Essential oil safety: It is sometimes dangerous to associate ‘natural’ with ‘safe’

Essential Oil Safety

Some rules to follow:

Essential oils should not be taken internally unless prescribed by a qualified practitioner!! It is important to remember that an aromatherapist might not be qualified to prescribe essential oils for internal use.  Make sure you check with them that they are qualified and insured to do this.

If an essential oil should enter the mouth, thorough rinsing of the mouth with water will eventually remove all traces.  If any quantity of essential oil should be swallowed, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible!  It is likely that there will be nothing to be worried about; however, there are one or two oils which have the potential to be very harmful.

An essential oil bought into contact with the skin that causes any kind of burning or painful reaction; rinse with either water (cold) or use a base oil such as olive oil continuously.  In order to avoid reactions, it is ESSENTIAL that you carry out a patch test:

Conducting a patch test: Place oil/blend on the inside of your forearm, and cover (with a plaster/bandaid).  Leave for 24 hours.

There is a risk that you may have an allergic reaction.

Irritation is characterized by a rapid onset redness and pain in the skin exposed to the essential oil.  It can occur with the first exposure.  The skin generally heals without long-term problems, but you probably would not want to use the essential oil that caused the irritation again.

How to read a reaction:

  • Mild redness:  questionable reaction
  • Red and slightly thickened skin: slight reaction
  • Red swollen skin with individual small water blisters:  strong reaction
  • Intense redness and swelling with large blisters that are joining together or spreading reaction: extreme positive reaction
  • Red skin improves once patch is removed: Irritant reaction

If you feel that you have had a reaction to the essential oil blend, wash it off with warm soapy water.  If the reaction persists, contact a doctor for further advice.  If the reaction is severe (red swollen skin with individual small water blisters, or intense redness with swelling with large blisters), please contact your doctor immediately.

If an essential oil is splashed into the eye, the experience is likely to be painful and the oil should be rinsed thoroughly under continuously running water until the pain subsides.  If pain continues or any swelling/redness does not disappear, then medical attention should be sought.

At all times, essential oils should be regarded and stored in the same way you regard medicine.  (Children can and do defeat our best attempts at protecting them from harm, and the consequences can be disastrous!)  ***KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN!!!***

Essential oils are flammable and should be kept away from naked flames (they are safe to use in an oil burner).

Essential oils have the potential to interact with any prescription drugs you may be taking.  Using essential oils when taking prescription drugs may render the drug ineffective, interfere with the action of the drug, or increase any risks or side-effects associated with the drug.  A good aromatherapist (see my post on how to find a quality aromatherapist) should be aware of drug interactions – please declare which prescription drugs you are currently using so that the aromatherapist can tailor a blend to suit you.  You should also tell your doctor if you are considering using essential oils; they may advise you not to (particularly if you are using drug thinning drugs such as warfarin).


If you decide that you want to essential oils during pregnancy, it is important to advise your midwife of the decision prior to use.  There is the potential for devastating outcomes!!  Some essential oils may cause damage to the foetus or abortion, and there are definitely certain oils to avoid.
There is some evidence that essential oils will cross the placenta to the foetus.  This does not necessarily mean that there is a risk of harm; it just means that you should be very careful about your choice of oils.
As a general rule, you should not use essential oils AT ALL during the first trimester.  The risk of miscarriage is highest at this time; you should not increase this risk.
Instead of listing the oils which are NOT safe to use, perhaps it is best to provide information on which oils are safe, and how to use them for the symptoms of pregnancy:

Backache 1 drop each of Lavender, lemon in 10 ml base oil rubbed gently into the back.
Constipation 1 drop each of German chamomile, neroli, sweet orange, tangerine in 30 ml of base oil rubbed gently around the bowel area (move hands in a clockwise motion, as this is the direction the bowels travel).
Fatigue/insomnia 1 drop each of Lavender, sweet orange, neroli in 20 ml; 5 drops of the blend in an oil burner or on a tissue near your bed.
Flatulence 1 drop each of Dill, ginger, spearmint in 15 ml of base oil, massaged into your bowel area (as in constipation).
Heartburn 1 drop each of Ginger, lavender, lemongrass and coriander seed in 20 ml of base oil, rubbed onto your chest.
Leg cramps Geranium (5 drops), lavender (10 drops), cypress (2 drops) in footbath
Morning sickness 4-5 drops each of: 




in either an inhalation or compress placed over your forehead

Oedema (swollen limbs) 4-5 drops each of 


sweet orange




in a hand or footbath

Stretch marks Neroli (5 drops), tangerine (20, drops), lavender (5 drops) in 10ml wheat germ, 10 ml apricot and 50 ml avocado. 


Varicose veins Geranium (15 drops), cypress (5 drops), lemon (10 drops) in 20 ml calendula, 10 ml wheat germ and 30 ml sweet almond

POST NATAL CARE: It is important to remember when using oils in post natal care that essential oils SHOULD NOT BE USED AROUND BABIES UP TO 3 MONTHS OLD.  After this time, minimum amounts of oils such as lavender and chamomile can be used to aid sleep, for example, but keep in mind that over use can cause the opposite affect.

Cracked nipples Almond (40 ml), calendula (5ml) and wheatgerm (5 ml)
Post natal depression Geranium, grapefruit and mandarin


This aspect of essential oil use, is perhaps the least understood by users of essential oils.  Phototoxicity is a severe reaction to sunlight (see picture, right).  Oils which contain furanocoumarins  will cause phototoxicity; oils include taget, bergamot, lime (expressed), rue, lemon (expressed), verbena absolute, cumin, angelica root, orange (bitter, expresed) and grapefruit.  Of course, all of these oils have beneficial therapeutic benefits.  Care should be taken to avoid direct sunlight for 24 hours after use (this includes covering by light fabrics, as sunlight can penetrate these types of material).   In many countries, a furanocoumarin free version of bergamot is available.  This will usually be labelled as FCF Bergamot or furanocoumarin free Bergamot.
In one reported case, a woman received full skin thickness burns after applying a few drops of bergamot to her skin prior to attending a sunbed for 20 minutes.  Prior to using the sunbed, she had been for a swim and a sauna and had had a shower.  By this time the oil had penetrated the skin, and the damage was caused.   The burns developed over the following 48 hours.  Her skin had a ‘roasted’ appearance with large blisters.  She was hospitalised for 7 days, and was unable to return to work until her skin was fully healed.  After two years, the symptoms were clear, however dark marks are still evident.
Essential oils have benefits which I think (from my own reading and experience) are pretty amazing!! However, care must be taken.
Next blog will start looking at the benefits, and how essential oils can be utilised!
“The devil has put a penalty on all things we enjoy in life”
Albert Einstein

All material provided in this blog is for your information only.  Whilst every caution has been taken to ensure the material is accurate and the analysis is critical, due to the nature of essential oils, it is important that you consult your doctor and/or aromatherapist before making any decisions based on the information here. The author will not compensate you in any way if you suffer an inconvenience, damage or side-effect because of  the information provided in this blog.

The Author is not responsible for the content of any comments made by Commenter(s) and reserves the right to block Commenter(s) who have previously published offensive comments, illegal content, or SPAM.

4 thoughts on “Essential oil safety: It is sometimes dangerous to associate ‘natural’ with ‘safe’

    1. Hi there

      I am not sure where you will get this. It is not commonly used in aromatherapy. What country are you in? This might help to guide my search.


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