Please note that the safety lists below refer only to the essential oils referenced in the book Natural Prescriptions. It may not be entirely complete.
There are perhaps thousands of essential oils on the market but just because it is for sale does not necessarily mean it is safe to use. As such, I cannot list all of the essential oils available in the world that are unsafe, so I will focus on the oils contained in the back of this book. For a more extensive guide I recommend “The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy by Salvatore Battaglia”. The contraindications that relate to the essential oils in this book are as follows:
CONSIDERED TOXIC IN AROMATHERAPY Use these oils with caution and take care when handling: Wintergreen cannot be used in a dilution of more than 1% as it may cause methyl salicylate poisoning. Pennyroyal is a potent abortifacient and may be toxic to the liver, use at a max dilution of 1.3%. Cumin is a photosensitiser and dermal irritant thus it is always recommended to use in a dilution of 0.4% or less and should be avoided on damaged skin, eyes, allergic skin conditions and inflammatory parts. Excess Cumin shows anti-fertility, emmenagogue & mild abortifacient properties. Wintergreen, Cumin, Pennyroyal
EPILEPSY Persons with epilepsy should avoid the following essentials oils: Peppermint, Menthol, Rosemary, Sage, Fennel, Wintergreen
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE Persons with high blood pressure should avoid the following essentials oils: Rosemary, Sage. Note that Turpentine can raise blood pressure when combined as a white emulsion.
LOW BLOOD PRESSURE Calming essential oils could be an issue in those prone to low blood pressure: Lavender, May Chang, and other oils used to lower blood pressure Note that Turpentine can lower blood pressure when combined as a yellow emulsion.
ASTHMA Some people with asthma may react to: Eucalyptus
DERMAL IRRITANTS Use with caution on the skin – may be a dermal irritant or skin sensitiser: Cinnamon, Clove, Fennel, Basil, Immortelle (mild), Wintergreen, Oregano, Bay Laurel, Cajeput.
HYPERSENSITIVE, DISEASED OR DAMAGED SKIN These essential oils should be used with caution because they can be irritating and sensitising on hypersensitive damaged or disease skin such as an infant’s skin or in conditions of eczema, dermatitis or psoriasis: Citronella, Clove, Cumin Lemon Scented Eucalyptus, Lemon Myrtle, Lemongrass, May Chang, Lemon Balm, Thyme, Oregano, Bay Laurel, Cajeput, Palmarosa, White Sage
NOT ON MUCOUS MEMBRANE - PERSONS WITH SENSITIVE SKIN May irritate the skin when used in bath or massage. Do not use at any time on someone who is known to have sensitive skin or who is susceptible to skin reactions : Basil, Cumin, Fennel, Lemongrass, Lemon, Lemon Balm, Peppermint, Menthol, Thyme, Copaiba, Turpentine, Bay Laurel, Cajeput, White Sage
PHOTOSENSITIVITY If the following essential oils are used topically do not expose the skin to sunlight or a sunbed for 12 hours minimum: Angelica, Cumin, Grapefruit, Lemon, Lime and St John’s Wort (Hypericum) infused oil Note that turpentine may whiten the skin when used on the face.
AVOID DURING PREGNANCY The following essential oils should be avoided during pregnancy. Those experiencing more sensitive pregnancies should seek professional advice as to essential oils not listed here: Wintergreen, Birch, Basil, Atlas Cedarwood, Clary Sage, Carrot seed, Oregano, Copaiba, Cumin, Cypress, Jasmine, Juniper, Marjoram, Myrrh, Pennyroyal, Cumin, Peppermint, Menthol, Rosemary, Thyme, Rose, Angelica, White sage, Turpentine Note that Jasmine and Clary Sage may be used during the last two weeks of pregnancy and during labour.
AVOID DURING LACTATION Avoid all essential oils considered toxic in Aromatherapy and all essential oils for detoxification. Whatever travels into your body via the skin, olfactory system, lungs etc. can potentially enter the breast milk. You may even wish to err on the side of caution and avoid all essential oils in the “avoid during pregnancy” list above. As you may not yet be aware if your baby has any allergies, it is better to be safe than sorry.
