In this blog post, I’m going to be transparent and tell you several short stories of times I did not practice essential oil safety. I will then give you some Essential Oil Safety Guidelines so that you can appropriately use and enjoy your oils. By following these simple steps, you will experience the wonderful benefits of essential oils without having a history of embarrassing stories like me!
Blog post updated on November 3, 2022, for accuracy and relevance.
Here are some honest-to-goodness true stories of times I wasn’t careful with essential oils.
#1 Dumb Thing I Did
I asked a massage client if she wanted to smell the essential oil while she was on the table. I removed the cap and tilted the bottle toward her. There was no dropper to plug the opening and ….viola! right down her nose and throat. After 10 minutes of coughing, sips of water, giving her crackers, and a promise of a free return massage, she was okay.
Lesson Learned: Always check that your bottle has the orifice reducer inside before you use it!
#2 Dumb Thing I Did
I rubbed my eyes after pouring peppermint essential oils. I had some on my hands. OWWWWW. NEVER do this.
Lesson Learned: Never touch your eyes – or your mouth and nose for that matter – when you’ve got essential oil on them. Peppermint contains menthol which is very irritating to the skin and mucous membranes.
#3 Dumb Thing I Did
I was in a hurry to “freshen up” and put lemongrass, neat (undiluted and straight from the bottle), in my underarms and nearly screamed from the burning.
Lesson: Never use oils high in aldehydes, like Lemongrass, on the skin without a carrier. Learn your essential oil chemistry.
#4 VERY Dumb thing I did to my female business
One summer I spent a lot of time in wet bathing suits and sometimes this can result in vaginal yeast infections as was the case for me. When I learned that Tea Tree is good for getting rid of this type of yeast infection, I soaked a tampon with Tea Tree essential oil. DO NOT DO THIS! Honestly, a few drops are plenty. My husband nearly had to peel me off the ceiling.
Lesson Learned: Be extremely careful using essential oils in delicate areas with mucus membranes. Less is more.
#5 Dumb Thing I Did
I put my son – then aged 5 – in a bath with eucalyptus essential oil when he had a cold. I neglected to first mix the eucalyptus with vegetable oil and the eucalyptus sat on top of the water. When I put him in it burned his little butt.
Lesson Learned: Add essential oils to whole milk or vegetable oil before adding to bath water.
#6 Dumb Thing I Did
I had a very bad sore throat. Thinking I might have strep throat, I just wanted to kill all the things (germs) In a hurry and get better. I made myself a gargle with water and added 2 drops of Oregano Essential Oil and salt water. I gargled and nearly lost my breath. My tongue was flaming red and I burned the inside of my cheeks and the roof of my mouth. This was a chemical burn from the high amount of Carvacrol constituent in Oregano.
Lesson: Never use essential oils high in phenols, like Oregano, on delicate mucous membranes. Another reason to study the chemistry of essential oils.
#7 Dumb Thing I Did
I left a bottle of Thyme Essential Oil on my blending workbench instead of putting it away. My son and his friend (both aged 8) played nearby and got curious. The next thing I heard was much yelling and calling “MOM!!”. They had opened the cap to sniff and touched the bottle to their noses. Like Oregano, Thyme essential oil (Thymus vulgaris) is high in phenols and extremely hot and irritating.
Lesson Learned: Never leave essential oil out where kids can get them.
#8 Dumb Thing My Friend Did
My friend Diane loved the dry sauna at our gym. Once she thought it would be beneficial to add essential oil to the dry rocks while she was in there. She dripped about 3 drops of Eucalyptus essential oil on the rocks, flames shot up and she nearly burned the place down.
Lesson Learned: Essential oils are flammable.
Essential Oil Safety Guidelines and Tips
Essential oils are very concentrated. Please use them with care and respect. Just because they’re natural doesn’t mean they are harmless. Before you experiment with these oils, get some education: take a class, or check out this safety page on the NAHA website.
1. Keep out of the reach of children.
2. Keep away from the eyes. If oils accidentally touch the eyes add a couple of drops of vegetable oil to kleenex and swipe over the eye. The essential oil will grab onto the vegetable oil.
3. Do not use essential oils undiluted on the skin (exceptions may be lavender and tea tree and even those should be diluted to avoid becoming sensitized to the oil).
4. When an allergic reaction is a possibility, do a patch test 24 hours prior to use.
5. Extra precautions should be taken during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester. If you wish to use aromatherapy during your pregnancy, contact a qualified aromatherapist.
