Recently our society has been taking positive steps toward healthier living by seeking out natural alternative remedies and safer personal care products. Millennial mothers particularly have been found to trend toward finding alternative solutions for their families and children when sick.
One of those trendy products that have been getting a lot of media attention lately are essential oils – highly concentrated essences from plants and flowers. The two most popular brands out there are MLM companies Young Living and DoTerra, but there are hundreds of smaller companies as well. These companies heavily market their products to be all-natural, organic, safe alternatives to everyday products in our medicine cabinets and bathrooms. But are they actually safe?
Many experts say that essential oils are not only unsafe, they are completely dangerous to use. Perhaps they could be of therapeutic benefit when used properly, but many of these companies are advocating unsafe uses of these highly concentrated products.
People use them topically as well as internally to “cure” everything under the sun, from bug bites and burns to more serious internal ailments such as asthma or chronic illnesses. However, what people are not taking into consideration is that these oils, which are not even really “oils” at all, are so highly concentrated that it takes hundreds to thousands of pounds of the plants to make 1 pound of essential oil. This makes it highly dangerous and toxic if not administered properly. As the saying goes, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.
According to the Tennessee Poison Center at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the numbers of essential oil toxicity reports doubled between 2011 and 2015. It is troubling to note that 80% of these cases were young children.
Toxicity can happen in several ways. One, if they’re undiluted, and two, from excessive and constant exposure to them. Allergies can even develop and bad skin or internal reactions can happen.
In fact, responsible essential oil companies and aromatherapy advocates will provide cautions on the potential negative side effects, but many people just ignore them, thinking that since it’s a natural substance from a plant, it must be healthy and safe to use in any amount.
Because essential oils are fat-soluble, they can be absorbed into the intestines and can even cross the blood-brain barrier, causing slowed breathing or seizures.
If you are wanting to try essential oils, keep these safety tips in mind:
1. Never ever ingest them.
Essential oils are not food. They are highly concentrated drugs and are not safe or appropriate to ingest in any way, shape or form. If you want the benefits of a lemon, go squeeze a fresh lemon into your water and drink it, instead of dropping lemon essential oil into your water.
2. Never apply them on your skin in full strength.
There may be several mild essential oils such as lavender or sandalwood that are touted as safe to use undiluted, but even so, those need to be used sparingly in special cases such as burns. Most of the other essential oils contain highly potent substances that have not been properly tested on humans. If applied full strength on your skin, you risk getting toxicity and bad reactions from them. If you must apply them topically, dilute them in a plant oil such as sweet almond oil or jojoba oil in a ratios that do not exceed 1 to 10 in most cases.
3. The safest way to use them is via aromatherapy
You still have to take precautions and not leave a diffuser running all day long with potent oils, but aromatherapy is a gentle and effective way to enjoy the benefits of essential oils without having to ingest them or apply them straight on your skin. Do alternate oils and never leave your diffuser running for more than a couple of hours at a time.