Aromatherapy Safety Issues
‘Less is more”
In aromatherapy, ‘less is more’. Only a few drops are needed of each oil to trigger a healing juncture. At this juncture, the body and mind are mildly stimulated to bring more balance to the tissues and emotions. A large quantity of aromatherapy oil will only aggravate the skin and internal organs.
Most oils need to be diluted in vegetable oil to safely be applied to the skin. Aromatherapy Oils like Peppermint (Mentha piperita) and Oregano (Origanum vulgare) can irritate skin tissue without some dilution. The English method is the most cautious. It recommends a 2-2-½ % dilution in vegetable oil. So for an 8-ml. bottle, putting 7-8 drops of essential oil and filling the rest with jojoba oil is just right.
There are a few oils that can be used ‘neat’ on most people, although there are always exceptions. Using a few drops of Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia), and Rosewood (Aniba roseodora) straight on the skin is usually safe. However, test each oil on your own skin with one drop.
Apply oils 2-3 times a day, depending on need. For a severe infection, use strong anti-infectious oils 6 times a day. To elevate the mood apply 3 times a day, morning, afternoon, and evening. Oils will not remain in the body for more than 24 hours.
Internal vs. External Use
The gravest danger of using aromatherapy comes with internal intake of the oils. Swallowing essential oils can create poisoning or death depending on the size of the person or animal. The lethal dose of an oil is about 10 times greater for a baby than an adult. So toxicity of an oil is measured by calculating the number of grams of a substance per kilo pound of body weight required to cause death. “The more toxic an essential oil is the lower the figure will be, because it indicates that only a small amount is toxic.” (Essential Oil Safety, Robert Tisserand and Tony Balacs, Churchill Livingstone, London 1995). Two of the most toxic essential oils are Boldo Leaf and Bitter Almond oil that have .13g/kg and .005g/kg respectively. Any oil over 1.0 g/kg could be regarded as nontoxic in aromatherapy. An example of a safe oil is Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile), which is 8.56g/kg.
We need to emphasize drinking undiluted essential oils in sufficient quantities can cause serious problems, even death. For example, Eucalyptus oil seems to be fatal for humans in 30ml. to 60 ml. amounts. It is not likely anyone would drink such a large amount, but this is a warning. This is true for other oils such as Cinnamon, Clovebud, Camphor, Hyssop, Nutmeg, Parsley, and Pennyroyal.
There have been deaths of children especially between the ages of 1-3 in Europe. Essential oil poisoning, often accidental in children under the age of 10, raises a red flag for parents. Oils need to be bought in bottles with orifice reducers and clear labels. They need to be kept tightly closed and kept well out of children’s reach. With children under the age of 4 and the elderly over the age of 75, dilute in vegetable oils at 1-1/2 %.
French doctors often recommend taking small quantities of aromatherapy essential oils internally. They are usually administered with lecithin, sugar, or in capsules with olive oil. The doctors are trained in all the safety factors regarding internal doses. We strongly urge all people interested in internal use of oils to take two years (300-400 hours) of essential oil study before using personally or ministering to others. One drop of Lemon (Citrus x limon) in a pint of water is certainly safe.
Safety issues involve understanding of the chemistry of essential oils. To give a brief overview of some functional families:
These oils contain a benzene ring and have a hot and fiery effect. They can irritate skin and mucous membranes. Examples would be
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris), Winter Savory (Satureia montana) and Clovebud (Syzygium aromaticum). They are the most anti-bacterial, anti-viral oils and can be used effectively in small amounts and in dilution.
Lemongrass (Cymbopogan citratus) is an oil with large amounts of aldehydes, which are soothing in small amounts and extremely stimulating in large amounts, both physically and mentally. One of my students loved using this oil for relaxing at night with 3 drops in her bath. One day she accidentally broke the bottle and impulsively rubbed almost 8 ml. of oil on her body. That night she could not sleep and her mind was wired for 24 hours. She used way too much at one time. This is true for Citronella (Cymbopogan nardus) and Lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla), which also have large amounts of aldehydes, the lemon smelling citral chemical. Important to use 3 % in dilution.
Oils with large peaks (GC/MS) of ketones such as Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) and Thuja (Thuja occidentalis) are neurotoxic. They can cause hazardous, coma inducing effects on the central nervous system if used in sufficient quantity. They are better to be avoided in aromatherapy treatments. Some oils like Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) with verbenone and Jasmine (Jasminum grandiflorum) with jasmone have ketones in smaller quantities, which makes them safer. Still use 3-5 drops at a time.
USE BOTTLES THAT ALLOW ONE DROP AT A TIME TO COME OUT