“Essential oils are plant extracts coming from nature, then why do I need to be cautious about using them?” If this is your question, let me tell you why you need to use essential oils safely. Just because essential oils are natural, it doesn’t mean they can be safe to use anytime and without any dosage chart. Many people are allergic to even natural substances while many natural substances are toxic as well. Though our pretty little bottle-full of fragrant essential oils are not that big a culprit, it is important to understand that they need to be used in the proper doses and in the proper way. Especially when we are self-administering the use of essential oils at home, we need to be doubly cautious.
Today, I will tell you some of the safety measures I practice myself while using essential oils at home.
DO NOT INGEST ESSENTIAL OILS WITHOUT MEDICAL SUPERVISION
Before going into any other points, this point should be cleared well and out that while using essential oils at home without any certified medical supervision, under no condition you should ingest i.e. take essential oils internally by swallowing. Neither you will advise anyone to do so unless you hold proper certification that authorizes you to do so.
NEVER USE ESSENTIAL OILS UNDILUTED
Essential oils are highly concentrated plant extracts. To give an idea of how potent essential oils are consider the following examples:
- 500 rose flowers produce 1 drop of rose essential oil
- 150 lavender flowers produce 1 drop of lavender essential oil
- 5 lemons produce 1 drop of lemon essential oils
- 20 cups of peppermint tea is equal to 1 drop of peppermint essential oil
You must have got the idea by now how potent and concentrated the essential oils are! And it is for the very same reason they need to be used with caution and care so as to reap the maximum benefit from them. To use essential oils safely at the home, the rule of thumb is never to use essential oil undiluted. Always dilute the essential oils in your favorite carrier oils like coconut, almond, olive, grapeseed, jojoba, or any of your favorite oil or in lotions and creams.
ALWAYS DO A PATCH TEST BEFORE STARTING TO USE ANY NEW OIL
If you are new to essential oils, it is always advisable to do a patch test before starting the full-fledged use. Also, choose from the list of the safest essential oils to begin with.
To do the patch test –
- Dilute your essential oil first. Add 2 drops of essential oil in 5 ml of carrier oil.
- Wash the inside of your elbow with soap (unscented preferably).
- Apply 2 drops of oil from the diluted mix of oils you have prepared.
- Rub mildly and leave it on for 24 hours
- If any irritation occurs, say redness, itchiness, swollen skin, or any adverse condition, discontinue that use of that essential oil.
You must check all your essential oils one by one that you are planning to use topically.
NEVER USE MORE THAN RECOMMENDED DOSES
I cannot stress this point enough. Never ever use essential oils for more than recommended doses. For self-administering at home, when you aren’t working it out with an aromatherapist, you must be very cautious about the dosage to prevent any kind of adverse effect. As per Tisserand Institute, the safe dosage for topical application for people aged 15 and above are as follows:
- For facial application, 2-15 drops in 50 ml carrier (carrier oils, lotions, creams)
- For application over body and massage, 15-30 drops in 50 ml carrier (carrier oils, lotions, body butter)
- For wash-off i.e. bath and body products, 10-40 drops in 50 ml carrier (carrier oils, soap, body wash). Remember bath salts are not the carrier for essential oils in bath products. You always need to dilute your essential oil first in a carrier oil or liquid soap and then mix it into the salt(s).
If you are diffusing essential oils, make sure that the area is well ventilated. Also do not diffuse it continuously. Diffuse for 15-20 mins only. If required you may diffuse again for 10 min after an hour.
Never use essential oils on pets without consulting your vet and aromatherapist. Many essential oils are toxic for animals and birds.
CONSIDER AGE BEFORE USING ESSENTIAL OILS
Unless you are working with an aromatherapist, it is advisable not to administer essential oils to kids below 5 years. For kids between 5- 12 years of age, kid-safe essential oils can be used but ingestion is absolutely not advised. Also for the topical application, lower the dosage of dilution. For 100 ml of carrier oil, go no more than use only 10 drops of essential oils. However, I feel the best way to use essential oils with kids safely at home is by diffusing them. Check out my favorite room diffuser: https://amzn.to/3ykji8I. The only essential oil that I use topically, that too rarely, on my 10 years old son is Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). It is calming and relaxing and helps in good sleep.
However, I use diffusion quite a lot. Here are a few essential oils that I use at my home:
- Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) – Calming and relaxing.
- Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis) – Uplifting and energizing.
- Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata) – Creates a sense of security and balances emotions.
- Frankincense (Boswellia serrata) – Generally I burn the resins. It is well-known for creating a positive aura and cleansing the space.
- Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanoides) – Helps with concentration and calming the mind before studies.
Generally, for kids, the use of hydrosols is preferred over essential oils. Hydrosols are less concentrated and considered relatively safe for kids.
CONSIDER UNDERLYING HEALTH CONDITIONS
Accessing the underlying health condition before using any essential oil is very essential. Essential oils, when used via inhalation method, effects our olfactory system i.e. our sense of smell which have the ability to bring effect on the certain sensory parts of our brain. This is the basics of aromatherapy. Since our brain controls the secretion of hormones in our body, it is important to consider the underlying health condition while using essential oils.
