Because essential oils are concentrated, highly potent substances, a working knowledge of how to use them safely is vital to the success of your efforts. The potential hazards of an essential oil depend on the compounds in the oil, the dosage and frequency used, and the method of application.
Essential oils have been used for thousands of years. Aromatherapy is the century-old practice of using volatile plant oils, also referred to as essential oils, to support overall health and well-being. Essential oils may be applied topically to sooth and promote wellness of body and mind. Because the oils are lipid-soluble, they easily penetrate the skin and cell membranes, travelling transdermally throughout the body. Within minutes of application, an oil can disperse to every cell of the body.
Essential oils are rarely used undiluted. They are highly concentrated. To give you an idea, you will need thousands of rose petals to create just one drop of essential oil. When used undiluted they can cause severe skin irritations. Always dilute essential oils in a suitable base oil or lotion before applying it on your skin. Massage oil contains approximately 2-3 % of the essential oil. If you have a sensitive skin, try new oils on a small patch of your skin before applying all over your body.
safe and effective dilution for most aromatherapy applications is 2 percent, which translates to 2 drops of essential oil per 100 drops of carrier oil. There is no need to go beyond a 3-percent dilution for any purpose. In aromatherapy, more is not better; in fact, “more” may cause adverse reactions. Some oils, such as lavender, are sedating in low dilutions and stimulating in high dilutions. A 1-percent dilution should be used on children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with health concerns.
Most people with sensitivities to synthetic fragrances are not sensitive to high-quality essential oils. Also people who are allergic to, say, chamomile tea will not necessarily be allergic to the essential oil. If you are uncertain about oil, do a patch test of a 2-percent dilution in the crook of the arm or on the back of the neck at the hairline. Twelve hours is ample time for a reaction to occur. If redness or itching develops, you may want to try a less potent dilution, or choose an appropriate substitute for the irritating oil.
In a spray bottle, combine 5 to 10 drops of an essential oil and 4 ounces of water and shake. If you choose citrus oil, be careful when applying it near your face.
Citrus oils are photosensitive, making your skin more susceptible to sunburn.
This is the use of essential oils on hot compress, in diffusers, or in hot water for inhalation. Standard dose is 10 drops. Best for respiratory and sinus, headaches. Caution: prolonged inhalation of concentrated essential oils can cause headaches, vertigo, dizziness, nausea, and lethargy.
In the bath 3-8 drops of undiluted oil may be all you need. Some essential oils can irritate the skin and should be diluted in a carrier before adding to the bath. For instance, peppermint or lemon will irritate more than frankincense or geranium. All of the lemony scented oils such as melissa, lemongrass or citrus oils can irritate; and even though lavender will not irritate even at 15 drops in the bath, it is a waste of precious resources to use that much. An aromatherapy bath for kids should always utilize diluted essential oils. Hand and foot baths are also useful mediums for essential oil applications. Apply the essential oil mixture just before entering the water and stir well.
Be cautious about using essential oils during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester. Even oils that are generally safe during this time may be too stimulating for women who are prone to miscarriage.
Because so many oils are best avoided in pregnancy, it is easier to list the safe ones: gentle floral oils such as rose, neroli, lavender, ylang-ylang, chamomile and jasmine absolute, as well as the citruses, geranium, sandalwood, spearmint and frankincense.