Safety Considerations

What is Aromatherapy?

Aromatherapy is considered to be the therapeutic use of essential oils.  It is also considered a complementary medical intervention and could work in tandem with other medical or therapeutic interventions.

What are Essential Oils?

Essential Oils are highly volatile substances which readily evaporate.  They come from flowers, trees, roots, grasses, seeds, bark, gums, wood, nuts and berries and there are about 100 that are used therapeutically by Aromatherapists today.  Not all plants produce essential oils and although they are called oils they leave no mark on paper and are of the consistency more of water than oil.  But because they are so concentrated and it takes so much to make so little, the power they have can be deceiving.  Pure quality unadulterated oils are best and ideally they should be organic and/or wild-crafted for maximum therapeutic benefit.

How do products with Essential Oils affect the skin?

Essential oils should always be diluted when being used topically on the skin. Safe dilutions usually range from 1% to 3% with children &seniors’ dilution rate being no more than 1%.  Ideally switching essential oils and not always using the same ones is also a good idea, so as to reduce the risk of developing any irritation and/or sensitivities.  Sensitivities can develop with any oil and/or maybe present for any oil. Don’t forget essential oils are super concentrated and should be used with that in mind.  Each person is different so if you find you are having a reaction to an essential oil, you should stop using it immediately.

Citrus oils can also be phototoxic, which means that they will accelerate the effects of the sun on your skin and you may receive a burn.  You should not use essential oils for more than 12 hours if you plan to be in the sun or use a tanning bed.  The citrus oils to be particularly careful with in this capacity are: angelica root, bergamot, lemon, grapefruit, orange, lime, tangerine.  Steam distilled oils are not considered photo toxic but caution should still be taken.

How does Aromatherapy work?

Each plant’s essential oils can have up to 300 different chemical constituents and each one can have a different affect on the body’s chemistry.  Typical routes of administration are: inhalation (inhaler or a diffuser), topically (applied through creams, balms, ointments, solids, other carrier oils, etc.)  and/or placed in a bath (diluted) for the skin to allow permeability.  Some ingest essential oils but this is not the best or safest method as the concentrations are so high you may overdose and/or burn your skin and/or mucous membrane tissues.  In the case of internal use, the actual plant is considered the best route of administration (i.e., tea) as the dose is more appropriate and much safer.

Inhalation is often the most therapeutic and faster route into the body.  Essential oils pass the blood brain barrier through inhalation.  Topically, essential oils permeate the skin but it depends on the size of the area and the conditions applied to its permeability as to the rate and speed of absorption: *damaged or diseased skin is more permeable than normal health skin. *temperature of the skin (the warmer the skin, the higher the permeability) *when skin is soaked in water (i.e., a bath) it will become more hydrated and also more permeable. *Soaps, detergents and solvents have been found to increase the skin’s permeability. *occlusion: if the skin is covered after application of essential oils then it loses its rate of evaporation, thus increasing its permeability.

What role can Essential Oils have on our health today?

Essential oils are very potent naturally occurring chemical compounds.  Not only do they smell good, but they also each have preventative and healing properties (therapeutic benefits).  Often these properties overlap between different essential oils.  Many are also considered adaptogenic in that they tend to balance the body to equilibrium rather than affect it one way or the other in whatever specific way that particular essential oil works.  In this way, essential oils are seen as helpers that help us adapt our bodies to the environment around us.

Where do Essential oils shine?

Essential oils do their best work tackling stress and affecting mood and cognition; and also when it comes to healing skin and/or protecting from fungus and bacteria essential oils often do better than pharmaceuticals and man-made chemical formulations.   

Are Essential oils safe for children to?

Essential oils are very concentrated and can be very dangerous and even fatal if swallowed and should be kept away from children at all times.   As well, a insert dropper top should be on all your essential oil bottles in order to reduce the amount that comes out.  In case of accidental swallowing, find out which oil and how much and give the child milk immediately to drink.  Then contact your local poison centre and seek our medical attention. But in terms of use, essential oils can be very helpful for children if they are used in low concentration and some oils are avoided until they are older.

For very young children or older adults, gentle oils like lavender, chamomile rose and mandarin are the only ones that should be used.

Are Essential oils safe when you’re pregnant?

All essential oils should be avoided the first trimester of pregnancy.  After that, essential oils should be used in a 1% dilution:  geranium, neroli, ylang ylang, petitgrain, frankincense. Sandalwood, patchouli, chamomile (german and roman), rose, lavender, mandarin, grapefruit, bergamot, lemon, black pepper, ginger, pine, cypress, peppermint, orange. 

These oils should be avoided ideally in pregnancy:  Anise (Star), Aniseed, Sweet Birch, Camphor, Carrot Seed, Cinnamon Bark, Cypress (blue), Sweet Fennel, Hyssop, Lavender (Spanish), Myrrh, Oregano, Sage, Wintergreen.

Are there Essential Oils that should be avoided if one has epilepsy?

Avoid using fennel, hyssop, rosemary, sage.  Essential oils to use sparingly:  camphor, clary sage, peppermint, rue, yarrow, spike lavender, lavandin.

Are there Essential Oils that should be avoided if you have high or low blood pressure?

Although nothing has been definitively proven, there are some suggestions.  If you have high blood pressure it is recommended you avoid stimulating oils like cypress, clove, nutmeg, pine, rosemary and sage.  And if you have low blood pressure, you might want to avoid sweet marjoram.