“Much of the Safety information available online regarding essential oils and their usage is misleading, confusing, wrong or simply absent.”
Essential oils can be safely used to enhance well-being and as part of a healthy lifestyle. They are used by millions of people every day, most of them without incident. However, essential oils are powerful substances and can be harmful if not used correctly.
The essential oil in a bottle is 50-100 times more concentrated than in the plant and safety issues apply to essential oils that may not apply to the whole plant or herbal extract.
• Do not apply undiluted essential oils on your skin. It's that simple!
• Do not ingest essential oils unless adviced to do so by a practitioner who is qualified to do it correctly!
INHALATION AND DIFFUSION
It is not advisable to directly and intensively inhale essential oils for longer than 15-20 minutes.
If you are diffusing essential oils, it makes more sense to do this intermittently than constantly. Ideally, diffuse essential oils for 30-60 minutes on, then 30-60 minutes off. This is not only safer, but it’s also more effective as both our bodies and our nervous system habituate to essential oils after this. Whenever you are using or diffusing essential oils, some air exchange (fresh air) is advisable.
It is not a good idea to ingest essential oils. Because essential oils do not dissolve in water, it is harder for your body to assimilate the essential oil into its system because it’s not evenly dispersed. This also means that you have little droplets of essential oils floating around in your stomach which can lead to irritation of the very sensitive mucus membranes of the stomach.
If you are interested in ingesting essential oils, please contact a licensed practitioner to do it correctly!
Phototoxicity only applies to a very small number of essential oils. Mostly citrus fruit. If you apply a very high dilution to your skin and go out in the sun, you can have a very severe and bad reaction.
ALLERGY & IRRITATION
Allergy and irritation are not the same thing. They look similar but are different.
In an irritation, once you stop using the product and remove the oil from the skin, the reaction dies down very quickly.
In an allergic reaction, the reaction tends to remain inflamed for many hours. It will also come back every time you use the product/ingredient that causes the reaction.
If you have an allergic reaction to an essential oil, your immune system has been primed, usually for life, so you might need to avoid that oil indefinitely.
Skin reaction – Wash gently and remove contaminated clothing. Soothing skin cream might help. Eye contact – Flush the eye with water for 15 – 20 min.
QUALITY & DEGRADATION
The quality of essential oils is an important issue for anyone using them. Confidence in their safe use begins with ensuring that the oils have a known botanical origin and composition.
All organic materials are subject to chemical degradation. In the case of essential oils, this tends to occur on prolonged storage, under poor storage conditions, or when the oil is otherwise exposed to air.
When kept in dark, cool conditions in fully sealed containers, the degradation is measured in months or years, but in unfavorable conditions, it can progress in a matter of days or weeks.
The three (3) principal factors responsible for essential oil degradations are:
Atmospheric oxygen can change the chemical composition of an essential oil. Oxidation can affect the efficiency of an essential oil. Another consequence of degradation is that it can render an essential oil more hazardous.
Cold (4-6 C) and dark storage in tightly closed packaging prevents significant oxidation.
The degrading effects of heat have not been widely researched, but the few published studies show great variation between different types of essential oils.
Although well known to those in the essential oil industry, few papers have been published on the degrading effects of light. Light, especially UV (ultraviolet), is usually implicated in free radical reactions. In the case of oxidation, light will promote the formation of oxygen free radicals, which are highly reactive.
STORAGE AND QUALITY CONTROL
The quality of essential oils changes with continual use and over time. The following advice is therefore given:
- Keep essential oils cool, preferably in a refrigerator.
- Close bottle caps immediately after use.
- Observe “use by” dates. If there are none, use within 12 months of purchase or first opening.
- Keep away from sources of heat and direct sunlight.
- Keep away from naked flames, e.g. candles and vaporizers. Essential oils are flammable.