Safe Use of Essential Oils
Essential oils are concentrated, active, plant extracts; thus care and responsibility must be taken with their use. On this page you find recommended safety guidelines as well as precautions and contraindications.
The following are standard, recommended safety guidelines for using essential oils.
- Keep essential oils out of reach of children.
- Essential oils are intended for external use. (Do not take essential oils internally unless under the direction of a qualified health professional.)
- Dilute essential oils in a carrier before they are applied to the skin.
- Test for sensitivities. Wash and dry an area on the inside of elbow. Apply the diluted oil, preferably cover and leave for 24 hours. If redness or irritation occurs apply a vegetable oil, then wash with soap and water.
- Avoid essential oil contact with eyes, mucous membranes, and other sensitive areas.
- Keep essential oils away from open flames.
- Dilute essential oils in a carrier before adding them to your bath. (Essential oils do not dilute in water due to their hydrophobic nature.)
- Certain essential oils, especially those from the citrus family, can cause photosensitivity, discoloration and/or irritation of the skin when exposed to ultraviolet light. These essential oils should not be used in products that remain on the skin (such as in a lotion or perfume) at least 12 hours before being in direct sunlight, using sunlamps or tanning beds.
- Certain essential oils have very strong characteristics, such as Cinnamon, Oregano, Thyme ct. thymol, Wintergreen, and Clove. Use in a 1-3% dilution and for short periods of time.
- Keep a carrier oil readily available when using essential oils. In case of skin irritation, apply the carrier directly to the affected area. If no carrier is available, flush area with water for 15 minutes.
- Do not use essential oils rich in menthol, such as peppermint with children under 3 years of age.
- Overexposure or sensitivity to an essential oil through inhalation may result in nausea, headache, emotional unease or a “spacey” feeling. Getting some fresh air and drinking water will help to ease these symptoms.
- Store essential oils tightly closed in dark, glass bottles, away from heat and light.
- Use only pure essential oils from plants; Gas Chromatography (GC), Mass Spectrometry (MS) tested to insure quality.
This material is not intended as a substitute for consulting with your physician or other health care provider. Any attempt to diagnose or treat an illness should be done under the direction of a healthcare professional.
Precautions and Contraindications
Pregnancy and Lactation
Consult your health care professional before using essential oils during pregnancy, labor, and lactation.
The use of essential oils during pregnancy and lactation is a controversial issue in the aromatherapy field. According to most aromatherapy references, there are essential oils to be avoided. It is recommended that anyone who is pregnant or lactating and intends to use essential oils, consult with their physician and conduct their own research, using a variety of sources, to determine personal guidelines for use.
Babies and Children
Consult your health care professional before using essential oils with babies and children. It is important to ensure proper essential oil selection, dilution, and method, specific to your child. According to Fiona Cuthbert O’Meara, RN, Aromatherapist, “ A baby’s liver and kidneys are not fully functioning until after two years of age and are still developing up to the age of seven, making their ability to process and remove essential oils from the body inhibited.”
Elderly or Frail
The elderly often experience a higher incidence of health issues, changes in skin integrity, and general increase in sensitivities. It is important to take into account medical conditions, medications and overall health when using essential oils; use in a 1-5% dilution and choose essential oils that are not contra-indicated with current health problems.
To view the suggestions on dilutions please visit our page on dilutions and also have a look at oils that may be irritants or cause skin sensitivity.
If you have serious health issues consult with your health care professional before using essential oils. If you have or have had estrogen-dependent tumors, it is recommended that you avoid phytoestrogenic essential oils such as Anise, Clary Sage, Fennel, Angelica, and Tarragon. For more information refer to the book, Clinical Aromatherapy by Jane Buckle.
Allergy Prone / Sensitive Skin
If you are allergy prone or have sensitive skin, it is recommended that you test an essential oil before using it. Dilute essential oil to the dilution ratio of intended use. Wash and dry an area on the inside of your elbow. Apply a drop of the diluted essential oil and cover it with a strip bandage. Leave in place for twenty-four hours. Take the bandage off and assess your skin. If there is no reaction, there should not be an allergy or sensitivity to the essential oil. If there is swelling or irritation do not use the essential oil, and clean the area by applying a carrier oil and then washing with soap and water. Rinse well and pat dry.
If you are taking a homeopathic remedy, essential oils may negate its effect. Those especially indicated are Eucalyptus, Peppermint, and Rosemary.
This material is not intended as a substitute for consulting with your physician or other healthcare provider. Any attempt to diagnose or treat an illness should be done under the direction of a healthcare professional.
Please contact us with your questions or to request a private consultation.