Teachings of Unsafe Practice
Essential Oils are a hot topic right now. It seems like EVERYONE is buying them, selling them, or both. My sister first introduced me to essential oils probably, about 11 years ago. I felt they were expensive for such a tiny bottle so it took me a few years before I started purchasing them. And at the time, I had no clue on how to use them in my everyday life. I began buying them here and there to use in my homemade cleaning supplies but that was the extent of my usage. It wasn’t until, I would say probably about 5 years ago I really started to look into them for medicinal uses.
Why I started using Essential Oils
I feel the need to write this post because these companies are promoting unsafe practices. It really bothers me that many people are being led blindly. Many of the popular essential oil brands are advising MANY to use their oils unsafely. Why? I don’t know but one theory is it could possibly be so their consumers use the oils up faster which equivalents to more profit. Just a theory. Some have paid the price for not being taught properly to to safely and effectively use essential oils. And not everyone experiences the side effects right away. It can come about after the oils accumulate that can cause sensitization.
Before I go on, I feel essential oils are beneficial to the body if used properly and safely. About 8 years ago, I began learning about the harmful effects from chemicals, processed foods, etc. I decided to try to eliminate toxins from our home and food/water. During this time, natural cleaners were just beginning to catch on so they were not readily available. They were also generally very expensive. So I began to create my own cleaning supplies and of course, I wanted it to smell good. The natural alternative was *ding ding ding* essential oils. Another reason for my intrigue with essential oils was the biblical background. I honestly believe God’s medicine is far superior than man made medicine. Now on to the point of my post.
What is Neat?
Neat applying an essential oil without using a carrier oil. Basically, you take an undiluted essential oil and apply it directly to the skin. 99.9% of the time, you should not apply an essential oil neat. Peppermint seems like a pretty harmless essential oil since it is derived from peppermint. It takes about 16 pounds of peppermint to create an ounce of peppermint essential oil. While essential oils are natural, they are extremely potent. This is one of the main reasons you generally don’t want to apply the oil neat. If you have sensitive skin, even the oils that are generally safe, it is best to dilute the oils. Rule of thumb for children, always dilute.
What is a carrier oil?
A carrier oil is any kind of oil you choice to dilute the oil in. Carrier Oils dilute and help carry the beneficial properties into the skin. Each carrier oil has it’s own beneficial properties. Here are some examples of carrier oils. This does not include all of them.
- Almond Oil
- Coconut Oil
- Olive Oil
- Jojoba Oil
- Grapeseed Oil
- Avocado Oil
Oils that are safe to apply neat
Lavender and tea tree oil…. Yep that’s about it. Even lavender should be diluted when using on children. Some say tea tree oil can be applied neat but I say use neat with caution. I’ve used tea tree oil neat and it has a burning sensation. Most aromatherapist will agree all essential oils should not be applied neat. Lavender and tea tree would be the only exception. When I speak of aromatherapist, I am talking about those who have been professionally trained, studied aromatherapy and this does not include an essential oil sales rep.
Here is what some aromatherapist associations say about using oils neat or undiluted.
“Avoid the use of undiluted essential oils on the skin.” (#5, General Safety Precautions, National Associations for Holistic Aromatherapy)
” Essential oils should not be applied undiluted on the skin. This is because oils are highly concentrated. Direct application on the skin can cause severe irritation or sensitivity. The only two exceptions are lavender and tea tree. Diluting an essential oil means mixing it with a quality carrier oil such as sweet almond oil, macademia oil or a hand cream base.” (Using Essential Oils Safely, International Aromatherapy & Aromatic Medicine Association Inc.)
“Never apply Undiluted (neat) essential oils on children under the age of three. Do not apply Undiluted essential oils directly to the skin except in a Medical Emergency, and then only after researching the risks (sensitization) as compared to any potential benefits.If you are Pregnant seek the advice of a licensed medical professional and/or Qualified Aromatherapist before using essential oils. Essential oils are very concentrated and should always be Diluted Properly before applying to the skin.” (Essential Oil Safety Guidelines for CONSUMERS, American Essential Oil Trade Association)
Roberts Tisserand also comments on the importance of dilution. Robert Tisserand is considered an expert in aromotherapy. He also has 15 years of massage therapy, 12 years as a publisher/editor, 22 years as an educator, and 39 years developing personal care products. (http://roberttisserand.com/about/robert-tisserand/) He also founded the Tisserand Institue and Tisserand Aromatherapy. Tisserand Institute educates others on how to safely use essential oils, their benfits using scientific evidence, research, and data. Robert Tisserand has written books about essential oil which includes one his well known books, Essential Oil Safety Here is what Robert Tisserand says.
“…..Dilutions of essential oils are generally more effective in this area, because the skin does not respond well to concentrated EOs. They are drying, the risk of adverse reactions is increased significantly, and for skin care/personal care you simply do not need more than 1-5% essential oil.
About 5% of applied EO is absorbed into the body through the skin, but more if undiluted oils are used. When you first apply an EO to the skin, 100% of it is there for a while. This is when any adverse skin reaction will occur, so while it is true that most of it evaporates with time, this is not as relevant as the initial dilution.
Essential oil dilution is important for two safety reasons. One, to avoid skin reactions: irritation, sensitization and phototoxicity. Two, to avoid systemic toxicity, such as fetotoxicity, hepatotoxicity, carcinogenicity and neurotoxicity. Adverse skin reactions are obvious when they happen, but systemic toxicities may not be. Skin reactions are totally dilution-dependent, and safety guidelines exist to minimize risk. This does not mean of course that every time a person uses an undiluted oil there will be an adverse reaction. Many times there won’t. But more is not always better, and minimizing risk is generally a good idea. A phototoxic reaction for example, can be very, very nasty.
