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Safe Use of Aromatherapy Products



Some of the most beneficial oils can prove harmful under certain conditions.

Concentrated oils are very strong, and just because a product is natural doesn't mean that it's harmless. Inappropriate use can often lead to adverse and damaging side effects.

This is a partial list of medical conditions that warrant avoiding some oils. If you are aware of other contraindications that we've omitted, please email us.



These conditions are said to be sensitive to certain oils.
Following the list is a comment by a respected expert on those particular oils.



If you are pregnant avoid: Basil, Cedarwood, Clary Sage, Coriander, Hyssop, Jasmine, Juniper, Marjoram. Oregano, Myrrh, Peppermint (which should also be avoided while nursing), Rockrose, Rosemary, Sage and Thyme.

Note: the above oils are listed as contraindicated during pregnancy by most Aromatherapy authors. However, Martin Watt, the source that I respect the most regarding the safety of aromatic materials used in aromatherapy has this to say: "There are NO essential oils that used externally are proven as harmful to a developing foetus. The vast majority of oils you have listed are common food additives. This is all stuff from the aromatherapy novel writers."



If you suffer from a seizure disorder it's best to avoid Basil, Fennel, Hyssop, Rosemary and Sage.

To which Martin Watt states: "There is not a shred of evidence that the oils you mention have any adverse effect in epileptics and again most are common food additives."



If you have Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) avoid Geranium.



If you have High Blood Pressure avoid Pine, Rosemary, Sage and Thyme.

And Martin replies "There is no evidence that the stated essential oils of themselves can increase blood pressure. Of course if someone does not like their smell that might marginally increase it, but probably not.."



Those with kidney problems should approach Juniper, Sandalwood and Coriander with caution.

"No evidence and unlikely if the oils are only used externally," says Martin


  General Safety Information  

The following oils can cause severe sun damage (photosensitivity.):
Bergamot, expressed Lime and Rue (very strong), Cumin, Mandarine, Lemon, Tangerine, Orange, Verbena (moderate), Angelica, Caraway, Cassia,  Cinnamon Bark, Grapefruit, Honeysuckle absolute, Laurel Leaf Abs., Patchouli (mild), Virginia Cedarwood, Dill weed, and Petitgrain (very mild.)

Consider any cold pressed citrus oil a potential photosensitizer.  Steam distilled citrus oils, on the other hand, do not carry this risk. St. John's Wort CO2 and infused oil are also photosensitizers.



Clary should not be used when consuming alcohol, because it can greatly increase its effects.

Marjoram and Chamomile can cause drowsiness.



If you are on anti-coagulant therapy (blood thinners) avoid oils high in Eugenol (clove, cinnamon leaf and bay laural (pimenta racemosa).



NOTE, some oils should not be used by anyone except a clinically trained aromatherapist. Among them are Birch, Sage, Thuja, and  Wintergreen.


oils:  Essential Oils with a proven or suspected history of causing sensitization (allergies):
  Aniseed, Bay, Benzoin (indeed, any Styrax oil), Balsam of Peru (VERY HAZARDOUS), Calamus, Cardamon (suspect), Cassia, Cinnamon Bark & Leaf, Citronella, Clary Sage (suspect), Costus, Dill Seed (not Weed), Fennel, Bitter,  Fig Leaf Absolute, Galbanum Resin (cross sensitizing with Peru Balsam),Hyacinth abs. (suspect), Jasmine Abs. Junipers (suspect)  Laurel (bay laurel), Lemon (suspect), Litsea Cubeba (suspect) Lovage (suspect), Mimosa Abs., Oakmoss Concrete (suspect), Orange (suspect),  Pines (suspect) Rose Abs. (if used in high concentrations.) Spearmint, Tolu (balsam, VERY STRONG?)  Tagetes, Tolu Balsam, Turpentine,Lemon Verbena (The IFRA strongly advises against the use of Verbena oil in cosmetics or perfume products.)Ylang ylang (in very high concentrations.)



Some toiletries makers recommend the use of Benzoin oil or resin as a preservative.
This practice is of enough concern that a special page has been devoted to the possible results of its use.



Carcinogenic oils:  Calamus (European and Asian), Sassafras.
(Please note: Sassafras essential oil is banned for use in cosmetics and toiletries in all of Europe.)



Others have such  potentially dangerous effects as to make them too risky to experiment with. The oils on my personal 'to be avoided at all costs' list are: Bitter Almond, Calamus (grown in Europe or Asia, the Canadian/USA grown is safer) Yellow Camphor, Horseradish, Mugwort, Mustard, Rue, Sassafras, Southernwood, Tansy (other than Annual Tansy),  and Wormwood.  I won't have any of these in my house.



Unsafe METHODS of use: There is one method of using the oils (promoted by a certain MLM that flies in the face of all established safety guidelines for safe and effective use of these powerful essences. For a white paper on the risks of what is commonly called "Rain Drop Therapy" please click here.



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© Sarah Sandusky 2008