Essential Oils – Use & Safety

I realized after reading this and this that a lot of people diving into the world of essential oils are doing so without all the information (or with a lot of incorrect information). When I read these articles I was so deeply saddened for these families. It is so important to remember that, like with everything else, there is a safe way to use essential oils.

safe-essential-oil-use

Essential oils are a concentrated substance

Here are a few examples of how concentrated essential oils are (remember, this will vary from plant to plant and batch to batch).

It takes 75 lemons to make 15mL of essential oil.
It takes 5000 tons of rose petals to make 1lb of essential oil.
It takes 27 sq. ft. of lavender plants to make 15 mL of essential oil.

Essential oils are approximately 75-100 times stronger than their dried herb counterparts. So it is incredibly important to remember this when using them.

Even if you don’t have sensitive skin you could have a reaction to essential oils.

There are a handful of oils that are considered safe to use undiluted (without mixing into a carrier oil). The first to come to mind for any essential oil user is lavender. However, there is still the possibility that you could have a bad reaction to its use – a rash could form, or it could cause itching. Before attempting to use essential oils undiluted on the skin you should always do a patch test. I also suggest mixing the essential oil in a carrier oil before doing the patch test. It’s much easier to use more drops of oil. You can’t take away oil you’ve already put onto your skin.

Ingesting essential oils should be considered very carefully.

Some essential oil companies suggest the use of essential oils internally. Some put a caution on their oil bottles that ingestion should be avoided. The thing to note about the ingestion of essential oils is that some are ok to use orally and some are not.

For example, you can use 1-2 drops of lemon essential oil in an 8oz glass of water. You could also make peppermint tea using a couple drops of peppermint essential oil.*

My personal standpoint on the ingestion of essential oils is that you should consult a professional before doing so. Because they are so concentrated they could cause damage to your internal organs or mucus membranes. Better to be safe and not ingest them.

Essential oils for babies, children, and elderly

Let me start this section by saying that there are lots of oils that would not be safe to use on babies, children, and the elderly. Their systems are not always working at 100% so they are not able to break down all the components of the essential oil. Essential oil use for infants is a disputed topic among essential oils users – some are ok using it, some avoid it. And for the elderly, especially if they are taking prescription medication, they should consult their physicians to be sure the essential oils will not counteract the medications they are currently taking.

I, personally, am ok using essential oils on Roly Poly. Before I do, however, I research each particular oil extensively to see what the components are, what systems they affect, and what actions to expect when using the oil. I also make sure to use an appropriately diluted blend for her body weight (see bottom of post).

Something else that is important to know when using essential oils on infants, children, and elderly, is that consistent, daily use will create a possibly unhealthy buildup in the system. It is suggested that essential oils only be used when absolutely necessary instead of as a daily preventative measure.

Be aware of “hot” essential oils

There are a handful of essential oils that are considered “hot”. This doesn’t necessarily mean they create heat when using them. Mostly this term is used to classify oils that are of the highest concentrations. Some oils considered “hot” are wintergreen, oregano, thyme, clove, cinnamon, peppermint, and lemongrass. This list is not all inclusive. It is important to note that some experts suggest not using some of these “hot” oils at all (wintergreen especially). Just like I have suggested earlierĀ in this post, do your research before using the oil and do a patch test using a very diluted blend to see how your skin will react.

When in doubt, DILUTE!

Some essential oils may be used neat (without mixing with a carrier oil). However, especially when you are first learning about them and first using them my suggestion is that you use them diluted to see how your body will react to them. You could find an oil that you have skin sensitivities to, so you will be very glad to have used it diluted instead of neat. You may find, however, that the dilution you prepared is not strong enough to take care of what you need. In this case it is easy to add a drop or two at a time until you figure out the best dilution (or if you can use it neat) for yourself. It’s always easier to add more than to take away.

When you start to use essential oils it is best to create a single oil blend with a carrier oil and do a patch test on less sensitive skin (e.g., bottom of the feet). This means:

6 drops of a single essential oil mixed in 1 oz of carrier oil (this is a 1% dilution)

You could also use a smaller dilution percentage if you think it would be safer for you to use. You know your body.

dilutions

[Sorry it’s not super fancy but these are the handy charts I use when trying to figure out the best dilution percentages for my blends.]

Using essential oils is a great way to limit the amount of synthetic medications you and your family are using. Though they are natural, you should still be aware of the risks of using them. If I had to pick three things to emphasize when you are starting to use essential oils they would be:

  1. RESEARCH! RESEARCH! RESEARCH!
  2. Dilute
  3. Do a patch test

I know the research part can seem daunting, especially with so much information out there, but it really is an important part of using anything. Start with just one or two oils and look into how they work, what they do, and how you can use them. Doing this will help keep things from getting overwhelming.

That’s a lot of information. Any questions? I’m happy to answer what I can or point you in the direction of someone more knowledgeable (or a great book on essential oils).

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