Essential oils have been used to prepare food, to enhance beauty and to create health care products for a long time. They have powerful antibacterial and antimicrobial properties which can be important for the human body. Although they are derived from natural products, concerns are continuously emerging on the safety of these oils.
First, it is important to note that processed essential oils are much more concentrated than the products from which they are derived. As an illustration, one pound of lavender oil is made using over 150 pounds of the natural plant. The plants themselves have very low concentrations of essential oils, and this is what makes them both safe and healthy for regular and unregulated use.
In that case, it would be logical to say that essential oils are still safe to use in small quantities. Otherwise, if overused, it is possible for a person to develop health complications. For example, if used on the skin, they can easily get into the blood stream, leading to allergic reactions and skin irritation.
That being said, you don’t need to miss out on the health and beauty benefits of essential oils. All you need to do is learn how to use them safely.
Tips on How to Safely Use Essential Oils
It is very important to dilute essential oils before using them. This will lower the concentration. Also, you shouldn’t make the mistake of using water as a solvent as many people do. Mixing water with an essential oil is close to impossible since the two have different densities. Instead, you should use carrier oil or even honey. The recommended ratio of the resulting mixture is about 4 drops of the essential oil to a teaspoon of the solvent.
As mentioned previously, essential oils are highly concentrated. This makes them unhealthy and even dangerous to ingest orally. The large intestines are specifically known to contain trillions of bacteria which are important for the proper functioning of the digestive system. Since these essential oils contain antibacterial properties, they are likely to kill a lot of these microorganisms. Research on what would happen in such a scenario has not been conclusive, but it is best not to experiment with it. In addition, ingestion of essential oils has previously caused seizures in users. This is because of the neurotoxicity that comes with the highly concentrated essential oils.
Ingesting essential oils should be done under the supervision of a trained medical professional as its effects could be similar to those of antibiotics. If you wish to eat or drink the essential oils, you can instead use the natural plant.
The best alternative is to apply the oils on your skin. Essential oils are especially popular in massage parlours. You can also use them at home as beauty products, although you will need to be careful. You should not apply too much of the oil as this can cause rashes and other forms of skin irritation.
Another great option is aromatherapy. Aromatherapy is commonly used to raise moods, relax and ease pain. In addition, it can help to improve cognitive functions and boost the body’s immunity. The practice simply involves inhaling the essential oils, whether natural or processed. Aromatherapy is among the earliest methods of using essential oils in human history.
Safety for Children and Babies
There have been many incidents of babies and children getting poisoned from the use of essential oils. That does not necessarily mean that children should stay away from essential oils. It only means that they should take certain precautions when using these products.
It is advisable to avoid using essential oils on your baby before they complete their first year. This is because their immune systems are still underdeveloped, and their skins are also very thin. The oils can easily get into the baby’s blood stream and cause allergic reactions.
Also, be sure to dilute the oils thoroughly for all children. The concentration should be much lower than that suggested for adults above. Topical use of the oils should only be done after the child’s second birthday. It is, however, still not advisable for all children.
It is equally important to avoid getting the oils close to the child’s nose. Ideally, you should apply the essential oils to the child’s feet as these are furthest away from the child’s airways.
When unsure, please consult a certified aromatherapist for guidance.
Safety for Pregnant or Nursing Women
Again, essential oils can be unhealthy for pregnant and nursing mothers. Some professionals have suggested that the oils can cross the placenta and get into the unborn baby’s system. In nursing mothers, some essential oils have been proven to reduce the amount of milk. Doctors have compiled a list of essential oils that are considered safe for use by pregnant and nursing women. As a pregnant or nursing woman, it is important to do thorough research before using any essential oil.
In addition, you should never ingest essential oils. Not enough research has been done on this, but it is likely to cause an adverse reaction to you and your baby.
The period of pregnancy also determines the level of risk involved. In the first trimester, many oils are considered unsafe for use. If you cannot access a trained professional in this period, it would be best to stay away from essential oils entirely.
Essential oils are a great gift of nature. However, wrong use can lead to adverse health effects, especially because processed essential oils are highly concentrated. This is especially a danger for children and pregnant or nursing women. That being said, essential oils have great health benefits if used under the precautions outlined in this article. To learn more about the safe use of essential oils, you can read this book: Essential Oils Safety: A Guide for Health Care Professionals by Rodney Young and Robert Tisserand.