Is It Safe to Use Essential Oils on Children?

Jan 17, 06:46 PM

by Katharine Koeppen, RA

Aromatherapy is a hot topic on the mommy blogger sites. Sites that mean well, but are often full of misinformation, especially regarding natural home remedies. Nevertheless, these sites have a huge following with young, tech-savvy moms who look to the internet for any and all information on childrearing in a chemically toxic world.

Add to this the fact that several large essential oil companies have targeted mothers of young children as a lucrative market, and you'll see an alarming trend in the aromatherapy community: a sizeable uptick in adverse effect reports, both anecdotal and documented, involving infants, toddlers and young children.

Common concepts promoted by mommy bloggers and essential oil "consultants":

- It is safe to use any essential oils on babies, even newborns.
- It is safe to use neat (undiluted) essential oils on children of any age, especially when the oils are applied to a child's feet.
- Essential oils are natural substances, therefore they are safe and without side effects or contraindications.
- Just a few brands of essential oils are completely safe for use on persons of any age; most brands are not.
- Ingestion of essential oils is safe for babies, toddlers and children in general.
- Essential oils are antibiotics derived from natural sources. 
- Children should be given essential oils daily, either topically or by ingestion, for prevention of illness.
- Children require regular tonifying of their immune systems, and essential oils are the best vehicle to accomplish this.
- Aromatherapy can cure any childhood illness, and can even cure conditions such as birth defects. 

All of the above statements are false.

The facts:

Most essential oils are not safe for babies and toddlers. Many essential oils are not safe for children under age 8-10 years old. A child's body is simply not mature enough to successfully metabolize many things, and yes, that includes essential oils. You wouldn't consider feeding your 3-month-old a sirloin steak, celery sticks, some aspirin or a margarita, so you shouldn't even think about giving that baby an aromatherapy treatment.

Inappropriate use of aromatherapy on children has been known to cause rashes, seizures, asthma attacks and respiratory distress, respiratory failure, gastrointestinal pain, nervous collapse, coma and liver failure. Daily use of essential oils can cause toxic levels of metabolites to build up in a child's liver or kidneys. It doesn't matter what brand of essential oil is used, all brands have the potential to cause adverse reactions when improperly used.

Aromatherapy can be an effective and delightful way to handle many childhood ailments, but essential oils must be administered in a manner that is age appropriate, safe and realistic in terms of expected outcomes. Aromatherapy should not be used unnecessarily on little ones simply for the sake of "promoting daily good health."

Mommies, be smart and be safe. Take a beginner level class from a reputable aromatherapist so you understand proper applications and dosages, as well as what aromatherapy reasonably can and cannot accomplish. If you don't want to invest in some basic training, let a professional make the recommendations for you.  


Find an RA... a registered practitioner near you 
Learn about the adverse effects of improper essential oil use, or file an adverse effects report.
Basic aromatherapy safety from University of Minnesota 



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