Essential oil use is becoming more common in the home. I bet you know at least two friends who swear by them. The problem is, with them becoming so mainstream, more people are misusing them. It makes me cringe when I think about all the common mistakes of essential oil use I see happening by very smart people.
The Natural=Safe Misconception
One of the biggest causes for mistakes of essential oil use is thinking because they are natural they are 100% safe. I think because people use common herbs in their homes they think essential oils should be the same. That couldn’t be further from the truth!
To understand why you should be more responsible in your essential oil use, you have to understand what they are.
What Are Essential Oils?
According to one of my favorite teachers of aromatherapy, Andrea Butje, ” Essential oils are highly aromatic substances found in specialized cells or glands of certain plants”.
It takes pounds and pounds of plant material just to make a small amount of oil. Essential oils are HIGHLY concentrated plant essences. And because of that, they are extremely dangerous when misused. Also, for that very reason, they can be an amazing tool for health when used safely.
Think of it this way, would you eat 50 pounds of tea leaves because you want the benefits of that specific blend of tea? Hell no you wouldn’t! But that’s exactly what some people are suggesting you do when they tell you to add something like lemon essential oil to your water.
How Can I Safely Use Essential Oils?
It really does come down to where you get your information and knowledge from. I mean really, would you allow your doctor to prescribe you a powerful medication if he told you the only training he had received on the medication was from the delivery guy who brought it to his office? No, you wouldn’t. So why do you trust Karen, your kids’ friend’s mom, to tell you it’s okay to ingest essential oils?!? Especially when the only training she has had in safe essential oil use is from her upline in the MLM (Multi-Level Marketing) company she started working for a month ago?!?!
My best advice to you is to do your own research. One of the best courses I’ve taken on the basics of essential oils was from the Aromahead Institute. They Have a bunch of great free courses. Joining their full course is quite expensive. If you’re looking for a less expensive course that will help you get a great foundation for learning about how to safely use essential oils Simply Earth has an amazing one!
Find out the background of anyone giving you essential oil advice. Are they certified aromatherapists? Have they had any training other than how to sell essential oils? Are they backing up their knowledge with scientific studies? What are their overall goals when it comes to giving you advice on essential oils? Do they want to sell you oils, or are they more interested in giving you knowledge? These questions will usually help you weed out the bad apples.
You can also check out this very well researched article about the top essential oils companies: https://www.consumersadvocate.org/essential-oils
What Are the Most Common Mistakes of Essential Oil Use?
Here is a list of the most common mistakes I found, why they are dangerous, and how to avoid them:
Ingesting Essential Oils
This is the big one. There is so much contradictory info out there about whether or not you should be ingesting essential oils. My position on this is to err on the side of caution. Another misleading piece of advice I have heard is that “you can ingest essential oils if they are quality 100% pure therapy grade”. First off, therapy grade is not a quality standard it is actually a marketing term created by one of the big MLM companies. It means absolutely nothing. And secondly, it is the chemical composition of the plant that causes esophageal and liver damage, not the quality of the oil. As an example: acid will still burn you, it doesn’t matter the quality.
- Never ingest essential oils unless under the guidance of a doctor who is also trained in essential oil use. Follow their instructions to a tee!
- If you have been directed by a doctor who is trained in EOs make sure you are only using quality, safe, organic essential oil. This shouldn’t be an issue because a good physician will only recommend a quality oil that can be consumed.
- Don’t cook with essential oils. What the heck?!? Just use fresh herbs you dingus. Remember the video above? How many plants were used to make that oregano EO you’re about to dump in your family’s spaghetti sauce?
- Don’t add EOs to your beverages! Oil and water don’t mix (just use a real lemon in your water). Those drops do not mix they attach to your esophagus and will cause pitting and corrosion. There are plenty of flavor extracts that are safe to use in cooking. (I just got a peppermint one from my local co-op)
- One of the few safe ways to ingest essential oils is in a gel caplet. Once again I would only advise this under the direction of a doctor.
Using Essential Oils Neat or Without a Carrier
You should always test EOs to see if you might have a reaction before using them regularly on your skin. Never use oil ‘neat’ or without a carrier. You can dilute the oil and test it on a small area of your skin. Always use the proper dilution rates for your recipes and the age of the person you are using them on. This is a great post about what to do if you have an allergic reaction to essential oils.
Many citrus essential oils contain furocoumarins, coumarins, and linalol/linalool which can cause photosensitivity. If you put them on your skin and are exposed to the sun they can literally burn you. This is why it is so important to follow aromatherapy guidelines from a reputable source.
I also recommend using only certified aromatherapist created recipes for anything you create with essential oils.