If you want to know more about what can go wrong and why, I would recommend my book Essential Oil Safety 2e.
Robert” ( Robert Tisserand, Why Essential Oil Dilution is Important)
Back in April, some were sharing a very scary experience that a woman had from using essential oils unsafely. She shared her story NOT to put down the brand of oils or even disregard essential oils but to inform others of the safety issues. After many ugly and aggressive comments, she set he profile page to private. You can no longer view her story from her page. It took me a while to find the pictures. I found the story on Robbert Tisserand Essential Training facebook page. Pictures as well as the information can be found at Robert Tisserand Essential Training; Annelise Fratella-Lentz severe reaction. At the time of the reaction, she had used one drop of a kid’s blend on the abdomen. Skin sensitization is real and can be very dangerous. For more information on skin sensitization, how to avoid reactions, visit The Girl Behind the Counter- Misuse of essential oils:Sensitization. Her reaction was life threatening and could have cost her life. Here is a response after she was released from the hospital. This was not Annelise’s first time application of essential oil. In the story that she shared (and many attacked her), she stated this was probably caused by an accumulation of over use of essential oils. She used the oils both topically undiluted and internally.
I did this once and this was because a sales rep said you could. My instinct was telling me no but, I was curious. Even if it was safe to ingest these oils, WHY WOULD YOU!?! It was disgusting. I used lemon essential oils in some water. Trust me NOT GOOD. It doesn’t taste like fresh squeezed lemons. And the oils are expensive. Yes, lemon essential oil are generally one of the cheaper oils. Lemons are cheap. Word to the wise, just buy some lemons or lemon juice if you want some lemon water or detox drink.
Lemon essential oils are a popular choice to ingest. Peppermint is another. Peppermint has caused some to burn their vocal chords. So PLEASE DO NOT ingest any oils. Buy the lemons, buy the peppermint leaves and put it in your drink but skip the essential oils in your food and drink.
Here is what the experts of aromatherapy say
“Only practitioners who are qualified to diagnose, trained to weigh the risks against benefits, and have a knowledge of essential oil pharmachology should prescribe essential oils for oral administration.” Robert Tisserand, Essential Oil Safety, page 50″ (Essential Oil Safety, American Oil Trade Association)
“Do not take essential oils internally without appropriate advanced aromatherapy education and understanding of the safety issues involved in doing so. To learn more, we recommend you receive education from a NAHA approved school. Please visit here to explore schools. Many individuals throughout the United States and the world are utilizing essential oils internally. Most are doing so without appropriate knowledge or understanding of how, when, how much, what essential oils, for what purpose, safety concerns, etc. Whilst NAHA does not support the uneducated use of essential oils internally, we are dedicated to providing education in this area so that internal use is better understood and if done, is performed safely and effectively.” ( NAHA Safety Statments)
“Do not use essential oils internally unless trained to do so.” (NAHA General Safety Precautions)
Here is an insert from a medical journal about a VERY scary incidence of someone who ingested essential oils.
“Peppermint oil is easily available as a constituent of medicines. A near fatal case due to ingestion of toxic dose of oral peppermint oil is being reported. The patient came in a comatosed state and was in shock. She was managed with mechanical ventilation and ionotropes. Her vital parameters reached normal within 8 hours and became conscious by 24 hours. The side effects of peppermint oil are considered to be mild but this case report warns that ingestion of oral toxic doses of peppermint oil could be dangerous.” (US National Library of Medicine, PMCID: PMC3546250, A Near Fatal case of High Dose Peppermint Oil Ingestion-Lesson Learnt)
Sun Exposure and Citrus Oils
Some essential oils usually citrus oils like orange, lemon, bergamont, can cause a reaction called phototoxicity. This is when the natural molecules in the cutrus oils reacte to the UVA rays. Some of the side effects of photoxicity can but not limited to burning, blistering, and burning on the skin. If the phototoxic oils are applied to the skin, UVA lights or sun should be avoided for 12-18 hours.For more information about photoxicity, you can read about it at Aromaweb.
Children, Elderly, Babies and Pregnancy
It is always a good idea to use extreme precautions with children, elderly, pregnancy and babies. Most oils should be diluted even further when using it on children, babies, elderly and during pregnancy. The Happy Homemaker has made a good blog post about essential oils safe for children and babies.
Due to the delicacy of pregnancy, using essential oils during pregnacy should be used with knowledge and caution. For more information for the use of essential oils during pregnancy, go to NAHA’s Pregnancy Safety.
When using any oil for the first time, it is always a good idea to do a skin patch test to test for any allergic reactions. Visit Aromaweb’s How to do a skin patch test for more information. If your allergic to say cedarwood, then you will probably be allergic to cedarwood essential oil.
Some essential oils can cause someone with epilepsy to go into a seizure. Other health conditions can cause adverse reactions. Research and review any essential oils you use or plan on using if you have health conditions. You can visit Aromaweb’s Essential Oil Profiles to check out each essential oils saftey precautions.
Not all essential oils are safe for practice in Aromatherapy
There are some hazardous essential oils and for the list of them, go to Aromaweb’s Hazardous Essential Oils for more information.
As stated above, essential oils are extremely potent. Educating oneself when using ANY brand of essential oil is a wise idea. Don’t take my word for it. Research it and apply the knowledge. If unsure, consult with an Aromatherapist.