PHARMACEUTICALS If you are taking pharmaceuticals or over the counter drugs always be sure to check your specific medication for any contraindications. For example; do not use wintergreen if you are taking anti coagulants. Unfortunately, there are just too many pharmaceuticals on the market to list everything so you need to ensure you do your research or speak to your doctor or pharmacist first.
INTERNAL USE OF ESSENTIAL OILS NEVER USE ESSENTIAL OILS INTERNALLY! Essential oils are far too powerful to be used internally without a proper medical prescription. The use of essential oils internally dates back to French doctors utilising essential oils as they would pharmaceuticals. In France, doctors who are also qualified aromatherapists will prescribe essential oils for internal use. When they do this the essential oil is diluted into a carrier oil in a capsule and the physician supervises the patient. The reason we do not recommend the use of essential oils internally is not due to the purity of our essential oils. It is due to our ethical opinion that more harm can be done than good when an essential oil is used the wrong way or without proper training. I never use essential oils internally.
FUR BABY WARNING Cats, in particular, are sensitive and get sick quickly with some essential oils as their livers are generally not able to process as well as humans. Keep them out of reach and I would advise not using essential oils on cats at all. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Having said this, I’ve not seen a case of a pet having issues with essential oils. I believe this might become a bigger issue due to the advent of electronic diffusers. Back in the old days (the 90s ) we were all using tealight candle style diffusers. You wouldn’t leave it on 24/7 due to cost, safety and I’m sure many other factors. The advent of the electric diffuser had seen aromatherapy pumped through the house day and night – I’m not sure this is a good thing.
SOME TIPS TO PREVENT YOUR LITTLE FUR BABY BECOMING SICK FROM ESSENTIAL OILS:
Keep your essential oils out of reach of pets (they can be inquisitive, and crafty) Take note of the “to avoid” list below for cats and dogs and don’t allow your pet to come in contact with those essential oils at all. Remember, if you can smell it then it’s in the air and is probably falling on their fur which can then be licked off. Don’t wear aromatherapy jewellery around your pets. Page | 10 Only use essential oils on your pets for a specific purpose not “management of issues and be sure to do your research on the safety of that oil on your pet before use. Allow your pet to leave the room if it wishes when you are diffusing essential oils, even if they are not on the avoid list, as they may be affecting them. Our pets have much more sensitive noses, eyes and lungs. Do not allow your pets to ingest essential oils, full stop! BIRDS Although I have yet to delve into birds and essential oils the following essentials should be avoided in their presence.
ESSENTIAL OILS TO AVOID AROUND PET BIRDS: Tea tree, Citronella, Peppermint, Tree oils such as - Eucalyptus, Arborvitae, Pine Hot oils such as – Cinnamon, Clove, Oregano
CATS ESSENTIAL OILS TO AVOID AROUND CATS: Peppermint, Basil, Citrus oils (including lemon), Lavender, Eucalyptus, Pine, Tea Tree, Cinnamon, Wintergreen, Clove, Thyme, Pennyroyal, Sweet birch and Ylang Ylang. Note this list is not all-inclusive
SYMPTOMS OF ESSENTIAL OIL POISONING IN CATS Cats absorb oils that are directly in contact with their skin. Oils diffused in the air are inhaled and also collect on the fur which results in your cat ingesting them during licking and cleaning. Toxicity can occur very quickly or over a more extended period of exposure. Watch out for these symptoms: • Drooling • Vomiting • Tremors • Difficulty walking, wobbliness • Respiratory distress such as wheezing, fast breathing, panting or coughing If you notice any of these signs take your pet to a veterinary emergency centre. The veterinarian may note a low heart rate, low blood pressure and signs of liver failure.
DOGS ESSENTIAL OILS POSSIBLY HARMFUL FOR DOGS INCLUDE: Tea Tree, Cinnamon, Citrus, Pennyroyal, Pine, Sweet Birch, Wintergreen, Ylang Ylang Note this list is not all-inclusive
SYMPTOMS OF ESSENTIAL OIL POISONING IN DOGS Watch out for these symptoms: • As above for cats plus • Weakness • Low body temperature • Excessive pawing at mouth or face If you notice any of these signs, take your pet to a veterinary emergency centre. The veterinarian may note a low heart rate, low blood pressure, and signs of liver failure.
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