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Essential oil safety

Posted on 29 August 2017


Essential oil safety


For me aromatherapy is firstly and most importantly about the scent. I am fascinated about the psychological benefits of aroma and how they can trigger emotions and memories. I love creating natural fragrances and they bring me a lot of joy. Essential oils may also have many physiological benefits (antibacterial, antiseptic) and I love learning about them. If you can combine the two that is the perfect combination. It is worth noting that aromatherapy is fairly new form of therapy and there isn’t many studies (especially clinical) about the benefits or safety of essential oils. I certainly would not claim they can cure any serious illnesses, but I would say the may help with the recovery from psychological point of view.  In  this article I write about general advice on essential oils based on my readings and experiences. I have also included a few interesting links for you to check out. 




General advice

Firstly I would recommend that you always read about the essential oil you are interested in before purchase. There are so many oils now in the market as aromatherapy is getting more popular. What plant and what part of the plant is it made of, what method has been used and general safety of the oil. Have a healthy respect for the oils as they are highly concentrated plant materials and all are toxic when used in high quantities

Like with any products, It is possible to get irritation or allergic reaction to essential oils or even experience anaphylaxis. Sometimes there is no specific reason why this happens, your body just reacts to the product. It can also happen when using very small amounts or very low dilution. It may be that if this happens you will never be able to use the same oil again and you may even have to avoid all essential oils. Most commonly this happens when you use essential oils undiluted directly on skin. So it is good to bare that in mind and if you are not a qualified aromatherapist I would recommend following general safety guidance and avoid use of essential oils undiluted.  


Buying your essential oils

Make sure you purchase your oils from reputable retailers and avoid eBay, Amazon or other market places. If you are in doubt, ask the seller to confirm the oils are natural and not synthetic or commercial blends before purchase. Make sure to check the latin name to make sure you are buying the correct oil. Sometimes the oils can have the same commercial name, but are made from different plant. Ideally the essential oils should be in dark bottles (amber/ green/ blue) and provided with a dropper.



Using essential oils

Essential oils are popular in skincare and facial care products. They are also commonly used in bath products and candles, room fragrances and diffusers. Unfortunately the modern nose is used to the strong synthetic fragrances and essential oil scents may not feel strong enough so quite often, especially at the beginning, some people tend to use high quantities. The more you use essential oils, the more sensitive your sense of smell gets and less of essential oils you need. I love the idea of a subtle aromatherapy, where you only use a drop or two. 

You can add essential oils to unfragranced body product base or body or facial oils. You can roughly calculate your dilution % to safe level.  20-40 drops equals to 1ml of essential oil depending of the consistency of the oil. Safe recommended  % on body products would be max of 3% and on facial products max 1.5%. You can see the full recommended chart by Tisserand here

You can also use essential oils in your bath products, but note that the oils are not water soluble and should never be used undiluted in the bath. They will stay on the surface of the water and get directly on your skin when you get in to the bath. Also note that the heat opens up your pores and and you are more likely to react to the oils. Always use a base product like an oil or other base product. 

When using your essential oils in your room diffuser little goes a long way and you only need a few drops to get a lovely fragrance to the room.


General safety advice by Tisserand and Naha



Adverse reaction data base by Tisserand


Taking essential oils internally 

I would advice against using essential oils internally unless you are qualified aromatherapist. There are so many other products you can use (herbal teas/ tinctures etc) that I have never really understood why someone would find this necessary. Essential oils are not water soluble and you may get a reaction to them. There are also no clinical studies (that I could find) to support the benefits of this. 

Internal use of essential oils by Aromaticstudies



Essential oils and pregnancy

Generally speaking there are many cautions about the use of essential oils during pregnancy. During pregnancy the mother shares the blood with the baby and anything harmful ingested or used by mother may have an effect on the baby. There are very limited studies done about the dangers of essential oils during pregnancy, but there are some suggestions that some essential oils may be harmful. There are many questions; how much essential oil is safe? Can you use topically? As a room fragrance? Or avoid all together? I would recommend checking each essential oil safety separately and avoid using large quantities. 

You use so many other products  during your pregnancy, washing up liquid, soap, any cleaning products, any facial and body care (which quite often contain essential oils or synthetic fragrances), not to mention pollution that the thinking that a few drops of rose oil is the breaking point is difficult for me to accept (this is my personal opinion). Having said that there are some oils that may be harmful and are best avoided. This is not an area I have extensively studied so I do not have any inside information, but I do know some people have used essential oils during their pregnancy and found them to be useful. I have added a few links to interesting articles which dwell in to this topic in more detail. 

Complementary therapies during pregnancy by NICE

Is it safe to use essential oils while pregnant? by Baby centre

Top 5 Misleading Claims About Essential Oils & Pregnancy


Essential oils and children

Children have a sensitive skin and essential oils should be used with caution. It is advisable to avoid the within the first three months and afterwards in low doses always diluted. Please see the recommendation chart by Tisserand here 


Main safety points


  • Essential oils are fat/ oil soluble and will not mix with water
  • 20-40 drops equals to 1ml calculate safe % dilution 
  • Keep your oils  in a cool, dark place away from sunlight
  • Keep away from children 
  • Use caution during pregnancy
  • Avoid using on eye area
  • Do  not use internally
  • Do not use undiluted  
  • Keep away from fire 


Other interesting reading


Effects of Fragrance Inhalation on Sympathetic Activity in Normal Adults

Essential oils used in aromatherapy: A systemic review Science Direct


Find your essential oils here 


As always I would love to hear from you. Please leave your comments below or drop me an email.



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