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Aromatherapy, Essential oils

Misusing Essential Oils: How to Avoid the Dangers?

There are different ways of using essential oils, including dermally, inhalation or diffusion.

On a day-to-day basis, essential oils are ideal for treating the whole family, provided they are used correctly and wisely. They are very potent, with powerful properties and can lead to side effects, especially if they are badly used. These side effects are often harmless but can sometimes be very serious, causing irritations, allergies or even convulsions.

So, knowing how to minimize these risks and reap the full benefits of essential oils, follow these simple tips!

Always observe the precautions for use

Essential oils can be used in different ways. Precautions for use depend on the essential oil used, and on the chosen route of administration: dermal, inhalation or diffusion.

To help you understand the different routes of administration, our products come with instructions, so you can learn more and become an aromatherapy expert.

Be particularly careful with certain very powerful essential oils

Some essential oils have more potent properties than others, such as Oregano compact, Mountain savory, Ceylon cinnamon, Clove tree and Thyme. Use this with caution to minimize the risks of danger.

If you have accidentally swallowed more than half a bottle of essential oil for example, if it vital that you do not wait until there are symptoms to seek help.

Immediately contact the poison control centre in your area and/or the emergency services. You can rinse your mouth but above all do not any more liquid – this includes water, milk or oil. Do not make yourself vomit, and respect the instructions of the poison control centre. .  

Dermal route:

Most essential oils require rules of use to ensure their safe application to the skin. Some oils can irritate or even burn the skin or mucous membranes – like Savoury, Oregano and Ceylon Cinnamon.
Others can cause skin photosensitisation, especially essential oils derived from citrus peel like Lemon or Mandarin.

And lastly, for people with allergies, essential oils can potentially cause an allergic response. If you have any doubt, refer to the product leaflet or to an expert book on aromatherapy. If you are still in doubt, ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice.   

Essential oils can be applied to the skin in different ways: 

  • Local application: this involves applying the essential oil to a specific, small area of the skin. In this case only, certain essential oils can be applied in their pure from. For example, Tea Tree essential oil can be applied pure to a single pimple. However, if the application is daily, more extensive or if you have sensitive or reactive skin, it’s recommended to dilute the essential oil in a vegetable oil.

  • Massage: this is a method generally used on larger areas of the body or face. The strong dilution of essential oils in a suitable vegetable oil (Sweet Almond or Jojoba for example) is essential to avoid skin irritation or burns.

  • Bath – Shower: Essential oils are not soluble in water, so they need to be mixed with a soluble fat (almond milk, for example) or with a neutral base specifically for baths and showers. Be careful, the more irritating the essential oil, the greater the more neutral base you will need. Some dermo caustic essential oils are absolutely not recommended for baths or showers, such as Savory, Oregano or Cinnamon.

Be especially careful if you have sensitive skin or are prone to allergies ! 

Always perform a skin test before using an essential oil: 

  1. Apply a small amount of essential oil using a cotton swab to the crook of your elbow. . 
  2. Repeat this test 12 hours later, then wait another 12 hours for results.  

If you don’t see a reaction, it is safe for you to use this essential oil.

If your skin suddenly burns, reddens, stings or itches after applying essential oil, rinse the painful area with a vegetable oil like Sweet Almond, Sunflower, Olive, any vegetable will work. This will dilutes the essential oil and immediately soothe any pain or irritation. If no vegetable oil is available, rinse the area thoroughly with clear water.

Always wash your hands after using essential oils to avoid contact with your eyes.
In case of contact, immediately rinse the eye with water for at least 10 minutes to avoid visual disturbances or corneal damage.

If the symptoms persist, consult a specialist dermatologist or ophthalmologist, or your GP urgently. 

In case of emergency, immediately contact the poison control centre in your area.

Respiratory Tract:

Use caution, as not all essential oils can be used for inhalation or diffusion. Some, such as Savory, Oregano, Clove and Ceylon Cinnamon, can severely irritate the respiratory tract and the eyes when used this way.

Be careful, as even when used via the respiratory route, the precautions for use of essential oils must be respected. Always ask for advice before use, and remember children under 7 years, pregnant or breast-feeding women, asthmatics, epileptics and those with selected other ongoing health conditions should avoid essential oils completely.

