaceuticals. Yet people willingly swallow, apply and diffuse essential oils...even around children and pets.

Children, with their undeveloped immune systems, immature livers, thinner skin and smaller body size and mass, can be particularly sensitive to essential oils.

There is the small possibility that an applied essential oil could react with another medication a person is taking.

Even quality, pure essential oils vary in their components, so, what is in one bottle may not be in the next one.

Always err on the side of caution.

Less is more!

Some guidelines:

(1) Never ingest essential oils
(2) Dilute essential oils if you are applying them to skin. 18 drops in 1 ounce (30 mls) of carrier oil is a 3% dilution and should be safe for adults
(3) Evidence is accumulating that essential oils should not be used around children under 6. Even diffusion. Ever, For any reason.
(4) ABSOLUTELY avoid eucalyptus and peppermint oils around children. They have an ingredient (1,8 cineole) that has been implicated in respiratory collapse in young children.
(5) If any discomfort, irritation, rash or redness appears on the skin after applying an essential oil, wash it off gently with lots of water and mild soap. Do not continue use. See a doctor if the irritation persists, or, if there is any change in your breathing.
(6) Keep all oils safely locked away from young children
(7) Ingestion can cause damage to the esophagus, stomach and liver. NEVER SWALLOW AN ESSENTIAL OIL. Some oils can cause seizures if taken internally (like sage or camphor). Some are just plain poisonous (like pennyroyal.)
(8) Dogs have very sensitive noses. There is speculation that using essential oils on dogs is unkind. If they are annoyed by the scent, they cannot escape it or wash it off. And, even if YOU can't smell the oil, it is very likely the dog can. I would avoid using essential oils EVER on pets.
(9) Consult a certified aromatherapist if you have questions on the safety of essential oils. Sales people are NOT usually certified aromatherapists. Verify this before accepting advice
(10) Even the best trained aromatherapist is NOT a physician. Always consult your own doctor for diagnosis and advice.