6 Crucial Things You Need to Know BEFORE Using Essential Oils, Part 1
Over the past few years, essential oils have undergone a radical transformation. They went from being the best kept secrets of hippies, crunchy mamas, and alternative healthcare practitioners, and have now burst into the mainstream in a big way. Nowadays, most of us have at least one essential oil fan amongst our friends and family (depending on your social circles, maybe you know more than just a few!). I had no idea myself what essential oils were until several years ago. The few times they crossed my path, the cost and research involved was daunting. (This was before the days of ever-present social media filled with beautiful photographs and easy-to-find recipes, along with bloggers sharing post after post of their top 10 favorite oils and ways to use them!)
But, after a scary episode with our very young daughter having breathing troubles that nearly landed her in the hospital, we broke down and bought a diffuser and some basic oils. That was the start of our learning journey and we’ve been pursuing more experience with and knowledge of essential oils throughout the years since.
We’ve faced plenty of twists and turns on our road, and I want to share with my friends some tips that I wish someone had shared with me at the very beginning of our essential oil journey. These are particularly crucial points to understand if you are a parent making essential oil decisions for young children.
Essential Oils are incredibly powerful. This is what makes them such marvelous and multifaceted tools, but it’s chilling for me to remember the lack of respect that I had for essential oils when we first began using them. I learned quickly that since essential oils possess highly concentrated amounts of active compounds and properties of the plants from which they are sourced, it is entirely possible to be allergic to an essential oil, or for an essential oil to exacerbate an underlying health condition, or simply be too much for an individual body to handle in specific situations.
Here’s the real deal about safety and essential oils. It’s tempting to think that because they are pure and natural that they are of course also safe and gentle. This is not always the case! (Hemlock and cocaine are also pure but nobody would call them safe!). Unfortunately, there is enough conflicting and even flat-out dangerous information out there to sink a ship.
Personal responsibility as a consumer is a big deal. Here at Beeyoutiful, we advocate for informed consumerism in all of life. In some areas, the stakes are relatively low and the margins to live and learn are pretty generous. However, because of their sheer concentration and potency and how they can be so easily (even accidentally) misused, the stakes with essential oils are substantially higher.
Respect the “essential” part before the oil
A little part of me cringes when I think back on my early enthusiast days as I gleefully squealed to my friends that “I use my essential oils for EVERYTHING!” Because they are indeed so useful for oh so many things, there can be a huge temptation to get into the habit of thinking, “Oh I have an oil for that!” or “Hmm. Wonder what I should do for this situation… let’s try some oils first.”
It is crucial to take the time to be an informed consumer of essential oils. Essential by definition means (in this context) the purest, most concentrated extract possible. Find out the reasons that even some experts are hesitant to use them in any form except aromatherapy, and only with very select oils for children under 10, 6, and 2 years of age. Learn why some experts recommend a minimal dilution. Learn about each individual oil that interests you. If you understand the philosophies the experts use, you will be able to decide when you’ll want to apply caution, and in what situations you might personally be comfortable with a more aggressive approach.
Oils are amazing, incredible tools. We use them daily, if not multiple times per day in our household in a wide variety of ways. But I no longer reach for oils first when I face a health situation. Or even second. And often times not third or fourth either.
Why? Because they are the superstars, the power-houses, the strongest natural medicine available. Essential oils may possess the key component that could make all the difference in a serious situation, yet they are also a choice that can often represent the most potential risk. A lot of us essential oil enthusiasts are guilty of bringing our super-powerful oils to a situation where something a lot less potent would work just as effectively with less risk of complication or adverse reaction. (Ever hear it said of an overzealous person that “he brought a gun to a fistfight”? Don’t be that person!)
This chart is a helpful visual to represent the degrees of potency and risk of adverse effects available to those of us who prefer to use tools from nature to support health and healing. You might be surprised to see that essential oils are ranked right up at the top, just under over-the-counter mainstream medications.
Continue reading Part 2 where we consider four additional crucial things you need to know BEFORE using essential oils. Was this post helpful? Share it with a friend who needs to know this important information!