Aromatherapy Safety Tips
Essential oils are natural plant extracts derived from specific plant species using steam distillation, expression or chemical extraction. These oils are usually used in aromatherapy for therapeutic purposes. They are usually pure and natural and thus can be considered generally safe when used properly.
However, there are some instances when even a natural essence can cause adverse effects or allergic reactions. Always remember that you only need to use very small quantities of these oils and that they should be diluted in carrier oil prior to application.
Before using aromatherapy for therapeutic purposes, be sure to consult with a reliable authority or an experienced aromatherapist. This is important especially for those people with past or existing medical conditions. The reason for this simple, there are conditions wherein the use of some essential oils is contraindicated and using the oils may only aggravate the situation.
Practice due diligence and do your research before using essential oils. Consult books dealing with the subject, look up the needed information on the internet or visit an experienced aromatherapist.
There are essential oils that can either enhance or counteract the effects of several prescription and non-prescription drugs. So, if you are taking medications, be sure that the oil and the drug have complementary effects.
These essential oils are very concentrated and very powerful. Never apply essential oils undiluted to skin. You should first add the essential oils to a base oil (sweet almond oil, hazelnut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, jojoba oil, etc) and then you can safely apply the blend to your body. Only a few gentle essential oils (lavender, chamomile) can be used directly on the skin, in very small quantities. Use small quantities of oils. Remember that only a few drops are needed for any aromatherapy blend. Usually the body products (for adults) are consisted of only 2% of essential oils and 98% of base oils. Keep in mind that by using only a few drops of essential oils, you not only save money, but you use essential oils wisely and safely.
Aromatherapy and medical conditions: Special care should be taken in cases of health problems such as asthma, epilepsy and high blood pressure. Asthmatics and people suffering from respiratory disorders must avoid inhalations. The contraindicated essential oils for epilepsy are hyssop, rosemary, sage, fennel and eucalyptus oils while for high blood pressure, sage, rosemary, eucalyptus, thyme and rose.
As with other potent substances, avoid contact with the eyes. Essential oils are very irritating to the eyes so it should not be applied near them. Remember that you should never use essential oils near your eyes. Always close your eyes when you inhale an essential oil and consider that washing carefully your hands after using any essential oil is the best way to avoid eyes irritation or damages.
If you are pregnant or lactating, consult with an authoritative resource first before using essential oil. Essential oils are known to have the ability to cross the placental barrier and may cause negative effects to the unborn fetus. However, midwives are known to use lavender oil (Lavandula angustifolia) during and after delivery to ease birth pains with favorable effects. Some of the essential oils contraindicated in pregnancy are jasmine, myrrh and ylang ylang essences.
Aromatherapy and children: Children may use essential oils only under the careful supervision of an experienced adult. Consequently, it is wise to keep the aromatherapy kit out of children’s reach. Moreover, special caution should be taken when using aromatherapy products for babies and children. Many oils are not suitable for babies and children under 12 years of age. For those oils that can be used for babies and small children, it is advisable to dilute the oils 2 to 4 times the recommended adult concentration. Remember that you may cause your children to develop allergies if you use essential oils improperly, so consult with your pediatrician.
Always keep essential oils out of children’s reach.
Any essential oil can cause dermatitis and sensitization, especially when used repeatedly. Avoid this by using only very small amounts of the oil at any one time. You should also practice substituting the oils from time to time rather than using the same oils every day.
When choosing essential oils, always check the Latin or botanical names to be sure you are using the right oil. Many essential oils may have the same common name but may exert different functions. There are also many essential oils that have more than one common name.
Beware of potential allergic reactions. Before using for the first time any essential oil it is advisable to check for possible allergic reactions. Keep in mind that an essential oil which is described as safe, may cause allergic reaction to some individuals and therefore you should always test it before use. Dilute only 1 drop of the essential oil with carrier oil and apply the mix on your skin. Wait at least 24 hours to verify whether it is irritating for you or not.
Essential oils may cause skin sensitivity to sunlight. The essential oils from the Citrus Family (lemon, lime, bitter orange, grapefruit, bergamot etc) increase the sensitivity of skin to sunlight. Hence, you should always wait for at least 5 hours after using them and before exposing your skin to ultraviolet sun rays, otherwise you will redden and burn your skin.
External and internal use of essential oils: Do not ingest essential oils. Use them only externally. Many essential oils are toxic and thus internal use can be extremely dangerous. Oral consumption can take place only under the guidance of a qualified and specially trained aroma therapist.
Potentially dangerous essential oils. There are several hazardous essential oils which only experienced qualified aromatherapy practitioners may use them. Bitter almond, pennyroyal, camphor, sassafras, wormwood and wintergreen oil are only a few of the oils that are inappropriate for aromatherapy. As a result, always check for the latin botanical name of the oil before purchasing it, in order to certify that you will not buy any dangerous essential oil available at the market.
Essential oils are flammable. Almost all essential oils are flammable. Thus, you should be very careful when handling them. Do not put the bottles of essential oils near fire or naked flame and never burn pure essential oils (without water) in an aromatherapy vaporizer.
Essential oils storage: Essential oils should be stored in a cool dark place or in the refrigerator. Try to keep temperature fluctuations as less as possible in order to preserve their therapeutic attributes. Essential oils are usually sold in small dark yellow, violet or blue glass bottles. The dark glass protects the essential oils from ultraviolet rays which may deteriorate their potency. Remember to close tightly the bottles’ lids because essential oils are volatile substances. Properly stored oils have 6 months minimum lifetime and 2-5 years maximum. Oils can become ransid and dangerous as they breakdown.
Emergency actions: Contact poison control if you spill by mistake an essential oil into your skin or eyes, wash without delay the affected area and request your doctor’s immediate medical care. If you accidentally consume any essential oil, contact poison control and go right away to the nearest poison control center for suitable medical care.
Knowing these safety precautions may save you from committing the most common mistakes and help you get the most from your aromatherapy experience.