I discovered the world of essential oils when I was looking for a cure to get rid of a patch of eczema on my hand that seemed to get bigger and itchier for what seemed like forever. Although I did finally get rid of the eczema, it was not due to any magical cure made with essential oils. Believe me, it was not for lack of trying. You can read about what worked for me here.
But I digress. I do love essential oils and have used them for many things with much success. However, now that I have grandchildren, I am much more cautious on how I use these oils and recognize that safety is even more important. It gets harder to know what is safe and what isn’t, particularly when dealing with children, so I practice caution and use common sense. I have 3 rules that I follow when using essential oils, not just for my grandchildren (ages 15 months to 9 years old), but as general good practice:
Never ingest essential oils
This is a hot topic amongst essential oil users and often inspires spirited debate, but since I won’t risk it for myself, why would I risk it for my grandchildren? Essential oils may be “natural” since they are from plants, but that doesn’t mean they are safe to eat. Nature gives and takes and deserves our respect, so although there are lots of plants that are natural and delicious, many are deadly when eaten. See here and here. Here’s the Canadian Federation of Aromatherapists’ (CFA) stance on ingesting essential oils: “The CFA does not recommend nor condone the ingestion of any essential oil in any manner.”
Health Canada has standards that require statements like: “Not for oral use“, “Avoid contact with eyes and mucous membranes” on essential oils bottles purchased in Canada. Some companies go even further and add and “Keep out of reach of children“. So aside from the fact that there hasn’t been enough research on the safety of ingesting essential oils, we do know that oil and water don’t mix and by swallowing them, you run the risk of burning your digestive tract with undissolved essential oil. Imagine the potential damage to a child’s delicate digestive tract? Until more research is done on how essential oils are stored in our body when ingested or the effects on our digestive tracts, I won’t risk ingesting essential oils myself nor will I advocate it for anyone else. I will put lemon slices and fresh mint leaves in my water instead!
Never use essential oils undiluted (straight out of the bottle)
Essential oils are very concentrated oils and should be treated with respect, especially when it comes to children. The CFA puts it this way: “Dilution of essential oils helps to reduce the potential for adverse reactions, allergies, sensitization, and photo-toxicity as well as to avoid any potential systemic toxicity or negative interactions.”
Robert Tisserand is a world renowned aromatherapy expert and explains it this way: “Essential oil dilution is important for two safety reasons. One, to avoid skin reactions: irritation, sensitization and phototoxicity. Two, to avoid systemic toxicity, such as fetotoxicity, hepatotoxicity, carcinogenicity and neurotoxicity. Adverse skin reactions are obvious when they happen, but systemic toxicities may not be. Skin reactions are totally dilution-dependent, and safety guidelines exist to minimize risk. This does not mean of course that every time a person uses an undiluted oil there will be an adverse reaction. Many times there won’t. But more is not always better, and minimizing risk is generally a good idea. A phototoxic reaction for example, can be very, very nasty.”
You can find out more about what can go wrong and why in his book Essential Oil Safety (2nd edition)
I like to use DILUTING ESSENTIAL OILS SAFELY – SAFE DILUTION GUIDELINES FOR ALL AGES as a reference when I dilute oils for my creations and blends. There is a lot of other information on this site as well!
Don’t believe everything you read or hear….do your own research!
When you look around the internet, especial Pinterest, there are lots of cures out there to heal all kinds of childhood ailments from infant colic to growing pains. These “cures” sound almost too good to be true. Essential oils are wonderful in many ways, but cures they are not….which I found out the hard way when I was trying to find something to treat my eczema. My own research into essential oils has made me cautious when I use them in my home made creations, particularly with the grand-kids. I would rather they be seen by their doctors first for any ailments they may have and be treated by professionals than take chances with their health or making their problem worse. I am not a medical professional nor do I pretend to know how to cure disease, but I do my research to see what alternatives are out there.
That said, I take particular issue with “sellers” or “consultants” from certain companies who proclaim their oils treat or cure certain illnesses or diseases in blog posts, Pinterest pins, home parties and trade shows. How are they qualified to do so? What training do they have? When they convince unsuspecting moms to try their “cures”, I cringe. Our little ones are so precious and deserve better. My advice? Do your own research rather than rely on hearsay or what you read somewhere (this blog included). I have listed links below this post for further reading. You can also check my resource page where I have listed even more links that I have discovered in my own essential oil journey.
Essential oils have their place in our society and should be treated with respect for their potential benefits. However, users need to do their research and understand what works for one person, may not for another. Using these oils with children deserves special caution. I don’t pretend to be a medical professional and the points in this post are just my opinion based on my own experiences using essential oils and meant to be informational. Everyone should do their own research before they start using essential oils and then be comfortable that their choices are right for them. Children need a grownup to advocate for them and make the right decisions to keep them safe. Using essential oils does not replace getting conventional medical treatment.
If you want to know more about my own essential oil journey, I talk more about this in my series “Essential oils for Beginners”
More reading to continue your research…….
SAFE ESSENTIAL OILS FOR BABIES AND CHILDREN – Heather Dessinger
DIFFUSING ESSENTIAL OILS AROUND BABIES AND TODDLERS – FAMILY EDVENTURES
ARE ESSENTIAL OILS SAFE FOR BABIES AND CHILDREN? – FAMILY EDVENTURES
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE USING ESSENTIAL OILS ON KIDS – Krysty Woudstra (Today’s Parent)
KID-FRIENDLY PRODUCTS: ESSENTIAL OILS & CARRIER OILS – NEW DIRECTIONS AROMATICS
ESSENTIALS OILS FOR KIDS: WHAT’S SAFE, WHAT’S NOT – PLANT THERAPY
ESSENTIAL OIL USE IN PEDIATRICS: SAFE AND EFFECTIVE? – Edward A. Bell, PharmD, BCPS
ARE ESSENTIAL OILS FOR KIDS? – Theresa Carr
HOW TO USE ESSENTIAL OILS SAFELY – Tisserand Institute
ESSENTIAL OIL SAFETY – AromaWeb
HOW ESSENTIAL OILS ENTER THE BODY – Lea Morgan, Clinical Aromatherapist