Please note that this is a general safety guideline and not intended to insight fear regarding the use of essential oils. Essential oils are approximately 70 times stronger than the plant that they came from, however being natural doesn’t automatically make them safe. Essential oils pose very little or no risk if used correctly. This information on this page is for educational purposes only.
Please read our ingredients information page for more details.
Below is a list of some general essential oil precautions you may need to take into consideration.
Primary variables to consider :
- The method of application
- How much of the essential oil is to be used for treatment
- The person being treated
- The potential toxicity of the essential oil and any drug interactions
- The purity and freshness of the essential oil.
STORAGE – Keep in tightly sealed dark bottles, away from heat, sunlight, children and pets. Some oils are more flammable than others and should be kept away from open flames.
GENERAL USAGE – For external use only. Keep away from eyes and other mucous membranes (mouth, vagina and rectum). Specialised suppositories may be prescribed and created by a certified aromatherapist only. Do not operate equipment or vehicles after use of relaxation or sleep inducing oils and vary prolonged or constant use of the same essential oil. Some essential oils used for sleep may do the opposite if used in excess.
DO NOT INGEST – It is against the codes of professional practice in Australia for aromatherapists to recommend or prescribe the ingestion of essential oils. This level of knowledge should only be available from those who have studied Advanced Aromatic Medicine. Related Article : Should I ingest essential oils?
VENTILATION – Essential oils are concentrated, and exposure to excess or concentrated essential oils can cause headaches or other symptoms. Use with caution and adequate ventilation.
PATCH TEST – Put a few diluted drops of any new or suspect oil on the back of your wrist or inside forearm, cover with a bandage and leave on for up to a day. If irritation, itching or redness occur, use a plain cream or vegetable oil to help remove the essential oil, then wash in warm soapy water. Discontinue use or reduce the concentration level used.
NEAT (UNDILUTED) APPLICATION – Essential oils should always be diluted in carrier oil and not be applied directly to the skin unless advised by a qualified aromatherapist. If too much essential oil has been applied to the skin please use a carrier oil to wipe off and remove the excess oil before washing the area with warm soapy water. For the recommended dilution ratios please read this related article : Essential Oil Topical Dilutions
BATHING – Essential oils should also not be added to the bath without diluting first in a carrier oil or dispersant such as castile soap or solubiliser. This ensures that the essential oil emulsifies with the water and neat essential oil does not touch the skin. Essential oils such as lemongrass, peppermint, thyme, cinnamon or other hot oils should also be avoided as they can be dermal irritants and may cause extreme tingling, heating or cooling effect on the skin. Such oils should also be avoided in products such as bath bombs, bath salts and melts.
DIFFUSION – It’s best to only diffuse for short periods of time. Usually 30-45 minutes is the maximum time recommended, and 15 minutes for young children. Having an ultrasonic diffuser with a proper interval setting and timer is recommended. [ Shop for ultrasonic diffusers ] Keep in mind that essential oils have therapeutic properties and safety issues and therefore should not just be diffused for scent alone. Take care when diffusing around children and pets. Check to make sure that the oils being used are safe to use around all who are present. Symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, headaches and drowsiness may occur when becoming over exposed to breathing in essential oils.
PHOTOTOXICITY – These oils may cause skin pigmentation and irritation if exposed to direct sunlight. These oils include angelica root, bergamot (cold pressed), cumin, grapefruit (cold pressed), lemon (cold pressed), lime (cold pressed), lovage, mandarin leaf, orange (cold pressed), rue & tagetes. Steam distilled citrus oils are generally not phototoxic. Skin should not be exposed to sunlight for approximately 48 hours after using these oils and should never be used neat on skin. I use steam distilled citrus oils in my blends where possible or follow the guide by keeping my blends within the recommended dilutions to prevent phototoxicity –
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE – hypertense individuals should avoid hyssop, rosemary, Spanish and common sage and thyme.
EPILEPSY – Due to seizures being unpredictable and individual it’s difficult to list essential oils that may be triggers. Generally speaking though essential oils that have a powerful action on the nervous system such as camphor, sweet fennel, hyssop, rosemary, spike lavender and all types of sage should certainly be avoided. Other essential oils with powerful smells might also initiate such attacks.
ASTHMA – Asthma is another condition where an oil that may be helpful to one individual may be an asthma attack trigger to another individual. Some essential oils may be safely used by asthma sufferers to open the airways, reduce inflammation and assist with wheezing. In some cases however, essential oils can cause an asthma attack in people who are easily triggered by strong smells or chemicals. Please seek the advice of a qualified aromatherapist to find out which essential oils are best for your individual health.
DIABETES – Avoid angelica. Rosemary is also believed to be of concern and best to be avoided.
MEDICATIONS – It’s important to check which essential oils are safe to use when taking any medications. Caution should be taken with high blood pressure and epilepsy medications if using basil, hyssop, fennel, peppermint, nutmeg, rosemary, sage, tansy, tarragon. Sage & Rosemary should be avoided all together. Essential oils such as cinnamon, clove, balsam fir, helichrysum, nutmeg and oregano contain coumarins and should be avoided if taking blood thinners. Any medications that affect digestion may also interact with peppermint essential oils. These are just some examples of possible drug interactions. Please consult with your doctor or certified aromatherapist for more information.