- If you are undergoing treatment for any serious ailment, it is always advisable to consult your medical supervisor about using essential oils.
- If you have certain lifestyle disorders like hypertension and epileptic seizures, you should steer clear of certain essential oils that are potentially convulsant i.e. causing sudden and involuntary muscle contractions. Below is a list of potentially convulsant essential oils (Tisserand and Young p.134, table 10.2):
- Western Red Cedar
- Hyssop (ct pinocamphone)
- Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)
- Ho Leaf (ct camphor)
- Spanish Lavender (Lavandula stoechas)
- Spike Lavender (Lavandula latifolia).
- It is best to avoid the use of essential oils during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. In case, you feel the need for them to overcome post-partum depression or such, it is necessary to consult your doctor and/or a qualified aromatherapist.
- People with asthma, skin allergies and multiple chemical sensitivities should always consult a doctor and/or a qualified aromatherapist if considering the use of essential oils even in daily life.
CONSIDER THE TIME OF THE DAY
Considering the time of the day while using essential oil is important as certain essential oils are phototoxic in nature. Phototoxicity essentially means increasing the sensitivity of skin towards the UV rays of sunlight. Some essential oils, especially citrus oils, contain a chemical called ‘furanocoumarins’. This chemical when comes in contact with the skin, sensitizes the skin to absorb more than normal UV rays of the sun. This over-absorption of UV rays leads to tanning, severe sunburn, and skin allergies. Therefore, while hitting the sun or even if just venturing outdoor, the phototoxic essential oils are to be absolutely avoided. Sunlight should be avoided for up to 18 hours after topical application of any phototoxic essential oils. A list of phototoxic essential oils is (Tisserand and Young p.659):
- Cold-pressed Lime
- Bitter Orange
- Mandarin Leaf
- Angelica Root
- Laurel Leaf absolute
STORE ESSENTIAL OILS WITH SAFETY
An important aspect of using essential oils safely at home is to store them properly and carefully.
- Always store your essential oils out of reach of the children and pets.
- Never store your essential oils in the kitchen and use them in front of open flames. Remember essential oils are flammable.
- Always store essential oils in a cool, dark place, away from the sun or any source of heat.
- Never store your essential oils in plastic bottles. Essential oils very potent and causes the plastic to disintegrate which causes toxins from plastic to leech into the oil. Dark-coloured glass bottles are preferred for the storage of essential oils.
- Some essential oils, especially citrus oils, have the tendency to lose potency over time. They can be stored in the refrigerator to increase their shelf-time. But make sure nobody ingests them by mistake.
- Check the health of your essential oil periodically. If any oil appears cloudy or smells acidic, the probability is they have begun to oxidize. Discard them.
BUY ESSENTIAL OILS FROM TRUSTED SOURCES
How to buy good quality essential oils? This is a question I often hear. Honestly, understanding a good source of essential oils is really a tough exercise. Some companies mark their product at a high price to give an illusion that they are selling good quality oils and often times the case is not so. At least price is definitely not an indicator or good quality oil. Some companies advertise heavily and sell good-smelling oils scented with synthetic fragrance oils. Some company labels their product as ‘therapeutic grade’, but recently I read that its purely a marketing gimmick. So yes, while choosing an essential oil brand can be very confusing.
The technique I apply now is to ask the company if they can provide me with the batch-wise GC/MS report of the purchased oils. Also, I do some general enquiry as in the process of distillation. Also while buying essential oils, make sure that the bottle or the company website does mention the Latin name of the species used for the extraction of oil. It is very important to understand if a certain oil is safe for certain condition or no.
KNOW THE REMEDIES IN CASE OF ANY ACCIDENT
If your are considering using essential oils at home, it is essential that you know how to handle things if anything go wrong.
- In case of any spillage of undiluted essential oil over the skin, first, cover the area with a generous amount of carrier oil, then wash with warm water and soap again and again until you are certain that all the oil has been removed. If you feel any itchy sensation even after washing or you get red and swollen skin, see a doctor soon.
- If accidentally, anyone swallows any undiluted essential oils, give a glass of full-fat milk immediately and report to the emergency room.
- If any undiluted essential oils get into the eyes, ears, or nose, wash them off immediately with warm salt water and check for any irritation. If any adverse effect occurs, see a doctor immediately.
- I know we often sniff essential oil directly from the bottle but avoid bringing them too close to touch your skin. Never sniff citrus oils directly, they can harm the mucous membrane in the nose.
Do you find this article helpful? Wanna ask me any questions? Drop them in the comments. 🙂
Also, share if you have any more safety tips such that we all can use these fragrant magic potions from nature more safely and effectively.
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Love, Light, and Peace!
Disclaimer: This is a set of general safety guidelines to help you use essential oils safely at home with minimal risk. It is always advisable to seek medical advice or run it through your medical supervisor in case you are undergoing treatment for any critical illness. Essential oils are not medicines and I am not a medical practitioner. The information shared in the post is based on personal experience and gathered from various books and reliable internet sources.