Man Versus Oils Research – Risks of Essential Oils

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 that have been stated about essential oils – and this doesn’t include the site I found promoting the use of essential oils to solve wars – I kid you not! 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 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?

Here is a list of the main risks I have found:Essential oils cream on skin

  • Burning and stinging to the skin
  • Buring 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?

Girl in flowers

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 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 oil?

This is another common one. Just like a good red wine, essential oils are susceptible to oxidisation or going off. Spoiled (oxidised) 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

Unsafe essential oils for dogs

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

  • Peppermint
  • Pine
  • Sweet birch
  • Tea tree (melaleuca)
  • Wintergreen
  • Ylang ylang
  • Anise
  • Clove
  • Thyme
  • Juniper
  • Yarrow
  • Garlic

Dangerous essential oils for cats

  • Wintergreen
  • Sweet birch
  • Citrus (orange, lemon)
  • Pine
  • Ylang ylang
  • Peppermint
  • Cinnamon
  • Pennyroyal
  • Clove
  • Eucalyptus
  • Tea tree (melaleuca)
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Lavender

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.

Until next time… have fun

Paul


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10 thoughts on “Man Versus Oils Research – Risks of Essential Oils”

  1. This is a great post and something I was a bit aware of, however I didn’t think too much about it.

    It seems we don’t use oils which are dangerous for dogs at home, but as you know, we love lavendel, and it seems this could be dangerous for our cats.

    We will be careful with this, to put it somewhere safe and be sure when we use it, they aren’t near us.

    It is kind of sad, since lavendel is the only thing I really love.

    However, thanks for sharing it!

    Reply
    • Yeah, it is probalby the most popular oil.  We use it on our sons feet and in the diffuser and we have two cats.  It is usually just the direct contact that can cause problems.  Thanks for your comments.  Paul

      Reply
  2. how do i identify an essential oil from a duplicate oil i need to knowhow dangerous are these oils on human skin and what are some of the advantages of using these oils

    though i like the idea that you are showing the dis advantages of these oils since most of us are just using these products with out knowing there effects

    thank you for opening our eyes

    Reply
    • Hi Noor – great question – and another blog to add to my list ;-).. Essentially however there are a number of things you can test..  First, if it comes in a plastic bottle or vial.. throw it.  Fill a glass with water and if it acts like oil, then it is usually good.  Another trick is to put a couple of drops onto a paper towel.  If it leaves an oily residue as it dries, it is probalby not real either.

      Lastly.. the process of extracting oils is not a cheap one.. and whilst there certainly some cost effective true oils out there, if you are paying next to nothing..  that is probably what you are going to get.

      Hope this helps and keep an eye out this week as I will elaborate in more detail

      Paul

      Reply
  3. It is true that while everybody likes to do everything DIY and natural it is still chemistry and can distrupt a lot of things. My nightmare is the skin burn I got from tea tree oil lol. Everytime I had troubles with some lotion it was because ot he essential oils in it. Still not giving up my lavender diffuser haha. What is your favourite go to essential oil?

    Reply
    • Hi Andrea – yes, tea tree oil can be very volatile to some skin types.  I also see sometimes so called ‘natural’ oil creams containing chemicals as well (sports creams here in Australia for example contain natural oils as well as turpentine).  They take advantage of labeling laws that stipulate only a % of natural ingredients required to call them natural.

      I do admit to adding lavender to the diffuser when I am hoem working.  My most used oil is Panaway.  It is a mixture of Wintergreen, Helichrysum, Clove and Peppermint and I find extremely helpful before and after sport (I am not as young as I used to be).  thanks for your questions

      Paul

      Reply
  4. If I am trying out essential oils and I find that I am having an allergic reaction, how soon should I see a doctor about the issue? 

    I am thinking about using some essential oils for the purposes of taking care of my skin and getting rid of acne.

    Thank you for answering my question.

    Jessie

    Reply
    • HI Jessie – Whilst I advocate the use of oils for a lot of benefits and solutions, I always recommend consultation with a medical professional if and as soon as you feel it necessary.  Acne causes obvious discomfort to the skin and yes, oils can assist, but they are also being added to already ditressed skin cells so always take great care until you are comfortable with the levels and amounts of oils products to use.  Paul

      Reply
  5. Hello Paul,

    I really enjoy reading your article. Engaging!

    I had an unpleasant experience with essential oil when I was younger. Well, that’s being young and ignorant. If I remember correctly, I was recommended to use rose hip oil for my dry skin. Long story short, ended up with rashes and scars on my legs. That was the the first and last time I use essential oil. 

    It will be extremely helpful and wonderful if we have easy access to information as we do now. Many people will not need to go through unpleasant situations. The information you’ve provided certainly helps.

    Thank you,

    Sharon

    Reply
    • Hi Sharon – yeah, unfortunately there are a lot of poor oils out there and equally as much poor information.  Like anything, we need to be careful.  Thnaks for your comments.  Paul

      Reply

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