Using essential oils safely is a topic that is very important to me as an aromatherapist and in the product creation process for my business. I recently finished up researching essential oil safety for my pregnancy care product line and am embarking on product development for a new product line for babies and children. There is a lot of misinformation and unsafe practices that come across in Google searches, Pinterest boards, blog posts, and Facebook groups.
Human physiology is different for everyone and the constitution for babies and children is extremely delicate. The safety standards espoused by aromatherapy educators and industry experts is based on science and decades of experience. These standards apply to all essential oils even ones that are 100% pure or "therapeutic-grade."
General Safety & Dosage Guidelines
Oils to avoid and why
There are plenty of essential oils that are perfectly safe to use on babies and children as long as you follow the correct dosage guidelines. However, there are many essential oils that you will want to avoid all together depending on their age. You may have used some of these oils on your children and have had no issues, but you should be aware of the safety precautions and wary of bad advice that is easily accessible online. Just because you have not had an issue, does not mean that it can never happen. Children do not metabolize essential oils in the same manner that adults do.
Avoid use on children under 2 years old
Certain essential oils should be avoided topically due to a moderate risk of mucous membrane irritation, skin sensitization, and the potential for phototoxicity. The only exception is Hyssop ct. pinocamphone which should be avoided using (all routes) due to methyleugenol content which is neurotoxic.
Avoid use on children under 5-6 years old
Oils to Avoid due to estrogenic content
Oils to Avoid due to Menthol content which can slow breathing and possible cause neurological issues in young children when applied on the face or nose.
Oils to Avoid due to 1,8 cineole content which can cause CNS and breathing problems in young childrenwhen applied on the face or nose.
Avoid Use on Children Under 10 Years Old
Avoid Use on Children under 14 years old
Diffusing in classrooms and shared childcare spaces
The topic of diffusing essential oils in classrooms, day cares, and other shared childcare spaces comes with a whole host of issues. It seems innocent enough to want to replace chemical air fresheners with a natural alternative, but it does pose a risk for children with medical issues and chronic illnesses.This poses the same concerns from parents and educators as it would for a child with a severe food allergy. You will see plenty of articles for and against this practice.
Diffusion should be done with care especially when you are around babies and children as essential oils that are mucuous membrane irritants like Clove, Lemongrass, and Ylang Ylang could potentially irritate the mucous membranes in the nose and mouth from prolonged exposure to diffusion. Now take into account anyone with chronic issues involving irritation and inflammation in these areas.You also have to take allergies into consideration as well. A parents consent should be taken into consideration. Would you want someone exposing your child to them without your consent?
Thieves - Is it safe to use on or around children?
I've received several private messages about the safety of Thieves and similar essential oils blends and product lines. Thieves is a blend of Lemon, Clove, Cinnamon Bark, Eucalyptus Radiata, and Rosemary essential oils. It is not clear which chemotype (camphor, cineole, or verbenone) of Rosemary is being used.
On Guard is a similar blend to Thieves and is a blend of Wild Orange Peel, Clove Bud, Cinnamon Leaf, Cinnamon Bark, Eucalyptus, and Rosemary. It would also pose the same risks as mentioned above.
I know many people who use Thieves and similar blends in the homes without having any issues. It is a trade off between using the standard chemical-laden cleaning products and room fresheners, but essential oils and essential oils products have their own safety precautions as well. They do not get a carte blanche 100% safe mark across the board.
Raindrop Therapy / Aromatouch Technique
Raindrop Therapy and Aromatouch Technique are widely regarded throughout the professional aromatherapy community as dangerous for not only children, but adults as well.
Raindrop Therapy utilizes the application of undiluted Oregano, Thyme, Basil, Cypress, Wintergreen, Marjoram, Peppermint, and two proprietary blends from Young Living: Valor and Aroma Siez. Valor is a blend of Black Spruce, Camphor, Blue Tansy, Frankincense, and Geranium. Aroma Siez is a blend of Basil, Marjoram, Lavender, Peppermint, and Cypress.
Aromatouch Technique utilizes a similar application of undiluted Lavender, Peppermint, Tea tree, Wild Orange, and proprietary blends by dōTERRA: AromaTouch, Deep Blue, Balance, and On Guard. Balance is a blend of Spruce, Ho Wood, Frankincense, Blue Tansy, Blue Chamomile, and Osmanthus. Aromatouch is a blend of Cypress, Peppermint, Marjoram, Basil, Grapefruit, and Lavender. Deep Blue is a blend of Wintergreen, Camphor, Peppermint, Ylang Ylang, Helichrysum, Blue Tansy, Blue Chamomile, and Osmanthus. On Guard is a blend of Wild Orange Peel, Clove Bud, Cinnamon Leaf, Cinnamon Bark, Eucalyptus, and Rosemary.
