Essential oils are pure, plant-based extracted liquids that hold special powers. They are generally known to be safe BUT there are safety precautions to understand.
This is not a definitive list, but we cover the biggest issues. Understand that while essential oils are beneficial and natural, there are some cautions.
It is very hard to overdose on essential oils when using them topically or by inhaling, and most essential oils do not cause side effects like some traditional medicines can. However, we have listed key safety points for you here:
CHILDREN: If you have young children, PLEASE keep essential oils in a locked cabinet or away from easy access. Young children can be fascinated with the look and smell of essential oils. If accidental ingestion occurs, contact poison control immediately.
EYES: Keep essential oils away from your eyes! In the event of eye injury from essential oils, irrigate eye with a sterile saline solution or a vegetable oil for 15 minutes. Immediately consult a physician if pain persists after the eye wash.
DILUTE FOR SKIN: A good rule of thumb is to never use a pure single essential oil undiluted directly on skin, also called using it “neat”. (Single oils are diffused in a diffuser, inhaled from the bottle or another device, or mixed with a carrier oil to be used topically.) Exceptions can be made for Lavender, Rose Geranium, Frankincense and perhaps Tea Tree Essential Oil (and any others mentioned), but only after a patch test on your skin.
PATCH TEST: I like to recommend a small skin patch test prior to every first-time use of an essential oil or essential oil blend, to be safe (especially if you have sensitive skin or health issues.) If any reaction occurs, use plentiful soap and water (or milk!) on the patch area and rinse well. (Reactions are not common.)
FLAMMABLE: Essential oils are highly flammable; use extreme care around fire.
INGESTION ISSUES: In general, essential oils are NOT ingested. Some oils can be toxic if ingested even in small amounts. They should only be taken internally under the supervision of a licensed medical practitioner. Keep in mind, the use of essential oils is called AROMA therapy.
The highest and best use, plus fastest and most effective is by inhalation, with the immediate interaction in the brain & control center of your body.
Some essential oils are good for topical use (diluted in a carrier oil) such as for burns, cuts, headaches, indigestion, inflammation…When or if ingested, essential oils will be broken down by your digestive juices, liver and kidney and may not even be used by the body for its intended purpose – but certain oils could cause serious harm, from burns to poisoning.
Essential oils are HIGHLY CONCENTRATED and can burn mucosa or interact in the body. So stick with a certified aromatherapist if ingestion is considered for an ailment. Don’t experiment.
LOWER DOSES: Babies, pets and the elderly (especially those weaker in health) require lower doses of essential oils, half of that which was recommended for a healthy adult. In fact, take caution with very young babies; take care with certain essential oils under the age of 5.
ASTHMA & EPILEPSY PATIENTS: Asthma and epilepsy patients should avoid Fennel, Hyssop and Rosemary – and in our opinion, asthma sufferers should proceed with caution in general when introducing new essential oils into their environment or body. Some could be helpful indeed, but asthma sufferers could be more sensitive and susceptible.
CANCER PATIENTS: Cancer patients may use mild dilutions of Bergamot, Chamomile, Lavender, Ginger and/or Frankincense (check with your doctor, aromatherapist or holistic doctor); for nausea, Peppermint may be considered. Note that Fennel and Aniseed in particular should be avoided. Just before and while undergoing chemotherapy; essential oils should be avoided unless prescribed by a licensed or certified practitioner (as it could impede chemo action.) It is more common to use them after chemo for something like nausea or calmness.
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE? High blood pressure patients should avoid Black Pepper, Clove, Hyssop, Peppermint, Rosemary, Sage and Thyme Essential Oils.
LOW BLOOD PRESSURE? Low blood pressure patients should avoid excessive use of Lavender.
KIDNEY PROBLEMS? Sufferers of kidney problems should be cautious if they use Juniper, Sandalwood, or Coriander.
DAILY ASPIRIN USERS: Methyl salicylate is the active ingredient in aspirin as well as Sweet Birch and Wintergreen Essential Oils. If you use aspirin for medicinal purposes you should avoid these two essential oils due to the risk of overdose.
BLOOD THINNING MEDS: Clove, Thyme and Oregano Essential Oils (and any excessive use of Turmeric) should be avoided by people taking anticoagulant medication, with clotting or bleeding disorders, major surgery, childbirth, peptic ulcer or hemophilia. These essential oils “thin” the blood and could cause excessive bleeding.
PHOTO-TOXIC (SUN INTERACTION) : Angelica, Bergamot and ALL of the Citrus Oils (i.e. Lemon, Orange, Grapefruit, Tangerine, Lime, etc.) are photo-toxic. Do not use these oils in skincare blends topically (mixed into shea butter, lotions, serums) if going into the sun or using a tanning bed. Inhaling or diffusing is no problem for use while being in the sun.
PREGNANT? Pregnant women should avoid essential oils before the 18th week of pregnancy, especially in cases of prior miscarriage. In the second trimester, essential oils may possibly be used in low doses ONLY if formulated by a professional aromatherapist or health care provider. In our opinion, to be safe, wait until the third trimester or consult a doctor or certified aromatherapist – or wait until the baby is born.