Essential oils have burst into popularity over the past few years. It seems like everyone is using them these days but are they aware of how to use them safely?
Thankfully most oils and application methods aren't harmful if used incorrectly but that doesn't mean you shouldn't learn to use essential oils properly and safely.
Essential oil Safety tips
- First and foremost make sure you are using high quality essential oils. Many 'essential oils' you can buy at the grocery store are glorified bottles of fragrance and not truly essential oils. Using these imposter oils like they are pure high quality essential oils can lead to trouble and even cause harm. You should look for a company that supplies 100% pure Therapeutic grade essential oils. Check out how the company harvests and processes the oils, and make sure they test their oils multiple times using a third party tester. There are several companies that offer high quality oils like this but my company of choice is Young Living. Their Seed to Seal program insures they provide only the purest and best quality oils around.
- Do your research. Learn a bit about an oil before you decide to use it. Each oil has different properties and characteristics. Some oils can cause sun sensitivity when used on the skin prior to sun exposure. Some oils cause discomfort when applied directly to your skin. Researching an oil before you use it can save you from learning some properties the hard way.
- Never stop learning. There is always something new to learn about essential oils and aromatherapy. You will never know everything. Staying curious can help you learn new ways to use essential oils so they have the max benefit for you.
- Start slowly. As exciting as getting a handful of oil bottles is, remember to start slowly. Take a few minutes between smelling different oils so your body doesn't get overwhelmed and give you a headache. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Before using an oil topically its best to dilute it and apply a test patch to your inner arm to insure we are not sensitive to the oil. Essential oils (at least good ones) are potent and powerful. A little goes a long way, especially when you are first using them.
- Never get oils in your ears or eyes and know what to do if it happens on accident. There is no reason to put essential oils (diluted or not) in your eyes or ears. You can use them around your eyes and ears but you should take precautions that they don't go into these sensitive areas. If oils do happen to get in your eyes or ears, flush them out with carrier oil (like fractioned coconut oil, olive oil or vegetable oil), this will dilute and flush out the oil from the area and calm irritation. Using water to flush out oils will only make things worse and possibly drive the oils deeper into the tissue.
- Dilute Dilute Dilute! Whenever your first using an essential oil topically you should dilute it with a carrier oil first and apply a patch test on your inner arm to make sure you are to sensitive to the oil. Sensitivity is usually rare but can occur. Carrier oils that are generally used are coconut oil, fractioned coconut oil (which remains a liquid at room temp) and olive oil, among others (learn more about carrier oils here).
- Ingestion? Deciding whether to ingest essential oils is a hot topic. Some people are all for it while others are completely against it. The main argument against it is possibly ingesting harmful contaminates (like lead) from low quality oils. If you're getting high quality, pure oils you don't have to worry about that. Do your research and decide on what you are comfortable with before ingesting essential oils.
- Essential oils in the sun? As I mentioned above, some oils cause photosensitivity when exposed to the sun after using them. The resulting exposure can lead to a rash or even a sunburn. Oils that usually cause photosensitivity are in the citrus family (lemon, lime, orange, bergamot). Precautions to avoid photosensitivity include using the oils 12 hours before sun exposure (so applying at night), and using sunscreen and covering up the skin when you do go out. I love using citrus oils and haven't had a problem with photosensitivity by using them mainly at night.
- Essential oils and plastics. Essential oils are stored in glass bottles or medical grade plastics because some essential oils will eat through plastics. This can result in the oils leaching out the chemicals in the plastic or even destroying the plastic container.
- Using essential oils when pregnant. The old belief was that you should avoid using essential oils while pregnant. But with the boom of their popularity more and more information and personal testimonies are saying otherwise. Many women encourage an 'oily pregnancy' and say they wish they did it with their first pregnancy's. There are still oils that a pregnant woman should avoid using but the list is smaller than first thought. Talk with your doctor and research essential oils and pregnancy to decide what you're comfortable with. Books like Gentle Babies by Debra Raybern or Besty bosom's baby book are great guides that explain using oils while pregnant and with babies in-depth.
- Using essential oils on infants and babies. Newborns and babies up to two years of age have every delicate skin that readily absorb essential oils. Essential oils should be highly diluted before being applied topically to anyone under the age of two. Similarly you should avoid diffusing strong essential oils in the diffuser (like peppermint or any eucalyptus) around infants because in rare cases it can cause distress to their lungs. Using reference books like those mentioned above will guide you on what you should and shouldn't use with your babies. Young Living has created a line of products and oils specifically for babies and infants, called the Seedlings line. This line takes the guess work out of how to use oils and oil products with little ones.
- Using essential oils on your pets. Our furry and feathered friends can react differently to essential oils. Especially cats. You should know about an oils properties and learn about which essential oils to avoid using with your pets. I cover the basics of oil usage for Dogs and Cats on the blog. But it's also a great idea to get a reference book like the Essential oils Animal Desk Reference and to talk with your veterinarian. If you have pets and are diffusing essential oils in your house make sure the animal can escape into another room. Never trap an animal in room with essential oils diffusing.
- Essential oils and Epilepsy. If you have Epilepsy there are some essential oils that you should avoid using. You should talk with your doctor before using essential oils and avoid oils with high ketone's such as Basil, Rosemary, Sage, and Idaho Tansy.
- Essential oils and medications. Some essential oils can affect medications (like grapefruit essential oil). It's important to talk with your doctor before using essential oils if you are taking any medications. This is always another reason why it's so important to learn about essential oils before you use them.
It may seem like a lot at first but most essential oil safety tips are common sense. Most people will enjoy using essential oils without running into any problems but checking out these safety tips will help you avoid any mishaps.
For more information check out my essential oils page and at the bottom of the page I have a list of all my other essential posts to check out.