General Safety Guidelines
Some essential oils have had very limited or no research conducted with them that can be used properly in regard to human safety. Speak to your doctor if you are using prescription medication before using essential oils. Always be very careful and do a diluted patch test when using an essential oil on yourself or anyone for the first time.
Some essential oils have unique risks to be aware of and will fall outside of these general guidelines. It is highly recommended to view the “Safety and Warnings” on our product’s page before use.
Using Essential Oils Safely
Essential oil use is a great way to maintain a healthy body and clean environment. Millions of people use essential oils every day, mostly without incident. Care must be taken when using essential oils as they are 50 – 100 times more concentrated than the oils found in the plant. Due to this unnatural concentration, certain safety issues arise that may not apply to the plant or extract forms.
We have been gaining more and more knowledge of essential oil safety, but much is still unknown. The following is simply a set of general guidelines to safe essential oil use.
Never use undiluted essential oil on your skin! Although some sources and MLMs recommend this, this is the main cause of adverse reactions around the world. If someone says that the hives, rash, blisters, or burns you are experiencing are due to “detoxification” they are simply wrong. It is not only important that knowledge of proper topical use is spread to avoid undue suffering, but also to avoid essential oils becoming regulated due to people harming themselves.
Recommended topical percentages. Source: https://tisserandinstitute.org/safety-guidelines/
The above dilutions are a general guideline only. Some oils do not follow this chart and may need to be used in significantly lower concentrations. The guidelines for children are much different. Refer to the “Children” section below.
In general, there are 20 – 40 drops of oil in 1 mL, so you can safely use 20 drops per mL when diluting smaller preparations.
Certain oils, including lemongrass, clove, oregano, thyme, and cinnamon bark, are known irritants and are more likely to cause skin reactions. That said, using a relatively safe essential oil undiluted will often cause a reaction. Ironically, some companies claim that reactions are due to impurities in the oil, and those same companies are responsible for many adverse reactions. Dilution and risk are directly linked, so be sure to practice caution.
Irritation is common, but continue to the next section to learn about the risk of sensitization, which involves the immune system.
Storage, Sensitization, and Oxidation
Sensitization is a body process that causes a person to become allergic to a certain constituent of an essential oil. This same process can be triggered from use of plants, extracts, and medicines. Sadly, it is often irreversible. The most common causes of sensitization include using undiluted essential oil, oxidized oil, and using an oil too often. Oils that are irritants or sensitizers are more likely to cause this.
Oxidization is a process that happens to essential oils and cooking oils as well. It causes chemical changes to the oil, often causing it to become irritating and somewhat hazardous to use. Some factors that will speed the oxidation of an oil include:
- Exposure to oxygen
- Exposure to heat
- Exposure to UV and visible light
- Exposure to water
Essential oils lose their effectiveness and become unsafe as they oxidize. Oils should always be stored in a cool dark place, such as a refrigerator, and used up in a timely manner. Keeping track of the age of your oils is also important, as some have quite short shelf lives. Be sure to protect them from the elements if you plan to transport them. The amount of air in the bottle also affects oxidation, so it can sometimes be practical to put the oil into smaller containers if you are buying large bottles. Glass is the only safe option for storing pure essential oils, as they can leach harmful chemicals from plastic. Diluted oils can be stored in plastic.
It is important to be aware of the shelf life of your oils, as this is an estimation of the time it will take for a particular oil to oxidize and become harmful. Proper storage will extend the shelf life. See our product pages for shelf life estimations.
Bathing with Essential Oils
Oil does not mix with water! If you put undiluted essential oil into a bath and hop in, you will be coming in contact with undiluted essential oil. There is a chance of irritation and other toxic effects, not to mention the oil will often contact sensitive areas. The essential oil should be thoroughly mixed with a vegetable oil, soap, or bubble bath before being mixed into the water. Full fat milk can help disperse the oil, but it only does so partially, so this is not suitable for sensitive persons, children, or those with a skin disease.
Eyes and Ears
Eyes – If you have read this far you probably guessed it – essential oil should not be dripped into the eye. Undiluted oil will cause a chemical burn and could lead to temporary blindness. Diluted oil can be used on the skin around the eyes.
Ears – Never use undiluted essential oil inside your ears. Diluted oil can be partially inserted using a cotton swab.
Do not ingest essential oil unless advised to do so by a practitioner who is qualified and licensed to prescribe essential oil in this way. Internal use of essential oil opens up a range of risks that other modes of use to not. Essential oil should never be ingested undiluted or with water. Contrary to some companies’ recommendations, dropping essential oil into water and drinking it is a terrible idea. You will run a risk of stomach or mouth irritation, and prolonged use can lead to more serious and permanent damage. You can think of it like pure oil in the bathtub, except mucous membranes are far more sensitive than skin.
Essential oils are commonly used as food flavorings, which is where GRAS (generally regarded as safe) status comes in. GRAS status only applies to concentrations suitable for food flavorings, which are substantially lower than anything used in aromatherapy. Just because it has GRAS status does not mean it is generally safe.
Inhalation and Diffusion
When actively and intensively inhaling essential oil, it is not recommended to do so for longer that 15 – 20 minutes. Some methods of active inhalation include, but are not limited to, personal inhalers, steam inhalation, and nebulizer masks. Using a diffuser in your home is not considered active or intense inhalation, so long as there is ventilation. It is recommended to diffuse for 30 – 60 minutes and then stop for 30- 60 minutes. This is not only safer for your respiratory system but is also more effective as your nose and respiratory system will habituate to the oil. Air exchange is always recommended when diffusing essential oils indoors.
Synthetic fragrances have been known to exacerbate asthma but there is no evidence the essential oils will do so. In fact, a recent study suggests that psychological priming is responsible for the few cases of individuals who find that certain essential oils will trigger an attack. Research found that people who expected the strong fragrance of essential oil to bother them were likely to have an attack, showing the strong effect our thoughts and emotions have on our bodies. But overall, the anti-inflammatory effect of essential oil is a helpful tool in asthma cases.
Essential oils should never be used in any way that involves proximity to naked flame or similar fire hazard. Essential oils are flammable but not explosive. They are safe when used in a diffuser but should not be used in a candle burner, though fragrant candles are safe.
Keep essential oils out of reach of children! A young child should never be allowed to handle oil bottes as the oils often smell tasty, and young children have been known to unscrew caps and drink the contents. Drinking even a small amount of essential oil can lead to severe poisoning and, in very rare cases, fatality. Call a poison control center immediately if your child has ingested essential oil.
Recommended dilutions by age ranges. Source: https://tisserandinstitute.org/safety-guidelines/
Certain essential oils can be contraindicated with a range of medications, conditions, and diseases. If you are pregnant, have epilepsy, asthma, a skin condition, are taking prescribed medication, or have any doubt about your condition, you are advised to seek the advice of a doctor or a suitable practitioner before using essential oils.
This information is for educational purposes only. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease and has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.