Why Essential Oils Need to Be Used Safely (& why I’m avoiding the essential oil brand war)

There are some really important safety issues you need to know before you start using essential oils (plus, why I'm trying to avoid the wars over brand names)

I’ve had a long journey with essential oils now with over a decade of personal use. And the more I learn about them, the more I realize how complicated and complex the wonderful world of essential oils are, and how much more I need to learn. My personal belief is that these very concentrated forms of herbs, spices, and plants are a powerful tool to use in pursuit of better health. But like all tools, it’s not one without risks.

I find this wonderful tool to be a fascinating resource for further research and personal use, but it’s so important to know how to use them properly!

Essential Oil Safety

Just because something is natural, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use proper caution in its use. Essential oil use is exploding, especially because of the efforts of distributors of two large companies who sell them. I’m so glad that the wonderful world of essential oils are reaching more people, but it is also alarming to see so much advice flying around about the use of essential oils when that advice doesn’t often take into consideration basic essential oil safety.

This isn’t to blame those whose enthusiasm for the healing power of essential oils leads them to give bad advice about usage. You will find no judgment from me as I’ve become aware of many of these safety issues myself only recently. The reason I became more aware of safety issues was because I was doing research on essential oil brands. I have been quietly using essential oils for years, but with so many people recently asking me about brands, or joining an essential oil distributor team, I knew I needed to gain a little more knowledge before jumping on board to anything. More on brands in a second, but first, here are some thoughts and resources on essential oil safety for you to consider. (This is in no way going over all of the safety issues – I’m simply trying to wet your appetite to gain more knowledge.)

Today’s post isn’t going over the healing power of essential oils, but don’t let my caution discourage you from discovering that side! We’ve had great results using them in our family.

If you are pregnant or have young children, use extra caution

I know that I have a lot of parents, and pregnant woman who read this blog. You need to know that what is perfectly safe for an adult to use, may not be safe for a child, especially a young child.

One example: Peppermint essential oil safety

One very common (and wonderful) essential oil is peppermint, and it’s often used liberally by essential oil advocates. However, there are some serious concerns about peppermint essential oils and infants and young children. It shouldn’t be used with children under the age of thirty months; it shouldn’t be directly applied to the chest or nasal area, or undiluted on the feet of children. Why? It could cause apnea (that is, it could cause your child to stop breathing) or glottal constriction. That’s scary.

Even for adults, large amounts of inhaled peppermint essential oil could cause nausea, dizziness, confusion, and muscle weakness.

Peppermint oil is the perfect example of how much more powerful the essential oil form is from the herb. Peppermint in its fresh form is not something we need to worry about (as long as we don’t have an allergy to it). Pregnant women and children can enjoy it in foods and beverages without a worry. However, it becomes a whole different story when in a more potent form.

Our scary experience with peppermint

I personally feel passionate about this issue after my then three year old daughter had trouble breathing after we lightly applied a “kid safe” commercial bug deterrent in her bedroom (one of the main essential oils used in the spray was peppermint) during a flea issue we were having. Despite being safe for “kids of all ages” she told us it made her have a hard time breathing, and we felt horrified! Thankfully, it just caused her discomfort, but we also had a newborn infant who could have suffered severe consequences if we had also used it in her room unwittingly.

So please friends, if you have young children, please, please, be cautious in the use of essential oils – even the ones that you have used for yourself for years successfully. Look at the end of this post for resources for child and pregnancy safety

Follow guidelines for diffusing essential oils

Before I became a complete crunchy mama, I loved lighting scented candles in our house to make our house warm and inviting. The crunchy mama’s alternative to toxic scented candles is often diffusing essential oils (which I find wonderful). However, note two things: Only use baby and child safe oils in your diffuser if they are around, and don’t diffuse too long. Generally, my understanding is that you should never diffuse more than an hour long of any essential oil, but some more potent oils or blends should only be diffused for 20 minutes!

Another issue with diffusing essential oils is pet safety. All animals can have severe reactions to certain essential oils, and I know that cats especially don’t have the capability to process many of the same oils we can safely use.

Be aware of a wide range of possible reactions

I also know that many of my readers are much more sensitive to foods (and herbs and spices) than the average consumer. So while this is important for everyone, it’s even more important for those more sensitive. You can have allergies and intolerances to any essential oil, just like you could do any food, herb, or spice. However, since essential oils are so potent, your reaction has the potential to be more severe.

If you think an oil is safe for you personally, but react more often to new products, I’d recommend using only a very small, very diluted amount to start with to test yourself.

Other reactions include skin irritation (in many different forms), and photosensitivity after using certain essential oils (most notably citrus-based oils), which can lead to very bad sunburns.

Personally, I found that even using the oils that were supposedly “safe” to use undiluted made me sensitized to them (that is, I started to react to them over time). Sadly, this may not have happened if I had diluted them properly. That’s another example of “bad essential oil advice” that I’ve seen. Often essential oils are not properly diluted and used in much too strong of doses. I’ve seen a wide variety of essential oils dropped neat into open mouths and used neat on skin when it never should have been. One should fully understand that this could lead to harm, not healing.

