Sunday, January 15, 2017

My Basic Safety Rules for Essential Oils

            I am a big fan of essential oils.  I believe that God created this earth with many good things.  And one of those things is the healing power of plants.  Not only is there healing power in the healthy, natural food that God made for us, but there is healing power in the oils of the plants, too.  And this is where we get the essential oils from. 
            As an example of the power of essential oils, I have seen a few drops of Lavender Essential Oil heal a red, hot, spreading spider bite, a growing skin infection (cellulitis, I believe) from a mosquito bite, and a blood infection that was black line travelling up someone’s arm from an infected burn.  It only took a couple drops, and all of these things went away completely.  The blood infection vanished within two hours of applying the oil once and the infected bites within two days after applying it a couple times each day.


            (Note: I am talking about ESSENTIAL OILS, not scented oil or fragrance oil.  There is a huge difference.)
            On this blog, I will share with you what I have learned about essential oils and how I use them.  It’s information that I already had for my own use, but I figured Why not share it with others?  (Many of the essential oil posts on this blog are from one long post over at myimpressionisticlilfe.blogspot.com.  I decided to chop it up into smaller pieces for here.)
            FYI:  What I write has not been evaluated by the FDA.  It’s just my opinion and what I do.

 

Okay, so onto some of the basic rules that I have for essential oils:

1.  It is your responsibility to research any oil you want to use for its safety, dilution recommendations, and cautions about people who shouldn’t use it (elderly, pregnant women, young children, those with weak immune systems, people with sensitive skin, etc.)  Never just do what someone else does.  Always research for yourself.


2.  Buy essential oils from a reputable source.  I like to go to my local health food store.  Not only do I know I am buying quality products, but I like supporting the local businesses.  The small bottles might seem expensive, but they last a long time because you only use a small amount at a time.


3.  “Handle these oils carefully.  They are extremely concentrated, so always dilute them carefully in order to make them safe to use.”
            I don’t use essential oils straight.  I always dilute them, even lavender and tea tree oil.  (It is a very rare “emergency” occasion when I use lavender or tea tree oil straight.  But even then, it’s only a drop.) 
            When it comes to essential oils, it’s easy to think that you need to use more of it instead of less, because a couple drops just don’t seem like enough.  Trust me, it is.  In my dilutions, I like to go lighter with the oils instead of heavier.  I do this for a few reasons: so that the bottles of oils last longer, so that we don’t get sensitized to them (develop an allergy to them), so that I can apply the products regularly without fear of overdosing on the essential oils, and because I have very sensitive skin and young children.  A little goes a long way! 
            For a therapeutic room spray, I limit it to around 10-15 drops of essential oil per ounce of water.  And for topical use (applying to the skin), I limit it to about 12 drops essential oil per ounce of carrier oil or water.  This is pretty safe for most people. 


4.  Always do a patch test first.  Mix a drop or two of essential oil with a little bit of a carrier oil (like a teaspoon of olive oil) and put it on the bottom of your feet or inner arm (or in another not-so-tender spot) to see if you are allergic or sensitive.  You’d hate to rub a lotion all over yourself only to discover that it gives you a terrible rash.         


5.  I DO NOT take any essential oil internally because there are a lot of sources that caution against it.  Some of the most tragic misuses of essential oil come from times they were taken internally. 


6.  I also do not drip them into the tub because they just float on top in little drops and can be too concentrated when your skin comes into contact with them.  (I believe there are ways to dilute them for use in the tub, but you’ll have to look it up yourself.)


7.  I do not put essential oils in eyes or ears.  I only use it on the skin in diluted form, in a diffuser (I can’t handle more than 2 drops at a time), or in a spray bottle mixed with water to spritz the air or our clothes.  If need be, I might dab some diluted oil on a sore in our mouths, but no swallowing.   (Am I trying to scare you into being very careful with essential oils?  Yes!  I scare because I care!)


8.  When working with essential oils, don’t sniff them from the bottle for too long.  You might get light-headed or have a reaction.  Work in a well-ventilated area.  When I get all my essential oils out, I can only make one or two blends before I start to get light-headed.


