Respect and Aromatherapy Responsibly
Respecting aromatherapy and essential oil safety is imperative. As with anything you use, educate yourself about what you are using, why you are using it, how to properly use it for what you need and when to use it. With so many companies and brands in the marketplace nowadays, its hard to distinguish what is real from what’s synthetic, half synthetic or genetically modified. In addition to these quality conundrums, safety is also a big concern, as many people who have not received formal aromatherapy training may not be aware that there are numerous concerns, precautions and contraindications to know before you use. Aromatherapy is amazing and a powerful tool to help balance our mind, mood, emotions and physicality. However, as a clinical aromatherapists for over 20 years, I ask that you please be responsible…aromatherapy responsible.
Essential oils can be up to 100 times more potent than its herbal counterpart, thus, much respect should be given and exercised. An important part of every class and course we teach, and during each consult we offer, we train our students and clients to use their scentillect™. Knowing what you need, is half of the equation. The other half is cross-referencing contraindications, allergies, sensitivities, health and skin integrity, age and precautions with precautions with the each essential oil and botanical ingredients you are using.
For me personally and professionally in my phyto-aromatherapy business, I have adopted the safety guidelines presented by the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy. To share some of the most important with you, I’ve included the list with some additional safety tips and added thoughts. You can see the full list at https://naha.org/explore-aromatherapy/safety.
- Be responsible and educated.
- Keep essential oils out of the reach of children, pets and those with dementia, Alzheimer’s and other cognitive impairments.
- Essential oils are fat soluble, not water soluble. Therefore, the best way to use them is to dilute in a fat-based carrier or emulsifier such as coconut or olive oil. Some people are using essential oils neat (undiluted) and may not have experienced an issue, that they know of. Others, may develop a skin irritation, body system imbalances and/or more serious allergies and sensitization.
- Keep a carrier close by when blending or using essential oils on the skin. If there is an irritation or if it splashes into your eyes, dilute in a fat-soluble base such as olive (or other vegetable) oil, Vegenaise™, milk form or avocado. Do not flush it out with water, as this can make it worse.
- Use caution and avoid certain essential oils with those having a serious health condition such as heart disease or epilepsy. Refer to the Safety Data Sheet or Contraindication list (check out our Holistic Aromatherapy Comprehensive Guide for a more detailed list).
- Use caution with dilution ratios, frequency of use and duration of use with respiratory distress and asthma. Essential oils that are stimulants and have drying effect such as eucalyptus, mints, pine, oregano and fir, can cause spasming of the membranes when used improperly.
- Use caution with highly skin irritant essential oils such as cinnamon, clove, oregano and thyme.
- Use caution with essential oil exposure during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester and in high-risk pregnancies. Make sure you are educated in the oils you are using, their properties, chemistry and contraindications. Avoid anti-galactagogues while breast-feeding.
- Citrus essential oils that are cold-pressed are photosensitive or phototoxic. This means that they may cause pigmentation and discoloration to the skin when exposed to direct sunlight (we go into more details in the chemistry section). Therefore, it is recommended to avoid direct sunlight and tanning beds approximately 24-hours after topical application of photosensitizing oils to the skin.
- Make sure the area you are diffusing oils is well ventilated, especially if you have pets, children or anyone with serious health conditions.
Diluted or Undiluted Use of Essential Oils
There are various schools of thought on this topic. Different aromatherapists and different essential oil companies will tell you their opinion, whether it is from a scientific perspective or a marketing one. Undiluted practices became more popular in the past 10-15 years by a couple essential oil companies. Although it can be OK for some, that is not the case for everybody. And if it is OK for a little bit, it might cause issues due to an accumulative effect, down the road.
I find it best to do a thorough client intake of yourself and the person who will be using it, to understand their anatomy, physiology, health conditions, allergies, sensitivities and potential contraindications before any kind of application, including an undiluted method. Although there is no cookie cutter approach for every single person, there are guidelines you can follow. I have created my own dilution ratio chart based on experience, science, education and chemistry responses.
The problem with undiluted usage, is not using it once or twice here and there. It is a constant practice of using it several times a week or daily that can congest or overtax the receptor sites beneath the skin, oftentimes causing sensitization and/or allergies. Sometimes the allergies can manifest in that particular area of use in the form of a skin irritation. Other times it shows up in an organ imbalance. For example, in the past 5 years, there has been a higher incidence of kidney and renal failure occurring in women between 30 to 40 years of age. One potential factor it has been connected to is the improper ingestion of and/or excessive undiluted usage of essential oils.
It comes down to practicing aromatherapy safely. Using what you need and not overusing in excess, is key. Not only can it potentially harm the body (physiological, psychological and biochemical), it has ecological effects on crops and sustainability. One drop is all you need to elicit a response. Everything else adds to the synergy of that blend and its scent potency. Do what you need and don’t do what you don’t know.
On The Topic of Ingestion: Safe vs. Not Safe
To get certified in aromatherapy, check out our certification programs. We also have a reference book available – JennScents Holistic Aromatherapy Comprehensive Guide.
Additional blogs to Aromatherapy Responsibly:
- How to create an Aromatherapy blend
- Essential oil blending FAQ
- Common mistakes most aromatherapists make
Disclaimers: Information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prescribe. It is recommended that if serious health issues exist, you consult a licensed medical provider. JennScents does not assume liability or responsibility for the use and/or misuse of this information.
References: This blog contains excerpts from JennScents Aromaversity Certification Courses and the JennScents Holistic Aromatherapy Comprehensive Guide.
Awesome Essential Oil Safety book by Robert Tisserand – Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health Professionals
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