6. Do not take essential oils internally without the guidance of a physician or trained aromatherapist.
7. Certain essential oils such as camphor, eucalyptus, and peppermint should be avoided while taking homeopathic remedies as these oils will counteract the effects.
8. When using essential oils in the bath, swirl the water well to help disperse the oils. For children, or if you have sensitive skin, it is best to disperse your essential oils in a tablespoon full of vegetable oil or 1/2 C of full-fat milk.
9. Do not use essential oils before going out in the sun as many, especially most citrus oils, are phototoxic.
10. You can become sensitized to an oil that you use over and over, especially undiluted. Change the oils you use, and try new ones.
Now it’s your turn to share.
Have you ever had any “oopsie” experiences
with essential oils?
We can all learn from each other’s mistakes!
I love a lot of what you write, but this article really nailed it. Hearing from somebody as educated as you are about essential oils, and knowing that even educated people can make mistakes makes it that much more important to learn, research, and never base ANYTHING on what somebody ELSE says as the gospel truth. Accidents do happen– that’s why they’re called accidents, but this article clearly needed to be written to point out that anybody can make mistakes. I applaud you for writing it.
Thank you Margot! And yes, if even we well-educated and careful “experts” make mistakes, can you imagine what’s happening with beginners with no training? Your lovely words, made my day!
I just found your post. Did the butt in the tub thing to myself. In soooo much pain. What did you do to ease your sons pain after the burn
Kim, whenever the skin is highly irritated, apply cool organic Aloe Vera gel to the skin as soon as possible.
I had to laugh! I have done the same thing with oregano essential oil! Might I just say – OOOWWWW! NEVER again! I now always dilute!
Ouch Sara! You see what I mean? My tongue was literally bright red. That was a hard, but effective lesson in safety, wasn’t it?
Woo! Sure was a lesson! And a learned one at that!
I Have a sore throat and I was trying to kill the infection with oregano oil and I did not mix it well it burned my throat. It has been two days and it is still sore. Will it heal on its own?
I did something similar with oregano oil and burned my tongue. Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence as so few people really understand the correct way to use Oregano essential oil. It will heal, but you have highly irritated the delicate membranes that line your throat. Have you seen a doctor? Please do so! In the meantime, drink cool liquids. Gargling with Lavender Hydrosol may help as well. You can buy it at NaturesGift.com. I hope you feel better soon! Liz
Being a newbie to the essential world, I had someone tell me that it was okay to put some lemon essential oil in water and just “drink it down.” Yeah. Right. I did that and afterwards the back of my tongue and throat felt like the were kind of burned. UGH!
Ack! I dont’ understand folks who just tell other people “here, do this” without significant training! At least your experience was temporarily uncomfortable and not damaging. Thanks for sharing!
I had a mini mental meltdown. And freaked out about not catching Covid. So I started putting grapefruit seed extract in my water daily and then peppermint oil in my water. 6 days later after stopping and eating a super low acid diet, my throat feels 80% better but my tongue feels like I drank boiling water;( and I knew better! Nature is powerful! Lol
I accidentally dropped too much peppermint (with no carrier or milk, of course) into my bath one day last year and thought, “Ahh…it probably won’t be that bad.” Um…can you say pain? Burning but freezing cold at the same time? What was I thinking? Never again! This was before my aromatherapy studies. 🙂
What is your recommended amount of lemon essential oil to mix in water to drink? Also, I read that peppermint essential oil makes great tea. Do you have recipes or wise suggestions?
Hi Cheryl, Actually I never recommend adding any essential oils to water because of the lipophilic nature of the oils. That means they don’t mix with water and will go into your stomach undiluted. Not a safe practice at all. Better to squeeze a lemon into your water or add lemon or lime hydrosol to your water. Classic Peppermint tea makes the best tea, not essential oil. You could add a little peppermint hydrosol to your tea if you wanted. Be very careful taking essential oils by mouth Cheryl, especially if you’re a beginner. Better to use plant medicine that has a long history of safe ingestion like tea, hydrosol, tinctures, herbs. Thanks for your great question! Liz PS you can read more about hydrosols here: https://aromaticwisdominstitute.com/what-is-a-hydrosol/
Thank you Liz! You are truly a wealth of aromatic wisdom!
Awww thank you Cheryl. You just made my day!