Another possible negative effect of essential oils are the fact that many are mucous membrane irritants – that is they can have a drying and irritating effect on your eyes, nose, mouth, and private parts. Another reason to be cautious taking them orally, and even putting them in your bath. Some should never be used in the bath, and all should first be diluted with milk or a type of regular oil before being added (and to be extra cautious, you should add after you’ve gotten into the bath).

The good news

But there is good news in all of this. Most of the “best practices” for essential oils mean that you use a lot less of the oil! This can help stretch your essential oils out to last much longer (and save you a lot of money).

Quality does matter (and why that doesn’t mean we should war over brands)

Over and over again, when reading about essential oil safety, it became apparent that essential oil quality is important for safety. And here’s where it becomes easy to enter the “essential oil brand wars”. Everyone seems to have a favorite and is convinced that their brand is superior. I’ve spent so many countless hours researching brands, going in circles, and even came this close to signing up with a certain company. But in the end, with new information, I decided not too (I’m not comfortable sharing that information at this time, but it was enough to make me back down from that decision for now, despite still being willing to buy certain oils from both companies for personal use).

I see two extremes of misinformation about this online. One being that only their company can be trusted over all of the others. The truth of the matter is, there are many wonderful essential oil companies. Brand loyalty can ignore that reality, and ignore the value of excellent oils available for less expense.

On the other side, you see people saying “all brands are pretty much the same.” It is very true that many brands (yes, even the biggest brands) are all buying some of their essential oils from the same source, but selling at widely different prices. It’s also true that some independent tests done on single bottles of oils from a wide variety of brands showed similar purity, once again despite a wide variety of prices on the bottles. The problem with this view is that it appears that most essential oil experts not affiliated with any company specifically say that there are issues of purity, which lead to safety concerns with essential oil use. It’s over-simplifying the issue to make claims of all brands being equal.

I’m not ready to throw my weight behind any specific essential oil company as of yet, but I do try to buy from companies that work hard to properly test each and every batch of oil before they sell it.

Meanwhile, the most important thing you can do is to educate yourself on how to use them properly, as even the best brands can cause harm if improperly used. I think reading some of this basic information should be required before anyone uses essential oils! I know I would have benefited.

Resources:

 

 

COMMENT POLICY ON THIS POST: I am not interested in starting a comment led essential oil brand war on this post talking about why I don’t want to be part of that war. 😉 I know that many people are passionate about their favorite brand, but let’s focus on our passion for essential oils and safely using them! Comments may be deleted if they are too inflammatory, or are wanting to try to sell/promote a certain brand (it’s fine to say what brands you like to use, just avoid saying things like “brand X is the only good company”).

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I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

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Comments

  1. Lisa says

    Thank you for this, Kimi. I have no brand loyalty, and have found several excellent companies that work well for us. I completely agree about the education part. None of us have had a reaction, thankfully, but I do feel like a lot of misinformation abounds, spread, unfortunately, by overzealous distributors for an MLM company (in my case, anyway). The more I read, the more I’m understanding most oils should be diluted, especially for children. I was using just about everything neat, and even taking a number of things internally in my early days of using EO’s. We had some really amazing results, but I’m realizing we were blessed that we weren’t injured by my gleeful overuse. When my 6 year old had Coxsackie virus, she had a fever of 105. I used peppermint (NEAT!) on her neck and forehead, and her fever came down to 99.9 in one hour. Amazing, yes, but I could have caused serious problems! I’ve always used herbs an other natural things with caution, treating them like drugs, and researching safe doses. Why I didn’t think the same rules applied to potent essential oils, I don’t know, but I’m definitely educating myself now so we can continue safely using these powerful tools.

    • says

      Lisa,

      At least you weren’t trying to use that method on an infant! That’s where I would be most concerned! Peppermint, sadly, is now one of the oils I have to be very careful with, as after applying it several times neat, I became sensitive to it (now even handling the lid of the bottle can cause a reaction on my hand!). Those that advocate dilution make a point to say that EOs should be just as effective for treatment when diluted, so that’s encouraging!

      • Margot says

        Something I did not notice in your article is the use of pesticides on the farms that some essential oil brands buy from. Some very major brands that buy plants from farms they do not own, have been found to have pesticides on their plants. Scouts have gone out to test and have found this to be true. What do you get when you buy the essential oils from one of those companies? CONCENTRATED PESTICIDES in your oils! This is why it is so important as to which oils you buy. Young Living has their own farms without pesticides. You can arrange to visit any part of the process of their oil production to see for yourself. This is something that I think you should be discussing when you are telling people about oils.

  2. Cory says

    Any resources for soapmaking? I have assumed that using EO’s in soap would qualify as diluted, not to mention the saponification reaction and how that alters the oil, but I’ve avoided making citrus-scented soaps until I’ve actually gotten around to researching safety. I love the natural scents and find the “fragrances” cloying at best, but want to be sure our soap is safe. How big of a bummer would it be to make a great smelling soap and then have it cause photosensitivity?!

    Ok, so I could buy the Essential Oil Safety book, but that much $$ is a lot to lay down…

    Thanks.

    • Sonya says

      I would be cautious in using citrus oils in soaps and lotins. They do cause photosensitivity. 🙂 I would only use a product with citrus before going to bed.

  3. KimP says

    Exactly! I just had this conversation with my mom the other day – a certified aromatherapist & RN not affiliated with any major brand. It concerns her very much that many people are unaware of how unsafe their practices are. She always gave me two different formulas for essential oil products – one for me and another for my young children. Thanks for spreading the word about safety!

