You may have noticed there has been an influx in the number of people using and becoming interested in using essential oils; they are now becoming “main stream”. Which raises concerns; as people who are not properly educated in the safety and efficacy of essential oils (Certified Aromatherapists) mistakenly believe that because they are natural, they are risk-free. Per the Fortune Business Insights report, in 2018, the global market size for essential oils was 7.03 billion (USD). By 2026, the essential oils market is projected to increase to 14.60 billion (USD). Increasing popularity and interest in Holistic Health and all-natural treatments along with a mistrust in our traditional medical system is a large reason for the increased interest in and use of alternative treatments, including essential oils.
Essential oils can be beneficial for various conditions such as acne, insomnia, PMS, PTSD, pain, insomnia, anxiety, smoking cessation & relaxation. Although essential oils are all-natural substances, it does not mean they come without risk. “Natural” and “safe” are not synonymous. Essential oils are extremely concentrated; they should be used with caution & treated with respect. For example, it takes the petals of 30-50 roses to produce a single drop of Rose essential oil.
Essential oils not only smell delightful, they also encompass various therapeutic properties- they are versatile and complex. For example, one essential oil contains multiple individual constituents; some essential oils may contain over 300 different compounds! The individual constituents affect the biological activity of the oil, which contributes to the overall therapeutic properties of the essential oil. This also greatly impacts the safety of each individual oil; thus the differing safety guidelines that need to be followed for various essential oils.
Strictly following the essential oil dilution ratios and safety guidelines that have been established minimizes the risk of adverse reactions to the user. Reactions to essential oils can vary based on numerous factors including: the individual’s constitution, the essential oil chosen, dilution used, length of use and the route of administration.
Extreme caution should be exercised if using essential oils around or on children, as they are the most vulnerable to adverse reactions. It is preferred to use hydrosols on infants and toddlers. However, if essential oils are utilized, they should always be properly diluted – generally in the range of 0.5% – 2.5% (depending on the child’s age and condition). Due to children being more sensitive to the potency of essential oils and having a smaller body size; this increases the risks of using essential oils on children. When working with children, certain essential oils should be avoided entirely, while others may be safely used when formulated to the proper dilution and used under the guidance of a certified professional.
Elderly clients are also more susceptible to skin sensitivities, so a reduced dilution may also be warranted. It is best to consult with a trained aromatherapist, so a complete health history may be obtained and a blend can be formulated specifically for you; taking into consideration any personal medical conditions, prescriptions and any potential hazards or contraindications with the essential oils.
Some mild adverse reactions that can be caused by essential oils include:
- Skin reactions (such as redness, itching, burning, and hives)
- Mucous membrane irritation
- Photosensitization (a reaction to a substance applied to the skin that occurs only in the presence of UV light in the UVA range).
- Prolonged exposure to essential oil vapor (generally 1 hour or more) can cause nausea/vomiting, headache, light-headedness, vertigo and lethargy.
Potential severe safety issues that can result from improper essential oil use can include:
- Anaphylactic shock
- Acute toxicity
- Breathing issues
- Esophageal damage (commonly associated with internal ingestion)
- Drug interactions
- Liver toxicity
By following the established essential oil safety guidelines, using essential oils only as needed and buying your essential oils from trustworthy sources, are a few ways you can improve your chances of benefiting from the use of essential oils without adverse reactions.
One common misconception that I hear is, “I use____ brand of essential oils, which are 100% pure, “therapeutic grade” essential oils; so they are “safe” to use & okay to take internally” – this is incorrect. The brand name really doesn’t have anything to do with the safety of the essential oils; the safety guidelines are based on the individual constituents and composition of each essential oil. The term “therapeutic grade” is a phrase that was trademarked for marketing purposes; there is no governing body that regulates essential oils and deems essential oils as therapeutic grade or not. Any 100% pure, unadulterated essential oil will have therapeutic properties, regardless of the brand.
When deciding on a brand of essential oils to buy, do your own research to decide which company is best for you, but the following are a few things to look for to help you find a trustworthy source to purchase your essential oils from:
- They provide accurate, detailed safety information provided in the essential oil profile pages (not just the general safety disclaimer that is shown for legal reasons)
- They do not make false & unsafe claims (our essential oils are ok to take internally, because they are “therapeutic grade/GRAS” and therefore, safe for ingestion/drinking)
- The GC/MS reports available to the consumer to view prior to purchase
- They acknowledge that essential oils do have a shelf life
- The selection of essential oils they offer (they do not sell essential oils that have the potential for acute toxicity – i.e. Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium), Cedar Leaf (Thuja occidentalis)& Penny Royal (Mentha pulegium) essential oils)
- Certified Aromatherapy professionals are involved in their business operations – (it’s a big red flag if a company is selling essential oils without any formal essential oil education)
- Offers high quality essential oils (beware of any essential oil brand that sells essential oils at extremely low prices – or sells various types of oils, at the same price point – there should be a BIG difference in the price of say, Lavender essential oil and Rose essential oil)