If you’ve been using essential oils for a while, then 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. This will be 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 what’s in a single drop of concentrated oil. Placing this much plant material on our skin has never 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 preserving 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, sensitization, or 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 its own!)
You can also become a member of the Inner Sanctum, where we discuss dilution and so much more. It’s our goal to help create 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. We’ll be sure to answer them here or even in-depth in a future post.
Be safe out there with those precious oils!
We are continuing to present our “Top 10 Worst Injuries from Essential Oils” from the past year of collecting injury reports. The list featured below contains the top five worst cases from our upcoming report, due out in February 2015. This is Part Two of a two-part series.
Here are five examples with direct quotes (excuse grammar) from our new Injury Report, scheduled to come out in February 2015.
Read more about this ongoing project, and help 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 direct quotes from the testimonials we’ve received. We are not identifying any companies in this blog. You will be able to see the details of each entry we’ve received when the report comes out. Most if not all of these were due to bad advice and misinformation.
Top 10 Worst Injuries from Essential Oils (Part Two):
5. Diluted blend on 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. Undiluted topical 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 six-month-old’s chest resulted in two 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!
This is Part One of a two-part series. Here are five examples with direct quotes (excuse grammar) from our new Injury Report, scheduled to come out in February 2015. These are short quotes from the report. This is not the report nor are these quotes our words. You will be able to see the details of each entry we’ve received when the report comes out. Most if not all of these cases are due to bad advice and misinformation. This is why we believe that education is the key to safety.
We love our essential oils and our fellow humans. We want to help put an end to dangerous and unsafe practices. Most if not all of these cases improved once those affected discontinued use of the oil(s).
Here is a list of the 10 Worst Adverse Effects we’ve received this past year. We’ve included a summary with direct quotes from the testimonials.
10. Undiluted oils applied to a small sore. “Blend/frankincense” was used and the next day, her skin turned red, bubbled up, and peeled. When she voiced her concerns, 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 “detox” claim to be true. Dr. Robert Pappas has busted this myth on this page. Read it here.
9. Undiluted oils on wrist. Someone used two drops of Clary Sage and Ylang Ylang on their wrists several times a day for about 10 days. Their wrists started itching, broke out in red blotches that turned into blisters, which spread to 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 oil 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 use leads to sensitization. One person had been using essential oils since 1997. By 2005, she started having small reactions. Finally, by 2014, this person found help in understanding sensitization and the safe use of essential oils. Now she can only use oils in low dilutions (if at all) and has turned to hydrosols & flower essences. “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 oils now, we deprive ourselves of being able to use them 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, one 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. People are looking for alternative health care, possibly to save money or avoid surgery. Then they make things worse themselves or their families, simply because they didn’t know better.
Knowledge is power. Never forget that it is in your hands.
We’re so thrilled that using 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 all too well, they are not universally safe.
As our injury reporting shows, unknowing moms with the best intentions are sometimes ill-advised by equally unknowing (however well-intentioned) salespeople. We received one report that concerned a baby who stopped breathing twice after the mom applied an undiluted blend to the feet. This was 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.
To use this mother’s words, “[It is] very scary holding your child while they are helpless.”
We agree, and we believe instances like this are totally avoidable. We just need to get the right information out there.
In other instances, equally unknowing and well-intentioned health professionals apply undiluted essential oils to children. They also sell known irritant oils to 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. This article covers 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 to learn the best safety practices. Download it for free below!
For 40 years, I’ve used aromatherapy for myself and my family as preventive care. Over those years, I also used them as internal remedies when needed. This was usually because of the flu, viruses, or systemic infections. I do not, however, use or promote daily internal use of essential oils for preventive care.
I believe aromatherapy keeps us healthy, especially when it’s used in the air and in our body care products. 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 blames it on living with me and aromatics for 35 years! But for anyone who works with 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 occasionally needs 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.
Essential Oil Use During Illness
During a bad cold or flu, for example, I use blends to kill germs, relieve congestion, and ease symptoms. For a serious infection, I may use an oral dose 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. This is what she remembers most! It’s a great remedy for kids or adults.
