If you’ve been using essential oils for a while, you’ve probably come across information about dilution (using a small amount of essential oil in a carrier oil before skin application). Maybe you don’t see what the harm could be in placing a few drops of a pure, natural essential oil on the skin, but we’re here to tell you, do not underestimate these potent chemical cocktails.
Essential oils are produced by the aromatic plants that we as humans have been using for thousands of years in health and healing. However, once these oils are contained in our little bottles, they are incredibly concentrated. The average yield of essential oil is between 0.01-1%. That means for every pound of a high-yielding plant, we might get 10 or more milliliters, but much less for a low-yielding plant.
So just consider for a moment how many Rosemary leaves or Lavender flowers you’d need to get the same amount on your skin that’s in a single drop of concentrated oil. It doesn’t seem that this activity has been common practice, nor has our skin adapted to it as such.
Why you need to dilute your essential oils:
- It increases the possibility of absorption by spreading the oil over a larger surface area. More surface area can absorb the blend, whereas neat (undiluted) oil can only go so far before evaporating.
- It decreases the likelihood of a negative reaction. (Super plus!)
- It helps the environment by saving the oils, since we are using less of them. A single bottle can last 10x as long with dilution.
- As neat oils evaporate, they are very drying to the skin and can cause irritation or sensitization and phototoxicity.
Dilution is simple and easy. In general, using up to 15 drops in 1 ounce of carrier oil is a good, general recommendation that will get you approximately 2.5%. The recommended dilution can vary, however, depending on the oils used, the objective, and the person they are being used on.
If you want to get more detailed in your dilution, consider purchasing our Aromatherapy Practitioner Reference Manual. (It’s a mini-course on it’s own!)
You can also become a member of the Inner Sanctum, where we discuss dilution and so much more—to help in creating safe and effective aromatherapy practices.
And remember, the more you dilute, the less likely you are to experience a skin reaction! Don’t find yourself filling out an injury report on our growing database.
So, we want to know:
- Have you been diluting your essential oils?
- If not, has something we’ve shared started to change your mind on using them neat?
Leave us a comment with any questions you have about dilution, and we’ll be sure to answer them here or even in-depth in a future post.
Be safe out there with those precious oils!
Sylla and Nyssa just recorded their interviews for the Essential Oil Roundtable, beginning May 2. This one-of-a-kind online event features a variety of essential oil educators, experts, and enthusiasts sharing about their passion. We are particularly excited to see Penny Price in the line up, among so many others.
We had a really fun time recording our interviews and imagined we were the hosts of one of our favorite radio program and podcasts, Radiolab. You all know how we like to have a good laugh, so listen to our short promo below to hear about the funny things we talk about.
Though we say some funny things and there might be a few parts we’d edit and refine, the talks are supposed to be natural and in one take. So we just went with what we got and we think you’ll like this personal style. Let us know!
We are continuing our “Top 10 Worst Injuries from Essential Oils” from the past year of collecting injury reports. These we have listed are the top 5 worst cases from our upcoming report, due out in February 2015. This is Part 2 of a two-part series.
Here are 5 examples of direct quotes (excuse grammar) from our new Injury Report, scheduled to come out in February 2015.
Read more about this ongoing project to spread information on safety and the costs of misuse.
Stop the unsafe use of essential oils! Save yourself, your friends and family, babies, and animals. Stop the insanity.
See Part 1 for cases 6-10.
Here are summaries with quoted text directly from the testimonials we received. We are not identifying any companies in this blog. You will be able to see the details of each entry we received when the report comes out. Most all of these were due to bad advice from misinformation.
5. Diluted blend to a baby’s feet slows breathing. “blends X & XX were used on separate occasions on my son at 13mo. The blend was very diluted (topical on his feet), he was 13mo, and I was informed it was ‘safe’. His throat started closing on him and his breathing slowed to a very dangerous level. After further research, I found out they both contained eucalyptus & Rosemary, both unsafe for kids under six. We had applied it & diffused it around him before his reaction, so it wasn’t his first exposure to it. Very scary holding your child while they are helpless.”
4. Multiple topical undiluted and oral use causes rashes. “It took months to accumulate in my system, but once the rashes started, I could no longer use any oils without the rash coming back. I was told by XX Reps that I was detoxing and that I should use more oils. I was told to try different oils for the rash. I was told to take sulfur. I was told that it’s impossible to be allergic to the oils. I was told that I must have a defective gene which is causing the rash.”
Please don’t buy this and other myths. The essential oil chemistry expert Dr. Robert Pappas recently addressed this myth last January on his Facebook page for Essential Oil University. He’s got a lot of great things on this page, so check it out.