BABIES & YOUNG CHILDREN – Babies are very sensitive to strong aromas. Young children’s immune systems have not fully developed and they are overall less able to deal with adverse effects of concentrated substances like essential oils. Avoid using any essential oils around babies before 3 months of age. For a list of unsafe essential oils and dilutions amounts for certain age brackets please read my article – Essential oils for pregnancy, breastfeeding & baby
PREGNANCY – Because of uterine stimulation or possible toxicity, during pregnancy use a maximum of 2% dilution of essential oils in a cream or carrier oil and avoid : ajowan, angelica, star anise, aniseed, basil, bay laurel, calamintha, all types of cedarwood, celery seed, cinnamon leaf, citronella, clary sage, clove, cumin, sweet fennel, hyssop, juniper, labdanum, lovage, marjoram, myrrh, nutmeg, parsley, peppermint, rose, rosemary, Spanish sage, snakeroot, tarragon and white thyme. Related Article : Essential oils for pregnancy, breastfeeding & baby
PETS – Animals are more sensitive to essential oils than humans so extreme caution must be taken when using essential oils around them. Generally speaking most essential oils are not safe to diffuse around cats. Cats simply are unable to metabolize essential oils due to the lack of glucuronyl transferase, a liver enzyme. Cats are particularly averse to citrus essential oils and high-phenol oils. For more information please seek advice from a veterinarian or expert trained in aromatherapy for pets. (more info coming soon)
SKIN SENSITISATION – For individuals with very sensitive skin or allergic sensitivity some oils my cause a reaction. Test patch (as explained earlier on) for individual sensitisation in particular with these oils – French basil, bay laurel, benzoin, cade, cananga, coriander, cubeba, Virginian cedarwood, Roman and German chamomile, citronella, geranium, ginger, hops, jasmine, lemon, lemongrass, lemon balm, litsea, lovage, mastic, mint, orange, Peru balsam, Scotch and long leaf pine needle, styrax, tea tree, white thyme, tolu balsam, turmeric, turpentine pine, valerian, vanilla, verbena, violet, yarrow and ylang ylang. Reduce the chances of acquiring a sensitivity reaction from constant use of the same oil over extended periods of time by varying your choices.
DERMAL IRRITATION – Some oils may irritate the skin, especially for sensitive individuals or in high concentrations. Dilute these oils in half the usual strength and don’t use more than three drops when bathing. These oils include ajowan, allspice, aniseed, sweet basil, borneol, cajeput, caraway, Virginian cedarwood, cinnamon, clove bud, cornmint, eucalyptus, ginger, lemon, lemongrass, parsley, peppermint, Scotch and long leaf pine needle, white thyme and turmeric.
TOXICITY – Some oils should be limited to use for not longer than two week intervals and used in moderation because of toxicity levels and include ajowan, star anise, aniseed, exotic basil, bay laurel, West Indian calamintha, white camphor, cascarrilla bark, cassie, Virginian cedarwood, cinnamon, clove bud, coriander, eucalyptus, sweet fennel, hops, hyssop, juniper, nutmeg, parsley, Spanish sage, tagetes, tarragon, white thyme, tuberose, turmeric, turpentine pine and valerian.
HAZARDOUS OILS – You should consult an aromatherapist for specific information about these types of essential oils because they are considered to be hazardous in inexperienced hands or can cause severe dermal irritation. These oils include bitter almond, arnica, boldo, broom, buchu, calamus, brown and yellow camphor, cassia, chervil, cinnamon bark, costus, deertongue, elecampane, bitter fennel, horseradish, jaborandi, melilotus, mugwort, mustard, oregano, pennyroyal, dwarf pine, rue, common sage, santolina, sassafras, savine, savory, tansy, thuja, red thyme, tonka, wintergreen, wormseed and wormwood.
MEDICAL ATTENTION – Discontinue use if redness, burning, irritation or itching occur. Follow warnings, precautions and seek medical attention for any problems. If misuse of essential oils occurs please phone the poisons information centre straight away – 13 11 26
Please always consult with a health care practitioner if you have any questions regarding your medical health.
A great book on essential oil safety information is :
‘Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health Care Professionals’ by Robert Tisserand
Disclaimer : The information contained on this website is for educational purposes only. The traditional and suggested uses listed here are for reference only and under no circumstances should they be taken as recommendations for cures or treatments for diseases or medical conditions. Aromatic Boutique (Aromatherapy For Australia) shall not be responsible for any damages resulting from use of or reliance upon this information. Therapeutic oils are used to support natural body functions and work in harmony with our body’s physiology. The information on this website should not be used as a substitute for medical counselling with a health professional. Always keep out of reach of children and consult a medical practitioner before use during pregnancy or other medical conditions. The essential oils that we sell are safe if used as directed. If misuse of essential oils occurs please phone the poisons information centre straight away – 13 11 26