While essential oils are obtained from plants and are natural substances, they do need to be used with safety in mind. Some basic guidelines can help you get the most out of aromatherapy. A few important points to keep in mind are:
1).Use a carrier: a “carrier” is an oil (such as Jojoba, Sweet Almond, or unscented lotion, and preferably organic) that essential oils are blended into. It’s a good idea to use a carrier when applying oils to your skin. The carrier can help prolong the effects of the essential oil because it takes longer to be absorbed. Applying most essential oils directly to the skin (what we call “neat”) could cause a rash or other irritation. If you experience this, apply a fatty oil such as olive oil to the skin to remove the essential oil. The two essential oils that can be applied neat are Lavender and Tea Tree. Both can be used sparingly on acne; a drop of Lavender works wonders when applied to burns and insect stings, and helps speed the healing of cuts and scrapes. Be sure to wash your hands after using essential oils to avoid getting them into your eyes.
2).Internal use: Due to their concentration and to the fact that some oils are irritating to the stomach and other body organs, it is my opinion that essential oils should never be used internally. The benefits of essential oils can easily be obtained through inhalation or topical application. If used internally for any reason, it should be under the guidance of a certified aromatherapist with extensive experience in this area. It is interesting to note that in France, where aromatherapy is quite established, aromatherapists who create internal use-blends for their clients must register the blend with the local hospital. In case of any adverse reaction, the hospital staff will know which essential oils were taken, underscoring the fact that internal use of essential oils is something to be taken seriously.
3).Babies & Animals: Because they are so highly concentrated, essential oils should be used with great care with children (especially those under 2 years of age). Children receive the positive effects of the oils best from inhalation alone, so diffusing them before bed time or during times of illness is a great option. Lavender and Roman Chamomile are two essential oils that work well with kids. Both are calming, can help with cold or flu symptoms, and are supportive to the immune system. For topical use, one drop of either of these essential oils in one ounce of unscented lotion is a wonderful addition to natural baby care. Essential oils use around cats should also be done with caution. A good rule of thumb is: don’t use essential oils on animals under approximately 60 pounds, and never apply essential oils to your cat’s fur. The feline eliminative system does not have the ability to filter the oils, causing them to build up in their systems and become toxic. Tea Tree is one essential oil that can be especially harmful to cats. Provide ventilation or keep your cat out of the room when cleaning with essential oils.
4). Quality: this is the most important factor when using essential oils. Quality is vital when using them on your skin or around your children. Unadulterated essential oils contain only the pure plant extract, offering the fullest potential of the plant’s therapeutic properties. A poor-quality oil perhaps containing pesticides or synthetic fragrances, or cut with other oils is unable to address the issue for which it is used. It can also cause a rash and, with repeated use, can be harmful to the overall health of the body. Many essential oils claim to be “pure,” but, the only way to know what’s in the essential oils you use is to purchase GC/MS-tested oils. This is a process done to ensure there are no synthetic fragrances, pesticides, or carrier oils, just the actual essential oil. To find out if the oils you use are in fact GC/MS-tested call the company’s Customer Service department and ask if they test their oils. An internet search can help you find an essential oil company that offers GC/MS-tested oils. The knowledge that the oils you use are indeed what they claim to be offers peace of mind and a freedom to explore aromatherapy.
By keeping these ideas in mind as you use essential oils, you can safely support your health and that of your family.
Mindy MacLaren, NAHA-certified Aromatherapist
Contributing Writer and owner of Sweet & Woodsy Aromatherapy
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