If you have been online anywhere over the last couple of years, you are probably aware that essential oils are huge these days. This is for very good reason! They have so many applications both in wellness and the home. They can be inexpensive, too, depending on where you get them from. While there is a wealth of knowledge out there on essential oils, some of it can be questionable. In this article, we will talk about some of the mistakes people make with essential oils as well as essential oil safety.
Using them internally on a casual basis.
So many folks use them internally in various forms so casually. This can be a huge mistake. First, essential oils are extremely potent. They are concentrated versions of the plant or fruit they come from, after all.
There is advice out there to drink some lemon essential oil in water every day as an easy way to drink lemon water, but think about it; oil and water do not mix in the first place. So, it will just float on the top. When you drink it, the oil could burn your esophagus over time or even immediately. Lemon essential oil has a potency of 1 drop= 1 POUND of lemons. Would you drink that much in one swallow? Probably not!
There is also advice on many sites to cook with essential oils. This CAN be ok to do, but not in the levels that are suggested. For instance, it’s always a good idea to first check with the FDA about which ones are safe to use as intended. Use a cooking oil such as coconut or olive oil to dilute before cooking with them.
Using the wrong ones around children and pets.
Did you know some essential oils cannot even be diffused around children, babies and pets? It’s true and it’s an important to thing to pay attention to. For instance, you should never diffuse or use directly on babies, kids or pets the following essential oils:
- Mints such as wintergreen, peppermint or spearmint
- Tea tree
These oils can actually cause serious breathing problems and in the case of dogs and cats, they cannot get rid of them from their bodies so over time, they can get sicker.
In babies and small children, you should never use sage, oregano, rosemary and thyme. These seem harmless because we use them in cooking, but in the high concentrations that are found in essential oils, they can cause skin irritation as well as upper respiratory irritation.
In cats and dogs, any of the citrus oils can be harmful. This includes grapefruit, lemon, orange and lime. Cats lack the proper physical ability to rid their bodies of them and as they build up in their systems, they can cause complications like drooling, vomiting, and even tremors.
Some oils are extremely safe for babies and small children. Check out this list of them from Healthline.
Not looking at the sources of them or falling for marketing terms.
Some terms that the makers of essential oils use to sell them to you are just marketing terms that have no real meaning. For instance, the term “Therapeutic grade” is often exchanged as a term. This term means absolutely nothing as there is no testing or measure of therapeutic grade at all. Don’t be fooled into buying from a brand that uses this term as it has no bearing.
On the other hand, be careful that the essential oils you buy from are from a good source. Do some research into the sources that make these oils. Look for organic especially if you will be using them internally. Pay attention to additives and be sure you are getting actual concentrations of these oils and not something else like mostly alcohol.
Using the incorrect oils on the skin.
Some oils should not be used on the skin and most should not be used directly on the skin. One type of oil that definitely should not be used on the skin is essential oils made from citrus sources. This is because they can cause something called photosensitivity. Essentially, they will cause a wicked sunburn quickly if you do this and go outside right away. If you do use them on your skin, always use them at least an hour before heading outdoors and with a carrier oil. If making your own cosmetic products with these oils, keep this in mind.
Not using a carrier oil.
The last point brings up this one. Always, always, always use a carrier oil. This is to aid in diluting to make the oils safe for your skin. A carrier oil isn’t anything fancy and can be something as simple as olive oil or coconut oil. (Although I don’t recommend using coconut oil on the face as it will clog pores and can cause acne) To use a carrier oil, simply add a bit of it to your hand and drop the oil into it before rubbing it on. Some other good carrier oils for topical application of essential oils include sweet almond oil, argon oil, jojoba oil and avocado oil.
Storing them wrong.
Many people store their essential oils incorrectly. This can lead to oxidation and loss of potency. It can actually make them go rancid, too. One common mistake is to store them in a place such as a kitchen or bathroom cupboard that is too warm or moist. You should store your essential oils in a cool, dry place. You can buy boxes that allow you to store them in such a manner effectively. You can also store in the fridge!
Another mistake in storage of essential oils is storing them too casually. Pets and small children should never have access to them and they should be treated like medications. Store them away from them if at all possible.
Using them too much.
There is actually a limit as to how long you should diffuse essential oils. Have you ever heard the term “nose blind”? This happens after about 45 minutes of diffusing essential oils so the aromatherapy effect they have can loses its effect by then. Additionally, if you diffuse too often, you can cause upper respiratory irritation due to over-exposure. Try to limit your time to 45 minutes to an hour each day.
Using essential oils in place of or in contradiction with western medicine- One of the biggest ways that people make mistakes with essential oils is they use them in place of western medicine for things like burns, infections and colds/flu as well as things like weight loss, treatment of diseases like diabetes and depression and pain. This is a dangerous mistake and one you should avoid. Always see a medical professional before using oils to treat any illness, even if it seems small. Using oils can actually be dangerous in certain cases and make the problems worse. A medical professional or trained aromatherapist can watch your symptoms and advise on contradictions as well since some cannot be used with certain medications.
While this is not an exhaustive list of everything that you should be cautious with when using essential oils, it is a great place to start for those just starting out or even those who may have been using them a while and wondering if you are doing it correctly. Essential oils can be magnificent and powerful tools to have, and hopefully this list was helpful for you in deciding on the best course of action.