Essential oils are distilled from plant leaves, flowers, roots, seeds, bark and resins, or are expressed from the rinds of citrus fruits. It generally takes at least 50 pounds of plant material to make one pound of essential oil (for example, a pound of rosemary oil requires sixty-six pounds of herb), but the ratio is sometimes astonishing – it takes 2,300 pounds of rose flowers to make a single pound of oil! Because essential oils are quite potent, it is necessary to be aware of the essential oils safety guidelines.
Essential oils contain no fatty acids and are not susceptible to rancidity like vegetable oils. However, it is important to protect your essential oils from the degenerative effects of heat, light and air, store them in tightly sealed, dark glass bottles away from any heat source. Properly stored oils can maintain their quality for years. (Citrus oils are less stable and should not be stored longer than six months after opening.)
ESSENTIAL OIL SAFETY TIPS
- Always read and follow all label warnings and cautions.
- Keep oils tightly closed and out of the reach of children.
- Never consume undiluted oils. Cook only with those oils approved for food use.
- Don’t use undiluted oils on your skin. (Dilute with carrier oil).
- Skin test oils before using. Dilute a small amount and apply to the skin on your inner arm. Do not use if redness or irritation occurs.
- Keep oils away from eyes and mucous membranes.
- If redness, burning, itching, or irritation occurs, stop using oil immediately.
- Avoid use of these oils during pregnancy: bitter almond; basil; clary sage; clove bud; hyssop; sweet fennel; juniper berry; marjoram; myrrh; peppermint; rose; rosemary; sage; thyme; and wintergreen.
- These oils can be especially irritating to the skin: allspice; bitter almond; basil; cinnamon leaf; cinnamon bark; clove bud; sweet fennel; fir needle; lemon; lemongrass; Melissa; peppermint; tea tree; wintergreen. In addition, angelica and all citrus oils make the skin more sensitive to ultraviolet light. Do not go out into the sun with these oils on your skin.
- Sweet Fennel, hyssop, sage and rosemary should not be used by anyone with epilepsy. People with high blood pressure should avoid hyssop, rosemary, sage and thyme.
- For someone who tends to be highly allergic, here is a simple test to use to help determine if he/she is sensitive to particular oil. First, rub a drop of carrier oil onto the upper chest. In 12 hours, check for redness or other skin irritation. If the skin remains clear, place 1 drop of selected essential oil in 15 drops of the same carrier oil, and again rub into the upper chest. If no skin reaction appears after 12 hours, it’s probably safe to use the carriers and the essential oil.
- After applying citrus oils to the skin, avoid exposure to sunlight, since the oils may burn the skin.
- When spilled on furniture, many essential oils will remove the finish. It’s best to be careful when handling the bottles.
- Perfume oils are not the same thing as essential oils. Perfume oils do not offer the therapeutic benefits of essential oils. Even if you only intend on using aromatherapy in your lifestyle for the sheer enjoyment of the aroma, essential oils that are breathed in can offer therapeutic benefits. These benefits do not occur with the use of perfume oils.
- Don’t buy essential oils with rubber glass dropper tops. Essential oils are very concentrated and will turn the rubber to a gum thus ruining the oil.
- It is also helpful to note the country of origin for the oil. Most good essential oil sellers will readily supply the botanical names and country of origin for the oils that they sell. When comparing one company’s oils with another’s, also pay attention to if either company’s oils are organic, wild-crafted or ethically farmed.
- It is wise not to purchase oils from vendors at street fairs, craft shows, or other limited-time events. Some vendors know beginners have no recourse against them later. This is not to say that there are not highly reputable sellers at such events, but this is a caution for beginners who are not able to reliably judge quality.
- Be selective of where you purchase your essential oils. The quality of essential oils varies widely from company to company. Additionally, some companies may falsely claim that their oils are undiluted or pure when they aren’t.
- If essential oil is ingested, rinse mouth out with milk, and then drink a large glass of milk. Seek medical advice immediately. If essential oil gets into eyes, flush with large quantity of water immediately. Seek medical advice immediately. If essential oils are splashed onto skin and irritation results, apply carrier oil to the area to dilute.