Essential Oil Safety

Essential oils are safe to use as long as you follow the recommended dosage, and research the contraindications before you use them. Essential oils are more potent than the herbs, so less amount is needed in order to achieve the desired effect.

Never use the oils undiluted on the skin unless you have read the label and it is fine to apply undiluted. The only exceptions are tea tree and lavender, which can be used in tiny amounts on stings, wounds or a small burn.

Some essential oils have low therapeutic margin, which means that the dividing line between therapeutic dose and a harmful dose is very small. These oils needs to be avoided orally and used with caution.

Oral ingestion

I actually don't recommend anyone to use essential oils orally anymore. However, if anyone were to ingest essential oils anyway, then it is important that you:

  • have consulted with professionals educated in essential oil safety
  • use essential oils from a company that lists them as dietary supplements
  • do research to know which oils are contraindicated for each individual and what dosage is correct. 

Therefore, always consult with a health care practitioner before considering ingesting oils.
Extra care is required when taking an essential oil orally since a higher amount of the oil would reach the circulation. The liver would receive a large dose via the portal circulation, which takes its blood from the gastrointestinal tract to the liver.

Almost all of the reported cases of poisoning by essential oils has occurred by self-dosing of small quantities of undiluted essential oils.

Only use high quality essential oils in aromatherapy. The advice on this blog is referring to the use of safe high quality  essential oils. The use of other essential oils may not provide the same results. If an essential oil is too cheap it is probably diluted with harmful ingredients.  Inferior oils may even cause harm.

Some guidelines for safe use:

* Always keep essential oils out of reach of children.

* Essential oils rich in menthol, such as peppermint should not be used on the neck or throat area of children under the age of 30 months.

* Never put the oils directly in the ears and keep them away from the eye area. Don't touch contact lenses or rub your eyes with essential oils on your fingers. Even tiny amounts, oils high in phenols such as cinnamon, thyme, clove, lemongrass, and bergamot may damage contacts and irritate the eyes.

* Keep the lids tight and bottles away from the light and store in a cool place.

* Make sure you always have a bottle of vegetable oils nearby when handling essential oils. Dilute the essential oils in vegetable oil if it irritates you.

* Pregnant women should consult a health care professional when starting any type of heath program. Also, make sure you read Is Aromatherapy Safe in Pregnancy?

* People with high blood pressure and epilepsy should consult their health care professional before using essential oils. Essential oils not to be used by people prone to epilepsy are: clary sage, cajuput, eucalyptus, Fennel, hyssop, lavender (lavandula stoechas), rosemary, sage and thyme

*Essential oils not to be used by people with high blood pressure are: Cypress, cajuput, eucalyptus, Hyssop, rosemary, sage and thyme.
Also, use with caution: basil, tarragon, wintergreen/birch, peppermint, and tansy.

* People with allergies should test a small amount on an area with sensitive skin such as the inside of the upper arm, for 30 minutes, before applying to other areas. See the post on How to Perform A Skin Patch Test. Remember, the bottom of the feet is one of the safest spots to apply the oils.

* Essential oils not to be used by people with asthma: camphor, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, yarrow.

* Essential oils not to be used by people with hypotension: Clary sage and marjoram.

* Essential oils not to be used by people with liver disease are: clove bud and clove leaf, garlic, oregano, sassafras, thyme, vetiver.

* Essential oils not to be used by people with stomach and intestinal ulcers: Cinnamon bark.

* Essential oils not to be used by people with estrogen dependent cancer: Anise, basil and fennel.

* Don't add undiluted essential oils to the bath water. Add the essential oils to Epsom salt, massage oil, or bath gel to disperse the oils first. Undiluted oils can cause serious discomfort on sensitive skin since the essential oils float undiluted on top of the water.

* Keep essential oils away from electricity, open flames, or sparks. Pine, peppermint, orange, and fir are potentially flammable.

* Essential oils are oil-soluble. Water will spread the oils over larger surface and can make things worse. Always have vegetable oils on hand.

* Some oils can produce a reaction called photosensitization, also called phototoxicity. They can cause redness, increased pigmentation and trauma to the skin on exposure to the sunlight or excessive light. Angelica, bergamot, elecampane, ginger, lemo, verbena, lovage, grapefruit, neroli, opoponax, orange bitter, orange sweet, tangerine, and patchouli are considered phototoxic. Read more

* Oils that can cause skin irritation are anise see, basil, bay, bergamot, black pepper, birch, cajuput, camphor, cinnamon bark, clove bud and leaf, eucalyptus, fir, geranium, ginger, grapefruit, nutmeg, oregano, pine, thyme, wintergreen, vetiver, yarrow.

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