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.
In February 2018, I received my Level One Aromatherapy Certification from the New York Institute of Aromatic Studies. My passion for working primarily with essential oils began in 2011 when I started dabbling with using them for anxiety, stress, and depression. Admittedly, I had no idea what I was doing and that there were drastic differences in the quality of essential oils depending on the brand. I got away from them for a little while and my interest was renewed after taking an Aromatherapy and Yoga workshop at a local yoga studio. The instructor introduced the class to the Young Living brand and we made a few items to take home with us. Thus my journey began.
I started researching essential oils and learned how to make basic skin care products. At the time, I was having a hard time with my skin care regimen and my skin looked unhealthy. Much to my surprise, my skin issues resolved within a matter of months. I purchased a selection of essential oils from Young Living and became a member. I didn't really know much about MLM (Multi-Level Marketing) companies at the time. While I eventually got away from the Young Living experience for personal reasons, I learned so much that got my started on this journey.
Due to the lack of scientific information, misinformation, and proper aromatherapy practices, I decided to become a certified aromatherapist. The New York Institute came highly recommended and I enrolled in their dual program in the Foundations of Aromatherapy and French Aromatherapy certification programs. I'm still working on my final paper for the French Aromatherapy certification after changing my focus a couple of times. For both programs, I had to conduct several case studies with friends and clients, which really helped me to hone in on my practice and apply what I had learned through my studies.
I had been working with my business coach Carlee Myers of Work You Love Now and in April I decided to start my own aromatherapy business. We worked through all of the beginning stages of the process, setting up an LLC, getting business accounts, service and product development. We continue to work together to grow my business.
My thirst for knowledge was increasing exponentially and I took on several other programs, classes, and workshops. I completed programs in teacher training, natural skin care formulation, essential oils safety, incense crafting, soapmaking, and an introductory course in perfuming. I am also working on completing my Level Two Aromatherapy Certification program and an Herbalism Immersion Program.
I am a creative person by nature--I hold a BFA in Art History and Studio Arts from Moore College of Art & Design. My background in the arts has been invaluable as it has helped me to create my visual branding and product photography for my business.
I started expanding my product offerings beyond the store on my website to include Etsy and Amazon Handmade and my sales have been increasing exponentially. I have also embarked upon selling my products in person at local craft fairs in the Philadelphia area.
I am excited for what 2019 will mean for my business as it continues to grow. I have a few vending spots at upcoming craft fairs in February under my belt.
At the behest of one of my doula friends, I have embarked upon developing a product line to suit the needs that arise throughout the course of the pregnancy, labor & delivery, postpartum, and baby care. Earlier this year, I took a course through the New York Institute of Aromatic Studies on this very subject in addition to my aromatherapy and essential oil safety training. During my research phase, I was shocked to find that while there are hundreds of websites and blogs with information about essential oil use and pregnancy that there was no definitive resource. I found list after list about what oils are safe to use and which ones are to be avoided, but a lack of purpose and reasoning behind them.
In addition to the task of developing a new product line, I found myself consulting my books, course materials, and online resources to get the low down on all things related to pregnancy and aromatherapy in order to provide an accurate resource for professionals in the field and for informed mothers. I pulled together a comprehensive list of safe essential oils that can be used during pregnancy, noting their benefits, and any special precautions in addition to a list of what to avoid and why. I spent a lot of time cross referencing the list with Tisserand & Young's Essential Oil Safety as it is the go-to resource for safety data on essential oils.
Safe Essential Oils
There are many conflicting resources regarding essential oils that are safe to use during and after pregnancy. I have compiled a list of safe oils to use, but some are only used during particular times during and after the pregnancy depending on whether or not you are breastfeeding. There may be other essential oils that are safe to use during pregnancy, but these are the primary ones that can be used during pregnancy.
See the full list of Pregnancy Safe Essential Oils.
Oils to Avoid
Pregnancy by Trimester
All pregnancies are different for each person and issues may manifest in different ways. Since the sense of smell is heightened and can be triggering during pregnancy, it is important for any blend to have a pleasing aroma, but there will always be the chance that even if it smells good that it may trigger nausea or headaches.
First Trimester: Weeks 1 - 12You may not know that you are pregnant until after week 4, but can start focusing on the changes occurring in your body and what you need during the beginning months of your pregnancy. You might start experiencing morning sickness, moodiness, cravings, fatigue, and other symptoms associated with the early stages of pregnancy. Aromatherapy can help ease some of these symptoms and help you along the way through every stage of your pregnancy.