3. Vaginal yeast infection leads to permanent scarring. “Was advised by a consultant to soak a tampon in tea tree oil, insert it before bed, wear it overnight and by the morning my yeast infection would be cleared up. Before bed that evening I put 5 drops of Tea Tree Oil on the tip of a tampon (I was worried about soaking the tampon as she instructed & using too much), I inserted the tampon and soon noticed a warm sensation. I called the representative as she told me it was normal and how I knew it was working. I went to bed and woke up about 6-7 hours later feeling like napalm had been poured into my vagina. I could not remove the tampon myself the pain was so bad. A neighbor drove me to the nearest hospital; They removed the tampon immediately and treated me for chemical burns with a prescription of burn jelly to continue using for the next 10 days, and more antibiotics to prevent the burn from becoming infected. At the 30 days check the tissue had scabbed over & partially healed. The 60 day exam the scabs were all gone but he noted I may have scars remaining and at the 90 day exam he told me scarring was present and would likely not completely heal.”
OUCH is all we can say!
2. Undiluted blend to 6-month-old’s chest resulted in 2 febrile seizures. “…Fever was only 99 and stopped breathing, foamed at the mouth; after 10 min violent seizing, turned purple and stopped breathing. Companies need to start warning about the seizure effects with wintergreen, eucalyptus, fennel, etc! My son doesn’t have epilepsy or any medical conditions. Once I removed his shirt and washed his skin at the hospital 45 min later he stopped seizing and returned to normal.”
1. Ingested “Morphine Bomb.” “protocol was to use 4 drops each of frankincense, copaiba, and balsam fir. They advertised it could be used via inhalation, on skin or ingested. I trusted this combination would [alleviate] my pain due to their claims. Within a few hours of ingesting the oils, I began having racing heart, shortness of breath, pressure in my chest that radiated to my back, up my left jaw, and down my left arm. The symptoms continued and I eventually experienced cold sweats and nausea. The symptoms did not go away. I went to Hospital, they gave me an EKG, blood work and a CAT Scan. They determined I was having a heart attack. I remained hospitalized for 3 days and underwent a heart catheterization.”
We were downright shocked by some of these cases. They’re getting worse, and, the saddest part is, they’re totally avoidable.
We have to stop this from happening. You can help.
Share essential oil safety information with your friends! You never know who has been fed incorrect or incomplete information. There are a lot of voices of reason in this situation–make sure you’re listening to them!
We also partner with Upward Spiral Center to provide FREE safety classes to the local community in Tampa Bay, and we regularly post blogs on safe essential oil use. We urge others to host SAFE Use Classes too!
We released our Annual Safety Report in February 2015, which features cases like these.
See this REPORT 2015 here.
This is Part 1 of a two-part series. Here are 5 examples of direct quotes (excuse grammar) from some of the adverse effects from our new Injury Report, scheduled to come out in February 2015. These are short quotes from the reports, not the report or our words. You will be able to see the details of each entry we received when the report comes out. Most all of these were due to bad advice from misinformation. This is why we believe that education is the key to safety.
We love our essential oils and our fellow humans, and we want to help put an end to dangerous and unsafe practices. Most all of these cases were better once the oil use was discontinued.
Here is a list of the 10 Worst Adverse Effects we received this past year. We’ve included a summary and quoted text directly from the testimonials.
10. Undiluted oils applied to small sore: “blend/frankincense” was used and next day skin turned red, bubbled up and peeled. When concerns were voiced she was told it was “detox, that there’s no way to be allergic or have a bad reaction to the oil since they are natural.”
Most qualified aromatherapists will not acknowledge the claim on “detox” to be true. Dr. Robert Pappas has busted this myth on this page. Read it here.
9. Undiluted on wrist: Two drops of clary sage and ylang ylang were used on wrists several times a day for about 10 days. Wrist started itching, broke out in red blotches which turned into blisters which spread into an area of approximately 3 cm x 4 cm. After a month with no oils and jojoba it cleared up. “Lesson learned: Always dilute your oils and never use neat oil application to the skin.”
8. Undiluted on mouth sores: “Between 25-35 drops of essential oil on canker sores in mouth on tongue after being told it was safe. This resulted in a trip to ER because of racing heart, panicking, gagging, dry heaving, extremely hot, fever, dizzy and sick and high blood pressure. “I thought I was going to die.”
It is so heartbreaking to read these sometimes. But it is our mission to spread this information so that we don’t have any deaths due to misuse.
7. Undiluted long term leads to sensitization: Used essential oils since 1997, and by 2005 got small reactions. Finally by 2014, found help to understand sensitization and the safe use of essential oils. Now she can only use in low dilutions (if at all) and have turned to hydrosols & flower essences, but “now have A LOT of sensitivities and allergies to a wide range of fragrances and EOs.”
Though we can become sensitized to a single oil, we can also become sensitized to many single oils and blends. By overusing now, we deprive ourselves of being able to use in the future. Remember the saying, “Less IS more.”
Read more about sensitization.
