You can’t work with essential oils for 30+ years as I have, and not experience some mini-disasters along the way. Spilling expensive oils, forgetting to record a great blend, breaking beautiful bottles and getting oils anywhere they don’t belong on the body are few of the common mistakes 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.
Dumb and Dangerous Things I’ve Done with Essential Oils
1. 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 drop of essential oil dropped right into her eye. Essential oils don’t belong in the eyes! In the event this DOES happen, see number 2 below.
2. 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 red-hot armpits. Know your chemistry! Lemongrass is an aldehyde-rich oil and can be a serious skin irritant. The Aromatic Wisdom Podcast has two Deep Dive episodes on essential oil chemistry Episode 34 and Episode 35.
3. 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 a carrier like Jojoba Wax.
4. 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 bottom. Always add essential oils to a carrier when putting in the bathtub with young children.
5. 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 the inside of my mouth felt like it was on fire. Again, know what you’re handling. Oregano is high in phenols making it highly irritating and caustic to the skin.
6. 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 highly concentrated substances. 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.
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 tissue and quickly swipe over the eye area. 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 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 qualified Professional Aromatherapist.
6. Do not take essential oils internally without the guidance of a physician or trained aromatherapist.
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 cup of full-fat milk. This is to avoid essential oil irritation to the skin.
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.