Essential oils are particularly volatile plant extracts that disperse quickly and easily in the air and respiratory tract. Several techniques can be used to take advantage of their properties

  • Dry inhalation: this method involves breathing the essential oil in deeply after applying it to a handkerchief or a smelling pad. Most essential oils can be used in this way. 
  • Wet inhalation: first the essential oil is poured into a large amount of simmering water and then the vapours are inhaled through the nose and/or mouth. Never pour essential oil into boiling water, in order to minimise risk of burns. Wet inhalation requires a good knowledge of essential oils that can cause irritation of the respiratory tract and eyes, and knowledge of those that contain a high level of ketone, such as Peppermint, Rosemary and Camphor.  
  • Diffusion : it’s important to always use a suitable essential oil diffuser like a specific cold nebulisation, gentle heat or ultrasonic misting/humidification diffuser. Never heat essential oils on a candle heated dish, as the flame denatures the active ingredients which releases harmful compounds.
    Be cautious around animals. If you keep pets, the diffuser should be kept away from them, as they could ingest essential oil. If you use a powerful diffusion technique like nebulisation or vapourisation, you should diffuse only when your pet is not present. Wait 30 minutes before letting the animal enter the room and then ventilate. The same precaution should be taken with children under 7 years old. Never diffuse pure essential oils continuously, especially around children under 7, the elderly or those who live with asthma.
    Certain irritating essential oils known as dermo caustics (carvacrol, thymol, eugenol), those rich in ketones (camphor, menthoneor menthol (peppermint) have very specific rules of use.

Certain irritating essential oils known as dermo caustics (carvacrol, thymol, eugenol), those rich in ketones (camphor, menthoneor menthol (peppermint) have very specific rules of use.

To check that the essential oil you wish to use is safe for diffusion, please refer to our advice.

If after inhaling or diffusing an essential oil, you notice that you or those around you are experiencing coughing, difficulty breathing, irritation or burning of the skin or eyes, immediately stop inhaling or diffusing the essential oil, leave the room get some fresh air. Ventilate the room before you return to it.

If the symptoms persist, consult a doctor. 

Who should not use oils? 

Children under 7 years of age

Many essential oils are not generally recommended for those under the age of 7. However, some essential oils may be reserved for adolescents or even recommended for use by adults exclusively. For children under 7 years of age, there are ready-to-use solutions that allow them to take full advantage of the oil’s benefits in a complete safe formula.

Pregnant or breastfeeding women

Many essential oils are prohibited during pregnancy (especially in the first trimester) and during breastfeeding. This is because essential oils can pass to the fetus and into breast milk.

Long-term illnesses

In case of kidney or liver problems, seizure disorders, cardiovascular pathologies or in people prone to epilepsy, asthma and other ongoing medical conditions, always seek the advice of a health professional, doctor or pharmacist. .

Those receiving medical treatment on a daily basis  

Especially in case of renal, hepatic or cardiovascular pathologies, or in people suffering from epilepsy, asthma, cancer and other severe pathologies. Never use essential oils without the advice of your doctor or pharmacist.

Those who are particularly allergic   

We recommend that you consult your doctor before using essential oils. For those with mild allergies, do not use without first carrying out a skin test: apply 1 drop of essential oil to the hollow of the elbow, wait 12 hours and then repeat to check that there is no allergic reaction. If you know you are allergic to one of the components of the essential oil, do not use it without the advice of your doctor.

If you are allergic to Aspirin® or other salicylates, check all essential oils for their suitability before use, and avoid particular oils such as Gaultheria or Ylang Ylang.

What are the rules to follow when using essential oils?  

  1. Always respect the dosages, precautions for use, duration of treatment and route of administration. Essential oils are extremely active extracts, which must be used carefully. Therefore, always keep your essential oil in its original packaging, with its instructions, so you can refer back to them when you need to.
  2. Never substitute one essential oil for another, even if their names are similar! The toxicity risks of essential oils vary.
  3. Always wash your hands thoroughly after using an essential oil.
  4. Keep out of sight and reach of children.
  5. Store in its original packaging between 5°C and 30°C, protected from light, air and heat.
  6. In case of serious misuse: Immediately contact the poison control centre in your area.

What are the dangers of misusing essential oils?

Some of the aromatic molecules contained in essential oils can be toxic for the body if the precautions for use, dosages, routes of administration and the duration of use are not respected. But when used correctly, with the correct contraindications and dosages, essential oils pose no danger to your health or wellbeing.

