Just like many of you, I enjoy using essential oils (following the top 12 Aromatherapy Safety Rules posted below) in place of over the counter medications and other synthetic alternatives. However, I feel strongly that the use of essential oils by the general public has gotten out of hand, and they are not being properly trained and educated on the ill effects of using essential oils incorrectly.
First, ESSENTIAL OILS ARE MEDICINAL! Often referred to as the ‘fragrant pharmacy’, essential oils need to be respected and understood before using them. This modality does have a place in our holistic healing environment, and should be offered in the virgin form by licensed practitioners to ensure the patient is receiving the correct oil, dose, etc. It can be a wonderful alternative or companion to our Western medicine options.
At a recent training I conducted, I was drilling home that cinnamon bark essential oil (less than 1% in our Cranberry Fizz Lotion) may cause redness and burning on the skin – at 1% concentration. Roughly 5% of the population have provoked skin sensitization when applied topically.
Imagine if you were to use cinnamon at full strength, 100% concentration, not knowing that this oil promotes strong allergenic reactions and skin sensitization? Maybe you read that cinnamon bark is antiseptic (which it is) and can improve cardiac function. Without being properly trained on HOW to use this oil, you could potentially burn your skin and cause skin sensitization. In some cases, the misuse of essential oils has caused death and organ failure (by ingesting the oils).
By the way, I was so glad to have one of the guests at the training come up to me afterwards to thank me for always having their safety in mind. If we are willing to talk about the 5% or less that may have a skin redness using 1% cinnamon bark in our product, it eased her mind knowing that we are not out to trick the masses and blow off a seemingly ‘safe’ product in it’s virgin form.
My advice? Do your research. Become educated and make wise choices. When searching for home-based business companies, visit www.dsa.org to verify that the company is a member. This is our stamp of approval that we are following strict code of ethics in our business practices regarding multi-level marketing and party plan.
WANT TO LEARN MORE? My past business colleague Kayla is a licensed aromatherapist, and has written some pretty amazing books and blog posts regarding essential oils and aromatherapy.
You can learn more at: http://kaylafioravanti.com/fda-action-doterra-young-living/
Here’s an excerpt: Today (September 24th) the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) sent doTerra and Young Living Inspections, Compliance, Enforcement, and Criminal Investigations Warning Letters. This is huge news. In light of the comment wars that went on in my blog post Warning dōTERRA and Young Living Won’t Tell You (SHARED BELOW) it is clear that many misunderstand the law as it applies to essential oils.
More from Kayla:
My Top 12 Aromatherapy Safety Rules from Chapter 10 The Art, Science and Business of Aromatherapy – Kayla Fioravanti
History and safety testing have given us useful aromatherapy data. For review of this chapter, please study the following twelve rules that I think are the most important when it comes to using essential oils safely.
Never consume essential oils. Even if you read a book by an aromatherapist from a country that uses essential oils internally, they should never be consumed. The practice of consuming essential oils is dangerous and was designed to be done under the care of an aromatherapist trained in that form of therapy. In addition, studies have shown that topical aromatherapy is more effective than internal aromatherapy methods.
Always dilute your essential oils before applying them to the skin. There are a very small handful of exceptions to this rule including lavender and tea tree which can be occasionally applied neat, or directly, to the skin. In different aromatherapy books there may be recommendations of essential oils over 3% in massage oils but it simply isn’t necessary. Less is more in the world of essential oils. There is no need to overdose and it is always better to be safe than sorry.
Essential oils are incredibly potent and need to be dispersed into a carrier before applying them to the skin. You wouldn’t wrap your body in 30 lbs. of plant material so don’t apply that much or more directly onto your skin.
Typically, essential oils are diluted into products at 1 to 3% – sometimes less and sometimes more, but that is the general rule of thumb. Some essential oils have an intense aroma and price tag combination that allows for their use as low as 0.1% Take jasmine, blue chamomile and neroli for example.
Raindrop therapy is a good example of how undiluted and too high of concentrations of essential oils can be dangerous. This method of applying essential oils is the practice of dripping pure undiluted essential oils directly onto the skin which has many adverse effects. People have had burns, skin irritation, and intense detoxification effects that could have been avoided if this dangerous practice was no longer taught. The human body does not need to detoxify at such a rapid rate, and the skin should not come in direct contact with undiluted essential oils. Please report injuries at the Atlantic Institute
Keep all essential oils out of the reach of children; they are notorious for putting everything in their mouths. Compared to adults, essential oils should be used in half the dosage rate for children for topical application. They are not miniature adults, and their bodies were not designed to process the same ratio of essential oils on their skin. I have safely used aromatherapy on all three of my children since 1998.
I heard of a case of a woman who read that tangerine essential oil would help with hyperactivity in children. She decided to put undiluted tangerine essential oil directly on the palms of her child’s hands. Thankfully, tangerine is a safe enough essential oil and the child suffered no serious ill effect. But she had decided to try it on a day that the child had a big test to take at school, and the high concentration of tangerine oil knocked the child out for the entire day and he slept through his test, lunch, dinner…and into the next morning.