Second Trimester: Weeks 13 - 28Some of the early symptoms of pregnancy may reside a little, but new concerns may develop during the second trimester. It is common to feel anxiety as the pregnancy will seem a lot more real during the second trimester as you will become more noticeably pregnant over time. It is important to stay active and healthy throughout your pregnancy and you can continue to use or change your aromatherapy solutions to manage sensitivities to smell and any new issues that may arise. You may start experiencing back pain and as the baby grows you will start to gain weight and may be concerned about stretch marks.
Third Trimester: Weeks 29 - 40You might start feeling excited about the arrival of the baby not being so far away, but you will still need to support any new or recurring pregnancy symptoms that you may be having at this time in order to prepare for the process of giving birth.
Labor, Delivery, and PostpartumWhether you have a natural delivery or C- Section, be sure to take care of yourself during these delicate days from the first contraction to taking your infant home for the first time. Your body has undergone something major and you will need time to heal your body, mind, and spirit in addition to caring for your newborn child.
Read more about aromatherapy for each stage of your pregnancy.
A Sneak Peak Look at the Products
Restorative Aromatics is developing a wide array of aromatherapy products safe for use during the time of fertility and conception throughout the pregnancy, after birth, and for babies. As a certified aromatherapist, I have been trained in the safe and proper use of essential oils and aromatherapy products for use throughout every stage of pregnancy, labor and delivery, after birth, and for newborn babies.
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Intro to Perfuming is the first video in the Artisanal Aromatics Series of education videos and discussions on topics pertaining to aromatherapy, herbalism, soapmaking, incense creation, and perfumery. On December 2nd, we talked about types of perfumes, fragrance classifications and notes, supplies, and the differences between fragrance oils, aroma chemicals, and essential oils.
Our Online Live Video is on DIY Shampoo Bars
Time: TBD (Check back for announcement)
Custom Bespoke Fragrances
Restorative Aromatics will create your custom Bespoke fragrance blend tailored to your needs. It can be an original creation or a replication based on samples of other fragrances. Pricing varies depending upon individual in-person consultation fees, materials used, and other costs of supplies needed to create your Bespoke blend.
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Restorative Aromatics: Perfuming 101: Creating fragrance blends for perfumes and skincare products.
Time: Dec 2, 2018 7:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
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I am enrolled in a perfuming course through the Online Perfume School and am loving it as it has expanded how I think about aromas beyond what they smell like. Aroma has the power to evoke emotions and memories, but when you sit with an aroma or a blend, you can start to draw upon other sensory experiences such as the color of the aroma, its temperature, associated imagery, or how it sounds whether it be a particular sound or even music. Our sense of smell is one of our most powerful sensory experiences.
Perfumes are made using different types of ingredients. They can be made using natural essential oils only or they can be made adding fragrance oils and aroma chemicals in addition to essential oils. I recently wrote a blog titled Essential Oils vs Fragrance Oils where I explored the differences between natural and synthetic components of perfumes and colognes.
There are three primary ways to create perfumes and colognes.
Some recipes on the internet will recommend using vodka for alcohol-based perfumes, but it is important to use a denatured (non-drinkable) perfumer's alcohol (SDA 40B), especially if you are looking to sell your creations. Perfumer's alcohol is a combination of Ethanol, T-butyl alcohol, and Bitrex (Denatonium Benzoate.) In the United States, you will have to get a special permit in order to not only sell your perfumes, but to also purchase larger quantities of perfumers alcohol. In most cases, the limit is 5 gallons per year without a permit.
There are several different formulations that can be used to create different types of perfume based on the percentage of fragrance and perfumer's alcohol as a base. For one fluid ounces (30 ml) here is a general guide of fragrance to perfumer's alcohol ratio. It will be most helpful to have a set of graduated cylinders to measure by ml. I recommend blending by weight, but you can also make notes on drops used.
When you make a spray perfume mixed with perfumer's alcohol, it is recommended to let it sit for up to a month for the fragrance to really meld into its final form. You can always use it right away, but the fragrance may change over time.
I use a blend of Jojoba oil and beeswax to make solid perfumes. If you are looking for a vegan alternative to beeswax, you can substitute Candelilla Wax, but it has a much harder consistency than beeswax, so you will need to adjust the formulation accordingly.
I use 10 ml roller bottles for perfume oils, in which case I use about 20-25 drops of the fragrance blend, plus 10 ml of a carrier oil like jojoba or sweet almond oil.
