Are Essential Oils Safe to Use?

(Last Updated On: November 6, 2019)

Are essential oils safe to take? Could this be the question of the century? Many people are taking essential oils for many different health reasons. They claim that the essential oils are helping them but what about the ones that say that essential oils are not safe to use. It could be that essential oils are overrated but they most likely safe to use. They contain so many powerful properties that will help to improve your health and to keep your body healthy.

It has been recorded that essential oils may even prevent deadly diseases and conditions and even help to cure these deadly diseases and health conditions. Some essential oils are even used to help prevent skin conditions such as eczema, acne, and other common skin conditions. Aromatherapy is the practice of using essential oils in the bath and they help to relax the muscles and joints while you soak in the bathtub. It could be that the aroma from the essential oils can clear the sinuses and remove the congestion. You can always read more here.

So there are many healthy uses for essential oils and there has been researched to prove that essential oils can be beneficial for the human body. They can be expensive to purchase and they can go quite quickly because the bottles can be quite small the oils come in. But on the other hand, essential oils can cause harmful effects to the skin and the body.

Essential Oils Can Be Unsafe To Use

Conversely, essential oils can be very harmful to the body and the skin if they are used or abused by a person. Essential oils netted a profit of 55 million in 2015 but the profits skyrocketed to 133 million in 2016. The oils more than doubled in sales in 2016. People have gone crazy over these “natural” oils. The bottom line is that essential oils are not safe to use if they are used in excess and applied wrong to the skin.

There was a customer who lived in Canada who fell for a sales pitch by an essential oil person. The wellness advocate said that you could ingest essential oils safely and that they could be used to cure autism, treat mood swings and cure everything. The client is a motivational speaker/writer who bought the oils. The customer started using essential oils every day. She lathered her skin with Lavender oil said to relax the body and remove stress. She broke out in a mild rash on her arms. but the salesman said it was the body detoxifying from the essential oils.

She was told to rub frankincense on the rash on the arms–she did. A few months down the road she “raised welts began to creep across her abdomen and up the back of her neck. Ultimately, she landed in the emergency room, eyes swollen, oozing blisters across her face, where doctors swiftly put her on steroids. Her diagnosis: A severe toxic reaction to essential oils.”

Note: A severe Toxic reaction to essential oils. It got to the point four years later–“Four years later, I still struggle,”– says the Hakula and now she is suing the company who made the essential oils. She has to carefully select her personal care products now making sure none of them contain essential oils. If she is around people who are wearing oils she will break out in hives. Her face is permanently scarred from using essential oils on it.

In some images on the website, the client’s face was shown over a 3 day period and the facial skin became progressively worse. It started with a burning and red inflammation on her skin. Then it turned into scarring and there were holes in her skin. Finally, the skin looked like it had craters in it and it looked like the skin was permanently scarred from being burned. Unfortunately, more and more people are showing up with chemical burns, allergic reactions, respiratory ailments from using the oils.

A medical doctor from California says there is research to support their credible benefits from using certain oils. Notice she said certain benefits from using certain oils and she adds you cannot use all the oils available and you cannot use them indiscriminately. You must choose wisely in which oils you use. When people start using oils as they please then they will always get into trouble.

Are Essential Oils Safe to Use

On the Bright Side

It is recorded that as far back as 1000 A.D., healers use to use primitive steam presses to steam the oil extracts out of the plants. Modern-day practitioners will rub oil-infused lotions into the skin where the oils are absorbed into the bloodstream. But is this a safe practice? They will also diffuse them into the air where people will breathe them in. They will stimulate the nervous system after they bind to the smell receptors. A Ph.D. says that the above procedure is used for patients. This doctor has been training nurses on how to use them for decades. But he is a medical professional and he is supposed to know what he is doing.

Research on essential oils is scarce but the medical professional is finding out more and more about the oils. Scientists have been trying essential oils in controlled human trials. The trials have shown that essential oils can be used for certain purposes. They are used for bedsores, like pain and stress relief and they are used to prevent patients from becoming nauseous after surgery. Along these lines, a clinical study involving 300 patients found that who breathed a mixture of ginger, spearmint, peppermint, and cardamom had much less nausea after surgery.

