Updated: Jul 30, 2022
Essential oils have a history dating back to the ancient Egyptians, as far back as 1,500 BC.
Essential oils are extremely concentrated extracts from natural products. Here are some facts you need to know about essential oils and how to use them safely.
1. Avoid Internal Use Although essential oils have been around for thousands of year, science is just starting to understand the effects of these powerful extracts. As research about the effects of essential oils continues to come out, you should use extreme caution when ingesting essential oils. Most sources recommend not using essential oils internally at all. Essential oils are effective when diluted and used in the air or on the skin, so ingesting them is not necessary. Even when diluted, essential oils can be dangerous if ingested. In fact, pennyroyal and wintergreen essential oils have been shown to be fatal if swallowed.
And, because essential oils are so concentrated, they shouldn’t be taken internally without consulting a health-care professional and should be stored out of reach from children.
2. Essential Oils Can Cause Sun Damage Some essential oils are photosensitizing, which means they can burn your skin if worn in the sun. Wearing certain essential oils in the sun can cause your skin to be more sensitive to UV light, causing discoloration or burning.
Citrus oils are especially high risk oils for causing photosensitivity or photo toxicity. If you’re going into the sun or tanning, avoid orange, lime, lemon, grapefruit, bergamot and cumin essential oils.
3. Use Essential Oils During Pregnancy with Caution Using essential oils when pregnant or nursing is often advised against. Essential oils can affect hormones, gut bacteria and other aspects of your health, all of which are extremely sensitive when pregnant or nursing.
Some studies have shown that essential oils can cross the placenta and get to the baby. The effects of essential oils can be compounded in utero, so plenty of research and extreme care should be taken when using essential oils during pregnancy and it should be done under the supervision of a health-care professional.
Although some oils are said to be fine to use after the first trimester, the list of oils that should be avoided is long. At the top of the list is peppermint, rosemary, spike lavender, sage, mugwort and wintergreen essential oils.
Always test and re-test an oil using a diluted skin test before using an essential oil during pregnancy. And never apply an essential oil directly to the skin without using a carrier oil.
4. Be Aware of Quality and Composition Not all essential oils are created equal. In fact, the quality of essential oils can sometimes be difficult to determine, but can have adverse effects if the oils are not authentic. Enhanced or altered essential oils can increase the likelihood of having a negative response to essential oils, so look for pure, authentic and genuine oils when shopping for essential oils.
The chemical composition of essential oils can also be responsible for adverse skin reactions. Oils rich in aldehydes and phenols should always be diluted before using them on your skin. Nature’s Sunshine’s 100% authentic oils come from a reliable source and are made with the best ingredients. You know you can always come to Nature’s Sunshine for quality essential oils.
5. Consider the User’s Age Extra caution should be taken with babies, children and elderly. Most research says that essential oils should never be used with babies under six months of age and careful discretion should be used with a child under 10.
Make sure you do your research before using any essential oils on these sensitive populations. A safe dilution for many essential oils is anywhere from .5% to 2.5%.
The integrity of one’s skin should also be a deciding factor when thinking about using essential oils. Damaged, diseased or inflamed skin is often more sensitive to essential oils and may result in adverse reactions to the oils. Because of this, using essential oils with elderly should be done with extreme caution. Added dilution may be necessary.
If you have questions about whether it’s safe to use essential oils on children or elderly, consult a health-care professional. And remember to be clear about which oils you’d like to use, as some oils are more harmful to these age groups than others.
6. Never Apply Directly to Skin Because essential oils are made up of a small molecular size, they can easily penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream. This can cause irritation and allergic reactions in some people when applied directly to the skin.
Essential oils should always be applied to the skin diluted with a carrier oil. A carrier oil is an oil that will dissipate the concentrated molecules of an essential oil. The most common carrier oils are coconut, almond, vegetable and jojoba oils, but there is a large selection of natural oils you can choose from. Never use a thicker substance like petroleum jelly or butter, and olive oil is rarely suggested as it has a strong scent and is thicker than the other recommended carrier oils
Generally, an essential oil should be mixed in a solution made of 3% to 5% essential oil. This can average out to about 3 or 5 drops of essential oil per teaspoon of carrier oil, but more or less can be used at your discretion and should be decided considering the age of the user.
Some oils, such as lavender, rose and chamomile are generally considered safe to use directly on the skin, without a carrier oil, but a skin test should always be conducted to make sure the user is not allergic. Use a drop or two with a carrier oil on a small patch of skin on your arm and wait to see if you have an adverse reaction before applying the oil to a larger area.
7. Improper Use Can Cause Seizures Essential oils have become largely popular as natural alternatives to popular cleaning products and air fresheners that can be dangerous for us to interact with. Essential oils are often a great alternative to synthetic air fresheners or harmful cleaning chemicals, but these concentrated extracts should also be used with caution.
There have been several cases of essential oils causing seizures in children, and sometimes adults, when used incorrectly. Keep in mind, careful, proper use of essential oils should not have this effect. But when used incorrectly, the results can be dangerous.
A few guidelines to keep in mind when using essential oils, especially around children, is to keep the oils away from airways (the nose and mouth). Instead, apply essential oils to the feet using a carrier oil. Don’t use a vaporizer or diffuser in a house where a child or adult has a respiratory disease. Essential oils should be used with extreme caution around people with asthma at any age, but especially with children. And, as mentioned above, never use essential oils with children internally, especially in teething recipes for babies.
Conclusion Essential oils are great alternatives to potentially harmful chemicals that make their way into everyday life. But, these concentrated extracts should be used with caution and consultation from a health-care or aromatherapy professional. There are right and wrong ways to use essential oils, and some oils are created better than others.
When it comes to finding safe, quality essential oils, it’s worth doing your research. But we know that you’ll come back to Nature’s Sunshine’s 100% authentic essential oils every time. When Nature’s Sunshine began offering essential oils more than 15 years ago, they saw how diluted the market was with altered, standardized and enhanced oils. That’s why Nature’s Sunshine made the promise that their essential oils would always be authentic, so you know everything about how your oils were made, from where the original plants come from to where they’re bottled.
Don’t use shortcuts when taking advantage of essential oils. The power of truly authentic oils is sure to enrich your life in more ways than one.