9.  Remember, if you mix essentials oils in water to make a spray, the oil will float.  So do not store this mixture in a soft plastic bottle because the essentials oils at the top of the water will eat through the soft plastic.  (Ask me how I know!)  But it seems to be okay in the small, hard-plastic, spritz bottles.  I use the travel iGo bottles from Walmart. 
           If you are unsure, store your bottle somewhere – maybe standing in a small glass dish – where it won’t leak all over everything if it does eat through the plastic.  You should be able to tell within a day or two if the bottle is okay or not.  For me, the next day after filling a soft plastic bottle, the top of the bottle looked melted and was stretching out.  I quickly tossed it and went back to the hard plastic bottles.  But if you can, store your stuff in glass bottles and jars.  It’s better than plastic.  If you are making an oil-based blend, though, it won’t eat through the plastic because the essential oil is diluted all throughout the product.  It doesn’t float in a concentrated layer on top like it does when added to water.


10.  Carefully evaluate any recipe you find online.
            One of the neat things about the internet is that you can find all sorts of ways that other people use essential oils and recipes that others created.  However, one of the scary things is that these recipes are not necessarily tested for safety or may not be safe for certain people.  Therefore, it is crucial that we understand the safety guidelines for each oil we want to use and that we evaluate the recipes for ourselves, to see if they are okay for us and our families. 
            When I was looking for recipes for homemade hand sanitizer, I found a recipe that used just a few drops of essential oil and another recipe that used about ten times that, for nearly the same amount of homemade product.  That is a HUGE difference.  Plus, the one with more drops used more of the spice oils and citrus oils than I am comfortable with.  (Spice oils are potent and you don’t need a lot.  And citrus oils can make your skin sensitive to sunlight.)
            This is an example of why we need to evaluate each recipe for ourselves and never just follow what someone else does, unless they are a trusted source that really knows their stuff.  (I am still relatively new to all this and am learning as I go, so don’t just follow my recipes either.  Evaluate them for yourself.)
            Anyway, here are some questions that I ask myself when considering other people’s recipe.  Some of this is a repeat of what I already wrote.
            1.  Who will I be using this on?  Normal healthy adults?  Young children?  Babies?  Elderly people?  Pregnant women?  People with compromised immune systems?  People with sensitive skin?  There are certain oils that shouldn’t be used on certain people.  Research carefully before using on anyone other than healthy adults or young adults.
            2.  What is the total amount of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil?  In all my blends, I try to limit it to no more than 10-12 drops of essential oils per ounce of carrier oil or water, depending on the oils used.  With some oils I will go a little higher, such as lavender.  And some I will limit even more, such as the spice oils or eucalyptus or peppermint or other really strong ones.         
            3.  What is the amount of each oil used?  12 drops of clove or eucalyptus or oregano per ounce of carrier oil would be a lot more potent and powerful – and potentially dangerous – than 12 drops of, say, tea tree oil or lavender.  Get to know the strong oils, the ones that should be used sparingly.  And I limit the total amount of spice oils – cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, etc. – to no more than 6 drops per ounce of carrier oil.
            4.  Will I be wearing this oil on my skin in the sun?   Citrus oil makes your skin sensitive to sunlight.  If you plan to use a blend on your skin that has citrus oils in it, remember that it could make your skin react to sunlight.  I try not to use citrus oil blends on skin that will be exposed to sunlight, especially in the summer months.
            5.  Do I really want to use this oil internally, like the person who wrote the recipe?  Just because someone else uses it internally, doesn’t mean you should.  Always research the safety of using oils internally before you choose to do so.  (I don’t use them internally.)  I would be okay with gargling with a drop of tea tree oil or swabbing a bit on a sore in my mouth if I needed it, but I would not swallow essential oils nor use them in my ear canal, like some people recommend.  Actually, I did once use them in my ear canal (years ago) and it’s never been the same since.
            6.  Is this a water-based or an oil-based blend?  As I said, essential oils will float in water and stay in a concentrated layer on top.  This could lead to the oils eating through the plastic bottle you store the blend in.  Or it could lead to a concentrated dose of essential oil if you use it on your skin.  Be careful when using water-based blends.  I always shake them well to blend them better immediately before spraying in the air or on skin.  Or I use the water-based blends in the air only and the oil-based blends on the skin.  The essential oil dilutes much better when you use oil as a carrier.            
 