  4. Dawn Johns says

    I am horrified at the advice of those two major companies telling folks to ingest E.O’s and my fear is that someone will get very ill or die before it stops. The other issue is that many of us have used oils responsibly for years and should that happen, no more E.O’s without a doctor. So that said it needs to be talked about and i am happy more ladies are standing up against this. I question whether those oils are real that these 2 companies make, after all ingesting them by thousands so far have produced no serious mishaps as of yet, but they most assuredly would have or will if they are the TRUE thing. I have used Now Foods essential oils for 20 years and i asked them at Christmas time if i could use peppermint oil in candy making, Their response was that their oils were therapeutic grade and not food grade and as such they did not recommend it. I have safely used my oils for years without incident, BUT… I DO NOT INGEST THE OILS AND I AM EDUCATED ON E.O’s and FOLLOW THE AROMATHERAPY GUIDELINES OUTLINED FOR PROPER AND SAFE USAGE. It is True that these oils are very healing, but they are also extremely volatile (pure or strong) and can do harm if used incorrectly, so PEOPLE MUST EDUCATE THEMSELVES IF THEY ARE GOING TO USE THEM. and i do not mean by education the doctrine of a particular company, I MEAN GO TO THE ORIGINAL SOURCE.. NATUROPATHIC DR. OR AROMATHERAPIST LITERATURE.
    That is my 2 Cents for whatever you think its worth, but its worth saving a life and promoting good well being to me.
    God Bless Ladies.

    • says

      A distributor for one of these mlm companies lives near me and she is going to severely hurt someone. She says that the only reason she and her kids can ingest her oils and her peppermint is not harmful is because it is the only oil that is actually pure. All other oils don’t compare that’s why they are dangerous…

    • Kelly says

      Saying that you could die from ingesting EOs is like saying you could die from eating chicken. Yes it could happen. So you shouldn’t eat chicken?
      Just a thought.

      • Vinia o. Marquez says

        Ingesting EO and eating chicken is not a proper comparison ..not at all! The probability is beyond comparison. EO is a concentrated volatile substance. Chicken is food; protein, edible fat, etc.

        • Jeanne says

          The French and even Egyptians have promoted ingesting essential oils for centuries. It needs to have a specific chemical make up. Many oils are not tested for specific chemical make up. The lavender grown in my garden may have vast differences in its properties vs lavender grown in france. There have been many oils that have tested positive as being adulterated. Some have been diluted some have synthetics added to them. Some even have weeds and insecticide residue in them. Just because it’s less expensive on the shelf doesn’t mean it is not toxic for you. Unless you are paying to test all areas of the oil you really don’t know what’s in it. With that said. Has the author tested all the brands? If so are you positive the source or field it comes from is the same every time it is packaged? Or do they use an oil broker who just finds the best price and doesn’t care where it comes from in the world? I had an aromatherapy class reguired for my degree. I found it very disturbing that the textbook used for class had false and misleading information in it that I was being told was accurate. I have to wonder just how many of these aromatherapy classes or books used for these degree or certificate programs are teaching absolute truth or if they are just misleading students who have paid hefty tuitions. If I was being taught inaccurate information how many others are too? Since there are no regulations on any brand of essential oil how can you be sure what is in the bottle unless you are a chemist? The fact is you can’t. If I buy a brand anywhere I look to see documentation of where it was grown. I also look for batch numbers. If the company can’t or won’t tell me where it was sourced then I don’t care how cheap it is. I will not buy it because I have no way to know if it’s been tested properly to even be sure the chemical components are safe for me to use. It could be full of chemicals! It could have no medicinal benefit at all. I could grow a frankincense tree in the u.s. I highly doubt it would have the same chemical properties as one grown in Oman. That is if I could even harvest the oil properly. There is much more to oils and herbs than just picking a company by price. I firmly believe you must be a chemist to truly be able to recommend safety of using oils. If the company does not have chemists and tests through a certified company for chemical composition and assumes that expense then I don’t want to use their oils. Many companies have little or zero proof of such testing. Buyer beware.

          • says

            Jeanne, well said! I couldn’t agree more with you.
            That is one reason I follow Dr. Robert Pappas of Essential Oil University.

  5. mme says

    Thanks for this post. I have many eo from Mountain Rose Herbs, and a few other brands. I also get so tired of the “ours oils are superior” blah that you see all the time. Mostly I like the safety concerns you bring up here. Our scary story:
    I make my own vapor rub for colds- it has peppermint, eucalyptus, camphor, cajeput, menthol…. Well the last time I used it with one of our daughters she got very restless and couldn’t sleep- she was up the entire night sleep walking and acting very strange… foreward several months later after a very scary event and hospitalization we discovered she has a very abnormal EEG and a complex partial seizure disorder (not due to the essential oils). Peppermint, camphors, eucalyptus, and menthols are contraindicated in epilepsy. AT the time when we used those oils on her we did not know she had an abnormal EEG and seizure disorder- and she was obviously reacting to those oils that night. Thankful she has only had one event (though a frighful one b/c she stopped breathing and we had to do mouth to mouth). But I can speak VERY personally on being safe with eo’s especially with children. I now have all of the epilepsy oils clearly marked and keep them away from her…. She can smell an oil that she is not supposed to be around a mile away also- so I know what you mean by being sensitized!! …. and on a positive note we now use Frankincense oil on her to heal and prevent future events!

