Essential oils are a wonderful addition to the naturally inclined home. Natural as they are, essential oils are not to be used lightly. You may be new to essential oils and still learning the ropes so today I wanted to share with you some dangers and benefits of essential oils with you.
Dangers? I thought essential oils were natural?
Yes, essential oils are natural and beneficial but they are powerful and must be used with respect and with an understanding of what should and should not be done with them. Just like water, we must understand and know when it safe and when it can be dangerous. A glass of water on a hot day is refreshing and safe. It hydrates our body. A shallow creek for the children to play in is safe with supervision but the raging sea is no place for your toddler, who cannot swim to be left alone. Water can be safe, helpful or dangerous, even deadly. Essential oils can be thought of the same way.
Let me say it another way. If you are accustomed to conventional pharmaceutical treatments you know that 2 Advil for your headache will do the job and won’t kill you. If your three-year-old got a hold of those Advil, there can be problems, even death. Just like pharmaceutical treatments, essential oils are potentially beneficial, potentially dangerous.
The Dangers of Essential Oils
They Can Cause Photo-sensitivity – Some oils, when applied before exposure to direct sunlight, can cause photo-sensitivity.
Oils Can Be Unsafe for Children – There are many oils that should come with recommendations for use with children. The issue is that many oil companies don't disclose this. Not every is unsafe and there's no need to fear them, but before you start slathering your infant, toddler or preschooler with oils, you need to know what is recommended as child-safe and what is not. Below you'll find a list of some common oils that are safe for children.
If Not Used Properly, They Can Irritate The Mucus Membranes – Some oils can be taken orally but there is a potential to irritate the mucous membranes in the throat. Taking them in a capsule is best. *Please note, in the summit I heard mention of taking essential oils in water. Please do your own research on this. I do not recommend it.
Over Use – Maybe it’s our culture or societal influence but small quantities of things seem to be a difficult concept to understand. “The bigger the better” is not the adage to use with essential oils. Instead, you need to opt for the “A little goes a long way” mentality. Over-using essential oils can be dangerous as too high a quantity can cause unwanted effects.
Opinion and Anecdotal Evidence Abound – This the biggest pitfall for me. There is so much you’ll hear as you dig into oils. It’s not a bad idea to understand the chemistry and search for a source of information that is brand-generic and well researched. And places like Vintage Remedies and Learning About EO's are great brand-neutral places to learn about essential oils. Vintage Remedies offers a scientific approach to studying essential oils. Their courses are well researched, taught by a professional and fairly inexpensive. I'm on my second course with Vintage Remedies and I've learned so much.
Benefits of Essential Oils
They Are A Natural Choice – The more I learn about essential oils the more I don’t like the term “alternative medicine”. Essential oils, herbs, and homeopathy have been around much longer than our pharmaceutical friends. If you’re looking to treat minor issues or major illness essential oils are one of the natural ways to go.
They Provide First Aid Relief – Essential oils are a great addition to your first aid kit. It is well known that lavender essential oil, applied to a first-degree burn can speed healing and relieve pain.
Essential Oils Are Multipurpose – When you purchase a cleaning product from the store you wouldn’t dare use it in foot rub too. But when you buy a bottle of essential oil you’ll find it can be used in many ways and serve many purposes. For example, I use lavender straight from the bottle (referred to as NEAT) to treat minor burns. I also use lavender in a calming blend for my son and I if we’re restless at night and that same lavender is also in my homemade room spray.
They Can Provide Pain Relief – Speaking of pain relief, essential oils can relieve pains such as headache, joint pain, and muscle aches.
Essential Oils Are Cost Effective – Yes, some essential oils and some brands are very expensive (some brands are too expensive in my opinion). Yet when you consider what you can do with one bottle, like the lavender example above, you’ll find it is much more cost-effective than you think. As you progress in your oil usage you might consider a budget category for essential oils or even “natural health” so you can set aside money for the oils you need and love and the ones you want to try.
With the exception of the lavender example, I have purposely been generic in my writing about essential oils. You need to study oils for yourself. You don't need a degree or even college level courses. Consider the resources below. I have a few books that I will consult when I'm looking for an oil to use for a specific issue in our home. I also refer to the sites above for information.
I consider myself an EO beginner. I hope you’ll see that essential oils like other health and healing options have dangers and benefits. I encourage you to learn all you can about oils and consider them as a treatment option in your home. I highly recommend Essential Oils: Separating Myth From Truth. This book by Kristen Smith, a trained herbalist, and holistic health educator tackles the 25 most commonly held myths about essential oils.