6 Crucial Things You Need to Know BEFORE Using Essential Oils, Part 2
Thanks for joining us for Part 2 of this article! Don’t miss the vital information and helpful graphic we shared in Part 1.
In our last post, we talked about how important it is to put safety first and to respect the potency inherent in essential oils. Let’s continue our discussion with four more areas to consider before using these powerful tools.
What is good for Peter may be bad for Paul
Especially if Paul is a young child! Appropriate and safe guidelines for use vary widely from one species of plant to another, and even more widely from adulthood to childhood. Please take the time to personally research each and every essential oil you use with your child or baby. There are very, very few infant-compatible essential oils, a few that are considered okay for toddlers, and then the list expands by several more for young childhood. Once a child reaches 10 years old, the list of oils considered safe expands significantly. (Here are a few oils that we carefully use with children in our own homes.)
I can hear it now: some of my fellow mamas are voicing exactly what went through my head when I first read some of these age-based safety guidelines. “Huh… well, I rubbed XYZ essential oil on my little one neat and not only were there no adverse reactions but it lowered her fever, so THERE. This sounds like a lot of paranoia to me!” Please understand this: just because you can use a particular oil on a young child with no noticeable adverse effects the first time (or even several times), that does not mean that it cannot happen at a later time. (Remember also that not all adverse effects are visible; for instance, you cannot tell from the outside whether your child’s tiny liver is stressed by trying to process the powerful compounds present in certain oils.)
There are two main types of reactions that can happen in response to external use of essential oils and it’s crucial for all users to understand them.
Skin irritation was the only type of potential reaction of which I was aware when I started with oils. This is the type of reaction that one is to test for before using any new essential oil externally. Skin irritations can occur in one individual and not in another, due to individual sensitivities. Skin irritation happens on the first exposure to the irritatant, the reaction is rapid, and the severity will depend on the concentration of the irritant present. The skin responds with an inflammatory reaction.
Skin sensitization is the second type of reaction and it took me years of learning to discover a thorough explanation of what it is. Skin sensitization is a type of allergic reaction. The oil will not produce any irritated reaction on the first patch test, but during later exposures, once the allergen has penetrated the skin, the body’s immune system reacts in an attempt to fight off what it views as an invader. This can result in a rash on the skin. Sensitization reactions can also take the form of inflammation, breathlessness, nausea or headache. It is possible to become sensitized to any essential oil, no matter how pure or safe the particular species or variety.
Sensitization to an essential oil happens most frequently through overuse of a specific oil. This is a good reminder that it is unwise to repeatedly use the same oil (or blend of oils) day in and day out. There is benefit to changing out our oils on a regular basis and making sure they are sufficiently diluted for external use. Both of these strategies will decrease the risk of sensitization over time.
The Swiss Army Knife of natural tools
Essential oils are so incredibly multi-faceted. They can do it all, and do it with style. These are the primary ways they are suggested to be used.
Aromatherapy includes heat diffusion, cold nebulizing diffusion, steam inhalation, or simply smelling the oil from the bottle or applied on an item in the vicinity. It is generally agreed that aromatherapy is the safest way to use essential oils. But, even with aromatherapy, there are cautions to beware.
External use covers applying an oil directly to the skin, either neat or diluted. There is a wide range of opinion as to what constitutes safe external usage, recommended dilutions, and what health situations warrant external use.
Internal use is by far the most controversial form of essential oil usage, with well-diluted considered the safest form of essential oil internal use. Diluted or not, internal use requires the most research and expertise, and entails the highest amount of risks.
There is a range of risks and contraindications inherent in the available options of essential oil use. Understanding this is an important step in being an informed consumer and moving beyond the naive view that all oils are equally safe and viable options for everyone.
Why a Company cannot create a well-informed Consumer
When I first began using essential oils, I was very careful to read everything I could that was published by or recommended by representatives of the company from which I bought them. After all, who better to trust than the source of the oil itself?
Now that I’ve read many more books, scientific studies, and articles written by certified aromatherapists, I feel a little betrayed by the narrow scope of information given by the company I placed my trust in as a fledgling essential oil consumer all those years ago. There was so very much that they didn’t say, and so much they did say that I found out later was not a reflection of what other experts considered good advice.
