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Safe Use of Essential Oils
How to Use Essential Oils Safely

Occasionally, chemical sensitivities or allergies can be experienced in the use of essential oils. This may be caused by using a highly concentrated spice, conifer, or citrus oil "neat" (undiluted). It may also be caused by the essential oil's interaction with residues of synthetic, petroleum-based personal care products stored in the skin.

When using essential oils on a daily basis, it is of utmost importance to avoid personal care products containing ammonium or hydrocarbon-based chemicals. Found in most hand creams, mouthwashes, shampoos, antiperspirants, after-shave lotions, and hair-care products, they include quaternary compounds such as:

Quarternarium 1-29
Polyquarternarium 1-14
Benzalkonium chloride

Other compounds of concern are:

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate
Propylene glycol
Aluminum salts (found in many deodorants)
Lead acetate
Methylene chloride
Methyl isobutyl ketone
Methyl ethyl ketone
AETT (acetylethyltetramethyltetralin)
BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene)
DEA (diethanolomine)

Methyl and methylene derivatives are not only toxic on their own, but can react with compounds in natural essential oils, causing severe dermatitis or even blood poisoning (septicemia). Animal studies of AETT (a synthetic fragrance) in the 1970s showed that it caused significant brain and spinal cord damage. Even so, the FDA would not ban this chemical. The cosmetic industry eventually withdrew it voluntarily (after many years of use).

Many chemicals absorb into the skin easily, due to its permeability. Once absorbed, the chemicals are stored in the fatty subdermal layers, where they can leach into the blood stream. Many times, these chemicals remain in the fat cells underneath the skin for years. Months or years later, their presence can create a reaction with a topically applied essential oil.

This is different from using an oil that is naturally "hot." Some oils, such as oregano, thyme and cinnamon bark are hot oils and can burn (like a hot chili pepper). They need to be diluted or covered with a mixing oil once applied. If not, a rash or burn can result.

Each person is different - some skin is more sensitive than others. Consult the Safe Use Chart to see which oils require dilution.

What to do if you experience a reaction:

If you experience a reaction to any essential oil, here are some ways to determine the cause of the problem:

Dilution. Mix 1-3 drops of essential oil with tsp. massage oil, V-6 Mixing Oil, or any pure vegetable oil (such as jojoba, almond, sesame, grape or olive). More dilution may be needed.

Skin-test the diluted essential oil on a small patch of skin. If any redness or irritation results, wash the skin thoroughly and reapply later. If skin irritation or other discomfort persists, discontinue using the oil(s).

Reduce the number of oils used.

Reduce the frequency of application.

Use the oils one at a time, with 15-30 min. between oils.

Drink more purified or distilled water.

Another option is to temporarily discontinue the use of essential oils and start an internal cleansing program (30 days of the Cleansing Trio- ComforTone, I.C.P. and Megazyme) before resuming regular use. Be sure to double your intake of water.

It's smart to always apply any oil to the bottom of the feet first, when starting an essential oil application. This allows the body to become acclimated to the oil, minimizing the chance of a reaction.

As a general rule, do not apply more than 2 single oils or 2 blends at one time.

When mixing a carrier oil with an essential oil, always use glass or earthenware containers. Plastic can leach into the oil and then onto the skin, once applied.

Guidelines for Safe Use:

1. Always keep a bottle of carrier oil (such as V-6 Mixing Oil) or any pure vegetable oil handy when using essential oils, to dilute the essential oil if it causes discomfort or skin irritation.

2. Keep essential oil bottles tightly closed and store in a cool location away from light.

3. Keep essential oils out of the reach of children.

4. Do not use oils rich in menthol (such as peppermint) on the throat or neck area of children under 30 months of age.

5. Be careful of direct sunlight. Citrus oils, such as lemon, bergamot, orange, grapefruit, tangerine, White Angelica may cause a rash or darker pigmentation if applied to skin exposed to direct sunlight or UV rays within 3 to 4 days of use.

6. Never use essential oils in or around the eyes and never put them directly into the ears.

7. If pregnant, avoid use of oils with hormone-like activity, such as clary sage, sage, and fennel as well as Idaho tansy.

8. Epileptics and those with high blood pressure should consult their health care professional before using essential oils. Use caution with hyssop, fennel, basil, birch, nutmeg, rosemary, peppermint, sage, tarragon, and Idaho tansy oils.

9. Those suffering from allergies should test a small amount of oil on a small area of sensitive skin, such as the inside of the arm, before applying the oil on other areas. The bottom of the feet is one of the safest, most effective places to use essential oils.

10. Before taking GRAS (Generally Regarded as Safe) essential oils internally, always dilute with an oil-soluble liquid like honey, olive oil, or soy milk.

11. Any oils added to bath water must be first mixed with a dispersing agent such as Bath Gel Base.

12. Every so often, take a break from the oils for a day or more. Some people like take one day a week off, others rest a few days every few weeks.

Remember to consult the Safe Use Chart to check which oils require dilution and which oils are safe for internal use.

Back to The Safe Use of Essential Oils

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