Learning everything you can about essential oils safety should be your first priority when you are getting started with aromatherapy and essential oils. In fact, it is important that you should know at least the basics of aromatherapy safety before you get started.
Many people read articles about the benefits of aromatherapy and essential oils but they fail to take time to read about the safety aspects of using essential oils. They just presume that because substances are all natural, there are no risks involved with using them.
This is not entirely true. While aromatherapy is a relatively safe way to treat a wide range of ailments, it can be harmful if the proper precautions are not observed.
Studies have shown that arbitrary usage does not just reduce the effectiveness of these products but can also cause issues with the lungs and other organs. This is because even natural substances can cause adverse side effects when used in excess.
Essential oils are highly concentrated and can be dangerous if used carelessly. Moreover, they come in a wide range of aromas and properties. Every oil has its own distinctive set characteristics and properties, which give the oil its own set of benefits and risk factors too. Knowing what can go wrong is just as important as knowing what can go right.
These essential oils safety guidelines should not be considered as a complete and thorough reference for using essential oils. Before use and especially when you are just starting out or not sure about some aspect of aromatherapy safety, get all of your doubts clarified by your doctor or a qualified aromatherapy practitioner.
Essential Oils Safety Starts with Doing Your Research
Before you start using essential oils take time to read all about what are essential oils, how aromatherapy works and the benefits of essential oils.
Learn as much as you can about the safety angle of using these substances.
Make note of all the do’s and don’ts regarding essential oils safety.
Pay as much attention to the risks of using any particular oil as you do the benefits.
Do your research before using any product and especially when trying out new oils.
Check the Label Carefully to Know More about the Composition of the Product
When you purchase essential oils, the label on the bottle is required to have the name of the oil and the country where it came from.
More importantly, the label should read “100% natural ingredients” or “100% essential oils”. Don’t settle for any brand that does not have ‘100%’ stated on the label.
If a label simply states ‘Made from natural ingredients’ or ‘Made from essential oils’ but does not say it is 100%, chances are the product is likely to contain a small percentage of the natural components and a larger percentage of synthetic fragrance oils.
These synthetic fragrance oils will give the product a nice aroma but they have no health value at all and are a waste of money.
Read All Label Warnings and Cautions Carefully
Don’t just skim over the details when reading the labels. Some variants do not combine well with alcohol or some kinds of medication while others should be avoided if you have certain medical conditions, such as low blood pressure or epilepsy
If you skim over the instructions on the label, you could miss these crucial warnings, resulting in a disaster.
Always Dilute Oils Before Topical Application
Essential oils are highly concentrated liquids. When applied to the skin directly and in undiluted form, they could be harmful and can cause burning, itching, irritation or redness.
If your skin does come in contact with the concentrated liquid, apply cream or vegetable oil over the area and then wash with warm, soapy water.
The right way to apply diluted essential oil is to dab it over the skin lightly and then gently rub the area. Diluting the concentrate with a carrier oil weakens the concentration and reduces the risk factor.
Some varieties, such as lavender and tea tree are often listed as safe to use undiluted. However, while these generally do not cause any issues in most cases, if you are over-sensitive to some component in the oil, you may still have an adverse reaction.
Unfortunately, you will only know this after you have actually applied it. The best way to avoid any untoward reaction is to always blend all essential oils with a carrier oil before topical application.
Ease Into Essential Oils Slowly
Whether you are inhaling the aromas or using the oil topically, always start very slowly and proceed cautiously. This is the core principle of essential oils safety.
Use small, diluted doses cautiously and test continuously. Check for any reactions before increasing the dosage or the frequency of use. Do this when you are starting out with aromatherapy and also when using any new essential oil that you have never used before.
Never ever use another person’s experience as the basis for your usage. Different people are sensitive to different substances and you must test, watch and only then proceed.
Always Do a Skin Patch Test Before Using Liberally
We mentioned earlier about not knowing beforehand how your skin will react to a new substance. Just because a product does not trigger off any reaction in others, the same may not apply to you. You may be sensitive to the substance.
When using any new oil topically for the first time, it is advisable to always do a skin patch test. This involves putting the tiniest droplet of the oil on a small area of the skin. Wait a few minutes and see if there is any reaction.
Doing a skin patch test before a liberal application will limit the reaction significantly.
You can find out how to perform a skin test here.
Less is More with Essential Oil Usage
Nowhere is the phrase “less is more” more applicable than with the use of essential oils. These plant extracts are so concentrated you only need a couple of drops to achieve the desired effect.
When following essential oil recipes for any purpose, use the recommended number of drops. If the recipe calls for 1 to 2 drops, do not use 3 drops. Not only is it wasteful to use too much but it could also be harmful.
Be Extra Careful Around the Eyes and Ears
When applying any essential oil topically, take care to keep the liquid away from your eyes, ears and other mucous membranes.
If any liquid gets into your eyes or ears accidentally, wash it off gently with a carrier oil and seek medical advice immediately.
DO NOT splash water over the area in an attempt to wash off the oil. Water will make a bad situation worse as water and oil do not mix.
