You can’t work with essential oils for 25 years as I have, and not experience some mini-disasters along the way. Spilling expensive oils, forgetting to record a great blend, breaking bottles and oils-up-the-nose are just a few of the common mistakes many veteran aromatherapists have experienced.
I’ve had my share of colorful mishaps with aromatics, and today I air my dirty laundry and share some of the dumb things I’ve done with essential oils.
You have my permission to gasp and giggle.
• I once asked a massage client to smell my lovely lavender oil while she was lying face-up on the massage table. As I leaned over her…plop!…a lovely aromatic drop went straight into her eye. Essential oils don’t belong in the eyes! In the event this DOES happen, see #2 below.
• A few years ago, I was in a hurry to “freshen up” so I dabbed a few drops of undiluted lemongrass in my underarms. Ten minutes later, I had hot, red armpits. Know your chemistry! Lemongrass is an aldehyde-rich oil and can be a serious skin irritant.
• After hearing that tea tree on a tampon was good for yeast infections, I thought I’d give it a try one itchy summer. This is a great remedy, but for heaven’s sake, don’t SOAK the tampon! My husband nearly had to peel me off the ceiling. Delicate membranes need to be treated delicately. I should have rolled the tampon in tea tree blended with carrier oil.
• I once put my young son in a bath with eucalyptus oil when he had a cold but neglected to mix it in a carrier. The eucalyptus sat on top of the water (oil and water don’t mix) and irritated his little hiney. Always add essential oils to a carrier when putting in the bathtub with young children.
• Suffering from a sore throat and impatient for healing, I added oregano essential oil to salt water and gargled. I ended up with a bright red, burned tongue and inside of the mouth. Again, know what you’re handling. Oregano is high in phenols making it highly irritating and caustic to the skin.
• This one was a friend: she got in the dry sauna at the gym and threw eucalyptus oil on the rocks and nearly burned the place down. Essential oils are flammable.
ESSENTIAL OIL SAFETY GUIDELINES
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, go to a trusted website such as www.naha.org, or buy a book like Essential Oil Safety by Robert Tisserand.
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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 a kleenex and swipe over the eye. The essential oil will grap 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 hour 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 qualitifed 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 oil 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 1/2C of full fat milk.
9. Do not use essential oils before sunbathing as many are phototoxic. In particular are the citrus oils, especially Bergamot, and Angelica oil.
10. You can become sensitized to an oil that you use over and over. Change the oils you use, try new ones. Here’s a podcast episode all about essential oil sensitization.