Mistakes of Essential Oil Use Around Pets
There are many essential oils you should NEVER use on or around pets. This article has some great tips and lists the oils you should not use around cats or dogs. I also advise if you diffuse pet safe oils while pets are around, do it in a well-ventilated area.
Some Essential Oils You Shouldn’t Use Around Pets
These are just a few of the more common oils that are not safe for either dogs or cats:
- Citrus (d-limonene)
- Tea Tree
- Sweet Birch
- Ylang ylang
Avoid Mistakes of Essential Oil Use During Pregnancy or Nursing
It goes without saying when we women are pregnant or nursing we want the best for ourselves and our children. And often we do our best to avoid risky behaviors. That is why we should also be using essential oils safely during this most precious time. This article by Mom Loves Best has a ton of great info about the safe use of tea tree oil during pregnancy. This information can apply to most essential oils.
Here is a list of essential oils you should avoid during pregnancy:
- Clary sage
- Sweet marjoram
I would avoid essential oil use until after you are no longer nursing as well. The oil is absorbed through your skin and can be passed to the child through your milk.
Not Observing Safe Essential Oil Use on Children or Health Compromised People
I would never recommend using essential oils on children under the age of 2. Children’s livers are still developing and are highly sensitive and are more susceptible to the potential toxicity of essential oils. Their skin is thinner and they also have weaker immune systems. You should ALWAYS check with a trained professional before using essential oils on children of any age. These precautions should be exercised for older people as well for the same reasons.
Diffusing Essential Oils Incorrectly
- You should not be using your diffuser for hours at a time. A good practice is to diffuse for no more than an hour and turn it off for an equal amount of time.
- Use the same safety tips with your oils as I have stated above. Don’t use inappropriate oils around kids or pets.
- Try to diffuse in a well-ventilated area.
- Clean your diffuser regularly. (I know some of us forget to do this)
What Are the Best Essential Oil Companies?
This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase using this link. Please see my disclosure for more details.
I find the best practice for purchasing safe essential oils is to completely avoid the top 2 MLM brands (multi-level marketing). These companies are extremely dubious in their sales practices and business models. They do not hold their distributors to a high standard of sales practices. And their distributors are not required to get any education in essential oil use before they begin selling to the public. As a result, many distributors have been known to make false and misleading claims. There have also been horror stories of them diagnosing people and treating them.
Companies that have contradictory claims and advice on their websites should be avoided at all costs. Both of the top 2 MLM companies recommend ingestion of essential oils and then immediately below that tell you to avoid using EOs near your eyes, ears, or sensitive areas. (So the throat and stomach is not a sensitive area?) WTF?!?
Best and Safest Way to Purchase Essential Oils
I recommend purchasing high-quality essential oils from your local co-op. There is usually someone very knowledgeable there to help you. Buying from a reputable online company is also a great way to purchase essential oils. Avoid purchasing from Amazon. Below are some great essential oil companies that sell oils for purchase online at a very reasonable price (they don’t have to pay distributors). All of the companies I list below do GCMS testing as well.
Note: Some essential oil companies might not sell organic oils, that does not necessarily mean that the oils are not being produced organically. It is expensive to get organic certification. And some companies work very closely with their farms to ensure they are working with farms that do not use pesticides or other harmful growing processes. You can always talk to the seller to see what their practices of choosing suppliers are.
- Simply Earth: Ya’ll knew I was going to have them on here. I am an affiliate for Simply Earth. And the reason is that they have quality 100% pure essential oils at a very reasonable price. They have third-party tested oils with GCMS reports on their website. And they are run by certified aromatherapists. So you know you are getting safe advice from them on the use of their oils. The main reason I choose to get my oils from them is because of their cool recipe boxes which allow you to build your library of oils for a very reasonable price.
- Plant Therapy: Before I found Simply Earth I used Plant Therapy. They have amazing quality oils, care about the safety of their customers, and have certified aromatherapists on staff.
- Aura Cacia: This is the brand I was buying from my local Co-Op when I didn’t want to wait for an online order. They have great quality oils, very reasonably priced, and as you can see they also have the safety of their customers as their top priority.
It’s Worthwhile to Learn How to Use Essential Oils Safely
I wrote this not to scare or make you nervous about using essential oils. But rather to empower you with knowledge and the ability to find reliable information and oils so you too can experience their benefits. With this knowledge, you can easily avoid the common mistakes of essential oil use.
Many of us homemakers want to reduce or eliminate the use of toxic chemicals in our homes. And using essential oils to replace conventional cleaners and beauty products is a great way to do that. But, just as you are eliminating toxic chemicals for safety reasons you should be using essential oils safely as well.
Any statements or claims about the possible health benefits conferred by any foods or supplements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and are not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease. I am not a doctor and only am relating my personal experiences. Please consult your physician before using essential oils.