Safety First with Essential Oils

Safety First with Essential Oils - Marvy Moms

I’ve recently been reintroduced to the amazing world of essential oils. So far I’ve made up a roller to use on cuts and scrapes, created an aloe gel with lavender for sunburns, and made room sprays. The possibilities are endless and I’m so excited about making things that work and that I know every ingredient inside them.

I didn’t use essential oils for years because I remember someone telling me that you have to be careful how you use them or they could be dangerous. I threw away my expired stock and forgot about them for several years.

After recently rediscovering some sprays made by my friend, Rachel Ginther, at Garden of One, I decided I’d like to try again. I remembered a friend sold essential oils, so I talked to her first. She assured me that the oils she sells are 100% pure and perhaps the only oils on the market that were guaranteed safe. So safe that I could ingest them and apply them on my son without worry. I could put most of them directly on my skin without dilution. I bought my starter kit and was anxiously waiting for them to arrive so I could get started. I didn’t know what I was going to do with them exactly, but it was going to be good.

As I was waiting for them to arrive I started to do some research and I’ve been researching ever since. It’s going to take me some time to share that research with you, as I’m still working on it, but there are some things I can share right now. That I need to share now because there is so much misinformation out there and I know I can help to change that. Others will come in time and I hope you will follow me along in this journey to truth about the safety and the amazing power of using essential oils for spiritual, mental, and physical well being .

There are essentially four different ways to buy/use essential oils:

  1. Go to a friend that sells them through a mulit-level-marketing (MLM) company*;
  2. Go to the grocery or health food store and buy them off the shelf;
  3. Do a Google search and find somewhere to buy them online; and
  4. Go to an aromatherapist and get suggestions to make an informed decision for any of the above.

*More about buying from an MLM coming up…

Once you have the oils, there are several ways you can use them (including some that you should not do)

  1. Diffuse into a room with a diffuser
  2. Place on a tissue or cotton ball and attach to a vent or fan
  3. Use in an aromatherapy inhaler (scent stick)
  4. Dilute in a carrier (Typically a fatty oil like olive oil, grapeseed oil, or jojoba oil. Note: water is not a carrier since oil and water don’t mix) and apply to the skin
  5. Make into products such as balms, scrubs, room sprays, deodorant, etc…
  6. Apply “neat” (undiluted) on the skin (Not recommended in most cases. Contact a certified aromatherapist for a safe recommendation)
  7. Ingest in a liquid, drops in the mouth, or enclosed in a capsule (NOT recommended without the guidance of a qualified heath car provider or clinical aromatherapist trained in safety of ingestion. This is generally a last resort and used only for acute conditions for a short period of time, again, with guidance of a professional trained in ingestion)

 So, my oils arrived and they smell lovely. Here’s the thing:

They don’t tell me the botanical name of the oil. This is important since different varieties of a particular plant have different chemical properties. They may smell somewhat similar, but their uses can vary based on variety, country of origin, distillation method, etc… Did you know that there are over 20 varieties of lavender? Some types may be unsafe when used on a person with certain medical conditions. I have no idea what type of lavender is in the bottle I bought from Young Living (an MLM).

CORRECTION of above: I took another look, and the botanical name is there. There is small print on the corner of the label that says “PEEL HERE.” Under the flap are Supplement Facts. Many companies put the botanical name right on the front of the label. On my bottle of Lavender Young Living uses that space to say “100% Pure Therapeutic Grade Essential Oil Supplement.” The back of the label, where it peels back, gives dosing recommendations for internal, neat topical and diffuser use (see below for more info about neat and internal use). For topical, it says “dilution not required except for the mosts sensitive skin. Use as needed.” 

