Essential oils are very strong. So a bit of caution is needed.
People just learning about essential oils often use them too liberally. That’s exactly what I did. These aromatic oils smelled so wonderful. Plus, they were all natural. What harm could possibly come from putting them directly on my skin?
However, I was making a typical newbie mistake. This could have turned out to be counterproductive, and, potentially, even dangerous. (I’ll also discuss two other common mistakes.)
Essential Oil Safety Tips
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Professional aromatherapists caution against overdoing it with these highly concentrated plant extracts, and with very good reason. Did you know that one drop of peppermint essential oil is the equivalent of many cups of the same herb prepared in a tea?
One online doctor wrote that one drop of peppermint oil has the same medicinal properties as 15 to 40 cups of peppermint tea. I’ve heard another, even higher estimate, of 40 to 70 cups. In any event, aromatic oils are very potent.
This is why you need to use essential oils sparingly, and why one bottle will last a long time.
Essential Oils Uses Precautions
Those who work with these oils warn us not to assume an oil has the same properties, or action, as the medicinal plant itself. Also, because these oils are so strong, it’s possible to have physical reactions, such as a headache or nausea, if you use them in excess.
Applying the same oil too many times, without a break, can apparently result in sensitivity, or even an allergic reaction. Extremely sensitive people may have problems at the outset. That’s why a 24-hour test patch is often recommended, when you’re using a new oil. This is done by putting a diluted aromatic oil on a small patch of skin on the inside of your arm.
Despite suggestions on the Internet, that essential oils are safe to ingest, many aromatherapists are aghast at this practice. Others insist this should only be done under the direction of a professional aromatherapist. Because of the controversy, and the potential for harm, I’m going to have to say don’t do it.
However, used the right way, essential oils are considered safe. Like all good things, moderation is the key. When working with essential oils, always remember that less is usually more. If in doubt, err on the side of caution.
Also, if you plan to use aromatherapy on children under the age of 10, choose a formula made for children. Plant Therapy (one of my favorite companies) has an extensive line of KidSafe essential oils.
Please remember that I’m not a professional aromatherapist. I’m simply passing along information that I’ve learned from research and first-hand experience.
It’s typically the beginners who go crazy with essential oils. The advanced practitioners know that just a little bit is needed. It’s likely they’ve either experienced, witnessed or heard about an incident where essential oils have caused a bad reaction. So they know when to apply the brakes.
Essential Oils Safety Guide
The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy has published a list of guidelines for essential oil users. This body, on its website, points out the potential safety risks if oils are used incorrectly.
As a beginner, who had just discovered how wonderful essential oils are, I also started taking some of them internally, following bad advice on the Internet. Now that I know more about aromatics, I’ve stopped doing this.
This was another mistake I made, along with using them too liberally and not diluting them when I put them on mu skin. Fortunately, nothing terrible happened. But I did make each of these three common essential oil mistakes.
If you’d like to learn more about correct use of essential oils, here is an excellent resource co-authored by Robert Tisserand, one of the foremost experts on aromatherapy safety.
Applying Essential Oils to the Skin
As someone with olive skin that’s not too sensitive, I was able to get away with applying some essential oils undiluted, or “neat.” However, I now realize I was pushing my luck. Even though I didn’t develop any obvious problems, it’s possible I could sensitize myself to a particular oil if I do this too often. Also, there’s always the first time for a reaction.
Since these oils are so highly concentrated, it’s recommended that they are first diluted in a neutral carrier oil before applying them. Some of the carrier oils themselves have potential benefits. Fractionated coconut oil is very popular because it’s not too greasy. Or, grape seed oil is often used to help smooth the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. So the carrier oil itself may add a little punch to your beauty regimen, especially if you use an essential oil, such as geranium or carrot seed, also noted for their ability to help mature skin.
Be particularly careful about not using essential oils in and around your eyes. There have been reported cases of severe injuries from some of the more irritating oils. Also, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly before touching your eye area.
Learning from my previous mistakes, I put my aromatic oils in a carrier oil before putting them on my skin. If you don’t own any carrier oils, here is a great collection of four different carrier oils.
Carrier oils provide a safe buffer between your skin and the strong aromatic. Also, as their name implies, they help carry the medicinal compounds into your body.
Allergic Reactions to Essential Oils
Lately, as I use essential oils every day, and often have a diffuser running, I’ve begun to switch my oils around. If I use the same oil too much, I seem to build up a resistance to its healing benefits. Also, many aromatherapists believe that rotating your oils reduces the chances of developing an allergic reaction to these plant-based compounds.
Beginners, however, probably need a few very versatile oils, such as peppermint, frankincense or lavender. However, as you learn more about oils and how to use them, you might want to think about expanding your collection.
Having more than a few oils allows you to use them for awhile, and then put them aside. I typically use essential oils to help me fall asleep. But I’ve found that if I use the same oil too many times in a row, it doesn’t have the same effect.
Below is a set of essential oils from Plant Therapy, one of my favorite companies. This company has been a leading voice in essential oil safety. All of its oils are thoroughly tested for purity and potency.
These statements have not been approved by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Women who are nursing or pregnant should not use essential oils unless directed to do so by a healthcare professional.