11.  Some oils to take note of (not a complete list):
            Some oils that should not be used on Young Children:
anise, cardamom, cassia, clove, eucalyptus, fennel, lemongrass, lemon balm, peppermint, rosemary, ylang ylang

            Some NOT for use during Pregnancy and/or Breastfeeding:
Aniseed, basil, birch, cinnamon, chamomile (I’m shocked about this one, research for yourself), clove, ginger, hyssop, myrrh, nutmeg, oregano, peppermint, rose (shocked about this one too), rosemary

            Some that may not be good for Sensitive Skin:
Bay, cinnamon bark or leaf, (cinnamon cassia should not be used on skin), clove, citronella, cypress, ginger, lemongrass, (pinus sylvestris – Scotch pine – should not be used on skin), marjoram, oregano, melissa (lemon balm), rosewood, and thyme. 
            And do not use old pine oils, old tea tree, or old citrus oils (if citrus oils smell pine-like, they are old) on the skin because they can cause a reaction.
            And do not use chamomile if you are allergic to daisy-type flowers.

 
12.  General Dilution Recommendations:
            - For children 6 months to 6 years: no more than 1 drop essential oil per 4 teaspoons carrier oil (.25%)  (Personally, I would not recommend using essential oils on really young ones at all unless you know what you are doing and dilute very well!)
            - For children over 6 years old, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems or sensitive skin: 1 drop per 1 teaspoon carrier oil or 3-6 drops per ounce carrier oil (1%)
            - For your average adult for regular daily use: 2 drops per teaspoon carrier oil or 10-12 drops per ounce (2%)
            - For more intense, short-term therapeutic use in adults: 3 drops per 1 teaspoon carrier oil, 15-18 drops per ounce (3%)
    

13.  Find good, trustworthy websites about essential oils, not Joe Shmoe’s from Middle Of Nowhere-ville.  Some of the websites I got my information from:
aromaweb.com
eethomp.com (big list of unsafe oils and sensitizing oils)
experience-essential-oils.com
learningabouteos.com (great site filled with lots of safety information)
auracacia.com
naha.org (National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy)
wellnessmama.com
thehippyhomemaker.com
 

14.  I like the “safe essential oil use for babies and children” post from The Hippy Homemaker (thehippyhomemaker.com).  Google “hippy homemaker safe essential oil use.” 
            Basically, she gives a list of which oils are okay to use at which ages for young children.  What I learned is that most oils can be used on kids over 10 years of age.  But Rosemary and Eucalyptus should not be used on kids under 10, and Peppermint should not be used on kids under 6 because these oils can slow breathing down too much.  I only use these in small amounts in my blends anyway, so we have never had a problem, but it pays to be cautious.
            Look up her post for more complete information.  But looking at her list and at the oils I have (or want):
            The safest (for babies 3 months to 6 months) are chamomile and lavender.
            The next level (safe for 6 months to 2 years old) includes bergamot, cypress, grapefruit, lemon (but sweet orange is gentler), neroli, palmarosa, rose otto, sandalwood, sweet orange, tea tree.  And you could also use these but only well-diluted (no more than 3-6 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil): cedarwood, cinnamon leaf, pine.
            For children 2 years to 6 years, you can add basil, cinnamon leaf, frankincense, lime, lemon verbena, melissa, myrrh, oregano, patchouli, spearmint, ylang ylang.  Plus well-diluted clove, ginger, lemongrass, thyme.  (Although she didn’t talk about jasmine or vanilla, I would think they would be safe for young children also.) 
            For 6 years old to 10 years old, add bay.  And well-diluted cardamom, nutmeg, peppermint.
            And for 10 and over, you can add eucalyptus and rosemary, plus nearly all others, diluted properly.  (She says not to use Thieves blends on kids under 10.)
 

            These are pretty much the rules I operate by when handling essential oils.



 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
What are some tips/advice that you have about essential oils?  Have you experienced their healing powers in any way?    

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