Aromatherapy Safety Precautions

Overexposure to an essential oil, either through the skin or through inhalation, may result in nausea, headache, skin irritation, emotional unease or a “spaced-out” feeling. Getting some fresh air will help overcome these symptoms.

Always Dilute (well almost always…)

Never use undiluted essential oils on the skin. They can cause burning, skin irritation and photosensitivity. (There are a few exceptions such as Lavender and Tea Tree oils, but err on the side of caution). As a general rule, essential oils should be diluted in a carrier oil like coconut oil or almond oil in a 1-3% solution. On  practical level this is 1-3 drops of essential oils per tablespoon of carrier oil (and much less if using on a baby or child).

Vary the essential oils you use.

Using the same facial oil blend for a long period of time is acceptable because it covers a very small part of the body, but daily application of the same blend of oils over your entire body for more than two weeks is not recommended.

It is wise to alternate with a blend of different oils containing different chemical constituents at least every two weeks. Uninterrupted use of some oils exposes your liver and kidneys to chemical constituents that may be harmful over time. Rotating the oils gives your body time to process them and allows each oil to work on different levels in its own unique way.

Oil and the Eyes

Keep all essential oils away from the eyes. If you ever experience skin irritation or accidentally get essential oils in the eyes, dilute with vegetable oil rather than water to eliminate the irritation.

Oral Ingestion

Don’t take essential oils orally for therapeutic purposes. Safe ingestion of oils requires a great deal of training which lies outside the scope of this course.

Allergies and Adverse Reactions

Most people with sensitivities to synthetic fragrances are not sensitive to high-quality essential oils. Also people who are allergic to, say, chamomile tea will not necessarily be allergic to the chamomile essential oil. If you are uncertain about an oil, do a patch test of a 2-percent dilution in the crook of the arm or on the back of the neck at the hairline. Twelve hours is ample time for a reaction to occur. If redness or itching develops, you may want to try a less potent dilution, or choose an appropriate substitute for the irritating oil.

Skin Irritants

The main skin irritants are Cinnamon, Pimento, Clove, Savory, Dwarf Pine, Thyme (except Linalol), Oregano and Wintergreen.


Use extra care when using those essential oils that result in photosensitivity. Citrus oils can irritate skin, and some of them will cause uneven pigmentation of the skin upon exposure to sun lamps or sunlight. This is especially true of Bergamot, which contains bergaptene, a powerful photosensitiser that will cause allergic reactions in some individuals. (Bergaptene-free oil is available.)

Of the citrus oils, Bergamot is the most photosensitising, followed by Cold-Pressed Lime, Bitter Orange, and to some degree, Lemon and Grapefruit. If you are using photosensitising oils on the skin, do so at night or wait at least four hours before exposing your skin to ultraviolet light.

The main photosensitising essential oils are Angelica, Lime, Bergamot, Opoponax, Bitter Orange, Rue, Cumin, Verbena and Lemon.

Mucous Membrane

Use with caution those essential oils that are irritating to mucous membrane (the lining of the digestive, respiratory and genito-urinary tracts) and skin. The main mucous membrane irritants are Oregano, Allspice, Savory, Cinnamon, Spearmint, Clove and Thyme (except Linalol).

Care when Treating Children, Pregnant, Convalescent or Elderly People


Keep all essential oils out of the reach of young children.

When treating children with essential oils use one-third to one-half the adult dosage and select only non-toxic oils. Among the best and safest essential oils for children are Lavender, Tangerine, Mandarin, Neroli, Frankincense, Petitgrain and Chamomile.


Be cautious about using essential oils on people during pregnancy, especially during the first trimester. Even oils that are generally safe during this time may be too stimulating for women who are prone to miscarriage. Because so many oils are best avoided in pregnancy, it is easier to list the safe ones: gentle floral oils such as rose, Neroli, Lavender, Ylang-Ylang, Chamomile and Jasmine, as well as the citruses, Geranium, Sandalwood, Spearmint and Frankincense.

Old and Infirm

Use essential oils cautiously when treating the elderly, people who are convalescing or have serious health problems such as asthma, epilepsy or heart disease.

Use Pure Oils – and be careful what oils you use…

Use only pure essential oils from plants and sold by a reputable source. Not all oils are usable—some plant oils are toxic and have a very limited use. For the purposes of this course, oils from these plants should generally be avoided: Inula (Inula Graveolens); Khella (Ammi Visnaga); Mugwort (Artemesia Vulgaris); Pennyroyal (Mentha Pelugium); Sassafras (Sassafras Albidum);Thuja (Thuja Occidentalis); Wintergreen (Gaultheria Procumbens).

Don’t Get Ahead of Your Abilities…

Some oils are powerful but need to be used with care as they can be dangerous or toxic in certain circumstances. We recommend that the following powerful oils are not used by novice aromatherapists: Ajowan (Ptychotis Ajowan, Carum Ajowan), Boldo (Peumus Boldus), Buchu (Barosma Betulina), Calamus (Acorus Calamus), Cascarilla (Croton Eluteria), Chervil (Anthriscus Cerefolium), Camphor, (brown and yellow) (Cinnamomun camphora), Deer Tongue (Carphephorus Odoratissimus), Horseradish (Cochlearia Armoracia, Armoracia Rusticana), Jaborandi (Pilocarpus Jaborandi), Mustard (Brassica Nigra), Narcissus (Narcissus Poeticus), Nutmeg (Myristica Fragrans), Parsley (Petroselinum Sativum, Carum sativum), Rue (Ruta Graveolens), Santolina (Santolina Chamaecyparissus), Spanish Broom (Spartium Junceum), Tansy (Tanacetum Vulgare), Tonka (Dipteryx Odorata), Turmeric (Curcuma Longa), Wormseed (Chenopodium Ambrosioides, C. anthelminticum), Wormwood (Artemisia Absinthium).


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