Essential Oil Safety is at the heart of our company. While essential oils can be great tools, they are also something to use with wisdom, not haphazardly. Funny that this WebMD article was brought to our attention this week (because Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy was mentioned). It’s one of the worst cases of sensitization, but it’s something that absolutely can happen.
I am co-owner of DeRu Extracts because I started with a company and was taught to use oils undiluted. Now I cannot use certain, very mild oils due to it. If I apply them, I break out in a batch of itchy hives where they were applied – within minutes. Tons of older aromatherapists are sensitized because of the unknown precautions decades ago. DeRu Extracts has a huge focus on essential oil safety directly derived from these issues.
Aromatherapists today base our dilution recommendations on those of the International Fragrance Association due to the testing done on oils or their chemical components (most of us look to Tisserand’s EOS2 for a compilation of this info, much of it is also found in Sylla Sheppard-Hanger’s “Aromatherapy Practitioner Reference Manual”). When no testing is in place for an oil, we turn to the chemistry of it to determine what we feel would be a safe dilution. It is sad to say, but salespeople for companies like the one I started with don’t even begin to understand the chemistry.
Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy collects “Injury Reports” (one can submit a report here) and have since 2014 for their current database. Sylla actually started them when she was the Chair of the Safety Committee for NAHA but one of the past NAHA presidents completely scrapped the safety committee, wiping all traces of those years of injury reports. The reports that have been taken since 2014 can be found on the Aromatherapy United website.
Essential oils are great tools in our home help toolbox, when you practice essential oil safety. But, like any other chemical substance (and yes, they’re built by nature with natural chemicals so they are chemical substances) . . . the way they’re used matters. A lot. Any pure oil is going to have an expected range of various chemicals. Our dilution recommendations are based on each oil’s chemical makeup (for example: linalyl acetate and linalool are the main two components in lavender, cinnamaldehyde in cinnamon bark, or eugenol in clove).
You should also store certain oils like citruses, conifers, and blue oils in the fridge. Citrus oils are made up mostly of monoterpenes, like D-limonene, where the molecules are tiny and oxidize quickly. With frankincense and conifers, the sesquiterpenes like α-Pinene tend to oxidize quickly. With those beautiful blue oils like Blue Tansy, it’s the chamazulene that oxidizes quickly (and these ones aren’t cheap oils so take good care of your investment.) It has been proven that oxidized oils are much more likely to cause sensitization. Remember . . . sensitization is the aromatherapist’s word for allergic reaction. The cold storage makes a drastic difference in speed of oxidation.
We also have a dilution/age recommendation chart for a few oils that you can find here: Safety – Essential Oil Dilutions
While the webMD article does highlight the need for safety, we must also look at it with a critical eye, as the author isn’t as versed as it sounds.
- Let’s look at this statement: “Meanwhile, essential oils like eucalyptus and peppermint contain compounds called phenol that can irritate the respiratory tract if inhaled, particularly in babies.”
- We agree that eucalyptus and peppermint should be avoided with babies. However, her reasoning is off. These oils are not classified as “phenols.” The constituents in them that can cause respiratory distress in babies are 1,8 cineole (formlerly known as Eucalyptol) in Eucalyptus and Menthol in Peppermint. 1,8 cineole is an ether, not a phenol and menthol is an alcohol, not a phenol.
- Now let’s discuss this statement: “And recent research by scientists at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences found that lavender and tea tree oils contain estrogen-like and testosterone-inhibiting properties that, if overused, could lead to abnormal breast growth in young boys.”
- This statement needs an addendum: “[…] say the company’s rate of bad reactions is almost negligible, with .0072% of users reporting them.”
- I would respectfully suggest that many people are told by sellers that their reaction is “detox.” These people, once they learn the truth, usually quietly walk away from the company . . . they rarely go back and report. Many aren’t even sure how to report to the company in order to have it counted in those stats. So, while that percentage is negligible, it is not a true representation. Others may simply quit using the oil making them break out and don’t go report. Some may walk away from essential oil use altogether. Ruth and I have talked to many, many people who’ve suffered reactions without reporting them either to the company or to the Atlantic Institute’s Injury Reports. TIP: For anyone reading this . . . that’s not detox. It’s an allergic reaction. We call it sensitization, but semantics really don’t matter here. Quit using the oil doing it now and please dilute properly!
My point with the above? Don’t believe everything you read online. Safety is incredibly important but there is no need for fear-mongering. Be wise, be safe . . . and vet the info you read.
Any time you have a question about safety, feel free to message us. We’re available through this website, through our Facebook page, and in several Facebook groups (Sharing the Essential Oil Love, The Unspoken Truth About Essential Oils, and Essential Oil Consumer Reports are groups that one or both of us admin). We may not always have an immediate answer, but we know where to find it 😉
Much love and BE SAFE!