As discussed above, several of these oils should be avoided with children, especially wintergreen, but also including Eucalyptus, Rosemary, Camphor, Oregano and Peppermint. Even some of the other oils can be problematic as well, Cinnamon Bark and Thyme depending on the chemotype can be a mucuous membrane irritant and skin sensitizer as well.
Read more about the dangers of these popular methods of application:
Adverse Reaction Database
For more information on essential oils safety, the Tisserand Institute's Adverse Reaction Database is an excellent resource, but be warned some of the images shown in the database are graphic. Please note that these are reported issues, many people have reactions to essential oils and do not report them or do not recognize them as injuries due to improper use.
My intention is not to scare anyone aware from aromatherapy and using essential oils on your babies and children, but I urge you to do so safely. Do you research including pro's and con's and make your decisions based on this information, but be sure to discern the difference between marketing hype meant to sell products and actual research based on safety standards. The aromatherapy industry loves essential oils and we want you to use them safely for yourself, your families, and customers.
Regarding the "The results are in: I called 15 essential oil companies and asked if I could tour their farms to see how the essential oils are made" viral Facebook post has been floating around for the past week. I wrote a response to it late at night last week, but sadly, my phone ate it before I was able to post it -- that's what I get for Facebooking when I wake up between 1-3am at random intervals every night.
Preface: As a Certified Aromatherapist working on my Clinical Aromatherapy certification program, I had to study 60 different essential oils -- no one company sells them all, so I had to research numerous essential oil companies, most of which come highly recommended by my teachers and other industry professionals. I trust their opinions as they have been teaching aromatherapy or writing about it for decades.
This persons guise of investigative research is highly flawed for several reasons. Yes, most, if not all, essential oil companies, even the ones that own some of their own farms, source their oils from distributors, brokers, and independent distilleries. And yes, you can often go and tour those farms and distilleries. Customer service representatives may not have that information or may not be able to give it out. I've read numerous accounts from a host of aromatherapy educators that I have studied with about the farms and distilleries they have visited. In fact, the New York Institute of Aromatic Studies offers a retreat to Sedona, Arizona, where attendees visit the PhiBee Aromatics distillery and get to wild harvest and distill plant material during the workshop. A quick Google search for "tour Lavender farms" yielded numerous results including a Travel Channel feature of nine lavender farms that you can tour in the United States, some of which produce essential oils.
Different plants are native to numerous regions all over the globe and it can be problematic and costly to visit these farms. I love Frankincense, but I doubt that I am going to be travelling to Northern Africa or the Middle East anytime soon. This is also why most essential oils companies source their materials from different distilleries and farms because it is not cost effective to own and manage farms all over the world.
Young Living is often boasted as owning ALL their own farms, this is patently not true. Yes, they do own farms most of which are in North America and Europe with one to three farms each located in South America, Asia, Australia, and Africa. It clearly states on the Seed to Seal website that "We’ve invested unprecedented time and resources to ensure that these standards are prioritized at each of our corporate-owned farms, partner farms, and Seed to Seal-certified suppliers." This indicates that they do in fact source some of their essential oils from outside farms and suppliers.
Sourcing essential oils from farms and suppliers is not a bad thing, nor does it indicate a lack of quality or company transparency. Every essential oil company does this. They do not hide this fact either.
Regarding some companies advising not to take essential oils internally, this has nothing to do with quality, it has everything to do with liability issues and it is a highly controversial topic in the professional aromatherapy field - many advocate to never use essential oils internally. Also, FDA regulations require separate branding for anything consumable as opposed to topical or inhalation applications. Those oils still can be ingested, but there are many safety issues around doing so and quite frankly much of the information floating around the internet is highly inaccurate and downright dangerous. I have completed the coursework in French Aromatherapy and know the risks and proper methods of using essential oils internally. I have written extensively about it on this blog.
The person who wrote the post asked the following questions:
We all have our brand loyalties when it comes to where we buy our essential oils. As an aromatherapist and perfumer, I have to buy my supplies through a dozen different companies because no single company carriers every single essential oil -- and there are over 350 of them without taking variations like absolutes, C02 extracts, country of origin, and chemotypes into factor. I trust these companies and move beyond marketing hype and misinformation.
I am a certified aromatherapist and I rarely diffuse essential oils anymore. I think the last time I did so was for some ambiance during my housewarming party in December. I got away from passive diffusion last year, but never really thought about why I was no longer diffusing all the time. Occasionally, I will make wax melts because they wax absorbs the aroma and it lasts much longer than any standard water diffuser.
There are so many ways to reap the benefits of aromatherapy and we all have our preferences. Diffusion is a good starting point when you are first getting comfortable with essential oils and the benefits of aromatherapy. After studying aromatherapy, I found better ways to incorporate aromatherapy into my daily self-care practices.
Owner, Restorative Aromatics and NAHA Certified Aromatherapist Level One. This blog focuses on aromatherapy education and other essential oil related topics.