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Education » Essential Oil Safety
Essential Oil Safety

Essential Oil Safety

This is a list of common safety issues when using essential oils.Dill
Please familiarize yourself with these protocols so that you can use and enjoy essential oils safely.

Accidental Use: Like any therapeutic product in your possession, keep out of the reach of anyone who would not understand and respect their powerful properties and proper use, especially children. "Virtually all cases of serious poisoning from essential oils are a consequence of oral ingestion of the undiluted oil in amounts much higher than therapeutic doses."1 If concerned, encourage the person to drink milk and contact poison control. Do not try to induce vomiting.

Oops!: Avoid getting essential oil on sensitive mucous membranes such as the eyes, nostrils and genitals. A fatty oil (referred to as a carrier oil) will dilute the effect of skin irritation or discomfort. Essential oils are both lipophilic and hydrophobic. Lipophilic means they are attracted to fat, such as the membranes of your eyes and skin. They are also hydrophobic, meaning they do not like water. Flushing with water will only send the essential oil back to the membranes of the skin or eye and increase the burning sensation. If you get essential oil in the eye or it is irritating to the skin, use a carrier oil to dilute the effect, not water. Applying a carrier oil will create another fat for the essential oil to be attracted to other than the membranes of the eyes or skin. Avoid getting any essential oil on contact lenses. 

Dilute: Traditionally, essential oils are used diluted. Properly diluting essential oils extends the possibilities, provides a measure of safety and helps avoid irritation, sensitivity and sensitization. Because carrier oils have limited shelf lives, consider diluting in amounts that will be used within the shelf-life of the carrier oil. Refer to the Dilution Chart below for simple, traditional dilution guidelines. Click here for a list of carrier oils.

Test Skin: For those with sensitive skin, test a new oil/blend on a small area of skin first to see how you react to it. Dilute appropriately to avoid skin irritation.

Skin Sensitivity: Skin is most sensitive to essential oils high in phenols such as Anise, Basil, Bay, Birch, Cassia, Cinnamon Leaf & Bark, Citronella, Clove, Cumin, Fennel, Lemongrass, Oregano, Tagetes, Tarragon and Thyme ct thymol. Dilute appropriately and avoid sensitive areas such as the face and throat.

Inhalation: Diffuse or directly inhale for many health benefits. Robert Tisserand, aromatherapy author and educator wrote: "There is no documented evidence of inhaled allergy to any essential oil, the only existing evidence relates to [synthetic] fragrances."2

Internal Use: Although the quality of our essential oils is suitable for internal use, we do not advocate such use without proper knowledge and understanding of safety concerns. While medical doctors or health care practitioners may prescribe essential oils for internal use, they are trained and experienced in the safe application of essential oils. If your need calls for internal use, Kurt Schnaubelt notes that 1-2 drops is generally enough and can be put into a capsule and filled with a carrier oil or added to honey, then water to drink. This helps the essential oil to absorb and protects the tender mucous membranes. It is not recommended to use the following internally where just a few drops may prove toxic: Hyssop (HEO's decumbens variety is suitable), Lavandula stoechas, Thuja, Dalmatian or Spanish Sage.
See "Oil Usage" in the top navigation bar on the HEO website.

Never drop essential oils into the ear. Some essential oils can safely be applied (diluted appropriately) around the ear or used on a cotton ball and inserted in the ear opening.

Sunshine and UV Light: Avoid applying undiluted phototoxic oils to skin that will be exposed to direct sunlight or to tanning beds (UV light) for at least 12 hours. Phototoxic oils include:  Angelica Root, Bergamot, Bitter Orange, Cumin,Grapefruit, Lemon (expressed), Lemon Verbena, Lime (expressed), Rue and Tagetes. Citrus oils that are NOT photoxic: Distilled Lemon, distilled Lime, Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis), Mandarin Peel, Neroli, Petitgrain, Satsuma, Tangelo, Tangerine and Yuzu. 