I was told to put oregano oil in my nose for a cold. I did not realize that there was a difference between oil of oregano and oregano oil. I have had bad headaches for days and throbbing in and behind my nose. Do you think I have done permanent damage?
Hi Angela, No I really don’t think you’ve done any damage. You probably simply irritated the mucus membranes. They will settle down. If you still have discomfort after two weeks though I would see your doctor. Liz
My “baby” (she survived my mothering and is 23yo now) had a fever. I put a bit of peppermint oil in the bath water, not sure how much but enough to practically freeze the child. Scared me when she was shivering and turning blue…I nursed her and wrapped her and held her to me until she warmed up. On the one hand I learned how effective peppermint was in cooling a fever on the other hand, I learned how to be careful with oils, especially around children. Really it scared the hell out of me!!
Thank you for sharing your story Austine! So many of us make this kind of mistake with our oils until we know better. The important thing is that there were no long-term repercussions and that you gained valuable insight from the experience and can share with others!
I had a question, I put 1 drop of Oregano with one drop of coconut oil on my 6year old throat and behind ears, he told me few minutes later, it’s burning and it was red… so I rushed to diluted even more with coconut oil and red went away and so did the burning… but his throat still hurts… But my question is, can he have any other side effect from that that he may not tell me, like headache, etc? Thank you inadvance
Hi Eva, thank you for sharing this experience. The reaction your 6-year-old had was phenolic irritation. There is a molecule in Oregano called carvacrol that is highly irritating to the skin. Even though you did well to dilute the oregano, it is still an essential oil that is too strong for children, even diluted. We can almost always use a more gentle oil and get great healing responses from children. No need to go with the phenolic oils. I’m glad you acted quickly and further diluted the Oregano oil. I’m sure you saved him much further discomfort and skin damage. I’ve never heard of Oregano causing a sore throat unless swallowed. Did he have a sore throat to start with?
I drank oil of oregano mixed in water. Apparently too much. It burned horribly..I drank milk, aloe vera juice and finally it stopped. Now I am having a hard time talking, like I have a severe sore throat. It doesn’t hurt a lot just hurts some when trying to speak. Could I have caused damage and will my voice return. Is there anything I can do to make this better. Thank you for any help you can give.
I was doing some research on eucalyptus oil today because I’m a bit nervous about what happened yesterday. I am very sick (flu and head cold) so I read I could combine lavender and eucalyptus oil on a warm washcloth and also splash in the shower. Well I missed the part that said just one or two drops and long story short I ended up inhaling way too much of the oil on the washcloth. My throat started burning. I opened the windows and the entire house smells like it. My other concern is my 5 year old son was home and although this occurred in our basement bathroom and he was never in direct contact with the oil I am very worried that he was exposed to this! When my other kids came home they commented on the smell. I am so sick I didn’t realize how bad it was. So I can’t seem to find any straight forward answers online about this. Is my son in danger from breathing in the smell and am I in danger from directly inhaling it off the washcloth and shower walls?
Any information you can provide will be appreciated.
Hi Meghan, What happened to you is not uncommon, and your son should be just fine. What you experienced was an overload of an essential oil and although it was alarming and uncomfortable I don’t imagine anyone was in danger. It was a one-time occurrence and you reacted appropriately by opening the windows. I’m guessing you also haven’t used those oils since to give your home a chance to air out. If everyone is feeling okay (and hopefully you’re also recovering from your bout of flu) then no worries. But thank you for your honest sharing as this is a prime example of why it’s important to have an understanding of essential oils before using them. At least it wasn’t Oregano, Meghan! Liz
My dog has a separate eye condition in each eye. The Vet says she will have to have medicated eye drops in both eyes for the rest of her life. The 2 medications are costing me a small fortune. I looked for homeopathic solutions and one – camphor oil drops is supposed to improve several eye conditions. I have some 100% pure camphor essential oil (white). Before I subjected my beloved pet to treatment I dabbed a small amount in my own eye (just one eye thankfully). It stung like crazy so I rinsed it with water for several minutes; I never thought of rinsing it with milk. Needless to say, I won’t be putting any in my dog’s eyes.
I made the mistake of using oil of oregano straight from the bottle. The bottle said it was mixed with olive oil so I thought it was diluted. Directions said to use 4 drops under tongue. It immediately started burning and I ran and spit it out and tried to rinse with water. My throat is sore now though. Do you think I caused damage? What can I take to soothe my throat and calm things down?