Il est important de prendre conscience que les huiles essentielles ne sont pas dangereuses pour la santé lorsqu’elles sont utilisées correctement, avec les contre-indications et les dosages respectés dans les règles.

Neurotoxicity  

Essential oils can cause nervous system problems and are not recommended for people with epilepsy or a history of convulsions, the elderly, children under 7 years of age or people with heart problems. This applies to menthol and camphor in particular.

Essential oils with ketones: Helichrysum, Lavandin super, Spike Lavender, Atlas Cedar, Peppermint, Rosemary with camphor, Rosemary with cineole, Rosemary with verbenone.

Essential oils with menthol: Peppermint, Fieldmint.

Essential oils with eucalyptol: Eucalyptus radiata and globulus, Ravintsara, Niaouli, Rosemary Cineole, Camphor, Myrtle, Laurel

Essential oils containing these three molecules of the very large terpene family: eucalyptol (1.8 cineole), menthol and camphor are recommended by the French National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products (ANSM), particularly for babies and young children under 7 years of age.

Dermocausticity (irritation, burning)

Essential oils containing dermo caustic molecules like carvacrol or cinnamaldehyde, can cause severe irritation or even burns to the skin and mucous membranes. They should only be used diluted in a vegetable oil, at a maximum concentration of 3%

.Always avoid direct contact with the skin or mucous membranes as pure essential oils contain dermo caustic, highly irritating or irritating components.

Dermo caustic and very irritating essential oils (recommended for use at 3% maximum)

  • Carvacrol: Spanish Oregano, Compact Oregano, Common Oregano, Garden Savory, Mountain Savory, Savory Leaf Thyme
  • Thymol: Thyme, Savory Leaf Thym
  • Eugenol: Clove Tree, Ceylon or Chinese Cinnamon (leaf)
  • Estragole (méthyl chavicol): Exotic or Tropical Basil and Tarrago
  • Cinnamaldéhyde: Ceylon or Chinese Cinnamon (bark)

Irritating essential oils (recommended for use at 10-20%):

  •  Monoterpenes (alpha-pinene, myrcene, sabinene, limonene): Bergamot, Cistus ladanifera, Lemon, Cypress, Frankincense, Black Spruce, Juniper, Pistachio Mastic, Sweet Orange, Green Mandarin, Shell Marjoram, Grapefruit, Scots Pine, Siberian Fir, Tea Tree
  • Citrals (neral and geranium) Lemongrass, Verbena, Lemon Lime
  • Citronnellal : Java Citronella, Lemon Eucalyptus

Similarly, if in doubt, ask a doctor or pharmacist for advice before using any of these essential oils.

Allergies

Be cautious of allergic reactions, which are always possible. Some people are particularly sensitive, or are weakened by an illness, such as asthma. If necessary, carry out a skin tolerance test by applying 1 or 2 drops of essential oil to the hollow of the elbow. Wait 12 hours, then repeat the test, waiting another 12 hours to check that there is no reaction.

People who are allergic to fruits, vegetables or spices such as apple, hazelnut, carrot, celery, cherry, pear, peach, plum, strawberry, raspberry, quince, kiwi, melon, peanut, paprika, tomato and potato are predisposed to sensitivity and may well be allergic to certain essential oils.

Photosensitivity (sun)

Some essential oils have molecules that react when they are exposed to the sun. This can show in brown spots and redness on the skin. This is mainly the case with citrus peel essences such as lemon and grapefruit

Some essential oils containing furocoumarins make the skin reactive to sunlight. Do not apply to the skin before exposure to the sun. Phototoxic essential oils include Angelica, Bergamot, Celery, Lemon, Tangerine, Bitter Orange, Grapefruit and Small Bitter Grain. These essential oils may cause irreversible brown spots to appear on the skin when exposed to sunlight.

When using a photosensitising essential oil, wait 24 hours before re-exposing yourself to the sun or UV rays.

If you have any doubts, ask a doctor or pharmacist for advice.

    Use plants and essential oils with care. Read the information and precautions carefully before use. Sources: Extracts from the books "Aromatherapia, tout sur les huiles essentielles" and "Huiles essentielles, huiles végétales & hydrolats : Mes indispensables", by Isabelle Pacchioni, published by Aroma Thera.

     

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