We hear so much about toxic industrial products that we can quickly become suspicious of anything we buy in the shops, and put natural products up on a pedestal. But just because a product is natural doesn’t automatically mean that it is good for you, or that you don’t need to be on your guard. These products are in fact powerful, and using them in the wrong way can be dangerous. This is even more so the case with essential oils. With many of them, the plants have been diluted in oils, but with others, you have 100% plant extract, and if used in the wrong way, this can cause irritation or even burns (not to mention the effects if you try to ingest them!) Thus you need to take care when using essential oils, and be extremely vigilant in the following 6 ways.
1) Don’t use essential oils undiluted
It is very rare that you are adviced to use an essential oil in its pure form. You can for example do so with lavender essential oil, which can be applied locally to a mosquito bite or a minor burn. However, in the majority of cases, it is recommended that you dilute essential oils in vegetable oil. Note that they cannot be diluted in water. This is why you should not add essential oils to a bath, as you run the risk of burning your skin.
A few guidelines for diluting essential oils:
- For a massage or a rub: 50 drops of essential oil per 50 mls of vegetable oil (jojoba oil, avocado oil, grapeseed oil, etc.)
- To apply to your face: 15 drops per 50 mls.
- For the bath: dilute 100 drops in 50 mls of your chosen product (honey, milk, salt, etc.)
- You can also add a few drops to your home made soaps, shampoos or moisturisers.
2) Never apply them to the mucous membranes
If applying essential oils to your skin can cause irritation or burning, imagine what they could do to the delicate mucous membranes such as the mouth, the throat or even the vagina. There have been cases of women presenting with an inflamed vaginal area after having tried to treat an infection with pure tea tree oil applied to a tampon (we have already provided you with an article recommending such a treatment, but diluted in coconut oil!) So be careful!
3) Avoid ingesting essential oils without having asked the advice of your doctor
You can find neutral tablets in most health stores, which allow you to consume essential oils. But the fact that they are easy to find does not mean that it’s a good idea to try taking them without doing your homework first! In fact, essential oils can be as powerful as generic medicines, if not more so. Thus you can see why you shouldn’t just take them at random in order to self-medicate.
Oregano and thyme essential oils work as well as antibiotics for bacterial infections, fungal infections or parasites. It’s great to have such solutions to hand when we remember that bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics, but both solutions reduce the number of good bacteria as well as bad. Thus, they shouldn’t be taken lightly.
4) Be careful if you have very pale skin
Certain essential oils, such as those using citrus fruits, are highly photosensitive. This means that they make your skin more sensitive to the sun’s rays. If you know that you will have to spend some time outdoors, remember not to use such essential oils, unless you want to end up with a bad dose of sunburn. This goes especially for lemon essential oil, but also for grapefruit and other citrus oils.
5) Make sure you’re not allergic!
If your skin finds it difficult to tolerate perfumes and you react badly to numerous products, be extra careful. Certainly, some people can tolerate them better than synthetic perfumes, as essential oils are derived from natural products that our skin is more used to. However, they can be a little too harsh for other people, and this is why it is always recommended that you do a patch test on a small area (after having diluted the essential oil in vegetable oil). This should ensure that you can tolerate it and that you don’t have any negative reactions, before you use it all over your body.
6) Essential oils are great, but they’re not for everyone!
You are sure to already be aware that essential oils should not be used by pregnant women (the fact that warnings are usually marked in large bold capital letters on all the bottles should give you a hint). It is generally best to work from a precautionary principle, and avoid using them if you are in any doubt. Due to their powerful composition, we are not yet sure of the effects they could have on a pregnancy.
Internal usage is particularly to be avoided, and essential oils such as clary sage, clove, hyssop, sweet fennel, juniper berry, marjoram, myrrh, rosemary, sage, thyme and wintergreen are to be avoided like the plague. Moisturisers or bath products that contain these oils (particularly floral oils which are present in the majority of moisturisers, such as rose, lavender or chamomile) are less dangerous. In the case of any doubt, ask the advice of your doctor.
Be careful when using essential oils on others. Don’t use them on children without first seeking medical advice, and especially don’t use them on your cat.