Most essential oils are safe for home use provided that they are used correctly. Following the blending guidelines above and following the safety guidelines listed below should help the home user to stay out of trouble whilst using essential oils.
Disclaimer Essential oils are always subject to ongoing research and therefore I cannot be held responsible for any difficulties encountered or for any errors or omissions on this Web site.
1. Don't forget, always dilute the oils into a carrier oil if they are going to be massaged into the skin. The exceptions are Tea tree and Lavender which can be dabbed onto the skin neat for certain local conditions such as burns, cuts, stings, warts etc.
2. In pregnancy, conflicting sources of research suggest that certain oils should not be used however to be on the safe side I feel that essential oils are best avoided during the first 4 months of pregnancy.
3. Check for nut allergies when using any nut oil as a carrier. For example when using Almond Oil.
4. If neat oil is splashed into the eyes, then immediately flush the eyes with Milk, preferably Full Fat Milk. If no milk is available then use clean warm water. Be very careful with Peppermint around the eyes.
5. Where does essential oil safety data come from? The fragrance industry has developed the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (RIFM, pronounced "RIFF-um") in 1996 to conduct research on fragrance ingredients (including essential oils) in order to ensure the safety of perfumery materials. According to Glenn Roberts, a spokesperson for RIFM, fragrance ingredients undergo a multistep testing process. "We are committed to developing safe products," Roberts says. RIFM tests raw perfumery materials that are selected by an independent expert panel made up largely of academics, Roberts says. The ingredients are most commonly tested for allergenicity, phototoxicity, and general toxicity by oral and dermal routes. Some of the tests are conducted on animals while others, such as skin patch tests, are conducted on humans. To date, RIFM has tested more than 1,300 fragrance materials, and publishes test results in scientific journals such as Food and Chemical Toxicology, says Roberts.
7. The following list of oils may cause irritation on sensitive or damaged skin and mucous membranes. Also if you suffer from perfume or cosmetics sensitivity: Aniseed, Benzoin, Camphor, Clove, Eucalyptus, Ginger, Juniper, Black Pepper, Pimento, Peppermint, Sage, Savory, Spearmint, Thyme.
Oil Safety Issues
COMMON OILS WHICH HAVE SPECIFIC CAUTIONS.
ANISEED (Pimpinella Anisum) - Can cause dermatitis. Strictly avoid in allergic & inflammatory skin conditions. In large doses it is a narcotic and slows down the circulation. Use in low dilution. I would not recommend that you use this oil at all.
BASIL, FRENCH (Ocimum basilicum) - Possible skin sensitization in some individuals.
BERGAMOT (Citrus bergamia) - Do not go out and sunbathe or use a sunbed after using Bergamot. Phototoxic on human skin unless labelled 'Bergapten Free'.
BLACK PEPPER (Piper Nigrum) Will redden the skin in high concentration.
CINNAMON LEAF OIL (Cinnamomum zeylanicum)- The leaf oil can be used in low dilution only as it is a skin and mucous membrane irritant. The bark oil should not be used at all. It is a permitted very low dilution food
flavouring, but do not get confused with this one! The oil does irritate the skin.
CITRUS OILS Photosensitivity has been reported after using citrus oils on the skin. Therefore it is recommended that exposure to sunlight should be avoided for at least one hour after using citrus oils.
CLARYSAGE (Salvia sclarea) - Not recommended while or after drinking alcohol as it can induce narcotic effects and exaggerations of drunkenness have been reported.
CLOVE BUD (Eugenia Caryophyllata) - A strong oil, use in low dilution only (less than 1%). Can cause skin irritation and dermatitis.
HYSSOP (Hyssopus Officinalis) - Classified as moderately toxic. Use in moderation with a maximum dose of 4 drops per day for a 70Kg adult. Not to be used by epileptics. Research has show that in high dose the oil can cause muscular spasm (Bunny 1984). I would not recommend this oil for home use.
JUNIPER (Juniperus Communis) - Not to be used by those with kidney disease because of strong diuretic action.
LEMONGRASS (Cymbopogon Citratus)- Use in low dilution, may burn skin and mucous membranes in high dilution.
PEPPERMINT (Mentha Piperta) - Use in moderation, a powerful oil, skin sensitization can occur in some individuals. Test diluted in base oil on a small area first.
ROSEMARY (Rosmarious Officinalis) - There are conflicting opinions regarding the use of Rosemary, some
Aromatherapists are taught that you should not use Rosemary in Epilepsy and if you suffer high blood pressure. However it has been pointed out to me that Rosemary is a permitted food additive. I remain puzzled and await further conclusive research. Any comments please?
SAGE, COMMON (Salvia Officinalis) - Research has shown (Foster 1993) that the oil has potential toxicity. Not recommended for home use.
TAGETES (Tagetes minuta or T. glandulifera) - Sometimes called Tagette or Mexican Marigold. Use in moderation & in low dilution as there are some reported cases of dermatitis. Sometimes confused with the Common Marigold, Calendula Officinalis.
THYME (Thymus Vulgaris) - There are numerous varieties of the Thymus species. With such a wide variation in constituents of Thyme oils even within the same species from the same country. Some varieties are safe, others are not. Therefore I would suggest avoiding this oil for home use.
YARROW (Achillea Millefolium) - Research has shown that this oil may be a skin sensitizer. Use in moderation,
Yarrow is not recommended for use with babies and children.
YLANG - YLANG (Cananga Oderata) - Heady scent may cause some nausea or headaches in some people. Some risk of dermatitis in those with sensitive skin (Duke 1985).
Sell by, or use by dates. This is an important. Many suppliers do not have use by dates on their bottles. Certain essential oils, particularly those of the citrus and pine families, develop skin sensitising chemicals as they age. Without chemical analysis it is difficult to find out how quickly oils have aged. Therefore as a general rule, I advise people not to use such oils on the skin after about 6 months. There is of course no problem with them being used for room fragrance purposes.
The following essential oils have as far is I know not been formally tested to establish if they could cause adverse skin reactions: Chamomile Moroc, Damiana, Eucalyptus Smithi, Eucalyptus Radiarta, Melissa (pure), Ravensara (see below), The verbenone clone type of Rosemary, Spikenard, some Thyme varieties (there are so many other varieties of Thyme apart from Thymus Vulgaris), Valerian and Yarrow.
aromatherapists that it is safe and a very useful essential oil but it is not formally tested.
SOME GENERAL SAFETY POINTS