Essential oils are aromatherapy tools that have been shown to have benefits for some people. However, if you are unfamiliar with them and their uses, they can be potentially hazardous. Here are some guidelines for using essential oils safely.
Pure essential oils are extremely concentrated and very potent in their undiluted form. Consequently, they should not be applied directly to the skin as they can cause a burn. They are also absorbed through your skin, so applying too much could result in an overdose.
As with all drugs and herbs, essential oils should be stored out of the reach of children preferably in child proofed cabinets. Accidental ingestion could be toxic, as could be the effects of absorbing the oils through the skin.
Be cautious to not get any of the oils in your mucous membranes and always wash your hands thoroughly after use. You might also consider using disposable latex gloves when you are working with pure essential oils to avoid getting any in contact with your skin.
Essential oils are not designed to be taken internally and even the smallest amount could be toxic or fatal if ingested. If accidental ingestion does occur, contact your poison control center immediately.
Make sure that all bottles are placed well out of reach of children and pets and are properly labeled to avoid confusion.
Before using a new essential oil, you should do a patch test for allergies. Aromatherapy products, such as lotions and creams, can be tested by applying a small amount to your arm. When working with pure essential oils dilute them by mixing one drop with ½ tsp of vegetable oil and apply to your arm. With either test, if the area where you applied the oil turns red, burns, or becomes itchy, you may have an allergy. You should wash the area thoroughly and discontinue use of the product.
Overuse of essential oils can have side effects such as headaches and/or dizziness. If you are making your own products such as lotions, candles, or bath salts do your work in a well-ventilated area, and take frequent breaks to go out for fresh air.
Different lifestyles and health conditions can be affected by essential oils as well. If you are concerned at all about interactions, speak with your primary care doctor.
If you like to tan, avoid citrus oils such as bergamot or grapefruit which can increase your sensitivity to the sun.
If you have liver or kidney disease, always speak with your doctor prior to using essential oils. The oils that are absorbed into the skin make their way into the bloodstream, where they are cleared from your body by the liver and kidneys. If you use essential oils frequently, or if you already have compromised liver or kidney function, this can cause further damage to these organs.
Some medications such as sleeping pills and sedatives may also interact with essential oils. These can react with oils that are designed to relax, such as chamomile, lavender, and lemon balm. Always check with your doctor about possible interactions prior to use.
You should also take care when using aromatherapy oils around pets. Some essential oils can be toxic and even fatal if a dog or cat ingests them. Since most pets are much smaller than their human counterparts, even the smallest of doses could prove lethal.