Essential Oil Safety: The Basics
We know that essential oils are powerful plant extracts (see the What Are Essential Oils post for more on this), so what does that mean for keeping ourselves and our families safe when we use essential oils?
As a Registered Aromatherapist, safety is one of my core values and is a foundational principle that guides me in my practice. We know that essential oils are growing in both use and availability, and this means that there is a lot of information online regarding aromatherapy and essential oils. Unfortunately not all of this information is good, and some of it is downright dangerous. This is leading myself and many of my Professional Aromatherapist colleagues to share more and more on safe practices and how essential oils are meant to be worked with.
Essential Oil safety is a vast topic and you will likely find conflicting information if you search online. It is important to remember the source of this information…is it from a trained and qualified professional? If not, it would be wise to seek additional information before trying something that may potentially risk your or your family’s health.
Professional Aromatherapists are trained to work with clients in an individual and holistic way, considering all of the client’s unique circumstances and requirements. While it is difficult to make broad statements about all aspects of safe use of essential oils because each person is unique and reactions can vary, there are a number of factors that underly safe essential oil use. Remembering their power and concentration, the following guidelines represent the basics of safe practice in working with essential oils:
Essential oils should:
be diluted in a carrier oil before being used directly on the skin. A carrier oil is a vegetable oil, and most of our cooking oils may be used for diluting essential oils. There is more on dilution in this video.
be used externally only. While you may see and hear a lot about ingesting essential oils, internal use should only be under the guidance of a doctor or an advanced practitioner trained in Aromatic Medicine. There is more on ingestion in this video.
be diluted and emulsified before being added to baths. I have a video on bath safety here.
In addition to these basic safely principles, and as with any products for our health, there are precautions for use around each individual essential oil. If you have allergies (including foods), high blood pressure, or conditions such as heart disease or epilepsy, or if you are on medication, you need to be extra careful when choosing essential oils. It is also important to note that there are only a few essential oils which are deemed safe for use in pregnancy, so women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consult a Professional Aromatherapist before using essential oils.
There are, of course, many more considerations for each individual, and this area of safety comprises a large portion of Professional Aromatherapy training, as well as our ongoing continuing education.
If this is an area of interest and you’d like more information on essential oil safety, there are additional resources available. The BCAOA, an organization dedicated to promoting Aromatherapy in the province of British Columbia, has recently published an Essential Oil Safety Booklet which contains a wealth of information on these safety topics as well as information on a number of essential oils. It can be purchased through their website here. A book that is an invaluable resource for professionals, and one that we often cite in our safety information is by Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young, Essential Oil Safety, (Second Edition. United Kingdom: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, 2014).
Essential oils are wonderful complements to our health and wellness. All we need is some basic information and a healthy respect for the power of these plant extracts to enjoy them safely. And, it always helps to know a Professional Aromatherapist like me should you need more information or support!