Essential Oils 101: Beginners’ essential oil safety guide

Essential Oils 101: Beginners’ essential oil safety guide

Please note: This guide was written for the intent of keeping people as safe as possible. There are HUGE differences between therapeutic grade oils and cheap oils… but since I don’t know what kind you are using I’ve written this guide to ensure safety first. Again, if you are skilled with oils and/or are working with a brand and expert that you trust, know that there are a LOT more options available in how you use essential oils than what is offered in this very simplistic guide.  (Learn how to get my favorite essential oils at wholesale prices here.)

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

Essential oils 101: Begginners' essential oil safety guide.

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)

  • Begamot
  • Roman Chamomile
  • Eucalptus
  • Geranium
  • Ginger
  • Grapefruit
  • Lavendar
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Mandarin
  • Neroli
  • Patchouli
  • Petitgrain
  • Rose Otto
  • Rosewood
  • Sandalwood
  • Sweet Orange
  • Tea Tree
  • Ylang Ylang

Essential Oils to be Avoided During Pregnancy

  • Almond
  • Aniseed
  • Angelica
  • Basil
  • Birch
  • Black Pepper
  • Boldo Leaf
  • Bucho
  • Calamus
  • Camphor
  • Cassia
  • Cedarwood
  • Chamomille
  • Cinnamon
  • Clary Sage
  • Clove
  • Elecampane
  • Fennel
  • Fir
  • Ginger
  • Horseradish
  • Hyssop
  • Jaborandi Leaf
  • Jasmine
  • Juniper
  • Lemongrass
  • Margoram
  • Melissa
  • Mugwort
  • Mustard Myrrh
  • Nightshdade
  • Oregano
  • Parsley Seed
  • Pennyroyal
  • Peppermint
  • Pine
  • Rose
  • Rosemary
  • Rue
  • Sage
  • Sassafras
  • Savin
  • Savory
  • Southernwood
  • Stinging Nettle
  • Tansy Thuja
  • Thyme (Red & Linalol)
  • Wintergreen
  • Wormseed
  • Wormwood

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

Essential oils 101: Begginners' essential oil safety guide.

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:

  • Bergamot*
  • Cedarwood**
  • Chamomile, Roman
  • Cypress
  • Frankincense
  • Geranium
  • Ginger
  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Mandarin
  • Marjoram
  • Tea Tree
  • Orange
  • Rose Otto
  • Rosemary
  • Rosewood
  • Sandalwood
  • Thyme
  • 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?

toxic-free-tablet

 

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.

NOTE: Due to an never-ending cesspool of spam, I have made the tough decision to close comments 14 days after the original posting of all posts. If you have a burning question or are looking for support in your journey to healthy living, please join the Thank Your Body Friends facebook page here.


STANDARD FTC DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Please note, I only ever endorse products that are in alignment with Thank Your Body's ideals and I believe would be of value to my readers. You may read my full disclosure statements here.

About the author

Hi! I'm and I’m passionate about healthy living: feeling nourished, having energy, getting good sleep, and feeling strong. I believe healthy living does not have to be complicated or stressful. I’m a Registered Somatic Movement Therapist (RSMT) and a Certified Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analyst (CLMA). I’m also an avid researcher and love to read about nutrition, the body, and toxic-free living. Learn more.

View all articles by Robin Konie

35 comments

  1. Lexie M

    It looks like lemongrass made both the ‘safe in 2nd & 3rd tri’ and the ‘unsafe when pregnant’ lists…not trying to be a pest, but I do use lemongrass sometimes and so am curious which it is? Thank you for this information!!


    1. Post author
      Robin Konie

      Good eye! Must be a typo that I’ll go fix. Lemongrass is generally on the “avoid” list for pregnancy. Again, depending on the quality of oil, how it’s used, etc. it might be okay, but I would use it without consulting a practitioner first.

  2. Julie Mosey

    Never use water to remover oils! Use a carrier oil as water will spread oil not remove it. I use coconut oil and then wash the area. If there is no relief – repeat. Also, READ LABELS. Therapeutic grade essentials oils (like Young Living Oils) can be consumed as they are pure with no synthetic fillers. You don’t want to use anything less as those “fillers” can be toxic.

    1. Bethany Nash

      “Therapeutic grade” is a designation created by essential oil companies. While it’s not necessarily useless, there is no outside agency determining the definition of the phrase, or monitoring standards. Despite the fact that I believe Young Living and similar oils to be of high quality, I do not agree with flippancy of internal use just because the company says they are “therapeutic grade.”

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  4. Blessings!

    Thank you for sharing this. I am very new to using essential oils and have used them in my mop water (vinagar, water, essential oils) and only have a few options on hand. I read about them before getting them at the local FredMeyers all natural section. My newest addition is Eucalyptus as we like to use vics vapor in the rooms when cold and flu season is on and we are all stuffed up. We have found it to be helpful to breath. I have rescently used your body spritz mixture with this in it thinking it would be good to have but am not posative. The other one I really like is Lavandar or Pepermint. Thank you again for shraing this list of collaborated safe and user friendly options. Sincerely, Mommy of two growing blessings & so much more!

  5. Tami O

    I use dōTERRA brand, eucalyptus essential oils on my (then) 21 mo. old son (now) 24 mo’s, both topically and aromatically with a diffuser. You mentioned it could be lethal to children under 2yrs. How so? In what way/s? Thanks!