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. It is up to the user to know what is safe. Often companies selling oils will recommend undiluted oral use with no safety precautions. 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 part of using natural oils for aromatic medicine. Internal use has also been mentioned and outlined in my Aromatherapy Practitioner Reference Manual since 1994.
“I see no need to take any oils daily in my water or food.”
When used as necessary and in a safe manner, essential oils have tremendous healing potential. 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, which I see far too often in the Atlantic Institute’s Injury Database Report. If I want to spice up plain distilled water, I’ll get my flavor from real fruit. Once again, there is NO nutritional benefit in adding Lemon or Orange essential oil to water. I also don’t advise taking capsules for allergies. Topical application and inhalation are much more effective for this condition.
I use essential oils daily in the air of my home and office, in my daily body care products, 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 with more strength. This process is quite cost-effective because I don’t use up all my precious oils through undiluted or oral application. Diffusing oils in the air and using them for skin care is very effective preventative care. That’s why I’ve used these methods for so long! Essential oils work very well when they’re diluted. Sometimes they even work better, as seen in anti-infectious trials. Diluting also saves you money over time.
Please use safely! I don’t want to read about your injuries in my database!
Remember that song by Waylon Jennings: “Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys. Don’t let ’em pick guitars or drive them old trucks. Let ’em be doctors and lawyers and such.”
Well, right now, the problem isn’t that your children will grow up to be cowboys. The real issue is that they’ll be doctors and lawyers with severe sensitization to essential oils. The doctors can treat others from the same generation, while the lawyers can start a class action lawsuit suing the sales reps and companies promoting dangerous use. Sounds scary, doesn’t it? And why haven’t you heard about this issue before? It is well documented in the industry that certain oils cannot be used on the skin without risk. Additionally, one can develop an allergy from the overuse of any essential oil. It is an allergic reaction created by overuse. See these references on sensitization here and here; see here for more safe use info, including an Injury Report.
Unfortunately, so many well-meaning moms go onto the Internet and find blogs that instruct them to apply all sorts of undiluted aromatic formulas to their kids. This can be for everything from the sniffles to ADD, ADHD, and more. The scary part is, these blog writers and groups often have no training or safety data information, yet they’re giving harmful advice about essential oils to anyone who reads their posts.
Do Your Research
I know now what drives moms to take advice on medicating their children without seeing if it’s safe. It is possible that they were looking for alternative ways to help children, and oils can help in some cases. But essential oils are potent. Just because they’re “pure and natural” doesn’t mean they can’t be harmful. It is dose-dependent, as the links above state. If you were to put undiluted essential oils on your children’s feet (like many mommy blogs instruct), besides lifelong sensitization, your children can develop an aversion to smells like Peppermint and Clove. One mom reported her child said, “No more feet, mommy!” This made her stop. Please listen, and stop hurting your own child on a sale rep’s advice. Before doing something recommended, ask is it safe, look at the sites above, or send me an email! Here is a condensed page for a quick reference on safety.
What will this do to the next generation? Besides hurting the children instead of helping them, this practice also strips aromatherapy of its healing properties. By repeatedly applying undiluted essential oils to your children, or allowing medical professionals like chiropractors to do so, will you create a generation of children who are overly sensitized to essential oils as gentle as Lavender? As an aromatherapy expert who has repeatedly seen the healing power of these oils, it’s tragic to me that so many will not be able to benefit from their effects.
Why is this happening?
So, where does the push to use undiluted oils for every type of ailment come from? You might be dismayed to know that it comes from essential oil companies who hope to sell their products by making every kind of claim possible. In reality, diluted oils are more efficacious and way more cost-effective, which is the point of using natural products. By saying the oils are “natural and pure” and can be used undiluted daily, these companies are selling tons of oils while actually increasing sensitization in their customers.
As someone who has put so much time and effort into practicing safe, healing aromatherapy, this makes me very sad.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree?