Essential Oils Safety – How To Use Them Properly

Essential Oils

Essential oils are compounds that are extracted from plants. The oils capture the essence, flavour and scent of the plants. Unique aromatic properties and compounds give specific oils their characteristic essence. These oils are commonly used in the practice of aromatherapy. They are either used for their aroma or diluted and used topically on skin and hair.

Are Essential Oils Safe to Use?

A very important thing to understand is that essential oils are very concentrated and powerful. Hence, they need to be used minimally and essential oil dilution guidelines must be followed closely. Essential oils should be used externally only unless a particular essential oil has been prescribed for internal use for you by your doctor or trusted expert. Read more in this article and inform yourself of all the cautions to be taken when using essential oils. Some people may have an allergy or sensitivity to a natural ingredient and hence need to be sure about their allergies before using such ingredients including essential oils or their recipes.

Essential Oils Safety for Usage

Despite their numerous benefits, there is no doubt that essential oils can be hazardous if used in the wrong way. They are powerful extracts and there are certain safety measures to be followed while handling and using essential oils.

1. Essential Oil in Pregnancy/Nursing

Use of essential oils should generally be limited or avoided during pregnancy unless prescribed by a medical expert. Essential oils are naturally concentrated in nature. Some essential oils to be totally avoided during pregnancy and breastfeeding are cinnamon, clove, cedarwood, basil and lemongrass as they may have severe negative effects. Ask your doctor if and how you should use essential oils during pregnancy.

2. Essential Oil for Internal Use

Certain essential oils are safe to consume while a few others aren’t. You can consume oils like lemon oil or ginger in very small quantities by adding them in your tea or water. Most essential oils are not recommended for internal use and can be toxic, so exercise caution.

3. Essential Oil for Inhalation

Most essential oils are safe to inhale or diffuse. In fact, they provide a host of benefits through their aroma and inhalation. Some essential oils help clear chest congestion if diffused and inhaled. For example, rosemary, eucalyptus and peppermint oils help you breathe easier and manage symptoms of respiratory disorders. Keep the inhalation gentle, don’t use essential oils directly in your nose or on your skin.

4. External Use of Essential Oil

While applying tropically on your skin, it is advisable to add a few drops of vegetable oil as a carrier oil to dilute the essential oil. You can apply essential oils on your neck, temple, wrists, feet, chest and abdomen. Essential Oils should never be applied near the eyes and ear canal.

5. Essential Oil Dilution

Since essential oil is very concentrated, using it in an undiluted form can cause severe negative effects. It is always better to dilute it with a carrier oil like jojoba or coconut oil. The dilution typically ranges between 1% to 5% for different kinds of application and generally long topical uses need dilution to be not more than 1-2%. Always take dilution of essential oils seriously.

6. Essential Oil On Babies/Children

Infants, babies and toddlers are in general more sensitive to the effects of essential oil. So, it is advisable to be careful about the usage of the same. It is always safer to avoid essential oils altogether. But if the need arises, carefully read the labels before giving oils to your children and do so basis the recommendation of a medical expert.

Essential Oil Diffuser Safety

Essential Oil Diffuser Safety

Essential oil diffusers are another way of diluting the otherwise concentrated oil. But before using it, here are some safety tips that you must know of, for using this technique.

  • Essential oil diffusers are used to vaporize oil, releasing it in small amounts into the air.
  • Overall inhalation is considered to be a safe method as the oils are not in its natural, concentrated state.
  • It’s advisable not to diffuse around newborn, infants, kids and pregnant women until and unless you are absolutely sure that it is safe and it has been recommended by a doctor or expert.
  • Make sure you keep essential oils away from matches and flames as it is highly flammable.
  • Use the diffuser for about 30-45 minutes at a stretch for effective results. Remember not to leave it on overnight.
  • Limit your use of essential oils if you have respiratory disorders like asthma as they have a very strong fragrance which might start off a reaction.
  • Open up your windows to improve ventilation if the fragrance becomes too intense.
  • Most diffuser equipment don’t need a carrier oil to be added. Since there are a variety of different kinds of diffusers, read their instructions before use to avoid malfunctioning.
  • Start diffusing with a small amount, for a short duration, in the beginning, to test out for any allergic reactions or side effects. If you don’t experience any, then you can slowly increase the diffusion.

Safety Precautions of Some Essential Oils

There are certain oils that are particularly not safe for certain techniques of usage. Here is a list of essential oils that are in popular use. There are also certain safety precautions that come along with these oils, which has also been listed out. This list is not exhaustive, and we recommend you to read on the complete list of known cautions and side effects for each essential oil before its use.

1. Topical Use

1. Cinnamon Bark

There is a possibility of causing skin allergies and hence should be tested out before going ahead with application or ingestion.

2. Cumin

Should not be used during pregnancy, since it can stimulate blood flow in the uterus. Also, it is advisable to avoid sunlight for up to 12 hours after topical application.

3. Coriander

Might cause allergies depending on the person.

4. Jasmine

Avoid it completely during pregnancy.

5. Lemon

Better to avoid sunlight for about 12 hours after topical application.

6. Oregano

It is best to avoid using it during pregnancy. There is a chance of it causing skin irritation. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t use it for more than ten days in a row.

7. Rosemary

Best not to use when you are pregnant or have been diagnosed with epilepsy.

8. Basil

It is best to avoid it during pregnancy or if you are diagnosed with epilepsy.

9. Cardamom

Before rubbing it on your skin, check for allergies and they have a tendency to cause reactions on sensitive skin. Also, keep it away from children and infants at all cost.

10. Black Pepper

It tends to cause irritation if it is used in high doses. Hence, dilution helps.

11. Wintergreen

It can cause a lot of problems if used in excess. Remember to keep it away from kids and extremely sensitive skin.

