As you get started using essential oils, it's very important that you use them safely. Why? Because you want the benefits of using essential oils, not to cause more harm to your body. Essential oils can be very helpful and healing but only if used correctly. Some oils may burn you or cause worse damage if used in the wrong way. Read on to learn more about essential oil safety.
If you are brand new to essential oils, please read What are essential oils? and Beginner's Guide to Essential Oil Use first to get a basic knowledge about these amazing substances are before reading this post. If you have already seen these posts, read on!
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According to Butterfly Miracles with Essential Oils, there are several different schools of thought on what is considered safe and the best method of application and it mostly differs between countries. “Aromatherapists trained in Germany consider inhalation as the best and most effective way to use essential oils…In Britain and other English speaking countries, the skin is the primary avenue of absorption and utilization of essential oils. The emphasis is on massage with carrier oils containing only 2-5% of essential oil…The French recommend the use of essential oils in just about any way you can imagine. They particularly emphasize the taking of essential oils orally.” (Westover, pg 2)
As you can see, there are many differing opinions on how to use essential oils safely and effectively. This is why every source is different, just depending on who you listen to. You will have to use your own judgment about how you want to use them, but I have put together a handy list below that has come from my research and knowledge. This is a great place to start.
HOW DO YOU USE ESSENTIAL OILS SAFELY AND EFFECTIVELY? FOLLOW THESE SIMPLE GUIDELINES:
(and when in doubt, ask a certified aromatherapist or your healthcare practitioner)
Essential oils are flammable and should not be used with any type of burner or warmer, especially one with a flame. They are not explosive but do pose a risk if near flames. Always use an essential oil diffuser when the desire is to fill the room with an essential oil scent.
When using essential oils topically (on your skin) you should ALWAYS dilute them! If you don’t, you could burn yourself or cause sensitization (similar to an allergic reaction). Oils like oregano and cinnamon are very hot oils and will burn your skin if you put them on neat (without dilution). Even lavender has been known to cause reactions for some people with sensitive skin so always use caution. It’s better to dilute and add more essential oil if you feel it’s necessary then have to heal your skin from burns or rashes. When in doubt, DILUTE!
If you search Pinterest or other online resources, they may give you bad advice about how to use essential oils safely. Please start slowly with a high dilution. A great place to start is a 5% concentration of essential oil to carrier oil. This is the only way to ensure your safety. Again, you can always add more essential oil to make it stronger but you can’t dilute more if it’s already burned or sensitized your skin.
- How to dilute: There are a couple of different ways you can dilute essential oils. (1) Get roller bottles and put 10-20 drops of essential oil in it, then fill up the rest of the bottle with FCO (fractionated coconut oil) or other carrier oil and apply to the affected area. (2) Put a small amount of FCO or other carrier oil in your hand and put 1-3 drops of essential oil with it and apply to the affected area. (3) Apply FCO or other carrier oil to the affected area and then apply 1-3 drops of essential oil on top of carrier oil. This way is not recommended for really hot oils like oregano, cinnamon, or clove because it may not be diluted enough to avoid burning or skin irritation.
USE 100% PURE AND/OR ORGANIC ESSENTIAL OILS
Not all essential oils are made equally. There are different ‘grades’ or ‘types’ of essential oils and if you use the wrong type, you will probably not get the effect that you desire and you may even harm yourself in the process of using them. To learn more about the different types of essential oil, please read my post titled What are essential oils. The short version is to only use 100% pure and/or organic essential oils.
How do you find high quality oils? Before buying, you should research the company's ethics and purity. Ask the company for their GC/MS tests on their essential oils. If they don’t give it to you, there’s a big red flag! There are several companies that will give you these tests if asked, but there are a lot of companies that will not give their customers these test reports. If they won’t provide you with the GC/MS test, you can assume that they either don’t have them or they are fake and don’t want you to know. STAY AWAY FROM ANY COMPANY THAT WILL NOT PROVIDE YOU WITH GC/MS TESTS WHEN ASKED. Don’t use essential oils for medicinal purposes if you cannot verify the purity of them.