Perfume blending techniques
It is essential to understand the fragrance note of each component in the blend whether it be an essential oils, fragrance oil, or aroma chemical. Typically, they are arranged in a pyramid of Top notes, Middle or Heart Notes, and Base Notes. Top notes like citruses will evaporate more quickly, but will often be the first aroma that you smell when the perfume is applied. Middle notes are the heart of the fragrance and last quite a bit longer than top notes, and base notes last the longest as deep and heavy aromas. Aromatic blends are comprised of all three types to balance out the fragrance. You shouldn't use all top notes or all base notes on their own. Even if you are creating a light refreshing citrus blend you will want to give it some heart with mid notes and a solid foundation of base notes.
Your fragrance blends can also be used outside of perfume or cologne applications. Those fragrance blends can be used in soaps, skincare products, and bath & shower products as well. It is important, especially when using essential oils to know any safety precautions associated with the oil. I love cinnamon bark, but it is a highly sensitizing essential oil, so I will often use a synthetic fragrance oil in its place for the aroma only.
Happy perfume making and fragrance blending! Stay tuned for my upcoming weekly Zoom call series beginning on November 30, 2018 and the first topic will be more information on perfuming!
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I have been a little quiet lately, but that is because I am up to a lot of exciting new endeavors. First and foremost, I bought a house and am settling and moving on November 5th. I am super excited to have a larger facility to make my products, have small workshops, and facilitate client consultations.
Here are some other exciting things to note for November and December 2018:
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Do you know what the average shelf life of a water-based product with essential oils is before it starts "going bad?" Even if you refrigerate it? THREE DAYS! That is, if you do not use a preservative! I started using Benzylalcohol-DHA which Making Cosmetics describes as "a broad-spectrum preservative blend consisting of benzylalcohol (aromatic alcohol) (87%), dehydroacetic acid (8%) & water (5%) and is an effective alternative to parabens. It is soluble in water, alcohols & glycols." This is the natural preservative that I chose to use in all of my water-based products. That includes things like hydrosols, aloe vera, and other water-based extracts.
I knew you needed to use preservatives in hydrous products, but I didn't know how fast things start to degrade without it and how prone they become to microbial growth. You can also add antioxidants like Vitamin E Oil and Rosemary Antioxidant (which is a plant extract and not an essential oil) to properly ensure your products shelf life, but they do not act as preservatives on their own. I used to make my own foaming hand soap with a simple recipe using distilled water, castile soap, and essential oils -- without any preservatives. Guess what, that all natural soap I made would be floating with microbial growth in a matter of days!
There are preservative calculators that can assist you in figuring out the correct weight to add to your finished products. I like the one from HumbleBee & Me, but you need to keep in mind that it is basing the weight in grams, which is the standard unit of measurement for making topical cosmetic applications. There are also conversion tools available to figure out the total weight in grams if you are using ounces. One ounce roughly equals 28.3495 grams. Most kitchen or lab scales can be adjusted to switch from ounces to grams as well.
There are many FDA regulations in place when it comes to legally selling hydrous products -- those being products that contain any type of water-based ingredient. I started using Sagescript Institute, LLC in Colorado to test my products. Sagescript states, "The FDA does not require any microbiology testing but it is a responsible thing to do to protect your formula and your customer. The FDA does say that a cosmetic should not be adulterated which is interpreted as meaning it should not contain harmful bacteria or fungus." All this means is that if you are making and selling products, you are liable for them. Pro tip: It is also a good idea to get yourself some business and personal liability insurance. The Indie Business Network and The Handcrafter's Soap and Cosmetics Guild offer discounts as a membership benefit.
Each product will cost between $28 and $32 for microbial testing. You package and label your samples and mail them to the lab, they test them, and then send you the report. The whole process can take about 2-3 weeks. It is recommended that even if you are using the same base ingredients, but make a slight variation to the coloring, essential oils, or fragrance oils that you should also have those products tested too -- even though they will most likely yield the same results as the base products that were originally tested.
Preservatives exist for a reason and the natural ones will conform to your personal or philosophical standards that you may adhere to in your product creation process. There are numerous natural preservatives available on the market in the US, UK, and Europe. When in doubt, if it has any water or water-based products in it, use a preservative!
Owner, Restorative Aromatics and NAHA Certified Aromatherapist Level One. This blog focuses on aromatherapy education and other essential oil related topics.