    • JoAnn Williams says

      How do you use the frankincense oil to help manage her epilepsy? A local distributor told me to put 2 drops under my tongue twice a day but that seems like a lot and I’m not totally comfortable doing it.

      • Lara says

        I stumbled upon this post from a google search — and I just want to share that personally, I found a major decrease in what had been daily seizure activity in my case, by applying Frankincense oil to the balls of my feet 3x/day, to begin with. Over the course of 6 weeks, I saw amazing results.

        I used nothing else at the same time as Frankincense. It was “anti-epilepsy” drugs that had made my seizures exponentially worse in both severity and frequency to begin with, and I had tried 5 or 6 different pharmaceuticals over the course of 2 and a half years, while trying a variety of different alternative treatments, as well. Had a yoga instructor of mine not said to me that it just “came” to her that one day that I should try Frankincense for my seizures, I would never have thought to do it. I had just about given up by that point! But, lo and behold.

        I realize that the post I am now responding to was made in 2015, but in the chance that my story may help someone, I want to share. I hope that you have found the right treatment for your case, by now. In case you are still reading this, how are things? Did you end up working with the Frankincense for your seizures, after all?

  6. MML says

    Thanks for this post. I have many eo from Mountain Rose Herbs, and a few other brands. I also get so tired of the “ours oils are superior” blah that you see all the time. Mostly I like the safety concerns you bring up here. Our scary story:
    I make my own vapor rub for colds- it has peppermint, eucalyptus, camphor, cajeput, menthol- and it is diluted in carrier oils…. Well the last time I used it with one of our daughters she got very restless and couldn’t sleep- she was up the entire night sleep walking and acting very strange… foreward several months later after a very scary event and hospitalization we discovered she has a very abnormal EEG and a complex partial seizure disorder (not due to the essential oils). Peppermint, camphors, eucalyptus, and menthols are contraindicated in epilepsy. AT the time when we used those oils on her we did not know she had an abnormal EEG and seizure disorder- and she was obviously reacting to those oils that night. Thankful she has only had one event (though a frighful one b/c she stopped breathing and we had to do mouth to mouth). But I can speak VERY personally on being safe with eo’s especially with children. I now have all of the epilepsy oils clearly marked and keep them away from her…. She can smell an oil that she is not supposed to be around a mile away also- so I know what you mean by being sensitized!! …. and on a positive note we now use Frankincense oil on her to heal and prevent future events!

  7. Sarah L says

    I agree with you that oils should be used carefully, even if you don’t react immediately, over time you can develop sensitivity to oils used regularly. I have used calendula oil safely for many years. It’s extremely gentle and nice for skin care, and few drops in a hot bath are wonderful. Lavender, is one I love and have used for many years. Even diluted lavender is strong and I now use it infrequently. I use lavender as itchy or flaky scalp remedy to restore skin balance. I also use organic oils when I can get them, and might choose not to use any that aren’t.

    Cedar oil is a good way to deter moths when dotted onto a rag in the closet. I sometimes put a drop in tho my rinse water for wool sweaters. A cedar branch or sprigs work fine when storing sweaters too. I put them in a net bag to keep from getting dry leaves everywhere. You get a bonus cedar scent too.

  8. Patrice says

    I’m glad you posted this. I’ve seen a lot out there about ingesting EO. I’m not entirely comfortable with some of what I read. You hardly ever heard about EOs, now they are everywhere. I’m a bit tired of the EO wars. I almost signed up with one company, then another one caught my eye. I’m on information overload!

      • Melissa says

        Never apply essential oils ‘neat’ (without diluting in a carrier oil.). Even with a carrier oil, thieves is possibly dangerous for children because of the Eucalyptus. There are blends out there that use other oils with the same function but none of the neurotoxicity of Eucalyptus for children. They are usually marketed as ‘kid-safe’.

  9. says

    Thank you for this! I keep beating the same drum too. I’ve been using EOs for 20 years and some of the information out there really, really scares me.

    We had a scary experience with lavender and I recently discovered I have an allergy to Thyme oil (big bummer!). Even after 20 years, I still make mistakes and learn new things and following best practices safety guidelines has, IMO, been the difference between a “scary experience” and death (and that sound dramatic, but when your 1 1/2 year old is gasping for breath that thought crosses your mind).

    I hope people see posts like yours and mine and realize that EOs are powerful and deserve the respect that that power deserves.

  10. Malori says

    Very interesting! I think the bottom line is that each person needs to do their own research and determine what THEY personally are okay with using themselves and with their family. I found it interesting that on the NAHA website it says that peppermint EO may cause heartburn when used orally…but for me personally, that is the ONLY essential oil (or product, for that matter) that will take away heartburn!! Also, just the other day I was having terrible stabbing pain in my upper stomach (which sent me to the hospital 2 years ago), but less than 5 minutes after rubbing peppermint EO diluted with coconut oil on my stomach and 1 drop under my tongue, it was relieved! I don’t know what I’d do without my peppermint. 🙂 The internal use of essential oils is actually not controversial in some circles. The French model endorses using essential oils internally.