I’ve been told (by several reps) that I can safely ingest Young Living Oils because they are pure therapeutic grade oils. Here’s the thing. There is no such thing as therapeutic grade. There is no official grading system at all. It is a marketing term used to give the buyer a sense of safety. Here’s the other thing. It doesn’t matter how pure an oil is, it is not safe to ingest without the guidance of a professional. Period. Just today I heard from a friend that her good friend is in need of surgery because she was told by an MLM rep that it was safe to ingest 20 drops of cinnamon and 5 drops of lemon on a daily basis. That’s nearly 1 ml/day ingested! Ingestion is a wonderful sales tool because the more you use, the more the company sells.

I’ve been told that Young Living oils are safe to use neat on the skin (directly without dilution). Again, YL oils are not any more or less safe than other pure essential oils. Neat application may be safe for some oils in some instances on some people, but from what I’ve learned about sensitization I wouldn’t do it unless I had a a clinical aromatherapist give me a darn good reason to. Sensitization happens when you are overexposed to an oil (or any substance for that matter) to the point that you can develop an allergic reaction. I’ve heard testimonies of people that have developed a sensitization to lavender or mint and can no longer be anywhere near these fragrances. Imagine going to the grocery store and not being able to walk through the cosmetic section or the candy isle because you run the risk of going into anaphylactic shock? Yes, it can happen. In almost all cases, oils should be diluted in a safe carrier before being applied to the skin in a dilution percentage appropriate to age and general health of the person using it (usually .25% to 3% based on several factors).

They guarantee that their oils have been tested for safety, but Young Living and dōTERRA will not release the results of those tests. Okay, that’s not right. That’s like going to the doctor and when you ask to see their degree (typically hanging on the wall in a legitimate doctor’s office), they say that you’re just going to have to believe them and they know what they’re doing. They swear they’ve passed the medical boards, what more do you want?

I’ve been told by several Young Living Reps to use peppermint oil on my young child. One said I should probably dilute, but without a clear definition of safe dilution percentages. Turns out that there is a chemical in peppermint (menthol) and eucalyptus (1,8-cineol aka Eucalyptol), that can slow or stop breathing in young children. The percentage of that happening may be small, but it can also be lethal. For the same reason that I did not give honey to my child until after he was two, I would not want to experiment with peppermint and take that risk.

MLM sales reps are SALES REPS, they are not (unless trained as one) certified aromatherapists. They may have stories about how essential oils have helped them, their friends and their families, but they don’t have facts or safety information, or information about long-term side effects beyond what they have learned from the company they sell for.

I want to be clear for a moment. The majority of MLM reps are well-intentioned people, passionate about essential oils, and have a desire to help others discover the myriad of uses of essential oils. They do not intentionally seek to harm people that buy from them. The woman I bought from sells at wholesale prices to her customers because she just wants to help. She makes money on starter kits and commission from her downline, but not from sales directly to her customers (except maybe a small percent sometimes). The thing is that companies like Young Living and dōTERRA are master marketers. They produce beautiful packaging and pamphlets, write books, and have well-maintained websites. They have conferences and seminars and team meetings. These MLM reps trust the company that they have invested time and money in and have advised others to do the same. It’s a tough leap to think that these companies (intentionally) and friends (unintentionally) may be giving out false information in order to make money. Yet that is exactly what is happening.

I realized all of these things because I did research beyond the gorgeous pamphlets included with my starter kit. I went online searching for answers and seeking the truth.

I’d like to help everyone interested in safely using essential oils to do the same. I’ve spent nearly two months researching so far, and I’m going to try and save you some time by listing some resources here. As I said, I’m still researching and I’ll be sharing more, but for now I know that there is such a desperate need for true information about the safe use of essential oils, that I just couldn’t wait another minute to share something with all of you.

For starters, the number one essential oil safety expert is Robert Tisserand. He is referenced again and again by people promoting the safe use of essential oils. He has a websiteFacebook page, and recently released the second edition of his book, Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health Care Professionals. He has done extensive research and has graciously shared this information with the world.

The Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy, run by Sylla Sheppard-Hanger, has a project to collect reports of injury as the result of using essential oils. If you’ve ever been harmed in any way using essential oils (headache, burned skin, itchy skin, damage to esophagus, stomach aches, psychotic reaction, etc…), please file a report so that we can begin to get some real data confirming the need for safe usage of essential oils. While you’re there, be sure to read the first report released that lists a year’s worth of injury reports.

There are several Facebook groups whose mission is to provide information about how to safely use essential oils. Many of their members are certified aromatherapists and will answer questions people have about safely using essential oils:

There are also lots of Facebook pages that offer great information about the safe use of essential oils:

Things to look for when selecting a Facebook group, Facebook page, or a website with information about essential oils:

  • Take a look at the pictures. If they are all pictures of Young Living or dōTERRA (MLMs) essential oils then chances are there is not an aromatherapist at the helm.
  • Read the posts. If they talk about ingesting oils in water (oil and water don’t mix, so this is the equivelant of placing undiluted on your tongue, down your espohogas and into your stomach), they are likely an MLM rep. If they use the names of blends without giving a recipe for them, they are likely an MLM rep.
  • Use common sense. If something doesn’t seem right, run away. There are plenty of good resources out there that are looking out for your safety.

Even with these guidelines, it can still be tough to find reliable sources of information. There is one website in particular called Aromatic Science that would have you believe that it is science-based information about essential oils. It’s in fact owned by dōTERRA with the primary goal of selling more oils. It looks legit, however, it is a sales tool. Google it if you want, but I don’t even want to include a link because I don’t want to spread the misinformation.

An alternative to making your own blends is to have a trained aromatherapist mix things up for you, which takes out the guesswork altogether. Local to me is Mindy MacLaren of Sweet & Woodsy Aromatherapy. She has been a tremendous resource to me as I conduct my essential oil research. She’s active in many of the aromatherapy groups I mention above and is intensely interested in sharing safe information about essential oils. I’m planning to attend her aroma group starting up in the fall to learn even more. She offers 1:1 consultations and also creates, packages, and sells many products through her website and at local markets.

If you want to learn even more about essential oils (like I do) then there are several sources for good information available. Perhaps you’d like to become an aromatherapist! If you’re lucky enough then there may be an aromatherapy school in your area. Check out the Alliance of International Aromatherapists (AIA) and National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) websites for a list of schools that they recommend. If there’s no school in your area, then there are online classes as well. Aromahead Institute is one such school. The instructor, Andrea Butje, is well respected in the aromatherapy community. They offer a free Introduction to Essential Oils class that will give you a basic intro and let you know if it fits your learning style. They also periodically offer free webinars and send tips straight to your email inbox.

That’s a lot of info to get you started, and believe me, it’s only a start. I’m excited to be sharing what I find out as I explore the wonderful, and sometimes mysterious, world of essential oils. Be sure to sign up for email updates from Marvy Moms so you don’t miss a thing.

P.S. I realize that this article tells a lot about how not to use or buy oils. Several resources are listed to help you to learn more about the safe way to do things to help you get started. And, I promise I am working on bringing more information to you, including a comprehensive guide to buying essential oils from non-MLM companies. Stay tuned!

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About Emily Carpenter

Emily is a Web Whiz, Blogger, Speaker, Student, and Mom. She is the owner of WhizBang! Web Solutions LLC, and the founder of Marvy Moms. She loves working from home so that she can be there for every possible moment with her son, JW. Learning as she goes, Emily breastfed, bought cloth diapers (but never used them), made her son’s baby food, had a family bed for nearly two years, and loves spending time with her son. Emily is a certified Level II Reiki practitioner and offers her services both in-person and remotely to people interested in this energetic healing modality. Emily is currently enrolled as a student at the American Academy of Homeopathy to become a Certified Classical Homeopath and has earned a diploma in botanical medicine at Botanical Medicine Institute. She is also a Certified Aromatherapist, and received her training from Aromahead Institute.