Essential Oil Smarts
Let's Talk Safety
Essential oils: They can make your senses experience a range of feelings, from calm and relaxed to refreshed and energized. They may help to alleviate certain symptoms, and -- let's face it -- they just smell lovely.
They are natural -- something we really appreciate here at Seed -- but we wanted to talk a bit about their proper usage.
Essential oils are also called volatile oils. While the definition of volatile as it applies to oils simply means "evaporating rapidly", it is wise to remember that even the most natural of substances can, indeed, be volatile in the more common use of the word.
There are some important things to keep in mind:
1. Dilution is a Must!
You never want to apply an undiluted essential oil to the skin. They are meant to be diluted in what is referred to as a carrier oil. In skin care, essential oils are added to formulations such as lotions and creams containing natural oils so the essential oil blends beautifully. A carrier oil is the perfect medium to deliver the benefits held by essential oils.
If you are at home and have some essential oils on hand, always be sure to add them to an oil such as grape seed, sunflower, jojoba, olive, etc.
Proper dilution ratios are key.
- For babies and small children, a dilution of 0.5-1% is best.
- For adults, up to 5% is recommended, with much less on sensitive skin and on the face.
At Seed, we are very mindful of dilution. We err on the side of caution and have chosen a conservative approach. We know that many of you share your Seed with your little ones, and we are also aware that many of you have come to Seed to begin with because your skin is rather sensitive to other brands. We use 1% or less when formulating.
2. A Topic of Debate: Where Should Oils Be Used?
I cannot emphasize this one enough. Oils are for external use only.
This can be hotly debated among the aromatherapy community. You may see people recommending that you ingest your essential oils. I have seen it on Facebook by members of the direct sales oil community -- "Just add grapefruit oil to your water and drink it!" and similar recommendations.
I LOVE essential oils. I cannot say that enough. Ever since I took my first aromatherapy course 15 years ago, I knew that I would incorporate them into my life in some way. I learned while I was taking courses to be certified in aromatherapy that there was a great divide on the subject of ingesting oil.
I am more conservative when it comes to this. I NEVER would ingest essential oils. I do not believe that doing so is safe. I believe that ingesting oils could easily be harmful. The medical community concurs. Ingesting oils can cause serious side effects, including liver damage. When it comes to matters like this, I look to the scientific data for an answer. I know that there are many in the aromatherapy community (and by that I mean aromatherapists, not direct sales essential oil salesmen and women) who promote oils as a way of treating diseases. My own belief, and that is based on looking at the science, is that essential oils are a lovely complement to a wellness and self-care routine, but not a substitute for medication or a cure for illness.
Sorry for the brief tangent -- let's get back to why you don't want to add oils to your drinking water.
It comes down to basic science, first of all. You may see this scenario in the kitchen, too. Can you mix oil and water? No. Oil and water don't mix.If you add oil to water, what happens? The oil drops sit on top of the water.
The same is true with essential oils. When you drink a glass of water with essential oils added to it, you are going to risk irritation, burning, and even sores in the mouth.
Additionally, it is important to remember that essential oils are very concentrated. Just one drop of essential oil is 100 times more potent than the herb or plant counterpart.
I mentioned earlier that essential oils are for external use only. I would like to add a comment of a delicate nature. I have seen tips online that you can apply products with essential oils to the delicate feminine region. Experts advise against this (as with any scented item for that matter). Please take care to avoid the use of essential oils in the private region.
3. Certain Oils Should Not Be Used on Babies
Infants and young children are much more sensitive to essential oils. In fact, many should be avoided until around the age of 6. There are many more to avoid than considered safe for the wee ones, so here is a list of essential oils that are considered safe/recommended for children - and still remember that we are cautious in % used.
- Bergamot (Citrus bergamia)*
- Cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica)**
- Chamomile, Roman (Chamaemelum nobile)
- Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)
- Frankincense (Boswellia carteri)
- Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens)
- Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
- Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
- Lemon (Citrus limon)*
- Mandarin (Citrus reticulata)*
- Marjoram (Origanum majorana)
- Melaleuca-Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)
- Orange (Citrus aurantium)*
- Rose Otto (Rosa damascena)
- Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)**
- Rosewood (Aniba rosaeodora)
- Sandalwood (Santalum album)
- Thyme (Thumus vulgaris CT linalol)
- Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata)
4. Essential Oils and Pregnancy
I remember being concerned about what to eat (or not to eat) while I was pregnant. As much as I love soft cheeses and coffee, I eliminated them from my diet from the get go. Back when I was pregnant with my first child in 2003, I was just beginning to use more natural skin care, but I honestly was more concerned about what I was eating than what I was massaging into my skin.
There's just so much more research and information out there these days and knowledge is power.
As wonderful as essential oils are, some really need to be avoided while pregnant. As someone who studied aromatherapy extensively, this can be a tricky subject because there are so many benefits of essential oils, but there still is research out there suggesting many should be avoided, so I would err on the side of caution, especially during the crucial first trimester.
Here is a great link from the International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists. Nearly all experts in this subject, in fact, recommend avoiding all essential oils during the first trimester of pregnancy.
Dr. Jill Edwards, ND says, “In the second and third trimesters, some essential oils are safe to use, as your baby is more developed,” but she agrees that oils should be avoided during the first trimester.
Essential Oils to AVOID in Pregnancy
Burns EE, Blamey C, Ersser SJ et al 2000 An investigation into the use of aromatherapy in intrapartum midwifery practice. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine 6:141-147
Tiran D 2000 Clinical aromatherapy for pregnancy and childbirth. Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh p137
A word of caution
Because there are so many companies out there selling oils, you will run into some really wacky claims.This will be the subject of an upcoming post, but it is important to buy your essential oils from a reputable source. Beware of false claims.
One to watch for:
- "Our oils are certified therapeutic grade" or "Our oils are therapeutic-grade"-- This is nonsense. It is a marketing gimmick.There are NO FDA certified therapeutic grade essential oils.These are terms created by the Multi-Level Marketing companies selling them. The terms are often trademarked by the actual company. In fact, two of the big companies were issued warning letters by the FDA for making false claims. There is no government agency or recognized agency that certifies or grades essential oils.
- What truly matters when buying essential oils is that they are 100% pure, undiluted, and without additives or adulterating agents. They should be tested using GS/MS and organoleptic testing to ensure quality.
Have a question? A suggestion for a future blog topic?Leave a comment of shoot me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Yours in health & harmony,
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There is a method to our madness. Have you ever noticed that "everything but the kitchen sink" approach to formulation that I mentioned above? When you look at labels, there are something more than 20 ingredients in a single product! More doesn't equal better. Actually, the truth is that when you throw in many different oils and botanicals, they can counteract each other's effects, reducing the benefits. We don't want that. They also are MUCH more likely to cause an allergic response.