    A few other things to note: the NAHA says that inhalation of “large doses” can lead to adverse side effects. It is commonsense that anything in excess will create a toxic or unwelcome reaction. What exactly do they mean by “large dose?” When I use peppermint aromatically, I either blend it in my diffuser with orange or put one drop in my hands and inhale a few breaths. In my opinion, 1 drop aromatically (or a few drops in a diffuser) is not a large dose. Obviously if someone tried to drink a whole bottle or even half a bottle at one time, that would have an adverse effect. (For example, the article the NAHA links to on a near fatal case of peppermint EO ingestion – that individual took it in EXCESS. They said it was probably a suicidal attempt. Taking a couple drops in a capsule with lavender and lemon to alleviate seasonal discomfort, for example, is not excessive.) But again, each person must do what they’re comfortable with. Even water can be toxic in large quantities, and that threshold will be a little different for each person. Same with essential oils and any natural remedy.

    Finally, this documentation on the toxic or harmful effects of essential oils, including those with using peppermint on children/babies – what kind of EO’s gave this type of reaction? Were they totally, 100% pure? Were the chemical constituents that naturally occur in EO’s balanced in the proper way? Many essential oils are extracted using chemicals because it’s easier, quicker, and cheaper. If an essential oil has any type of chemical or synthetic residue or filler, that toxin will be highly concentrated and therefore be very potent. Just because a bottle says “essential oil” in the ingredients list does NOT make it real essential oil. It could be an essential oil that was recreated in a lab – making it a synthetic fragrance. Perhaps that was the case with the adverse reaction to the bug spray with peppermint EO? Also, one cannot technically have an “allergy” or an “allergic” reaction to an essential oil because there are no proteins present. A better way to term that would be a “sensitivity.”

    Anyhow, that’s my 2 cents! 🙂 I’m very passionate about essential oils and think it’s great you’re not participating in the essential oil brand war. I am enthusiastic about a particular brand and wholeheartedly endorse the oils and the company….I teach classes and educate people on what essential oils can do for their lives, and I also empower them to do research and education on their own….but I will not say what company I represent, just so I don’t stir up any drama. I think we all need to band together because there are people who would LOVE to shut us down – and it’s not competing essential oil companies. I think we all know who these people are. 😉

    • Bri says

      Just to inform you, one CAN have an allergy or allergic reaction to an EO. Just as you can be allergic to melons, lavender, or grass (all plant products), one can be allergic to their EOs. I have gone into anaphylactic shock twice when exposed too lavender and have to go to great lengths to attempt to avoid it.

      • Delores says

        I used Lavender, neat on my lips and around my eyes. Foolishly, I had not even read the bottle. My eyes began to burn and my lips became greatly swollen and remained that way for about ten days. I really would like to know if I can ever use diluted lavender in the future?

      • Jess says

        Thank you! I have heard multiple reps from a “certain” mom company say that and it’s baloney! My mom has severe allergies to almost everything and a woman down the street is always bathed in whatever her remedy of the day is. Just being around this woman for a few minutes causes a flare up that takes days of antihistamine use to recover from. I myself have a few favorite oils that I have found success with but many of the things these reps say have completely turned me off.

  11. Ali says

    I wish you WOULD share with us which brands you think are safe & why/why not. Some of us don’t have the time or resources to dig as deeply into the matter.

  12. says

    It is interesting to note that the French Medical Model of using essential oils internally is sometimes mentioned as justification for using essential oils internally. In France, there is a strict process by which they analyze oils for their therapeutic/medical use ( to be mixed by pharmacists for prescriptions). Their process is the HEBBD process. In English that is Essestial Oils Botanically and Biochemically Defined (EOBBD). They recognize that it is not just the processing and “purity” of the oil (here in America, ISO Standards are only 2% essential oil to be “pure”). But that the same plant (botanically defined species) under different growing conditions produces oils which can have drastically different effects. Helicrysum is a very valued and expensive oil, grown at a specific elevation in France. The same plant, grown at a lower elevation, even under the best, organic conditions would not have the same therapeutic value or benefit to the body. A field of lavender which has been under an infestation of insects, if harvested soon after and made into an essential oil, could have a dramatic, toxic effect on the end user. This is because the lavender plant alters it’s own chemical make up to deter the pests, becoming toxic to us as well.

    For many years using essential oils, I too have avoided the brand wars, but I have honestly come to the point where there is only one company, whose oils I feel comfortable using on my children and family for therapeutic use (respecting proper cautions and dilutions) due to their transparency and oversight of all these factors that I have just mentioned. Depending on the use and purpose I have in mind, I do use other oils and brands from time to time, but these are all big things to consider when adressing safe usage of essential oils. I applaud you trying to find some sensible recommendations, rather than just jumping on the bandwagon. I feel it is worth treating all oils as if there could be a sensitivity. Less is more.

  13. says

    I have been scared away from using essential oils. There are distributors with mlm oil companies here who told me to put a couple oils neat on my 3 year old for an ear infection. She was vomiting and her feet were burning so bad. This distributor says that because her company is superior to others she can use the oils orally, use them all neat, and she has been telling so many other people they can do the same. I warned her about peppermint because she has children in the house and uses it in baking and she said her products are superior so there is no danger with the peppermint. That is only an issue in lower quality peppermint oil. And she is signing up people left and right and having information sessions! Am I wrong to think that any peppermint oil is dangerous? Like I said I don’t even use oils because I don’t have the time to research them and I can’t believe anything this girl tells me and I know they are powerful so I’d don’t want to mess around with them if I’d don’t know what I’d doing. But I’d really like to.

  14. Emily says

    I was a little confused about weather “generally, my understanding is that you should never diffuse more than an hour long of any essential oil, but some more potent oils or blends should only be diffused for 20 minutes!” was also referring to peppermint and small children. I have a few friends wondering about this and weather or know its ok to use the oil. Thank you 🙂

    • says

      Hey Emily,

      Obviously it depends on whose advice you follow on which oils are safe or children and babies. I follow the recommendations not to use peppermint oil around young children, and that includes diffusing them. Does that clarify?

  15. Julie says

    Interesting read. I’m just starting to look into oils and I have a theories oil blend which I’ve been diffusing in our kitchen when the kids are home. The littlest is just a year. After reading this I’m thinking I shouldn’t be doing that?

  16. Julie says

    Interesting read. I’m just starting to look into oils and I have a thieves oil blend which I’ve been diffusing in our kitchen when the kids are home. The littlest is just a year. After reading this I’m thinking I shouldn’t be doing that?

  17. Amber says

    I’ve had oils for years but wanted to start using a diffuser of some kind. Do you need to dilute oils when using one? Are there any specific ones that you shouldn’t use with say a candle under the “bowl” due to the open flame heat? Thanks!

    • Stephanie says

      I prefer cold water diffusers. You don’t dilute the oils, but add them to the water in the diffuser. You shouldn’t use heat with any essential oils because it alters their healing properties.

  18. Ariel says

    My son is 9 months old and recently had a seizure for the first time. We have been diffusing EO, including peppermint at night up to 6 hours. Since this episode we have stopped diffusing. Is it possible that essential oil may have played a part? I know we can’t know for sure but he has a neurology appointment and would like to bring up this concern. And I’m guessing that the dr will not be well versed in side effects of EOs. Any studies or research recommendations regarding seizures and EOs?

  19. Michelle says

    Hi. I am 16 weeks pregnant and I just bought the Young Living starter kit. I was really excited to start using the Thieves and applied a drop to the bottom of each of my sons’ feet (ages 3 and 5.5). But then I smelled the oil strongly on my fingers and googled and see Thieves is not recommended in pregnancy. Does that mean that I shouldn’t apply to myself topically, or is even touching it to apply to my children and smelling the aroma dangerous?

    • Heidi Fluegel says

      You should not be touching the Thieves at all if you are pregnant. If you are touching it, then you are absorbing it.

  20. Theresa says

    I am new to essential oils and I am trying to educate myself (I do have young children). Thank you for your post. It’s nice to find information without it being skewed. I actually just purchased my first order through a company I found on the NAHA website. I’m assuming (hoping) they would only support honest, quality companies. I would love to get your opinion (privately if needed) on this company. Again, I just want to be informed since I’m new to essential oils.

  21. Mina says

    I’m curious…. Was peppermint the only ingredient in the ““kid safe” commercial bug deterrent”? If not, how are you certain that the peppermint caused your daughter’s reaction?

  22. says

    Thank you. I’m a new user looking for information that at least coincides with what I believe are true key elements of EO usage. For example, once someone says to use an oil ‘neat’ or should be ingested, I can’t in good conscience believe anything else they say, because I *know* THAT’S not right :-P. Your article is hitting the nail on the head here, and I know I need to educate myself more, but I realize now it may be no coincidence that my kids developed some pretty nasty coughs the day after I diffused Peppermint. It did WONDERS for me, but… we’re on day 3? of horrible coughs with them. Day 1 I actually tried diffusing MORE peppermint, because I didn’t have any eucalyptus, and I’m now thinking that it may even have been the peppermint that started the cough.

    I started this journey to help with allergies and to REDUCE coughing and mucus, but the typical “seasonal blend” is obviously not safe for kids. I’m glad I saw this article before I bought my next batch of oils, because the blends I was planning on buying had peppermint in them too!! A little more research will have to go in (and maybe an actual visit to an aromatherapist) before I continue with anything other than lavender in the evenings (in a diffuser).

    I actually found your article based on a search looking to see what to do when you’d diffused too much. I loved the effect I got from my diffuser the first few days, but when we ran errands, I obviously wasn’t diffusing anything near me (ps: i only diffuse 1-2 drops at a time in 100ml water… and only 2 when it sneaks out the bottle. 3 drops sneak out: it goes down the drain and we try again). So I decided to be “smart” and put a drop of oil on a cotton ball and tuck it in my bra the past two days;). Today, I got distracted and forgot it was in there. The air has “tasted funny” all day long. Yesterday, I noticed my daughter coughing HARDER when her head was on my chest. Needless to say ALL the oils have been tucked away for a while (hopefully just a few days) while our bodies process the “extra” out, and hopefully we didn’t get sensitized- even though it was ONE drop, NOT touching me on a cotton ball (I put a drop on, stretched the cotton ball, and folded it over so the oil was on the inside… to start at least) I need to get some roller balls so that ALL my oils are diluted to 1% (I don’t 100% feel comfortable using them higher on myself, and if need be, can always apply twice as much). And probably find that aromatherapist.