Dilution Chart

General Guidelines:
.5% ~ *hot* oils 2% - 3% ~ daily skin care
1% ~ children, elderly, sensitive skin 10% - 25% ~ short-term use
Neat ~ localized skin or systemic issues*
*e.g. warts, mosquito bites, or Lavender for a burn
Amount of Carrier to useDrops of EO to use
EO to Carrier Dilution Ratio:1%2%3%5%10%25%
10 ml (2 teaspoon) 3 6 9 15 30 75
1 oz (30 ml, 6 teaspoon) 10 20 30 50 100 250
2 oz (12 teaspoon, 4 tbsp) 20 40 60 100 200 500
Conversion Chart
30 drops = 1 ml1 ml = ¼ teaspoon
150 drops = 5 ml 5 ml = 1 teaspoon
450 drops = 15 ml 15 ml = 3 teaspoon (1 tbsp)
900 drops = 30 ml (1 oz) 30 ml = 6 teaspoon (2 tbsp, 1 oz)
Dilution Suggestions for Infants and Children
AGE Percentage Drops - Highest
Infant - 3 months 0.1% - 0.2% 1 - 2 drops/ounce
3 - 24 months 0.25% - 0.5% 2 - 5 drops/ounce
2 - 6 years 1% - 2.5% 9 - 24 drops/ounce
6 - 14 years 1.5% - 3+% 12 - 28 drops/ounce
Hot oils like Cinnamon
Bark or Oregano
0.07% 1 drop/2 ounces

These are general guideline suggestions, not absolute rules. Information is based on traditional aromatherapy practice. Percentage of EO to use will depend largely on the age of the person, health issue, oils being used, skin sensitivity and length of time to use. Drop size varies with essential oil and with type of dropper, so this will not be a precise measure.
(Kurt Schnaubelt PhD, Robert Tisserand (The Complete Skin Series), Valerie Worwood

Bath: If you desire to use essential oils in bath water, first choose an appropriate essential oil, then add to a dispersant such as liquid Castile soap, milk or bath salts. This will help the oil to disperse and avoid concentrated drops that might irritate sensitive tissues.

Pregnant / Nursing women should research issues about using some essential oils or discuss usage with a trusted health care practitioner. Traditional usage topically or inhaled has not proved harmful to a developing baby in the womb when used/applied appropriately.

Babies, Young Children and Elderly: Use oils suitable for the age, appropriately diluted when a need calls for it. Keep essential oils out of the reach of children and anyone mentally challenged. Do not apply undiluted oils on or near the face of an infant or young child. Be especially careful with Eucalyptus and Peppermint (the 1,8-cineole and menthol can cause breathing issues).

Epilepsy: Those with epilepsy or prone to convulsions should research how essential oils affect such conditions or consult a trusted health care practitioner. Birch, Fennel, Hyssop (HEO's decumbens variety is not problematic), Lavandin, Sage, Wild Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) and Thuja are ones to possibly avoid. Seizures have occurred from ingestion of specific essential oils in moderate doses (Burkhard et al 1989, Millet 1981)
• Hyssop (2 doses of 10 drops)
• Sage (1 dose of 12 drops)
• Thuja (5 doses of 20 drops)

High/Low Blood Pressure: Tisserand and Young note that there is no compelling evidence that any essential oils exacerbate hypertension or hypotension.4

Pharmaceutical Drug Interactions or Contraindications: Please read the Pharmaceutical Article

Plastics: Essential oils dissolve/degrade some types of plastic, so they are not suitable to be used in plastic/styrofoam drinking containers, humidifiers, CPAP masks and asthmatic nebulizers. Take care to protect furniture and use glass, stainless or ceramic with essential oils unless the product is designed for essential oil use. 

Flammable: Essential oils are flammable and should be kept away from direct contact with flames, such as candles, fire, matches, cigarettes and gas cookers.

1 Tisserand, Robert; Young, Rodney, Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health Care Professionals, Elsevier Health Sciences UK 2nd Edition 2014, page 25.
2 Tisserand, Robert, Challenges Facing Essential Oil Therapy: Proof of Safety, Presented to the Alliance of International Aromatherapists (AIA) Conference in Denver, Colorado, October 18-21 2007. http://roberttisserand.com/articles/ChallengesFacingEssentialOilTherapyProofofSafety.pdf
3 Schnaubelt, Kurt, The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils, Healing Arts Press, 2011, pages 132-135.
4 iTisserand, Robert; Young, Rodney, Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health Care Professionals, Elsevier Health Sciences UK 2nd Edition 2014, pages 657-658.