Stay with the tried and true essential oils. Avoid ones that are not the common essential oils used historically in aromatherapy. Unless you understand the chemistry, it is best to stick with the commonly used essential oils. A trained aromatherapist can read the chemical composition of an essential oil profile and make an educated decision about the safety of an essential oil. But without that training you would not know whether you should avoid or use essential oils based on their chemical composition of aldehydes, esthers, ketones, phenols, and monoterpene hydrocarbons.
Know which essential oils to avoid or use with caution. Avoid them even if you like the way they smell or the properties that you read about them.
Essential oils to be avoided altogether include: unrectified bitter almond, basil ct. methyl chavicol, birch, boldo leaf, blue cypress, bitter fennel, bog myrtle, buchu, unrectified cade, calamint, calamus, (brown, blue or yellow) camphor, cassia, cinnamon bark, costus, davana, dog basil, elecampane, fig leaf, horseradish, jaborandi, lantana, melaleuca bracteata, mustard, mugwort, parsley seed, pennyroyal, rue, dalmatian sage, santolina, sassafras, savin, tansy, tarragon, tea absolute, thuja, tonka bean, verbena, wintergreen, wormseed, and wormwood.
Essential oils that should be used with caution or at very low dosages include: yarrow, dill, tarragon, caraway, white camphor, hyssop, spearmint, rosemary ct. verbenone, and tagette. Essential oils that should be heavily diluted due to potential skin irritation include: cassia, cinnamon leaf, cumin, lemongrass, oregano, clove stem, clove bud, clove leaf, wild thyme, and red thyme.
Always wear protective gear while handling essential oils. Remember that essential oils are very concentrated and should not be applied directly to the skin. If you wear gloves while handling essential oils you lessen the chance of spilling undiluted essential oils directly onto your hands. Even if it doesn’t hurt at the moment, it could hurt later. A good example is how peppermint essential oil spilled directly onto your hands might not hurt at the moment, but later when you touch your eye, it will burn like crazy.
Work in a well-ventilated area. Remember that essential oils can enter the body through inhalation. Some essential oils can cause euphoria, sleepiness or can be extremely stimulating. In a closed space with poor circulation the essential oils can become overwhelming.
Use extra caution when using essential oils on children and the elderly. The dosages should be at least half that of what you would use for a healthy adult. And essential oils are toxic to cats so never ever use essential oils on them.
Use common sense. Essential oils are safe when used in moderation. Many substances on earth are toxic when used in the extreme. Too much water can lead to water poisoning, and carrots, tomatoes, saffron, and mustard will all cause illness when consumed in excess.
To safeguard your business, do not make healing claims about your products. That would transform your cosmetic into a drug. The rules and regulations for drugs are completely different, and aromatherapy does not qualify on any monograph for approved over-the-counter drugs.
Always use the botanical name for essential oils when ordering. I never make an aromatherapy decision without reviewing the botanical name. The botanical name tells the genus and species of the plant and includes information about the variety, cultivar, chemotype, and hybrid when needed. Often these details are the difference between an essential oil being safe for use or not.
Check contraindications of an essential oil before using it. You don’t want to be making a sleepy time bath with essential oils that are contraindicated for insomnia like peppermint, basil, lemon verbena, cornmint, or rosemary.
FYI (from earlier in Chapter 10) on the Seriousness of Ingesting Essential Oils
There has never been a reported case of a woman or baby being harmed by topical or inhalation therapy used during pregnancy or labor. Aromatherapists all warn their clients away from pennyroyal essential oil due to a case in the USA in which a woman drank a large dose of pennyroyal in order to induce an abortion that proved fatal to her (Gold and Cates, 1980). One out of four cases in which pregnant women accidently drank camphor oil instead of castor oil resulted in the death of the baby (Weiss and Catalano, 1976).
Another reported case in which pennyroyal and parsley seed were taken in large doses caused hepatotoxicity which resulted in the death of the baby.
There are two other cases in which women consumed the same large doses of pennyroyal (100 to 200 times the recommended topical application) in which both the mothers and the babies survived unharmed. It is cases like this that give essential oils their warnings and contraindications.
Other Safety Topics
Chapter 10 of my book The Art, Science and Business of Aromatherapy
also includes other safety topics including: essential oil testings, grades of essential oils, drug claims, essential oil adulteration, contraindications, more safety warnings, the use of essential oils during pregnancy, the history of aromatherapy warnings in pregnancy, MSDS information along with my top 12 aromatherapy warnings. You can find it in paperback
and on Kindle
What make me qualified to teach about aromatherapy?
I am a Certified and was a Registered Aromatherapist with more than a dozen years of experience. The references for this article and my book can be found here
. I was certified by a school approved by the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy and was registered by The Aromatherapy Council.