Essential oil safety information.
Essential oils are very powerful substances, for an example of how much plant is needed to make the oils here is an example:
It takes three-quarters of a tonne of lavender flowers to produce just 2 litres/66fl oz. of lavender essential oil, and any extracted oil is about 100 times more concentrated than it is in the plant. Smell lavender flowers on the plant and then smell the oil in a bottle, the contrasting intensity will obvious. To be safe therefore I would recommend using the essential oils carefully and in small amounts.
Counting the drops:
When using essential oils, there are safe and effective amounts of each to use, and, usually this is shown in recipes etc… by the number of drops. (to make counting easy, essential oil bottles have special dropper inserts, to make counting easier as they dispense one drop at a time).
When following a recipe for a blend, it is very important that you DO NOT exceed the stated number of drops. Always read the safety guidelines for each essential oil in every blend. Most blends contain even numbers of drops, because there are times when you need to make a lower concentration of the blend and even numbers make it easier to halve the number of drops. (example of when you need to reduce concentration are; during pregnancy or when using on children).
When you only need, one drop, but need to reduce potency.
However, sometimes, a blend will require only one drop of a certain essential oil. This may be due to it being particularly pungent or powerful. When you need to halve drops of the oils in such a blend, it is fine to use one drop of the pungent oil. This will make it smell quite strong, but it will still be pleasant due to the other oils mixed into it.
Be safe, Be wise
It is worth mentioning that essential oils are used today for medicinal purposes, just as they have been for centuries. You would not ever think of taking conventional medicines without first checking their dosage and if there are any contraindications (side effects), to make sure you are using them safely. Even though essential oils are natural, they still have to be treated with the same respect as any other medication.
Understanding all the safety principles from the beginning, you will be ready to enjoy all the benefits that essential oils can bring and, to get the best out of aromatherapy, without taking any risks. Therefore, an important step would be to follow some basic guidelines.
The following are the two most important rules to remember:
- First and most important: do not ever swallow essential oils. They are highly concentrated and very potent substances, and, in large enough quantities they can attach the linings of the mouth and digestive tract, which are very delicate. If swallowed in sufficiently large enough doses, essential oils may cause poisoning reactions in the body.
- Keep all essential oils out of the reach of children, especially when they are small. This is because children have a tendency to put things in their mouths, and, as we have already learnt swallowing essential oil can be very dangerous. If you suspect a child has swallowed some essential oil, it is always best to seek medical attention straight away. Making sure you take the essential oil bottle with you so the doctor can give appropriate advice.
Safety in the sun
If you enjoy getting out in the sun at the first sign of summer, or use your local sunbed parlour regular, then you need to be cautious about which essential oils you apply to your skin. Some oils – mainly produced using the peel of certain citrus fruits, although there are one or two others- contain biochemical ingredients that can cause the skin to react when exposed to UV rays of strong sunlight or sunbeds. These are also known as “phototoxic”, and the reaction the skin has is “photosensitivity”, which can cause irregular patches of dark tanning on skin, and, in severe cases can lead to burns on the skin.
This only becomes an issue when you apply phototoxic oils to the skin via massage blends. It does not apply when using these oils in the bath or in showers gels (because they are washed off), nor does it apply to vaporisers and inhalations (such as oil burners).
Sun safe citrus oils
As we have just learnt (above) most citrus essential oil are phototoxic (see below), modern perfumery research show s that sweet orange, tangerine and mandarin are not, and are safe to apply them to skin that’s exposed to UV rays, with no problems. However, always check safety information for any oil you intend to use on exposed skin before using, just to be on the safe side.
Phototoxic essential oils
All essential oils are safe to use on the skin which exposed to sunlight or UV rays from a sunbed, except for the following:
If you are going to use any of these oils during the summer or while using a sunbed regular, apply them diluted in your chosen massage blends (with a carrier oil) as normal, but make sure you leave 12 hours before sun or sunbed exposure. This will give the body time to process the essential oils.