Hey Oilers… As some of you are probably aware, I am fairly new to the world of essential oils and chemical free living and have never hidden two facts… The first is that I am still a little skeptical about some of the benefits and risks of essential oils. The second is that I am learning a lot of this as I go. I certainly do accept, and have seen definite benefits in my life around the use of essential oils, so I have been continuing my learning via the way of my mansperiments and some good old-fashioned research.
As I have been doing this recent research, mainly looking for manly ways to use and test essential oils (and some other chemical free products that I am still looking at), I have noticed a few articles and stories around the risks of essential oils. Some of them were just plain hater sites… However, the more sensible sites and articles I thought made some good points. So, in the interest of sticking to my promise of keeping things real, I have outlined my findings below.
What are the main risks of essential oils?
Here is a list of the main risks I have found:
- Burning and stinging to the skin
- Burning and stinging to the throat
- Danger to pets
- Stomach Pain from ingestion/consumption
I will discuss each of these as we go along as most of them are just a case of common sense and edumancation. Except ingestion or consumption. Why? Because the Man versus Oils jury is still out when it comes to the subject of consuming essential oils. I just haven’t got my head around it yet. There are so many articles out there violently against it and just as many that swear by it. I am totally being a half man by sitting on the fence at the moment with it, but I don’t feel I have enough information to discuss it just yet.
The same goes for use on children. We do use them sparingly with our six year old but there are many who outline to never put oils on a baby (others do) and many product blurbs on manufacturer pages will tell you either not to use them or to be careful using them around children under two years of age. My writing within the next parts of this post are aimed at adult use only.
Risks to the skin
In most people, the use of essential oils on the skin is a painless experience. However, some others experience minor to severe allergic reactions to them. Others have also reported burns and/or rashes. This can be caused by a number of influences but at the end of the day, it is certainly worth keeping in mind that essential oils are complex solutions often made up of many compounds, amino acids and proteins – basically whatever is found in the plant from which it is extracted.
What are you allergic to?
A basic rule of thumb from the start is that oils are extracted from a plant or fruit. So if you are allergic to a type of plant or fruit, them it is almost certain that you will suffer the same reaction to the relevant oils. Lavender is a well-known anti-inflamitory with a mile long list of benefits. We put lavender on our son’s feet to help him sleep but it is also a known allergen. This can transfer to plant groups – such as citrus – as well so if you have allergies, do your own research.
Do you have sensitive skin?
Just because a substance is chemical free does not mean that it cannot be harsh on your skin. If this is the case for you, always dilute your oils with a carrier oil such as coconut oil (unless you are allergic to coconuts – it happens) prior to application. Then apply to a small area.
Think about when you clean your teeth or eat a mint lollie. Do you feel a slight burn? That is the mint (or the chemicals but let’s just say it is the mint). I add peppermint oil to my sports recipe when I want a bit of warmth in my joints. Any oil that promotes a ‘cooling’ or ‘soothing’ effect can cause burns to sensitive skin. If this is you, do not apply these undiluted to start with.
Another common irritant is Tea Tree oil which is on used on the skin due to its anti bacterial properties. Tea tree oils is very effective for acne and used in many chemical and chemical free acne products but if you have sensitive skin that is also affected by acne. Well, you get the picture.
How old is your essential oil?
This is another common one. Just like a good red wine, essential oils are susceptible to oxidization or going off. Spoiled (oxidized) essential oils have a greater risk of triggering an allergic reaction so something that may not have caused any concerns in the past allergy wise may start to do so simply because it has turned. Again, like red wine, keep your oils capped and in a cool, dark, dry place.
Risks to the throat
One of the most common uses for essential oils is though a diffuser. This method is used to release the oils into the air for many reasons including stress relief, increased calmness, to kill germs, as an insect repellent or just to make the house smell nice.
Essentially, the same allergy and sensitivity rules apply to diffusers. If you are allergic to the plant/fruit them it is probably not a good idea to fill the atmosphere with the stuff. One common mistake here is simply adding too many drops to the diffuser. This is not the place for some manly heavy handedness so guys, if you are allowed to touch the diffuser – this is a whole other story and post I am sure – a couple of drops will do it!
Risks to pets
Who knew? Obviously it makes sense… but who knew? Old Lassie can suffer allergies the same as any human however there are some compounds and plants that can be fatal to our little canine and feline friends. Again, if a plant or fruit is bad for a dog or cat, them the oils is a no no as well. I am not talking about using the oils on the pets themselves here. This happens for sure and again, I will cover this another time, but I am talking here purely from an exposure point of view.
The most common exposures are via diffusers or bench sprays etc. The more concentrated the oil, the larger the risk and as always if you are unsure, always consult with a qualified veterinarian.
Unsafe essential oils for dogs
- Sweet birch
- Tea tree (melaleuca)
- Ylang ylang
Dangerous essential oils for cats
- Sweet birch
- Citrus (orange, lemon)
- Ylang ylang
- Tea tree (melaleuca)
So there you have it…
As with most things, there are inherent risks that you should be aware of when using essential oils. In most cases, with proper management, research and some common sense this is manageable. In some others, maybe they are not for you. Always dilute where possible until you get used to them and do not overload the diffuser and your problems should be reduced. And, as always, please ensure that you are using pure essential oils and not lesser quality synthetic options and if you are still unsure, consult with your doctor prior to use.
If you want to know more about the risks of using essential oils, you can read this article: Caution! Good to know about essential oils.
Until next time… have fun
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My name is Paul and I live on the east coast of Australia with my wife and six year old son. I also have 19 and 23 year old daughters. I am an ex government and bank worker who took a bit of a sea change and opened my own business by the beach with my amazing wife. If you can do it, try it. You will never look back. You want to know more about me, read my About Me page