I forgot to mention that my throat has a burning sensation. Even though I tried to rinse my mouth out some of it went down my throat. Sorry for the omission.
Hi there! So glad to have found your post. I just poured lemongrass and lavender oil into my diffuser and then I think I may have touched my eye because boy does it burn! I did the oil on a cotton ball around my eye and also flushed with saline. It still is irritated! How long should this irritation last??
OUCH Sara! Instead of saline, gently rub over your eye with a tissue and vegetable oil, like olive or safflower and the essential oil will come out right away because it clings to the tissue. It shouldn’t be irritated for long after that. If it still hurts after 1 day please see your eye doctor. Liz
A friend wanted me to smell her lavender, it was a roll on. I didn’t touch the bottle but sniffed it. My lips burned and my throat burned a tiny bit. I was terrified to drink or eat. I called poison control who said I was ok but the sensation would probably last awhile. All I wanted was a glass of water but was afraid to drink it.
Hi Sandy, You may have had a small reaction to the molecules as they entered your nose, but it doesn’t sound life-threatening. If you feel worse today, call your doctor or go to the ER. If you have an asthma inhaler, you’re probably in tune with your body and when you feel it is necessary to use. Please call your doctor Sandi. That’s always the safest route.
I did a very dumb thing a couple years ago with peppermint essential oil. My son had a head cold so I thought I’d try putting a few drops of peppermint oil in hot water in a pot like you would do with Vick’s vapour rub & breathe it in with a towel over your head. I thought I’d try it 1st and when I breathed it in it was like a sudden burst of fire that went into my nose & throat. I remember thinking oh boy that was not good. What has happened though was my tongue started to be numb & I burned the top of my tongue & a few days later in drinking hot tea & burned my tongue which made it even worse. My tongue has not recovered and it has a very strange sensation towards the middle of my tongue and the texture feels like it’s rubbery. It does not feel normal. I still can taste but cold things bother it a lot. I feel like I killed a nerve or something. I did tell the Dr. what I did but he didn’t do anything about it. However, it hasn’t gotten any better and feel there is permanent damage??
Oh Brenda, please don’t beat yourself up. It could have happened to anyone. I’m not a doctor but don’t feel you did any permanent damage. You can try rinsing your mouth out several times a day with Lavender hydrosol. It’s a wonderful remedy for a burned mouth or tongue. Here’s a blog post I wrote about it https://aromaticwisdominstitute.com/lavender-hydrosol-burned-mouth/. In future, just ONE DROP of essential oil is plenty for a steam inhalation and I’d avoid peppermint and go with tea tree, raventsara,cajeput, Balsam Fir, Douglas Fir, Siberian Fir. You can find all of these at NaturesGift.com. Good Luck! Liz
I was told by a dentist that have harmful “spiral” bacteria in my saliva. So, decided to get rid of it by rinsing my mouth with OREGANO oil. I’ve used 4-5 drops of oregano oil before, mixed with olive oil, in a salad dressing and knew it was very hot/spicy. So, I thought, for the mouth rinse I’ll add just 2 drops to about 1-2 ounce of water. IT BURNED THE TIP OF MY TONGUE, I thought I was dying, but couldn’t talk or call my husband. AND 3 DAYS LATER – I still do not have back my taste for sweet. Does anyone know how to get back my taste buds for sweet?
THANK YOU AND PLEASE LEARN FROM MY MISTAKE AND ALWAYS MIX OREGANO OIL WITH OLIVE OIL (OR COCONUT OIL) AND START WITH 1 DROP OREGANO OIL UNTIL YOU KNOW YOUR OILS WELL!
Oh my goodness An! What an awful experience. I did something similar in my early years with essential oils. Thank you for this good warning post about Oregano Essential Oil. I don’t know what to advise in terms of getting your sweet tastebuds to wake up, but I think it’s just a question of time. Stay safe, Liz
I’m currently sick so I was smelling my Doterra Breathe oil out of the bottle. Well I must have gotten some on my finger at some point while holding the bottle. Eventually I somehow managed to touch my tongue and got the awful taste on my tongue. I ran to the bathroom to brush my tongue with toothpaste LOL
Thank you for sharing your experience Anna! I don’t know the ingredients of the DT breathe blend but it’s always best to check first if there is one oil in the blend that will be highly irritating to the delicate mucous membranes inside your mouth.