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.
Recently, I read a story from a mother who found out what worked for her child and what didn’t. This mainly concerned Lavender essential oil. The mom realized that not all recommended oils work like they’re supposed to. She has consented to me sharing her story so that it might help others. I am thankful to be able to do so.
Here’s her experience, in her words:
“I just wanted to share with you all just how important it is to research EOs before using them, especially on children. I’m a huge researcher, but even I missed this. My 7 year old has epilepsy, and it originates in his frontal lobe so, of course, ADHD comes with the territory. It’s been difficult, so I started researching ‘EOs for ADHD.’ I only paid attention to the homemade blends that used oils that I knew were safe ‘in general’ for a child his age.
A little over a month ago, I tried a blend with Vetiver, Lavender, and an MLM blend that had just a few other oils in it that were not contraindicated for children his age. By day 3, he was like a different child, and it was not in a good way! He was wired, disrespectful, hitting his baby brother, and extremely restless. I posted here for help, and someone mentioned how children with ADHD could have opposite effects with the oils meant to calm the body. It made sense to me because he has an opposite effect with Benedryl. So I stopped using the blend and my sweetheart returned.
I still needed to figure out a way to help him to focus and not be so impulsive, though, so I tried a different blend with only 3 single oils: Cedarwood (2 drops), Frankincense (1 drop), and Lavender (2 drops). I put this in a teaspoon of unscented lotion and massage it into his back (whatever’s left on my hands I rub on his feet just b/c he likes a foot massage). I started this on Friday. By Monday (day 3), he was out of control. He even pretty much told me he hates me, and my son has NEVER said that to me a day in his life. I was keeping a behavior log, so I knew it was the oils. And the one oil both blends had in common was Lavender. So, the researcher that I am, I searched high and low until I found out why Lavender oil would change my child’s personality so much. I found this:
‘For those with epilepsy, be aware that several essential oils may trigger an epileptic seizure and these could include Lavender, Fennel and Rosemary.’
Now, I never stop at one source. I searched more and actually, the type of Lavender in question is SPIKE Lavender. Some sources credit regular Lavender as an oil that calms epilepsy. However, knowing that epilepsy presents itself in different areas of the brain, it should be expected that each situation will have different reactions. This information is enough for me to avoid ANY type of Lavender oil on or around my son permanently. It’s not safe for him. I stopped using it yesterday, but it’s still affecting him today. He is so restless, it’s unreal. However, I’m glad I know WHY he’s had such a terrible few days. And why he would tell his momma that he hates her.
I check multiple sources for good and bad. Also, once I introduce anything new to my children (natural or not) I keep a journal on their behaviors, because sometimes you just never know what’s going on and what could be causing it….This is proof that the oils are indeed strong and capable of affecting a person negatively if used incorrectly.”
“I just wanted to update you all on how he’s doing after I stopped using Lavender on (and around) him. The last day we used it was Tuesday. Today, he is back to my sweet little boy, and it’s obvious that he has a very clear mind now. He even told me that he feels like ‘a new boy’ and that he knows how to make better choices. He was able to complete over 2 hours of school review worksheets in an hour because he was just that focused. It’s crazy to see just how that one oil had such a negative effect on him. I know it’s not a common reaction, but it is obviously his reaction and I’m glad to have the sense enough to know that not all oils work the same for every individual.”
This is an excellent story that shows how every one of us is different. Though Lavender seems harmless and calming, it had the opposite effect in this case. It took a courageous mom to research and find out what was causing the problem, and thankfully she did. So, all mothers out there who are looking for EOs to help with your children’s behavior, take this as a serious warning to make sure you do your research first!
In an effort to continue offering aromatherapy education centered around safety, we’ve been collecting data on cases of adverse effects of essential oils for a little less than a year. We’ve had over 30 cases submitted. We are now releasing our first report!
This is only representative of 34 cases, but it serves as a learning tool help us all create safer practices.
Please review and share!
Unfortunately, yes, they can be when used inappropriately. Just because something is “natural” and “pure” doesn’t mean it isn’t a potent substance. Undiluted, long-term use of essential oils has been known to cause adverse effects. Most importantly, adults, children, and animals are all at risk.
Here are some of the stories we’ve heard recently: a baby was treated with undiluted Peppermint and had a seizure; a woman is still experiencing ringing in her ear from an undiluted treatment; another woman ingested Lemon oil daily and her tongue went numb. Sadly, there are many more instances like these.
Possible adverse effects from the overuse of undiluted essential oils include:
- Redness, rashes, blistering
- Itching, general irritation
- Chemical burning
- Pigmentation changes
- Interference with medication
- Alters blood pressure
- Numbness, tingling
- Nerve deadening
If you or someone you know has experienced an adverse reaction from essential oil use, please take a moment to fill out an Injury Report Form.
Additionally, you can read our first injury report here.