    But thanks for saving me from dropping peppermint in my daughter’s warm-mist-humidifier tomorrow on the “vicks pad” slot!

  23. says

    It’s true that there are so many resources of essential oils with different brands. They almost have good quality and sometimes they make people who are finding a proper oil for their family confused to choose. Besides, many advertisements just focus on oils’ features and quality without note about the cautions when using them. The experiences you share in your post is one of the reference being useful for people. Thanks so much!

  24. Emily says

    I personally use essential oils as well and have never had an issue thus far. HOWEVER, I make a point to inform myself about safe and proper use prior to using any oil. I’m amazed at the number of people who use these without any caution or care to inform themselves first. Most ask questions on forums that clearly indicate they don’t even have a book, or reference material to use, which is unfortunate, and irresponsible. Common sense seems to be a commonly absent ingredient as well. I think some level of education should be required prior to selling or promoting something that can adversely effect a personal health. I am always learning new things about EO use, and utilize my reference material all the time. EO use can be incredibly useful and beneficial, as it has for myself and my family. It’s unfortunate that the miseducation, lack of common sense, an cavalier use by some will adversely affect the EO industry.
    Just some of my viewpoints, thanks!

  25. says

    Thanks for these information about essential oil safety. I am a huge fan of essential oil and these really help me a lot. Thank you so much.

  26. says

    You are right, i have read many essential oil reviews but none of them mention about this, they just try to push on features and everything make they can sell, sad but true, hope that they can know what you doing and tell their customer how to use safety 🙂
    Again, thank you for great post!

  27. sara says

    thank you for the information! Im new to essential oils and I did a very stupid thing. Im 25 weeks pregnant and after my shower, i rubbed some lavender EO into my hands and right onto my belly. it was about a tablespoon amount and i didnt even dilute it. I thought it smelled nice until after i applied it and it was so strong. about an hour later, my husband came in and said it smelled way too strong and could really be dangerous so i washed it off in case. but it had already been sitting on my skin for at least an hour.

    im really worried. i did apply burts bees belly cream on first and their oil before applying the lavender so im hoping that would have at least diluted it a little… why i did this craze, i have no idea. thought i was doing good 🙁 is my baby going to be okay? im so worried! 🙁

  28. says

    i personally think that essential oil safety is often times a topic that’s kept away from users mainly because 1. the person who share a piece of information is not educated on the subject, and 2. it will make users use less oils.

    recently i’ve seen a lot of BS from Young Living MLM that pisses me off, and info including how their peppermint is different from other peppermint and how their peppermint is safe to apply on kids undiluted. I think the market simply need more voices from people like us who appreciate a more responsible sharing!

    thanks again for such a lovely post!

  29. says

    Didn’t even think about the safety aspect when I first tried essential oils. Just heard that they were pure oils that were beneficial for health. Personally, I don’t overuse them. I just put a few drops in my essential oil diffuser and let them diffuse out…the fragrance is lovely!

  30. Susan duff says

    I’m also new to essential oils but am not ignorant to what it can do. I learned this when I walked through my cold mist humidifier, where I had put a dozen or so drops of pure eucalyptus radiatus (so, safe for kids) into the entire water reservoir while holding my newborn and it made her gag and projectile vomit breastmilk. It clearly has a powerful effect on the human body so now I’m hyper-aware to how I’m using it around my kids, who are now a toddler & infant. I don’t mess around and use it on the conservative side of moderation.

  31. Sweta says

    Can i skip shampoo after using essential oil? Can i use rosemary essential oil regularly without using shampoo regularly.

  32. Melissa Conrad says

    I actually am apart of a MLM and I do partake in the business side because I love the products, but I agree that safety is important. ALWAYS, ALWAYS dilute with anyone if you ask me. Infant, Child, Adult, does not matter, always dilute in a roller bottle. If you (an adult) and your daughter (lets say 3yrs) went to get the same prescription at a pharmacy they would not be the same dosage, you do not weigh the same. Also, there are prescription drugs that little ones can not take, but an adult can. I think and tell people treat essential oils with respect just like you would a prescription drug. I always tell them that there is a lot to learn, and you will be learning for the rest of your life, but you will be gaining something that our culture has lost, the knowledge and ability to help our families.

  33. Riya says

    Hey Thankyou so much for this amazing article.
    You really look genuine. Otherwise many others seem to bluff the viewers.
    I just need one advice from you.
    I want to start using essential oils for regrowing hair.
    Which essential oil is the best? Could you please help me in this. I am really confused between lavender rosemary or cedarwood?
    Do not worry , anything happens will be at my risk.

  34. Karla says

    I am so upset right now. I am 12 weeks pregnant and trying to avoid deet while protecting for zika. About to times this weeks I applied Pure Eucalyptus oil on my skin and now I am very concerned…. Will this affect my baby?

  35. JB says

    I have a family member who is a distributor for one of the big MLMs and is very vocal about her support for her brand and her lack of support for other brands, and I’ve got another family member who is so against essential oils that she won’t even take freelance jobs to write about them (she’s a writer). This topic is polarizing for some reason. I wish it wasn’t. Clearly there is a middle ground where they are useful but ought to be used responsibly.
    I was gifted a bottle of bergamot earlier this month (this one: Bergamot) made by a company called Mother E and wonder if you’ve heard of this brand. I guess they’re pretty new still.