It also has been discovered that lavender can help reduce the stress hormone cortisol and that breathing lemongrass before a stressful event will reduce anxiety. Other benefits: “Studies also show that tea tree and oregano oils can fight microbes, making them popular treatments for dandruff and toe fungus. Others can be used as an anti-inflammatory.”

The Dark Side

The problem comes in with taking essential oils when the manufactures overstep their bounds and take on roles as medical professionals. They tout that essential oils can cure anything and they teach consumers to use them incorrectly. People start using the oils for the wrong reasons and they use them for purposes the oils were not designed to be used for.

Since 2014, the FDA has sent warning letters to oil manufacturers warning the companies not to make unsubstantiated claims that its oils will cure everything from herpes to EBOLA. As of now, no oil can cure herpes or Ebola. Companies who have had its drugs pass the rigorous tests the FDA has set up are the only companies who can make those types of claims about its drugs. As far as it is known no essential oil company has had its oils pass the FDA approval process. This means the companies are falsely advertising the benefits of their essential oils. It means they are downright lying about how good its oils are.

Back to the misinformed home users who use the essential oils in harmful ways. These users are not under the guidance of medical professionals and they just randomly follow the instructions of the manufacturer’s on how to use the oil.

One group of concerned aromatherapists began to collect injury reports of people who used essential oils in the wrong ways. The group works at the Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy and since 2013, has collected some eye-opening information. More than 268 cases have reported to have mild rashes and anaphylactic shock to internal chemical burns from using oils to treat vaginal yeast infections. In 2017, 55 people–including 5 children and 2 pregnant women–reported serious reactions. Why children and pregnant women were using essential oils is alarming.

The institute thinks that less than 10% of serious reactions to essential oils are reported. So, how many serious or life-threatening cases are left unreported and unchecked.

This is pathetic but online chat rooms buzzing with accounts of horror stories from people who have used essential oils wrongfully and suffered the consequences. There have been videos documenting some of these severe reactions to essential oils as well. There is a Facebook group called “The Unspoken Truth About Essential Oils”, boasts a membership of 4,000.

One medical professional says, “Essential oils, properly used, are safe and effective for many routine issues, but I continue to hear of bad, even dangerous, reactions from people who are grossly misusing them,” says Power. “People are being hurt by following some of the inappropriate advice that’s being given out there.” The “inappropriate advice” often comes from manufacturer’s representatives who have been poorly trained by their companies.

The reps are fed erroneous information about the essential oils by the companies and they go out into the community and pitch the essential oils to the public. Along with the “sales pitch” comes the “convincing but wrong information about how essential oils can cure everything under the sun. Customers buy into the program and start using the essential oils in unsafe ways and they suffer the consequences. Earlier in the article, we discussed the lady from Canada who bought the line from the sales rep about all the benefits that essential oils would provide.

She used the oils for the wrong purposes and she has suffered some physical and emotional consequences. She is suing the company who sold her the oils. Her face is permanently scarred and she cannot even be in the same room as people who have used essential oils. The safety of essential oils has been severely compromised by sales reps who have been poorly trained or not trained at all. They sell the essential oils and provide their customers with very damaging information about the benefits of essential oils.

Don’t Do This

The essential oils will tell you to liberally swallow the essential oils because they are safe for the body. There can be several serious reactions to swallowing essential oils. The body absorbs more of the essential oils which increases the chances of it interacting with medications the person may already have in their system. Or it could cause an allergic or toxic reaction. It may cause a fatal reaction with other medications it has not been said that it could. But could that possibility exist? Even prolonged exposure to a few drops a day in a water bottle will cause complications. This exposure can lead to headaches and fatigue. If people insist on taking larger amounts on a daily basis then they could lead to more severe health problems.