    1. Post author
      Robin Konie

      I’ve read in several places (including the book I linked to) that they are not safe for small children. Again, these oils are very potent. But, like I mention, not all oil are created equal. If you’ve been advised by a professional with the right kind of oils (doTERRA are really great), then I wouldn’t stress. I’d also assume that it generally is more for internal or direct application. I’d think you’re probably find using a diffuser… but I am not an expert so I would err on the side of caution and seek out one, just in case. :)

  6. 1gbma

    I disagree with a lot of your findings. Just my personal opinion from my personal experience (I’m now carrying our 4th child) I’d consult with a herbalist or your midwife…like I do.


    1. Post author
      Robin Konie

      What do you disagree with, exactly? As I mentioned a couple of times in the post this is a truly FOR BEGINNERS guide… for the people who order essential oils online and have never used them or worked with a professional. I’d always use caution in this instance as, depending on the oils you get, they can be dangerous. However, as I said, if you are working with someone who knows what they are doing AND who knows the quality of oils they are using that there will be many exceptions to what I’ve listed here. This is the “better safe than sorry” for those just getting into essential oils.

  7. Tami O

    I understand you are saying some are not safe for babies under 2yrs (i.e. eucalyptus), but you used the word ‘lethal’ and after responding to my question, you still haven’t defined the term with examples of illness or symptoms. I think it makes your findings less than credible if you don’t back up your statement w/ a clear answer. You’re sort of dancing around your answers. You should err on the side of informative instead of vague. You are not doing a service for beginner’s in the essential oils game, only giving them misdirection.


    1. Post author
      Robin Konie

      Sorry, Tami. I’m really not trying to dance around the subject… I’m just using the language in the book that I have referred to.

    2. Tiffany Mladinich

      Eucalyptus often gets included in toxic oils because it is lethal at certain amounts if ingested. It is also quite strong, but diluted at no more than 1% can be a wonderful respiratory relief for children.

  8. Audrey

    What about Thieves oil. We use YL brand in the kiddos tooth paste of coconut oil and baking soda. They haven’t gotten sick since we started to use it. I just know it is a great anti-bacteria. I am expecting and have used it for headaches in the roof of my mouth as well. :/ When you say not to touch mucus membranes, what about tea tree oil applied to yeast infection? Seems to really help with itching, but now I’m not sure….thanks, Robin!


    1. Post author
      Robin Konie

      YL brand is pretty trustworthy. You’re probably fine, but may want to just touch base with one of their “experts.” :)

  9. amanda

    Great beginners guide…..thanks. I was wondering if you have a suggestion for a trusted source? I know all essential oils aren’t created equal. I have dabbled with cleaning supplies and laundry soap…but would like to try some skincare products as well.


    1. Post author
      Robin Konie

      Are you asking for a brand? I personally love doTerra and feel confident using them both externally and internally.

  10. Sarah Warner

    My mom uses Essential oils for EVERYTHING! we use Young Living Essential oils. We have learned a lot about them since using them. we learn that if it is not safe to ingest you shouldn’t be using it in your home. some oil companies are false advertising. the companies can put “preservatives” in the oil up to a certain percent and SAY it is 100% oil. so be careful of what you buy. The oils are so healing and i wish more people used them. Thank you for the extra info on them and i hope i am telling you stuff you don’t already know ;)

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  13. Carrie

    Wow this information is so helpful as I am new to the essential oils. I recently placed Thieves on the bottom of my 2.5 yr feet she had a cold. I will dilute next time. I also put eucalyptus on my finger and rubbed on my 5 month old twins nose and chest. I won’t do that again!

  14. Marge Clark

    Re the lemongrass, it, and any other oils high in citral have been shown to interfere with the developement of teeth and bones, this is the reason to avoid during pregnancy and lactation. Also please be aware that most guidelines iisting oils ‘safe to use’ during pregnance or with infants assume “normal aromatherapy usage”…ie, dilution down to 1 or 2%, not the neat or internal usage that your chosen supplier irresponsiby recommends. For excellent unbiased recommendatios you might look at the books regarding use of the aromatherapy with infants and children by Shirley Price or Valerie Worwood. Also, Eucalyptus globulous, near the face, can cause a “glotteal spasm’ in a child under two… which will make them unable to breathe… so, Carrie, the oil that you used on their noses to help them breathe could have totally stopped their breathing. PLEASE if you are going to use the oils on babies educate yourself with material NOT from a company that wants you to buy their oils. Colleen K. Dodt’s Natural Baby care is a good one, as well. http://www.naturesgift.com/booklist.htm#Natural Baby Care

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  16. Michelle

    Robin,
    I have noticed that Young Living and doTerra are the main sources for yours and a lot of other people’s ingredients. But I have found that Bulk Apothecary, Which is NOT an MLM, is a much less expensive and just as good a quality. Have you talked to any other people who have found any problems with, any of their products?
    BTW: doTerra is a company that was established by a angry YL employee who stole the “recipe” for all of YL’s products and created their own product in another MLM group. Funny thing is I have tested the same EO’s of each company and there is a major difference in scents and in some cases quality. both good and bad in both companies. Just a matter of testing and opinion of course, but the knowledge needs to be out there.


    1. Post author
      Robin Konie

      I totally agree, Michelle. I like both doTerra and YL, but I have used other brands that I think are just as good. You can definitely find quality oils that are cheaper, but you have to do some research. :)

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