Now let me preface this article with this, I LOVE my essential oils, and I probably do use them on some level every day. The concerns that are going to be addressed here are related to the overuse border lining on ABUSE of the essential oils. One thing we know is that essential oils are basically a step down from “true” medications. With this knowledge we need to be aware that there is such thing as too much of a good thing. Just as your body can become use to medications calling for the need for more to get the previous level of therapeutic benefit, so too can your body get used to essential oils. For that reason we start we a less is more approach and only increase if needed and warranted.
1) Sensitization- This is easily defined for essential oils use as “…the increased response seen to subsequent administration of the substance.” (1) Simplified further this is the body’s hyper response to something it has encountered previously. Think poison ivy- it isn’t always the first time you touch it that your body produces a response but it is upon a subsequent exposure that your body has the allergic response. This can happen practically at any time and with any substance. It could be the second or third time you use a new laundry detergent or when you change your perfume. What matters is that your body builds up a response to the chemical in question and it is at some point in time you finally see the result. This is true for all chemicals and therefore true with essential oils- you may not have a reaction one day but suddenly you can no longer use an oil without having breathing issues or hives… these reactions are not detox reactions but an allergic response to a chemical your body is no longer okay with.
2) Kids- If you have little ones, especially those under age six now is the time to take stock of which essential oils are truly “kid safe”. Unfortunately there is at least one company I know of that has a line labeled for being kid safe with oils in it I would NEVER put on my kid. Here is where I will again tell you to do your own due diligence. Review research on the oils you want to use around or on your children. Make sure this research is OUTSIDE of the company you may be a part of- I promise I (and Aromatherapists like me) are not trying to convince you to NEVER use essential oils- we just want to use them safely and above all do no harm. Please consider taking my Children and Essential Oils e-course if you want to know more about what is safe and for what ages it is safe. Newborns should not be exposed to essential oils since their body systems are so immature, and as they age more oils can be used and at higher percentages. Remember less is always more.
3) Pets- Just as children need careful supervision of the use of essential oils, so do pets. Small pets like Guinea pigs, birds, reptiles and cats should not be around essential oils even diffused. Dogs and large pets like equines can but need special dilutions and the not safe oils list tends to be long. For this I will recommend you all follow this FB page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1595932084001505/ it is run by Kelly Azzaro, she is well known in the aromatherapy world for use with pets. Please refer any questions on use to her as it is outside my scope of practice.
4) UV susceptibility- Did you know that most citrus essential oils are photo-toxic? This means that for 12-24 hours AFTER you apply them you are at risk for an increased sun burn or damage from UV rays. An interesting fact about this is that the photo-toxic elements are only present in the cold pressed versions of these essential oils. If you happen to find ones that are steam distilled odds are in your favor that the essential oil is no longer photo-toxic. Make sure to check your labels to determine your oils distillation method and check the information from your supplier to see if it lists photo-sensitivity as a concern for your oil.
5) You are pregnant- That little bun in your oven needs special care. Just as you have probably cut down on your drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and are now watching what you put in your mouth you need to watch what you put on your skin. I am sure some scents appall you (especially if you are in the first trimester) so telling you to stay away from odors probably isn’t something you would argue with. Here is the thing: there are essential oils that can cause undo harm to your developing little one. For this reason please consult a professional on what is safe for you to be using now. One such option is my e-course: Pregnancy and Essential Oils.
6) You like your liver- No seriously… if you truly like your liver and all of the detoxing it does to keep your body in tip top shape then do it a favor- don’t drink or eat(via pill form) essential oils- especially not daily or for months on end. The occasional ingestion of essential oils can help with certain conditions but this requires the recommendation of someone well studied in the field- not your next door neighbor- unless they happen to be an ND, MD, DO or other advanced medical professional with additional aromatic medicine studies. Essential oils do not contain vitamins, or anything else that makes long term use justifiable. Instead they build up in your liver as it tries to process them out of your body, this build up causes stress on your liver. Trust me a liver transplant because you killed yours from months or years of abusive use of essential oils internally will be costly, plus good luck finding a liver; I hear the transplant list is full of cirrhosis patients.
7) You use homeopathy- This is one of those times that you need to make sure you are being honest with your health care provider. Be that a naturalist, MD, DO or what have you. They need the WHOLE story about what you are using/doing so that they can make sure what they are giving you will not interact with your current regimen. In many cases there are essential oils that can cancel out homeopathy regimens.
8) Diminished Returns- have you ever noticed that when you do the same thing every day it doesn’t seem to work as well over time? Same thing happens with your essential oils. If you are using the same ones day in/day out you are going to see yourself needing more to get the same results- same as you do with medications.
9) You just don’t know enough- at the end of the day learning about essential oils is not something that can be done in one day, one week, or even one year. For those who truly wish to learn about this vast field it is a life study. Things change with what we know about the plants (just how in medicine we learn new things about the drugs we use). Using them daily without doing your own research (away from any one company or books paid for by one company) means that you are literally risking your health and wellness. This is where knowing people who have been in the field for a long time comes in handy, so does joining essential oil group that are about safe use and run by Certified Aromatherapists (to be sure ask for their certificates!). I have a list of such groups on my FB page here.
At the end of the day do what is comfortable to you knowing that if you have questions there are a ton of people well versed in the field ready to help you and find the right avenue for your safe use of essential oils. Also please be aware if your question is too in depth or involved the true professionals will ask to do a consultation. There is usually a fee associated with this service, but that means you are getting quality attention paid to your issue. Gaining our education wasn’t free and every moment we are working with you we are not with our families, time is valuable, please respect that.
1) sensitization. (n.d.) Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary. (2012). Retrieved September 5 2016 from http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/sensitization
Disclaimer: All information herein is intended for educational purposes only. Nothing is intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any known illness or disease. Please consult your health care practitioner before changing anything in your medicine or health regimens.