Essential Oils Safety & Precautions
Essential Oil Safety and Precautions
In an effort to relieve apprehension surrounding the use of essential oils, this section is devoted to educating you about their safe and effective use. We'll explain briefly the important aspects of essential oils, and how proper usage can impact optimum results. Here are some of the key points:
- Common Names
- Botanical or Latin Names
- Plant Family
- Description of the Oil
- Main Chemical Constituents
- Suggested Appropriate Uses
- Precautions and Warnings
- Skin Patch Test
- Standard Cautions & Disclaimers
There are many healthful benefits derived from the use essential oils, as we describe the safety and precautions surrounding their use, please keep in mind that our intent is for you to understand the complete picture and therefore be better equipped to make informed decisions.
- Common, Botanical and Latin Names
The use of common names is a part of our everyday language in communicating with the familiar. However, as we get more acquainted with the use of essential oils, you will quickly discover there may be several oils sold under the same common name. To avoid being misled or confused about what you are purchasing, do not buy an oil that has only the common name listed on the label. Lavender, a common name familiar to most, is a good example because there are many varieties of lavender, four of which are used in aromatherapy. We refer to Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia, as the true lavender. This is different from spike lavender (Lavandula latifolia) or maritime lavender, (Lavandula stoechas), or lavindin (Lavandula intermedia). All four are lavender but with different constituents, grown in different areas of the world and they look different. Lavandula angustifolia is considered the true lavender, the most commonly used lavender for aromatherapy, so don't buy just any lavender.
It is helpful, and sometimes imperative; that you know what plant family your essential oil comes from. You may know that you have an allergy to a particular plant family, but you may not be aware that an essential oil belongs to that same plant family. For example, the aster subclass has different families. In the aster or sunflower family you'll find arnica which we use for sprains and bruises, you'll also find dandelion subfamily, ragweed tribe and chamomile tribe. You can see that there is a large variety of plants that come from the same family, and we would recommend using a skin patch test (described below) before using these oils, especially if you have known allergies to plants. Oils distilled from any one of those in the plant family could cause sensitivity.
- Description of the Essential Oil
Important details, like a description of what the essential oil looks and smells like, are valuable to you for identification upon opening the bottle. For example, if the oil should be clear and it is orange or brown or red, you may have an oil that was mislabeled, was extended during distillation or has outlived its shelf life. Compare it to picking a good piece of fruit. To do so, you need to know what it looks like, smells like and feels like. Another safety precaution for you.
- Main Chemical Constituents
Chemistry is a integral part of aromatherapy. It is responsible for therapeutic ways the oils work within our body. Plants use "biosynthesis" to create the essence later used as an essential oil. This is the plant's way of attracting the good insect to them and repelling the harmful ones accordingly. It helps bring much needed energy to the plants. Some of these chemical constituents change during distillation or sometimes they are produced during distillation itself, creating the final result.
It is important for you to know about the essential oils you are using and how they work in your body. Should you develop a sensitivity, your health care professional needs to know what you have used. Another important reason for you to know about the constituents is to be sure they won't interact with current medications you are taking. For example, if you are taking medicine for high blood pressure, you might consider avoiding rosemary as it can potentially raise your blood pressure.
- Suggested Appropriate Uses
These inform the consumer which oils to use for a particular concern and how they should best be applied. Sometimes the best application may be a foot bath rather than a full bath. At other times inhalation may be the best method of application. Some concerns may call for a compress and others may suggest a massage as the best method of application. We will be offering you suggested uses for each essential oil or blend.
Nothing could be more important than checking the cautions and warnings before using a particular essential oil or blend of oils. Being unaware of the different effect that a given essential oil may have on your body could put you at risk if used inappropriately. Essential oils penetrate the blood stream, regardless of the application, making it critical for you to understand how they react with your body's chemistry. Used improperly, essential oils can be toxic and cause sensitivity to your skin and mucus membranes.
Proper use and storage of the essential oils is also of critical importance. Never store them in direct sunlight, extreme heat or expose them to air. Instead, store them in air tight containers, preferably in a cool dark place. Always dilute an essential oil in a vegetable carrier oil before applying them. Always apply a skin patch test (described below) to be sure you are safe to use the chosen oil or blend. Always avoid contact with the eyes and mucus membranes.
Be open and honest about all of your health history when working with an aromatherapist. Always disclose any known allergies. Be sure to inform them if you are pregnant or nursing, if you have epilepsy, liver disease, heart conditions, or kidney disease. Some essential oils should be avoided prior to exposure to sunlight or tanning beds.
Until you become familiar with any essential oil or blend of oils, we advise you to perform a simple "skin patch test." This will ensure you have no allergy or sensitivity to the oil or blend. Simply wash the "crook of your arm" (the inside bend of your arm) with an unscented soap and water. Pat dry, do not rub. Mix a drop of the essential oil with a drop of vegetable oil you have in your kitchen (canola, sunflower or olive oil). You can mix them in a teaspoon. Now put a drop or so on the washed area of your arm and cover it with a bandage and leave dry for 24 hours. Remove the bandage. If you see redness, feel warmth or itching or see a rash, wash the area and pat dry. We would not recommend you use this oil. If your skin looks normal, you are more than likely safe to proceed using this oil or blend. This is a good test for any new skin product you intend to use, especially if you have sensitive skin.
We advise all of our essential oil customers to keep in mind that essential oils are potent forms of the original plants, trees, or woods. Prolonged use can cause sensitization and toxicity to develop. We like to recommend that whatever your method, when you are using essential oils on a daily basis, take a break. For example, say the first week of the month you'll take a vacation from using your essential oils. This gives your system time to eliminate any build up of toxins.
- IMPORTANT! Standard Cautions and Disclaimers:
The information contained within this website is for general information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat medical conditions. Before using essential oils, we strongly advise you to seek the advice of your health care professional if the following conditions apply: If you are pregnant or nursing, have known plant allergies, suffer from high blood pressure, asthma, liver or kidney disease, epilepsy or other medical conditions, or are taking prescription or homeopathic medications. Essential oils are powerful and can interact with medications and other treatments.
Some important key points to remember about essential oils are:
- Essential oils are potent and powerful. Less is always more.
- Extended or prolonged use can generate toxicity. Take a break.
- Keep oils out of direct sunlight and heat, and away from moisture.
- Keep lid tightly closed and store in a cool, dark place.
- Treat essential oils as medications and always keep out of reach of children and pets.
- Some essential oils are phototoxic, meaning you should avoid sunlight or tanning rays for at least 12 hours after application.
- Some essential oils are skin irritants and should be avoided by sensitive individuals.
- Never purchase an essential oil that does not have the Latin name on the label.
- Keep away from eyes and mucous membranes.
- Always dilute with an organic vegetable oil or carrier such as salts, lotions, powders or clays, etc.
- Never ingest essential oils without direct supervision by your health care professional.