Essential Oil Safety Precautions

Not all oils are created equal. For example, oils commonly referred to as pine, genus Pinus, come in a variety of species. Different species within the same genus can be considered more or less sensitizing or toxic than others. Therefore, it is important to review a comprehensive aromatherapeutic reference regarding each species usage and hazard information and consider the following:

 STORAGE – Keep in tightly sealed dark bottles, away from heat, light, children and pets.

PATCH TEST – Put a few drops of any new or suspect oil, once diluted in your chosen carrier base, on the back of your wrist or inside forearm and let dry on the skin. If irritation, itching or redness occur, bathe the area with cold water. Discontinue use or reduce the concentration level used.

GENERAL USAGE – For external use only. Keep away from eyes and mucus membranes. Don’t operate equipment or vehicles after use of relaxation or sleep inducing oils and vary prolonged or constant use of the same essential oil.

VENTILATION – Essential oils are concentrated, and exposure to excess or concentrated essential oils can cause headaches or other symptoms. Use with caution and adequate ventilation.

NEAT APPLICATION – Essential oils should not be applied directly to the skin. However, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, lavender and tea tree can be applied to cuts, burns and insect bites, sandalwood and ylang ylang as perfume and lemon to warts. Always do a patch test first and keep away from eyes and mucous membranes.

PHOTOTOXICITY – These oils can cause skin pigmentation and irritation if exposed to direct sunlight. These oils include angelica root, bergamot, cumin, ginger, grapefruit, lemon, lime, lovage, mandarin, orange and verbena.

HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE – hyper-tense individuals should avoid hyssop, rosemary, Spanish and common sage and thyme.

EPILEPSY – Due to their powerful action on the nervous system avoid sweet fennel, hyssop, rosemary and all types of sage.

DIABETES – Avoid angelica.

PREGNANCY – Because of uterine stimulation or possible toxicity, during pregnancy use a half dilution of essential oils and avoid ajowan, angelica, star anise, aniseed, basil, bay laurel, calamintha, all types of cedarwood, celery seed, cinnamon leaf, citronella, clary sage, clove, cumin, sweet fennel, hyssop, juniper, labdanum, lovage, marjoram, myrrh, nutmeg, parsley, peppermint, rose, rosemary, Spanish sage, snakeroot, spearmint, tarragon and white thyme.

SENSITIZATION – For individuals with very sensitive skin or allergic sensitivity some oils my cause a reaction. Test patch for individual sensitization French basil, bay laurel, benzoin, cade, cananga, coriander, cubeba, Virginian cedarwood, Roman and German chamomile, citronella, geranium, ginger, hops, jasmine, lemon, lemongrass, lemon balm, litsea, lovage, mastic, mint, orange, Peru balsam, Scotch and long leaf pine needle, styrax, tea tree, white thyme, tolu balsam, turmeric, turpentine pine, valerian, vanilla, verbena, violet, yarrow and ylang ylang.

DERMAL IRRITATION – Some oils may irritate the skin, especially for sensitive individuals or in high concentrations. Dilute these oils in half the usual strength and don’t use more than three drops when bathing. These oils include ajowan, allspice, aniseed, sweet basil, borneol, cajeput, caraway, Virginian cedarwood, cinnamon, clove bud, cornmint, eucalyptus, ginger, lemon, lemongrass, parsley, peppermint, Scotch and long leaf pine needle, white thyme and turmeric.

TOXICITY – Some oils should be limited to use for not longer than two week intervals and used in moderation because of toxicity levels and include ajowan, star anise, aniseed, exotic basil, bay laurel, West Indian calamintha, white camphor, cascarrilla bark, cassie, Virginian cedarwood, cinnamon, clove bud, coriander, eucalyptus, sweet fennel, hops, hyssop, juniper, nutmeg, parsley, Spanish sage, tagetes, tarragon, white thyme, tuberose, turmeric, turpentine pine and valerian.

HAZARDOUS OILS – You should consult an aromatheraputic reference for specific information about these types of essential oils because they are considered to be hazardous in inexperienced hands or can cause severe dermal irritation. These oils include bitter almond, arnica, boldo, broom, buchu, calamus, brown and yellow camphor, cassia, chervil, cinnamon bark, costus, deertongue, elecampane, bitter fennel, horseradish, jaborandi, melilotus, mugwort, mustard, oregano, pennyroyal, dwarf pine, rue, common sage, santolina, sassafras, savine, savory, tansy, thuja, red thyme, tonka, wintergreen, wormseed and wormwood

MEDICAL ATTENTION – Discontinue use if redness, burning, irritation or itching occur. Follow warnings, precautions and seek medical attention for any problems.

Please note: You should respect usage warnings and do a patch test as outlined above, and consult your physician with any question about your personal situation. In addition, this list is only a general guideline and does not cover every conceivable hazard or plant species available in nature.

Aromatherapy and Body Care Notice: When using body care products on the skin, if any irritation or reaction should occur either increase the dilution - in the case of essential oil usage, or discontinue use. It is a good idea to do a patch test as described above before using essential oils. Avoid contact with eyes and mucus membranes, and keep out of reach of children. Information provided is for information purposes only and is not a prescriptive guide. Products are intended for external use only.

Consult with your physician or aromatherapy reference for advice or information concerning your specific therapeutic needs or use of essential oils and naturally based body care products. In addition, consult with your physician or pharmacist to be sure there wouldn't be any product or essential oil/s conflict with any medication you may be taking.

Resources: "A Consumer's Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients" by Ruth Winter, M.S.; "The Art of Aromatherapy" by Robert B. Tisserand; The Soapmaker's Companion" by Susan Miller Cavitch; "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils" by Julia Lawless; "Complete Aromatherapy Handbook" by Susanne Fischer-Rizzi.

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