There’s a lot of talk about essential oils in the health world. And with good reason. Pure essential oils are highly concentrated plant extracts. Certain oils can have healing properties for skin, while others offer mood-boosting benefits when used for aromatherapy. But using essential oils should be done carefully, as you can over do it. And it should be noted that not all oils are created equal. Here is a simple beginner’s guide for essential oil safety.
Before we begin, keep in mind the following:
This is a beginners guide. It’s also a “better safe than sorry” approach to essential oils since I don’t know what brand you are using or for what purposes. Once you are more familiar with essential oils there is a whole world to discover.
Essential Oils Safety
Essential oils have been used for a long time. Many provide medicinal-like qualities. They are a much better option than synthetic fragrances. But it’s important to remember that these oils are powerful and potent. The most common oils are also many of the safest to use, which is great if you are new to essential oils. Nonetheless, here are a few guidelines to keep in mind as you use these oils in your products:
- Never take essential oils internally unless so advised by your medical practitioner.
- Keep essential oils out of the reach of children.
- Always dilute essential oils with a suitable carrier oil before applying it to the skin.
- If you are pregnant, lactating or suffer from epilepsy, hypertension (high blood pressure), have cancer or liver damage, or any other medical condition, only use essential oils under guidance of a qualified aroma practitioner/aroma therapist.
- Use essential oils with great care on children.
- Take care not to get any essential oils into your eyes or on to any mucus membranes.
- Always wash your hands after handling pure undiluted essential oils.
- Check for any interaction between medication and essential oils, since some essential oils can interfere with certain prescription medication.
- When using essential oils that cause sun sensitivity (like most citrus oils) people should take care to avoid exposure to the sun.
- People with sensitive skin should always perform a skin patch test before using untried essential oils.
When I first got interested in essential oils it was mostly for external uses in my cleaning supplies (and sparingly in my diy beauty products). Essential oils can be a lot of fun to experiment with and definitely add something to the mixture, but remember, a little goes a long way.
Essential Oil Safety and Pregnancy
Experts recommend not using essential oils at all during the first trimester. Essential oils could cause uterine contractions or adversely affect your baby in their early developmental stages. In the second and third trimesters, some essential oils are safe to use.
Again, this chart is for those very unfamiliar with essential oils. Under the care of a skilled practitioner there may be exceptions that are safe for pregnancy. I know that my midwife utilizes essential oils to help with various pregnancy issues, but unless you are certain it’s best to follow the safest guidelines.
Essential Oils Safe for Pregnancy
(2nd and 3rd trimesters only)
- Roman Chamomile
- Rose Otto
- Sweet Orange
- Tea Tree
- Ylang Ylang
Essential Oils to be Avoided During Pregnancy
- Black Pepper
- Boldo Leaf
- Clary Sage
- Jaborandi Leaf
- Mustard Myrrh
- Parsley Seed
- Stinging Nettle
- Tansy Thuja
- Thyme (Red & Linalol)
Essential Oil Satefy While Nursing
The following oils should be avoided when breastfeeding: Mint, Parsley, Sage, and Jasmine.
Essential Oil Safety for Babies and Children
There is lots of conflicting information about essential oils that are safe for use with babies and children. The following are a list of essential oils that are safe for babies (diluted and used properly):
- From birth to 2 months: Chamomile (both German and Roman), Lavender, Yarrow and Dill are considered safe.
- From 2 months to 6 months old: Adding to those already listed, you can also include Coriander, Neroli and Mandarin essential oils.
- From 6 – 12 months old: Gradually add Grapefruit, Aniseed, Tea Tree and Calendula essential oils.
Do not ever use eucalyptus or wintergreen on any child under 2 years of age. They can be lethal.
In Shirley Price’s book, Aromatherapy for Babies and Children, she mentions 19 oils that are safe for older children. These oils are:
- Chamomile, Roman
- Tea Tree
- Rose Otto
- Ylang Ylang
*These oils are photosensitive; always dilute. To prevent a rash or pigmentation of the skin, do not use citrus oils when exposed to direct sunlight.
**These oils should never be used undiluted on babies and children
A final reminder
The information available on essential oil safety is varied, at best. Don’t be surprised if you find some discrepancies between what’s safe and what’s not. Again, since I don’t know you, your oils, or your circumstances this is a pretty conservative guide… but I always rather be safe than sorry.
Ready to have some fun with essential oils?
Be sure to check out my diy natural cleaning and beauty products for lots of recipes that use essential oils. Or, check out my ebook Toxic Free for your complete guide to turning your home into a safe environment. Learn more here.