I’ve taken out some of the legwork for you and done the research on several essential oil companies myself. Here are some companies that I highly recommend:
DON’T USE ESSENTIAL OILS IN YOUR EARS, EYES, OR NOSE
According to the Tisserand Institute, “undiluted essential oils should not be dripped into the ears, but diluted essential oils may be placed on a cotton wad for partial insertion…Do not drip undiluted essential oils into eyes as this will cause a chemical burn and may result in temporary blindness. Diluted essential oils may be used close to the eyes.” (How to Use Essential Oils Safely)
DO NOT ingest essential oils without the proper education. Many oils are not safe to be taken internally. Some essential oil companies have labeled their oils which are safe to take internally but many companies do not label them this way. Get my handy essential oil safety chart to see which oils can be taken internally. Also, remember that you’re insides have layers similar to skin tissue and it is even more sensitive than our actual skin so ALWAYS DILUTE. The easiest way to take essential oils internally is to put 1-2 drops of essential oil in a veggie cap and fill with a carrier oil.
USE EXTRA CAUTION WITH CHILDREN AND INFANTS
Keep essential oils out of reach of children and infants. They can easily take off the cap and ingest them if given the chance to. While this is probably not fatal, it can cause serious harm.
When using essential oils with children and infants, dilute to a 0.5%-3% ratio (depending on the age of the child). This is plenty of essential oil for their little bodies. The easiest way to achieve this dilution is to use roller bottles. I have included this handy image from AromaTools for help with achieving the proper dilution according to age.
Lastly, Some oils are NOT safe for children and infants. Please download my essential oil safety chart for more details on which oils are safe for children. Just because you dilute an oil to the recommended ratio does not mean that it is safe for children. Example: Eucalyptus is not safe to use around the face of children but can be used elsewhere on the body when diluted.
According to Kelly Azzaro, “Essential oils for canines (dogs) and equines (horses), and with some other farm animals, can be used topically for spot application, massage therapy and for skin and hoof/paw care. Inhalation therapy is also used with tools such as an atomizer-diffuser type unit, and with mist spray bottles to infuse the aromatic scent and healing properties into the environment.
Essential oil use for felines (cats) is very limited due to a cat’s sensitive metabolic system and their internal organs: the liver and kidneys do not breakdown certain substances due to lack of enzymes.
Some hydrosols-hydrolats (the aromatic-water byproduct that remains after the steam distillation process of plant material: flowers, leaves, twigs and bark for essential oil use) can be a gentle and safe alternative for animals, and even for cats if used in minute amounts: Always use under the guidance of a professional aromatherapist.
If you do choose to work with essential oils for your pets, it is best to seek out a professionally trained aromatherapist with additional training in animal aromatherapy, and to communicate with your veterinarian if your animal friend has any known allergies or serious health issues before using essential oils. Some essential oils are contraindicated for use with certain health care conditions.” (Azzaro)
For more information, please read Animal Aromatherapy and Essential Oil Safety. Plant Therapy also came out with a dog line and horse line of essential oils. This is an easy way to use essential oils on some of your pets without the hassle of wondering if they are safe or not.
Generally, essential oils are safe but some should not be used if you have a skin condition, are pregnant or nursing, or are on certain medications. If you have any concerns, it is best to be under the guidance of your primary physician and an aromatherapist.
This is just a general list of safety guidelines. Essential oils are powerful substances but should be used with some caution. I’ve made an essential oil safety chart for more information on individual oils and their contraindications, but when in doubt, ask a certified aromatherapist. For easy access later, download these safety tips in the printable below! You can put it in a binder, on your refrigerator or you can print it and give it to others that have questions about essential oil safety!
AromaTools. (2016, July). The Art of Roller Bottle Blending. Retrieved from https://blog.aromatools.com/2016/07/29/the-art-of-roller-bottle-blending/
Azzaro, Kelly Holland. Animal Aromatherapy and Essential Oil Safety. Retrieved from https://naha.org/assets/uploads/Animal_Aromatherapy_Safety_NAHA.pdf
How to Use Essential Oils Safely. Retrieved from https://tisserandinstitute.org/safety/safety-guidelines/
Westover, LaRee. (2010). Butterfly Miracles with Essential Oils: Empowering Yourself. United States: Butterfly Expressions LLC.