When properly used, they are masterful healers of the body, mind and spirit.
However, like any powerful remedy, one must proceed with caution because too much of a good thing can definitely be TOO MUCH. There are also some times when an oil may not be the wisest choice.
Below are some simple guidelines to follow.
1. Photosensitivity: Citrus oil have the capacity to increase skin sensitivity when there is sun exposure. A good rule of thumb is to wait 12 hours after applying a citrus oil before getting in the sun. These oils include
Lemon, Lime, Bergamot, Orange and Grapefruit. You can always apply them safely diluted to skin that is covered by clothing.
2. Pregancy and Nursing: Essential oils can cross the placenta and get to your baby just as any other food or drink you consume or substance you use on your body. In addition, the effects of any substance can be compounded in utero.
The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA), recommends that pregnant women avoid the following essential oils:
- Wintergreen essential oil
- Sage essential oil
- Mugwort essential oil
- Tarragon essential oil
- Birch essential oil
- Aniseed essential oil
- Camphor essential oil
- Hyssop essential oil
- Parsley essential oil (seed or leaf)
- Pennyroyal essential oil
- Tansy essential oil
- Thuja essential oil
- Wormwood essential oil
3. Children: Since children have much thinner and more sensitive skin, any oil you use must be diluted quite a bit to be safe. Internal use of oils is not recommended for children. The bottom of the feet is the safest place to use oils with children as the skin is a bit tougher here. Certain oils that should never be used around a young child or baby, like Wintergreen, Eucalyptus, Rosemary and Peppermint. Those oils contain compounds that can actually slow breathing, or even stop it in those who have respiratory problems.
Oils that are generally safe for children are wild orange, lemon, lavender, frankincense and chamomile.
4. Pets: Your pets are a whole different story. They do not generally react the same to all the oils that work well with humans. That being said, I have found essential oils to be very powerful healers for my dogs. You can read Charlie's story here. Never use Pennyroyal on your pet as it can cause liver failure. (used to treat fleas). Melaleuca can be used sparingly diluted for cuts, wounds. I recommend dowsing to see if the animal is receptive to this oil. It has been know to cause tremors in some animals. Lavender is generally safe - again diluted. I recommend this book for further reading on using oils with animals. Oils should be avoided with cats.
5. Drug Interaction: If one is taking multiple medications, the oils can compound the effects of the meds. Always consult a medical professional before combining oils and medications. A safe way to use the oils is to diffuse them in almost every situation.
6. Internal Use: I know this is a controversial topic, but I am less a proponent of drinking the oils, especially citrus oils, than I used to be. There is substantial evidence that, over time, citrus oils and even peppermint can damage the esophagus. It is better to take them in a capsule where the stomach lining can handle these potent oils. Otherwise they can be added to coconut oil or a spoonful of honey and swallowed. Both elements will coat and protect the throat.
Some oils, like Wintergreen, can be toxic if swallowed. Others are very hot like cinnamon and clove. There have been times when fighting a bacterial or viral infection that I use a combination of oils as in the OnGuard oil from doTerra. The capsules are amazing at fighting infection and boosting the immune system. Adding a drop of the oil to a bit of warm salt water and gargling can stop a sore throat very quickly. This is not an oil that I would add to water and drink on a regular basis. There are many guides that can be consulted if you are unsure how to use an oil. The Modern Essentials guide is a great place to start.
7. Skin Irritation: Science has proven that essential oils actually are absorbed more quickly and completely when they are diluted. Dilution also helps prevent skin irritation. A general rule is to dilute to 3-5% or 3-5 drops in a teaspoon of carrier oil like coconut or jojoba or in honey or even aloe vera gel.
When in doubt do some research and consult an expert. Pure, therapeutic grade essential oils are an amazing benefit to health and vitality. I use them every day and would not be without them. I am always happy to share more with you since I love talking about these beautiful gifts from the earth.