6. Oral use: Due to ingesting a “lot of” oils – multiple drops multiple times a day – of lemon and grapefruit in water, this person now has been diagnosed with stomach problems, chronic digestive upset, and is looking at possible gallbladder removal.
How sad it is to read these stories of people who are looking for alternative health care, possibly to save money or avoid surgery, who then cause even worse problems for themselves or their families.
Knowledge is power, never forget that it is in your hands.
We’re so thrilled to see that the use of essential oils for health and healing has gained popularity over the past few years. Essential oils are a great way to keep your family healthy and happy, but as we know too well, they are not universally safe.
As our injury reporting shows, unknowing moms with the best intentions are sometimes advised by equally unknowing and well-intentioned salespeople to use essential oils on their children. One report we received concerned a baby who stopped breathing twice after the mom applied an undiluted blend to the feet–and all because someone said it was pure and therefore safe! But no matter how pure they are, oils like Eucalyptus and Peppermint are known to cause a child’s throat to swell and close.
This mother wrote in her testimonial to us that it is “very scary holding your child while they are helpless.”
We agree, and we believe these instances are totally avoidable if the right information gets out there.
In other instances, equally unknowing and well-intentioned health professionals apply undiluted essential oils to children and sell known irritant oils for moms to apply at home! Read more about that here.
In an effort to spread better information, we recently published an article in the International Journal of Childbirth Education on the safety issues concerning the use of essential oils in pregnancy, childbirth, and early childhood.
So, you want to use aromatherapy with babies?
Please read our article first to learn the best safety practices. Download for free below!
I’ve used aromatherapy for 40 years for myself and my family as preventive care. Over those years, I’ve also used them as internal remedies when the need arose, which was usually because of the flu, viruses, or systemic infections. I do not, however, use or promote the daily use of essential oils internally for preventive care.
I believe an aromatherapy lifestyle keeps us healthy especially when used in the air and in skin and body care on a regular basis. My husband is healthy and never takes a sick day, leaving his co-workers jealous and confused. When asked why he doesn’t get sick, he blamed it on living with me and aromatics for 35 years! But for anyone who works in the public or has a kid in school, it’s hard to avoid picking up germs from others at one point or another. As a result, my family would occasionally need to use the “big guns” to fight infection. That’s what I call the most anti-infectious oils (like oregano, thyme, clove, cinnamon, etc), because they’re just that powerful.
During a bad cold or flu, for example, I use blends created to kill germs, relieve congestion and ease symptoms. For a serious infection, I may use a dose orally at the onset, a topical application, inhalations from diffusion, aromatic baths, and suppositories.
WHAT? Yes, I said that last one!
To fight an acute infection, we need to bypass the liver and get the oils into the gut. Of course both topical applications and the suppositories consist of low-dose, diluted and anti-infectious essential oils that have little irritation potential.
Another oral remedy I use is a spoonful of raw, local honey and a drop of peppermint for stomach aches. One of Nyssa‘s friends has a fond memory of this as she often had a tummy ache at our house and this is what she remembers most! This is great for kids or adults.
And these are just a few examples of internal use. Of course, before using essential oils internally, it’s necessary to learn how to do so safely–otherwise you could inflict damage on yourself and others. There are many safe and efficacious ways to use essential oils as natural aromatic medicine and it is up to the user to know what is safe. Often companies selling oils will recommend undiluted and oral use with no safety precautions and this has resulted in adverse effects. We teach safe internal use in our live classes, and in the Aromatherapy Practitioner Correspondence Course, because it’s a part of using natural oils for aromatic medicine. Internal use has also been mentioned and outlined in my Aromatherapy Practitioner Reference Manual since 1994.
When used as necessary and in a safe manner for illnesses, essential oils have tremendous healing potential that can add greatly to our natural remedies. To repeat what I said earlier, I see no need to take any oils daily in my water or food. The oils can cause harm if overdone, which I see far too often in the Atlantic Institute’s Injury Database Report. I get my flavor from real fruit if I need an occasional change to plain distilled water–because once again, there is NO additional nutritional benefit when lemon or orange essential oil is added to water. I also don’t advise taking capsules for allergies when topical and inhalation are much more effective for this condition.
Instead, I use essential oils daily in the air of my home and office, in my daily skin and body care, in my own perfume, and on my clients during treatments. I’ve seen the benefits of this type of treatment for 40 years, without adding in daily internal applications. Then, when I get sick and the need arises, I can treat more strongly. This process is quite cost effective because I don’t use up all my precious oils through undiluted or oral application. The air diffusion and skin care are effective preventatives, which is why I have used these methods for so long! Essential oils work very well diluted, sometimes better as seen in anti-infectious trials and diluting saves you money over time.
Interested in learning how to use essential oils safely?
We have free local safe use classes in addition to our one-day and weekend workshops on our Calendar. We also have industry-leading books and other resources in our shop.
Please use safely! I don’t want to read about your injuries in my database!