Basic Essential Oil Safety
If you're new to oils or even a seasoned user, essential oil safety is important information that should be learned and reviewed from time to time. It will provide a great foundation for you to use your essential oils with confidence. Here are a few things everyone should know before they reach for that beautiful bottle of essential oil.
1. Dilute for skin applications.Young Living oils are pure, therapeutic grade essential oils. And that means they are safe to use diluted, and in acute situations, neat on the skin. But there are so many reasons to dilute essential oils when applying to the skin. Please read about those and properly dilute them.
2. Keep essential oils away from the eyes.Every single one will sting the crap out of your eyes. And every single essential oil lover will eventually get some in the eye at some point in the course of working with them. Here's how to deal with it when it happens.
- Place a drop of a fatty oil (like olive oil) on a cloth or tissue.
- Then gently place that tissue on the outer edge of your eye where the essential oil is killing you.
- Just like that, it'll attach to the tissue and you can breathe a sigh of relief.
Remember essential oils are lipophilic and using water to flush out an essential oil would be a needlessly long process that may not prove fruitful.
3. Use caution during pregnancy and breastfeeding.I think it's best to use a well-balanced approach to oils during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Please don't stop using your EOs or be afraid of them during this time. Just get to know your oils and use them conservatively (dilute for skin applications, don't go over the recommended number of drops in your diffuser, don't ingest them) and you will be fine.
Specific oils to avoid during pregnancy include...
- Aniseed (Pimpinella anisum)
- Basil ct. estragole (Ocimum basilicum)
- Birch (Betula lenta)
- Camphor or Ravintsara (Cinnamomum camphora)
- Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)
- Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)
- Parsley seed or leaf (Petroselinum sativum)
- Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)
- Sage (Salvia officinalis)
- Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)
- Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus)
- Thuja (Thuja occidentalis)
- Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)
- Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium)
This list is from NAHA's information on essential oils and pregnancy. I think it's important to note that a few of these essential oils are rare because they have some alarming safety concerns only when misused. So it's not likely that a casual essential oil user (or a careful one) would own half of these oils or ever use them incorrectly. Only the oils in bold above are sold by Young Living.
For women who are breastfeeding, the list above applies. Also, add peppermint and jasmine to that list. Peppermint slowed down my milk supply until I stopped using it after discovering the fact that it affects milk production.
4. Use caution with babies and young children.As a new mom, I abandoned my oils completely. I didn't know much about essential oils, and what I did know concerned me just enough to avoid them altogether. I waited until my son was two before I really delved in to using essential oils! So, I recommend a balanced approach. A few quick pointers include:
- Dilute essential oils if applying to your child's skin (0.5-1% dilution is enough for a child)
- Only use gentle oils that are regarded as safe...some examples:
lavender, sweet orange, frankincense, roman chamomile, Gentle Baby
- Never, ever give EOs of any kind by mouth to your baby or child
- Introduce oils slowly to your child or baby; wear them (diluted) on yourself first as you hold your baby near, or diffuse a small amount for 15 minutes.
This topic merits roughly a billion different blog posts, but I've started with an overview on using essential oils with your baby. This is a topic very close to my heart, since my children's health is what spurred me on in this field, and I think trustworthy information online is more difficult to find than it should be. Too many sites are spreading unnecessary fear, or just the opposite, encouraging unsafe use of oils.
5. Keep EOs out of reach of children.It's easy to leave oils around where young ones can get to them, so keep mental tabs on your oils and store them in a high place! While the fridge is a fantastic place to store your EOs, putting them there could pose a bit of a risk for little ones who may mistake them for food or drink. If you store them in the fridge, the top shelf behind other foods is best. Anytime you're working with EOs around kids, mention that they aren't for drinking.
6. Be careful with phototoxic oils.Many citrus oils are phototoxic and can cause extreme irritation or a severe sunburn-like reaction on the skin when exposed to sunlight or a tanning booth. Phototoxic oils include:
- Angelica root (Angelica archangelica)
- Bergamot (Citrus bergamia)
- Cumin (Cuminum cyminum)
- Distilled or expressed grapefruit (low risk) (Citrus paradisi)
- Expressed lemon (Citrus limon)
- Expressed lime (Citrus medica)
- Orange, bitter (expressed) (Citrus aurantium)
- Rue (Ruta graveolens)
It's ok to use these oils in soaps, shampoos, or any product that is for cleansing and gets rinsed away. A reaction with the sun can occur if these oils are used in products that are worn on the skin, such as lotions, balms, or applied neat. If you've used a phototoxic oil on your skin, stay out of the sun or tanning booth (Um, personally I'd recommend never ever visiting a tanning booth!) for at least twenty-four hours.
Not all citrus oils are phototoxic. You are sun safe with distilled lemon, distilled lime, sweet orange (Citrus sinensis), and tangerine/mandarin (Citrus reticulata).
7. Don't use near flames.Essential oils are highly flammable substances and should be kept away from direct contact with flames, such as candles, fire, matches, cigarettes, and gas cookers. You may have heard of adding oils to your firewood, and this is acceptable if the oil is added to the logs, and allowed to soak in and dry before adding to the fire.
8. Educate yourself.The best thing you can do to safely use essential oils is to simply get acquainted with them. When you're first starting out, choose a few oils that are well known for their gentleness. The EOs that come in the premium starter kit are perfect! Buy an essential oil reference book and learn about a handful of oils. Then, start using those few EOs in practical ways.
Diffusing a few drops is an excellent way to get acquainted with your oils. Of course, applying EOs to soothe your skin (like adding lavender to a natural, unscented lotion) is another great idea. Begin slowly and conservatively, using small amounts as your body gets used to these potent gifts from God. Don't go overboard, but don't be afraid to USE your wonderful oils either!
RESOURCESNational Association for Holistic Aromatherapy Safety Information
Aromatherapy & Pregnancy, Jolene Meum, MBA, The School for Aromatic Studies blog