A “Cheat Sheet” for Using Essential Oils Safely
Essential oils are very concentrated substances and are not without risk regardless of quality. Example: when used internally, Eucalyptus is deadly even in small amounts, as is Wintergreen.
Properly diluting essential oils provides a measure of safety against topical irritation, sensitivity, photosensitivity, and sensitization.
Carrier oils can enhance therapeutic action of essential oils, yet have a limited shelf life. Don’t pre-mix large batches where the carrier oil will go bad before you use it up.
Topical application is not ideal for every situation. Inhalation is under-rated and very effective.
Pregnant women need to be especially careful when using essential oils, as some oils are never okay to use during pregnancy.
Children are especially vulnerable to the strength of essential oils and much care should be given as consequences can be harsh. Treat essential oils like you would any other powerful medicine and keep them out of the reach of children.
Casual, daily, “preventative” internal use of oils, although popular, is over-rated and not recommended, as you are putting yourself at greater risk for negative reactions the more you consume. Burns, scars, ulcers, liver failure, and cancer, are some of the effects of long-term internal use.
Ingestion of essential oils has its place, but must be approached cautiously and under the guidance of a trained aromatherapist. Essential oil company reps are trained in sales, not aromatherapy.
Never add essential oils to water. If you need to use essential oils internally, add 1 drop of approved essential oil along with some fat or other oil, and put in a capsule. This prevents mucous membrane damage that can occur when undiluted oils, floating on the top of your water, hit your insides.
Essential oils bearing the names of familiar herbs can appear deceptively safe. In reality, these are some of the most dangerous essential oils you can use. Herbs and their essential oil counterparts do not have the same therapeutic properties and safety considerations. Just because you can liberally add Basil (the herb) to your spaghetti sauce for decades with no ill effect, does not mean you can ingest Basil essential oil long-term without ill effect. Know your essential oil.
“Therapeutic grade” is a marketing term which has no actual certification value. The fact is all essential oils are, by definition, “therapeutic.”
Internal use is safe based on the oil itself, not the “quality” of the brand. It is not prudent to make a blanket statement of “X company’s oils are all safe for internal use.” Actually, internal use safety is contingent on the essential oil. You can have an excellent-quality Eucalyptus, which can kill you if too much is consumed. You could say high quality = more potency = more risk for negative effects. Lower potency = less risk for negative effects.
Including the words “supplement facts” or “nutritional data” is not a clue they are safe to consume. Again, it’s all about the essential oil.
Labels indicating “certification” are certified by their own company only, and not a governing body outside of the company. Anyone can certify their own products.
Since everything we apply to our skin has the potential to be absorbed, we want to be sure we have a quality essential oil free of pesticides, contaminants, synthetic constituents, or other adulterations. There are many essential oil companies which provide quality oils – not just 2%.
There is no one, single, company that has the market cornered on quality. Many companies provide high quality essential oils. These are indicated by the education and information they provide on their website, along with their products. They want you to learn how to use them safely. Clues they care about safe use of essential oils are: clearly noting the Latin name, chemotype (if applicable), country of origin, plant part used, and method of extraction. Reputable companies know the importance of providing this information. Latin name will indicate species – some of which are to be avoided if you are pregnant, and some simply have different therapeutic properties. Same with chemotype – different therapeutic properties are indicated. Country of origin can also indicate quality. Plant part used is important, as some are better than others (Cinnamon Bark and Cinnamon Leaf have different safety precautions). Method of extraction is important, as cold-pressed Lemon is phototoxic, where steam distilled Lemon is not.
Remember, there are limited distillers, yet hundreds of websites selling essential oils. Most of them are coming from the same places and they will virtually all be effective. Companies that care about quality will run their own GC/MS tests, rejecting batches that are shown to be poor quality. They will continue to purchase from quality sources, not going by lowest price, which can be indicated in a more expensive end product (but not always!).
Excerpt taken from the e-report, Using Essential Oils Safely. FREE when you sign up for our newsletter here.
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|Lea Harris is a Certified Aromatherapist with Advanced Graduate training from Aromahead Institute in July 2013, but she is not a doctor. Please consult a trained aromatherapist or your doctor before using any of the suggestions on this website, as the user's age and health conditions must be taken into account before using. The information contained in this website is for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice.|
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