Essential Oil Safety Guidelines

 

      Using essential oils safely requires a level of education about the nature of essential oils, being responsible with their use, and following the standard recommended safety guidelines, as follows.

 

1. Essential oils are for external use. Do not take essential oils internally. With the current popularity of essential oils, there are advocates of using essential oils internally. This practice is controversial. If you choose to take essential oils internally, do so under the guidance of a professional who is knowledgeable about essential oils.

 

2. Dilute essential oils in a carrier, such as fractionated coconut oil (FCO), jojoba, or a fragrance-free lotion, before they come in contact with your skin. Standard dilution is 2% (3 drops in 1 tablespoon or 12 drops in 1 ounce of carrier). Essential oils are concentrated and active. Many of them are strong and can irritate or sensitize your skin if not properly diluted. Standard dilution for subtle aromatherapy is 1% or less (1 drop in 1 teaspoon of carrier.)

 

3. If you are pregnant, do not use essential oils without consulting your physician or a professional that is knowledgeable about the use of essential oils. There are certain essential oils that should be avoided.

 

4. Do not use essential oils on infants or children and keep essential oils out of their reach. Though there are some essential oils that can be used with children, do so under the guidance of your physician or a professional who is knowledgeable about using essential oils. 

 

5. Keep essential oils away from animals. Essential oils do not necessarily affect an animal’s physiology as it affects a human’s. This is a consideration if you diffuse essential oils in a room when an animal is present. Refer to your holistic veterinarian or a reference book for guidance.

 

6. Keep essential oils away from and out of your eyes and mucous membranes. If this should occur, first apply a drop of carrier oil such as fractionated coconut oil to collect the essential oil, then flush well with water. If no carrier oil is available, whole milk can be used. If neither is available, flush profusely with water. 

 

7. Essential oils are flammable. Keep them away from lit candles or other flames. 

 

8. If your skin becomes irritated from an essential oil, gently apply a carrier, such as olive oil, to the area with your fingertips to further dilute it. Gently wipe it clean with a tissue or soft cloth. Then gently wash the area with soap and water, and rinse well. Discontinue use of the essential oil.

 

9. If you are going to be exposed to direct sunlight, avoid using citrus essential oils (such as lemon, grapefruit, lime, or bergamot) on your skin, especially undiluted. It can cause phototoxicity and your skin may burn and/or discolor.

 

10. If your skin is allergy prone or sensitive, test an essential oil under a strip bandage. Put one drop of the essential oil on the inside of your elbow and cover it with the bandage for 12 hours. After 12 hours, if there is no reaction, the oil should be non-irritating for you to use. If there is redness, swelling, irritation, or itching, do not use that essential oil.

 

11. Do not use essential oils if you have health problems such as heart disease, epilepsy, or asthma. There are essential oils that should be avoided. Consult your physician or a professional that is knowledgeable about essential oils. 

 

12. If you are taking homeopathic remedies, essential oils may negate their effect. Consult your physician. Eucalyptus, Peppermint, and Rosemary are the most common essential oils to avoid.

 

13. Toxicity from an essential oil depends on the concentration, the method of use, the frequency, the interactions, and the individual. In Clinical Aromatherapy, the author Jane Buckle explains that dermal toxicity can occur from essential oils applied to the skin, causing burns, irritations, allergic reactions, and phototoxicity. Oral toxicity can occur from internal use of essential oils, causing damage to the mouth, digestive tract, liver, and nervous system.

In Essential Oil Safety by Tisserand and Young, essential oils indicated to be of high risk of acute toxicity include bitter almond, mustard, sassafras, wormseed, and others. Those indicated to be of known or possible acute toxicity include birch, cajuput, cinnamon bark, clove, cornmint, hyssop, mugwort, nutmeg, parsley, pennyroyal, sage, savory, tansy, thuja, thyme, wintergreen, wormwood, and others. These essential oils are not recommended for aromatherapy or subtle aromatherapy. Refer to Essential Oil Safety for further information and a complete list of essential oils and their risks.

 

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