If a person takes larger amounts of essential oils such as tea tree oil, wintergreen, and camphor can lead to throat swelling, vomiting, racing heart, and seizures. Seizures could lead to death if they are severe enough. They may lead to permanent brain damage if they are serious enough. The above reactions were reported by the Tennessee Poison Center and between 2011-2015 toxic exposures to essential oils doubled. These incidents being reported by a poison center. So, essential oils are considered to be poisons. Essential oils labeled as poisons is something to really consider before using them in unsafe ways and for prolonged periods of time. We need to be so careful when we use essential oils. They are not the wonder drugs they have been touted to be.

Are Essential Oils Safe to Use

Eucalyptus and peppermint contain phenol so if they are inhaled they can cause respiratory tract irritation. Especially in babies but why would anyone in their right mind make a baby inhale essential oils. Babies have developing organs and lungs and could have them inhale essential oils damage their lungs for the rest of their natural lives?

Recent research by scientists at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences found that essential oils such as lavender and tea tree oils contain estrogen-like and estrogen inhibiting properties. If these essential oils are overused they could cause abnormal breast growth in young boys. This may be a stretch because no solid numbers or clinical facts were given to support these assertions. Again, why would anyone give a young boy too much of these two kinds of essential oils? A lot of these abuses can be stopped by parents and people using some common sense.

Teens and children should not even use essential oils let alone babies. “I would certainly advise teens and children not to use essential oils,” says Jessica Krant, MD, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York City.

Warning: Pregnant women should not use essential oils because they may enter the placenta and negatively affect unborn babies. If pregnant women swallow some rare oils–including pennyroyal–can lead to miscarriages. We are talking of babies potentially dyeing form their mothers swallowing rare essential oils. This is serious that rare essential oils have the potential to kill unborn babies. It is rightly recommended that pregnant women just stay completely stay away from using essential oils. Even if they use essential oils under the guidance of their doctors–who know what they are doing–they are still better off to just stay away from using any kind of essential oils. The potential for the risk of hurting the unborn baby is just too great a chance to take. Just think a pregnant mother could have a miscarriage if they swallow certain essential oils. Of course, the manufacturers would heartily tell the pregnant mother to go ahead and swallow these rare essential oils.

Many citrus oils contain furocoumarins, which can cause chemical burns if exposed to the sun’s UV rays. Rachel Armstrong, a 44-year-old mother found out this fact the hard way. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska, and rubbed grapefruit oil on her feet for weeks to suppress her appetite and spiked her water and laundry detergent with lemon oil. She developed a severe sensitivity to the sun that left her skin with welts and blisters after being exposed to the sun for a few minutes. What would have happened if she was exposed to the sun for hours? She admits she used too much of these essential oils. Rachel, observes that even though they are natural products they can cause real damage and a lot of people just are not aware of this reality.

Bailey–the dermatologist from California–has seen rashes on eyelids from essential oils emitted by diffusers and around mouths from peppermint essential oil used as a mouthwash.

Conclusion:

It is this author’s contention that essential oils are generally not safe to use because people do not know how to use them properly. They use them indiscriminately and use them for the wrong reasons. This is because the essential oil manufacturers push their essential oils as wonder oils that can do everything from curing autism to soothing the nerves. Sales representatives from these companies are improperly trained and they tell customers erroneously that essential oils are the cure-all wonder oils when they are unsafe to use.

They can indeed be beneficial if used under the supervision of a medical professional but even in these circumstances, only limited essential oils should be used. And they should be used on a limited basis.

Written by Irina Radosevic MD
Irina graduated from the University of Belgrade, School of Medicine as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and spent over 3 years working in the Clinical Hospital Center Zvezdara, in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She also undertook a postgraduate in Cardiology from the same University and had previously worked for over a year as a Physician and Nutritionist Dietitian for the Fitness club Green Zone. She eventually left her chaotic but fulfilling job in the ER to pursue her passion of writing, travelling and mountain climbing which has included writing a first aid course for the alpine club of Belgrade. Irina currently works as a VA for PintMedia focusing on medical and travel writing. Feel free to connect with Irina on LinkedIn and FaceBook. Her CV can be seen here.