Basic Essential Oil Safety Tips

Jul 28, 04:44 PM

by Katharine Koeppen, RA

With strong consumer interest in natural remedies, many people are picking up an essential oil or two at their local health food store and experimenting with aromatherapy. It's important to realize, however, that natural remedies are not always safe or appropriate, and essential oils must be used with respect. Here are a few very basic essential oil safety tips:

- Do not apply essential oils undiluted (neat) directly to the skin. Irritation or permanent dermal sensitization may develop. Always dilute with a vegetable carrier oil, gel or lotion.

- Do not allow essential oils to contact mucous membranes.

- Remember that formulas and dosages given in popular aromatherapy books are for normal adults. Babies, children, elderly and individuals with compromised immune function require smaller doses.

- Keep essential oils out of reach of children. Should a child ingest any essential oil, contact your area poison control center immediately. Do not induce vomiting.

- Do not take any essential oils internally unless under the direction of a qualified professional aromatherapist or trained medical practitioner.

- Avoid essential oils if you are pregnant, take mutiple medications, have cancer or any other serious health problems. Special health issues require advanced aromatherapy training or consultation with a qualified professional aromatherapist.

- Do not attempt to use aromatherapy on pets unless you have had some professional training. Many essential oils can be harmful or lethal to pets, especially birds and cats.

- If an essential oil splashes into the eyes or spills undiluted on skin, water will not effectively remove it. Immediately rinse the affected area well with milk or vegetable oil, then wash with soap and water.

- Essential oils are highly volatile and combustible. Keep away from heat and sources of flame.

- Do not use any phototoxic essential oils (primarily citrus oils) prior to direct sun exposure or exposure to UV light sources such as tanning beds. Use phototoxic oils at night, or wait 6-8 hours before direct exposure to sunlight. 

- Avoid using mint, pepper, eucalyptus and camphor essential oils if also using traditional homeopathic remedies. Store homeopathics and essential oils in separate areas.

- Many essential ols are relatively safe, but some carry cautions or contraindications (see the note on phototoxicity above). For instance, some essential oils cannot be used on persons who have high blood pressure, epilepsy, liver disease, kidney disease, who are taking certain medications, etc. Make it your business to know and understand cautions and contraindications for each and every essential oil you wish to use. If in doubt, consult with a qualified professional aromatherapist.


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