My perspective has changed and I no longer hold that company completely responsible for my ignorance as a consumer. I know now that the information a company publishes and shares about their essential oils, with recipes, dilution recommendations, cautions, warnings, and benefit suggestions will all be driven by that company’s philosophy, the personal way the individuals in that company use oils, and the training and personal knowledge of the people in the company. It will also likely be heavily filtered and carefully worded due to the legal restrictions placed upon alternative health businesses.
Through the years, Beeyoutiful’s essential oil descriptions have been revised multiple times. Many times, the edits were very frustrating for us to make because they meant removing information that could be very beneficial for consumers to know but that we are not allowed to share based on our best understanding of FDA guidelines. Other times, the edits were made to reflect new information as we learned it about specific essential oils. The most recent round of edits was intended to be more comprehensive of health, age, and pregnancy and nursing precautions.
We’ve shared how our oils are made, and we’re happy to answer your common questions about them. We are sharing, educating, and disclosing everything we can to the best of our ability, and even so our efforts, on their own, will never be enough to make you a truly informed consumer. No company selling essential oils will ever be able to educate you well enough because the restrictions are too great and our knowledge base is not comprehensive enough even if we could write what we wanted without restrictions. We will never be experts on your health history, or that of your children and your family. We will never be your personal healthcare provider. We are here to simply make available the tools we use with our own families, and do our very best to share helpful information along the way.
We carry books about essential oils and freely give reading recommendations for resources that we trust that will help fill in the gaps we know exist between where our product descriptions end and where knowledgable consumerism begins. Please take advantage of these resources! It is so worth it to have a broad understanding of how these marvelous essential oils work, and this knowledge will enable you to use essential oils for the rest of your life.
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Thanks so much for ALL of it, very informative!
Very well done also!
After much frustration and multiple inhailers for my and my children’s reactive airway disease (similar to asthma – wheezing-tightness-productive cough), I discovered essential oils work wonders (we were all able to get off of all inhalers). I only use them when needed. I use Raven, RC, and thieves by young living. I put one drop of each into a plamfull of Vicks vapor rub, rub hands together to mix together and apply to their feet and chest and then cover with 2 pairs of socks (5 and 11 year old). Whether it is a cough, or just a stuffy nose (which usually leads to the lung flare up) it works (sometimes after just one night of use). I have often wondered (using less than a year) about the safety of this practice, can you give me some feedback?
Ginger, that’s a great question, and it’s awesome that you’ve been able to reduce your family’s need for medications in such a dramatic way. Congratulations on being proactive and taking charge of your own health!
As complex as adult use of essential oils can be, using them with children requires even more skill and caution. Not all oils can be metabolized easily by tiny bodies, so even if there’s not an obvious skin reaction, there can still be a lot of invisible strain put on the body when an adult-appropriate oil is used on a child (especially those under 10). It’s wise to confirm that the oils used on children are indeed appropriate for them.
When you’re choosing oils for your family, always refer to a reputable handbook to guide you. We like this one: https://articles.beeyoutiful.com/2015/05/07/we-read-50-books-about-essential-oils-heres-our-top-pick/ It’s always a good idea, especially when dealing with existing health issues and/or medications, to consult with a certified aromatherapist who knows your specific health situation. And when using EO blends, be sure to check that *all* of the ingredients are appropriate for the situation and age of the person involved.
We’ve written a bit about the EOs some on our Beeyoutiful team use with their own kids here: https://articles.beeyoutiful.com/2015/03/27/beeyoutifuls-kid-friendly-essential-oil-zone/
Using a cream or lotion to apply the oils is a great idea! I suggest reading the ingredients there as well, as many conventional vapor rubs contain petroleum products and synthetic scents. Almond and Jojoba Oils make great carrier oils, or consider adding your EOs to a scoop of pure-ingredient lotion like our Laveshmint. http://www.beeyoutiful.com/laveshmint-moisturizing-lotion.html Pre-diluted and kid-friendly blends like Easy Peasy Breathie for respiratory support make it even easier to get help right where it’s needed. http://www.beeyoutiful.com/easy-peasy-breathie-rollerball-10-ml.html
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