  36. says

    Thanks so much for writing such an insightful and informative article (and not being part of the brand wars). Since I’ve been on my own journey for information, I get irked by all the biased and incorrect info out there that actively promotes unsafe practices. Keep up the good work!

  37. Kyle says

    You also forgot essential oils can cause adverse reaction is adults as well. I had been using essential oils in a diffuser for over a year without issue. Now, if I diffuse any oil in my water diffuser my lungs get super irritated, I can’t take deep breaths without coughing, hyper senesitivity (much like the flu) and massive headache. I am not unhealthy, I have no underlying medical condition however, there is a news article from 2011 that has scientific facts that show essential oil droplets in the Air can cause adverse effects to lungs, liver etc over time. Reed diffusers are all I use now, I will never again use a water difuser or steam essential oils.

  38. Bethany says

    I absolutely appreciate the honesty of this post. I have family pushing me to use EO’s from a war brand company and it has been driving me bonkers so I understand why you want to take no part in the matter. Anyway, I came looking for more info on safe uses when you have epilepsy. I want to diffuse thieves oil in my house but do not know if I can due to the eucalyptus and rosemary in it. I really want to find out if it is safe to use or if it should be avoided at all costs to not trigger a seizure. Looks like I will have to buy a few books and get to reading. If something happens to me, my children could be put in danger so it is very important to find an answer. I don’t want to live my life only using frankincense. Thank you for sharing.

    • Susan says

      I unfortunately can’t give you an answer. I don’t know if Thieves is safe or not for epileptics. I think you would need to consult a doctor to find out. And if they can’t tell you, maybe you don’t want to find out.

      I just wanted to say there’s more to essential oils than pre-made blends. A lot of people enjoy making their own products. When you make your own, you can choose your own ingredients and how much – so you know exactly what’s in it. Many essential oils share some of the same constituents, so you may be able to choose ones with the properties you want without the properties you don’t. Here are recipes for two anti-germ blends that do not use eucalyptus or rosemary – http://www.usingeossafely.com/anti-germ-essential-oils/

      When I fell in love with essential oils, I found myself considering only them. I’d think, what else is there? But essential oils are only one tool in herbalism (and a very powerful, “big guns” one). Extracts, infused oils (where you put plant matter in a jar, cover with a vegetable oil and let sit for a while), hydrosols, and fresh and dried herbs tend to be gentler and are also ways to enjoy plants aromatically. Say the doctor says the rosemary and eucalyptus essential oils are dangers. Would there be some other ways you could enjoy these plants that would be safe? You could then ask the doctor if cooking with dried rosemary would be safe, or smelling a sprig of dried eucalyptus in a flower arrangement.

      I hope you find the right answers for you.

  39. says

    This is very important – to inform people. Unfortunately no warning and it seems that we can use essential oils without control, but this is not true. I always recommend that pregnant women be careful with essential oils, especially high concentrations.

    • says

      I'm going to sit down and read The Prince myself. I've never read it all the way through. I'm preparing for a course on Florence in the spring. I'm wondering how distinct it will be from Maiclavelih's other political writings.

  40. Judith Draeger says

    Is it safe to diffuse cinnamon bark & patchouli in cold steam 2 drops of EO in 300 ml of water for 12 hours? Or even if it’s only 2 drops should I only diffuse 20 minutes?

  41. Joe Well says

    I was lying in bed with a severe migraine and I remembered that I had peppermint oil in reach and that it helps with migraines, I began to sniff it but accidentally poured some into my nose, not something you want to do.

  42. SEN says

    I have a question. I’m not into essential oils, don’t really trust them. But I have a friend who is a distributor – one of those “use them for everything types”. From what I can tell, she uses them all over her kids willy-nilly. The two year old runs circles every night for hours and has trouble sleeping, also dropped naps at barely a year. The younger one walks around like a zombie with a glazed look. I’m concerned for both of them. Could the oils be causing these effects? I know she’s big on “Thieves” and “Ningxia Red”. And the children always smell very….citrusy.

  43. Kelly says

    I have an infant and recently used peppermint oil under our baseboards to deter ants. Is there anyway to remove it now to make sure it doesn’t affect him?

  44. Angelita says

    I am wondering if I am having a reaction to essential oils. I used a diffuser one night and the next morning I woke up and could hardly walk. I was so dizzy I was nauseated. I blamed it on what I ate the night before. The whole day and into the next I was sick. I stopped using the oils for several weeks and then started using them this week. I started having the same issues although not as severe….light headedness and slight nausea. I just wasn’t putting it together really….until now. It is hard for me to believe something so natural could cause injury but I really believe I am sensitive to these oils. I only use a couple of drops each time so it’s baffling to me, but it must be the cause of it unless I have some sudden unknown medical issue.

    • Veronica says

      Angelita, this reaction sounds very similar to mine! I came online looking for answers because I was diffusing various oils as I went to sleep and had to turn off the diffuser because i felt like the room was spinning. I was so dizzy and felt almost drugged! The first night i thought it was a coincidence but now I’m not so sure…. scary!

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