Some other essential oils which are used for topical application after dilution are:

  • Cinnamon Bark
  • Clove
  • Eucalyptus
  • Fennel
  • Fir Needle
  • Marjoram
  • Myrrh
  • Oregano
  • Turmeric

2. Ingestion

Not all essential oils can be ingested. Ingestion of essential oils should happen only after recommendation from a medical practitioner. Essential oils are highly potent and can cause a toxic effect if ingested without caution. The heaviest dilution of essential oils is a prerequisite while being ingested. A drop of essential oil is generally sufficient in any recipe. Do not overconsume. Do not use without dilution. Exercise caution. Some essential oils which are ingested in minute amounts are:

  • Basil
  • Cilantro
  • Cinnamon Bark
  • Clove
  • Coriander
  • Cumin
  • Ginger
  • Lemon
  • Oregano

How to Use Essential Oils on Skin

how to use Essential Oils on Skin

Essential oils are plant-based, fragrant and contain properties that do everything from fighting acne-causing bacteria to regulate excess oil secretion on the skin. Due to its versatility, let’s look at some essential oils that will help achieve the best results for specific purposes.

  • Soothing Irritated Skin

Lavender Oil

  • Balancing Excess Oil Production

Lemongrass Oil

  • Reducing Inflammation

Lavender Tea Tree

  • Treating Damaged Skin

Frankincense Oil

  • Taking Care of Delicate Skin

German Chamomile Oil

  • Removing Wrinkles And Age Lines on Mature Skin

Rose Otto Oil

  • Treating Acne Prone Skin

Helichrysum Oil

How to Store Essential Oil?

The way you look after and store the essential oils is directly proportional to their shelf life. Taking into factor that the essential oils were fresh at the time of purchase, the right storage techniques are the ultimate way to make the best use of them. These oils cannot handle extreme or erratic changes in temperature and need to be stored in cool areas with stable conditions. If you overlook this factor, your essential oils may lose their therapeutic properties.

Essential Oils need to be packed in dark coloured glass as this filters out the UV rays. No matter what you store it in, it is advisable not to leave it under sunlight (for example near the window). Also, make sure it is kept away from children and pets.

1. Cool It

Certain citrus-based essential oils are prone to quick oxidation if not stored carefully. So, to avoid temperature variation (the root cause of oxidation) it is best to store them in the refrigerator. You can always heat them up before using.

2. Carrier Oil Care

Carrier oils, which are used to dilute essential oils, are just as important as essential oils. If you experience hot summers, it is advisable to store these oils in the fridge as they are particularly vulnerable. Take them out 12 hours before use and let them regain room temperature naturally.

3. Aromatherapy Boxes

This is an alternative idea for storage if you don’t have space in your refrigerator. It does not have to be a fancy box; just something to keep them all together and in a contained environment. Being moderately volatile, essential oils will evaporate at a fairly quick speed. So, make sure you cap the bottles firm and tight, and not leave them lying around. Always make sure they return to their aromatherapy boxes.

Check here to know more about Aromatherapy using essential oils.

4. Safety

Since essential oils are highly flammable, it is imperative that you keep it away from ignition sources like cookers, stoves, fire or candles. It is just like how vodka and other spirits are also flammable, but if stored safely and sensibly, there won’t be any problem.

Risks of Essential Oils

It is always advisable to be cautious around essential oils as they are highly concentrated and flammable in nature. Remember to keep it away from infants and curious kids at all cost.

1. Essential Oils are Highly Concentrated

Essential oils contain very concentrated properties of the herb or plant they are derived from. Excess intake or application leads to various skin related problems and organ damage. So, it is important to keep tab of the consumption levels.

2. Essential Oils on the Skin

In most cases, you can’t use essential oils on skin without dilution. The dilution% depends on the term of usage and duration and frequency of each application. Generally, topical applications for usage over a long term use 1-2% dilution of essential oil in a suitable carrier oil. More specific uses can increase it to 5% but will need to be shorter term uses for specific localized problems such as infections. In such cases typically the application is washed off after a few minutes.

3. Internal Use of Essential Oils

As described earlier, essential oils should not be used internally, unless specified so for a particular essential oil by a medical expert.

4. Essential Oils During Pregnancy or Nursing

There is evidence than intake of essential oils directly reach the placenta connecting the mother and the baby. Since the baby is more sensitive and less immune, even the least quantity of oil application will affect the baby. So, it is best to take a doctor’s advice and follow instructions and generally avoid essential oils during pregnancy.

5. Babies and Kids

Essential oils should never be given internally or externally undiluted to kids and infants. They should be diluted more than they are for adult application and care should be taken with these oils around kids as they can cause skin damage.

To understand more about diluting essential oils read our Complete Guide to Diluting Essential Oils. Check here for a list of top essential oils and their benefits along with their recipes.

 

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Harshitha Suresh
I am a freelance content developer, graphic designer, editor, artist and sound designer, apart from devouring all things pop culture and entertainment. Being an Electronic Media graduate and having to explain how it’s vastly different from Electrical Engineering, has armed me with a very high degree of resilience and an ever-growing vocabulary to tackle down stereotypes through the sane art of reasoning. But jokes apart, writing has been a very fiery passion since day one and continues to be the light of my life on a daily basis. Blogging gives me a therapeutic safe space to pour out my thoughts and the power to wield it into anything I want. Inspiration drives me the most, pushing me to extents I never thought I’d reach. Over the last few months, I’ve been trying my hand at Health and Lifestyle blogging and it sure caught my fancy! It has helped me tremendously in shaping and amending my own ways of living. The beauty of life is all about spontaneity and curveballs, so who knows where it will take me in the next few years!

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