Essential Oil Safety
With the popularity of essential oils growing, it is important to be aware of and follow safety precautions when using them. Today’s blog post will expand the knowledge base and highlight basic information about essential oils to aid those new to aromatherapy.
Essential oils are volatile oils that come from various plant materials such as: flowers, leaves, bark, berries, resins, fruits and roots. These oils are extracted from plant matter through distillation, CO₂ extraction and cold-pressing. Depending on the materials, it can take hundreds to thousands of pounds of it to make just 1 pound of essential oils.
For example, it can take approximately 150 pounds of lavender to make 1 pound of lavender essential oils vs. approximately 2,000 pounds of rose petals to make 1 pound of rose essential oils. If you purchase 1 oz. of rose essential oil, that is the equivalent of having 125 pounds of rose petals in just that little bottle. Needless to say, essential oils are highly concentrated and very powerful.
Knowing the Latin name of an essential oil is critically important as each one has different properties. For example, there are six eucalyptus essential oil varieties and each one has their own uses. This means that when you go to purchase an essential oil, be sure you are doing so based upon the Latin name rather than looking for a ‘generic’ as there is no such thing. If the bottle does not include the Latin name, opt for another manufacturer that does.
Be aware that there is no certifying board/committee in the United States to validate the purity or therapeutic grade of an essential oil. If a company claims such, it is a marketing claim to make their product sounds premium or official. What you want to look for is undiluted essential oils without any additives. Additives often come in the form of Jojoba oil, which is a method to dilute or stretch the essential oils. Though these are not bad to use, know that you are not getting or paying for a 100% pure product. (Fragrance oils are chemicals and should never be used as a replacement for essential oils.)
Just as medication can cause side effects or interactions with other prescriptions, so can essential oils. Therefore it is very important that you look up any side effects/precautions of an essential oil prior to use. Some oils are not recommended for those who experience seizures, high blood pressure or for use during pregnancy to name a few. As you formulate recipes, it is a good idea to research any side effects prior to making a finished product. A few websites I use are:
Though there is not a standard dosage of essential oils to use in aromatherapy recipes, there is a general rule of thumb I have gathered from extensive research.
1 oz. of aromatherapy product
- Adults – 10-20 drops of essential oil
- Diluted – 5-10 drops of essential oil (For those with sensitivities or smaller/frail bodies)
- Children (Ages 2+) 3-5 drops of essential oil
The amount of drops is not restrictive to all of the essential oils you would use in one recipe; it is rather the recommended maximum to use for each oil you may use. For example, one recipe I could formulate for pain relief could have 8 drops of lavender, 6 drops of ginger and 10 drops of peppermint. The amount of drops I chose varies depending on the specific action I want from each particular essential oil.
Neat means undiluted in aromatherapy jargon. It is used in reference to the use of essential oils applied undiluted on the skin. Realistically, lavender essential oil is the one of the safest oils you can use straight out of the bottle on your skin, generally, without a reaction. However, skin can build up an intolerance or sensitivity to just about anything if applied to it habitually. It is always recommended to dilute any and all essential oils with desired carrier oil for safety purposes.
There are some companies that teach their sales representatives that you can put any of their essential oils on your skin undiluted without harm or reaction. Think back to the vast weight of materials that are needed to make one pound of essential oil. Do you really want to put such a concentrated amount on your skin? Imagine how ginger root or black pepper essential oil would feel. These same companies teach that if your skin reacts to that essential oil, your body needs it (as if it was a deficiency). If it hurts or causes a negative reaction, wash it off and do not use it again.
Whereas ‘neat application’ is undiluted use on the skin, ‘topical application’ is diluted use on the skin. The topical use of aromatherapy products on the skin is one of the most common methods of application, even for internal needs. For example, rubbing on your stomach a combination of lavender and peppermint mixed with carrier oil will ease digestion pain and upset. Whatever your needs are, if the aromatherapy product or diluted oil should irritate your skin, cause a reaction or pain, wash it off immediately with soap and water and discontinue use.
There are some companies that claim that all of their essential oils are safe to ingest straight out of the bottle without harm; again, keep in mind the concentrated nature of essential oils. Though this is not a common practice in the US, there are aromatherapists who practice and recommend the ingestion of essential oils. Keep in mind that these aromatherapists, should, have years of such experience to back up their recommendation. If you chose to do so, please do extensive research beforehand to know the properties and any precautions of that oil. I myself have tried 1 drop of peppermint essential oil in a 16 oz. glass of water and it was way too powerful to drink.
The inhalation of essential oils is a pleasant way to receive the benefits of them via smelling the aroma directly out of the bottle or diffusing them via an aromatherapy diffuser. You can diffuse eucalyptus essential oil to ward of germs or enjoy the calming benefits of lavender essential oil during stressful times. Some of the more exotic oils like rose, ylang ylang, patchouli or clary sage can be diffused to create an intimate mood. The only thing to keep in mind with the inhalation of essential oils is that if it makes you feel worse, nauseous or gives you a headache, avoid them.
Though this post may be lengthy, it is relatively easy to catch on to the basics of essential oil safety. If you’re just learning about essential oils and aromatherapy, consider starting a binder for notes as a convenient and quick way to reference important information on the go. When you find useful information on the internet or in a book, write it down our type it out and add it to your binder. This saves a lot of time trying to find that one nugget of information when you can’t remember where you read it. It’s also helpful to keep printed recipes as well so you can make notes of what worked, what didn’t or what you would change for next time.
Until next time, discover the power of essential oil safety.