Do Not Ingest Essential Oils Without First Consulting with Your Doctor
Some essential oils are considered safe for internal consumption. Even so, you should never consume any of these substances internally without first consulting with a physician or a qualified and trained aromatherapist.
Internal consumption of should only be done under the direct supervision of an experienced practitioner.
The oils extracted from commonly used spices such as cinnamon, black pepper, allspice, clove, basil, rosemary, ginger, fennel and others are considered safe and are routinely ingested. However, because the oil is so highly concentrated, it is still better to be on the safe side and read up on the appropriate usage and risks for each oil before consuming it.
When following a recipe for internal consumption, use only the suggested amount, never more than that. Misuse can lead to headaches, nausea or rash.
Keep Out of Reach of Children
All essential oils smell good but some in particular, such as citrus essential oils, have a ‘delicious’ aroma that makes you want to taste it. Children may be tempted to taste it.
Also, if your child has seen you put a few drops in your drink or even directly into your mouth, they may think they can do the same but they may not realize that you only consumed 1-2 drops.
Whether they use the dropper or they drink up directly from the bottle, they are more than likely to consume far too much and that can be dangerous.
As a rule of thumb, ALL essential oils should be treated like medicine that can become poison in unknowing hands. This includes children and pets. Left within reach of pets and children, these substances can be dangerous and deadly if ingested by mistake.
For the same reason, you should also never let children use these products unsupervised as they may not be able to regulate the number of drops they ingest.
Use Only the Highest Quality Essential Oils
Yes, the highest quality is also likely to be the most expensive but it is totally worth it. When you invest in these oils you know what you are getting is pure, genuine and unadulterated.
An unsettling thought is that only 2% of essential oils available are actually therapeutic grade. Many of them contain a larger percentage of synthetic fragrance oils. Buying these oils is, in fact, a waste of money as they do nothing for you and in some cases, may cause damage.
If you want to benefit from the therapeutic properties of essential oils, buy only the highest quality.
Keep Out of Reach of Open Flames
Essential oils are flammable and should be kept out of reach of open flames. Your bottle could explode if kept too close to the fireplace or a burning candle.
When using candles for aromatherapy, pour the liquid carefully on the hot wax and not directly on the flame.
Be Careful with Citrus Oils
Citrus essential oils such as lime, lemon, citrus fresh and orange, contain photosensitizing molecules. When you apply any of these citrus oils topically on your skin, it is very important to stay away to protect the area from direct sunlight for at least 12 hours. Exposing the skin to sunlight before 12 hours could result in burns.
Bergamot essential oil is also photosensitive. After applying bergamot oil, remember to keep the area protected from direct sunlight for at least 12 hours.
Avoid Inhaling for More Than One Hour
When using aromatherapy for therapeutic purposes, a few moments are really all you need in most cases and even when you need to inhale for a longer time, you should try to limit it for about an hour at the most.
Inhaling the vapors for longer will have no effect at best. At worst, it could be dangerous. Some respiratory ailments have occurred from overuse.
Know What Factors Affect Essential Oils
Knowing what factors will affect your essential oils is an important aspect of essential oils safety. These oils are highly volatile and a change in composition could adversely affect their properties and the benefits they offer.
- Temperature changes – Drastic changes in temperature react with the individual molecules and weaken the therapeutic properties of essential oils. You may not get the full healing benefits of the oil in this case. To prevent this from happening, store your oils in a cool, dry place or in the refrigerator.
- Heat and Light – Never keep the bottles near a window or on the in close proximity to the stove or oven. Exposure to excessive heat and light will destroy the oil’s properties and diminish its therapeutic benefits. Essential oils should always be poured into dark-colored glass bottles and the best place to keep these bottles is in a dark, dry cabinet or cupboard.
- Moisture and Oxygen – When exposed to air for extended periods of time, the oxygen in the air reacts with the molecules, resulting in oxidation, which is detrimental to the overall beneficial qualities of the oil. Moisture in the air will also ruin the properties of the oil. Always close the bottle tightly after every use.
Know the Best Way to Store Your Essential Oils
Storing your essential oils correctly is the key to helping them last longer without altering their properties or weakening their therapeutic qualities.
The correct way to store essential oils is in dark-colored glass bottles. Keep these glass bottles in a cool dry place where they will not be exposed to the elements that affect them – light, oxygen, heat, and moisture.
Alternatively, if you live in a place where the daytime temperatures are too high or the temperature fluctuates drastically from day to night, you can store your essential bottles in the refrigerator.
As you are expanding your collection, it would definitely be worth it to buy wooden boxes specially made for essential oil storage. These boxes are designed to maintain optimum temperature and darkness so as to preserve the integrity of the oil and minimize deterioration.
You can buy wooden boxes in a wide range of sizes so look for one that suits your needs best.
Read more about how to store essential oils here along with recommendations for glass bottles and storage boxes.
Safety With Aromatherapy Oils is Crucial
Aromatherapy offers a wide range of benefits, but it is crucial to observe all safety guidelines when handling essential oils. While they are beneficial when used correctly, if used improperly the effects can be hazardous to your health.
Reading and researching is the best way to stay informed and empowered about essential oils safety.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to serve as medical advice. Please consult your physician before using essential oils. See Full Disclaimer here.