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Essential Oil Safety Information

There are many ways in which you can use essential oils, however, to use them effectively, you need to understand the properties of the oils, recommended dilutions and the various methods of application. You should also be familiar with the different carrier oils, their shelf lives and their effects on different skin types. Always keep good notes on blends that you make so that you can replicate something if needed. Your notes should include ingredients and proportions, the date you prepared the blend, comments, and improvements to be made next time. Label finished products with the date the product was made, ingredients and instructions for use.

Because essential oils are concentrated, highly potent substances, you must know how to work with them safely. The potential hazards of an essential oil depend on the compounds in the oil, the dosage and frequency used, and the method of application. Some can cause skin irritations, some can raise or lower blood pressue and some have strong sedative properties. In rare circumstances, some are said to even cause abortions. As such, it is important to become familiar with the oils you intend to use. Here are a few guidelines to help ensure safe and effective use of essential oils:

  • Use only pure essential oils. Buy your oils from a trustworthy source and beware of cheap essential oils. Prices of essential oils vary greatly and are subject to fluctuation and few are inexpensive.

  • Most essential oils should not be used undiluted (neat) on the skin. They can cause burning, skin irritation and photosensitivity. You can test new oils by diluting them with a carrier oil and massaging it into the soles of your feet. Oils will usually not irritate the thicker skin. If you do have a reaction then it is probably an allergy to the oil and you should not try to use it on your skin.

  • Some of the citrus oils greatly increase photosensitivity to the sun. Bergamot contains bergaptene, a powerful photosensitizer that wil cause allergic reactions in some individuals. (Bergaptene-free oil is available.) Of the citrus oils, bergamot is the most photosensitizing. If you are using photosensitizing oils on your skin, use them at night, stay indoors, or wait at least four hours before going out during the day.

  • Keep all essential oils away from the eyes. Some are irritating to mucous membranes and should be used with caution.

  • Keep all essential oils out of the reach of young children. Older children can learn to use essential oils safely, but they should nevertheless be supervised. In general, when treating children with essential oils, use one-third to one-half the adult dosage and select only non-toxic oils. The oils generally used for children are lavender, roman chamomile, mandarin, tangerine, neroli, frankincense, petitgrain, yarrow, eucalyptus and tea tree.

  • Vary the essential oils you use. While it is alright to use a small amount of a blend such as a facial oil blend for a long period of time, it is not recommended that you use an application of the same blend of oils over your entire body for more than two weeks at a time. Alternate with a blend of different oils containing different chemical constituents at least every two weeks. Give your body a chance to rid itself of the constituents of a particular oil or oils.

  • Although some very experienced aromatherapists can safely prescribe the oral use of essential oils, you should never do this without a thorough education in essential oil usage. Again, keep essential oils away from the reach of children.

  • Essential oils must be used cautiously with the elderly and those who have serious health problems such as asthma, epilepsy or heart disease. Be aware of how the oils you use can affect these conditions.

  • Use extra caution when using essential oils during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester. Stick to the very safe oils such as rose, neroli, lavender, ylang-ylang, chamomile, the citruses, geranium, sandlewood, spearmint and frankincense.

  • Too much of anything is not good. Keep in mind that 1 ounce of essential oil is the equivalent of several pounds of the actual plant material. If you've been overexposed to an essential oil, either through the skin or through inhalation, you may experience nausea, headache, skin irritation and/or other symptoms. If this happens, get some fresh air. If you ever experience skin irritation or accidently get essential oils in the eyes, dilute with straight vegetable oil, not water as water will cause further absorption.

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