Basic Guidelines for Safe Use

Guidelines are important to follow when using essential oils, especially if you are unfamiliar with the oils and their benefits. Many guidelines are listed below and are elaborated on throughout the chapter. However, no list of do’s and don’ts can ever replace common sense. It is foolish to dive headlong into a pond when you do not know the depth of the water. The same is true when using essential oils. Start gradually and patiently find what works best for you and your family members.

Storage

1. Always keep a bottle of a pure vegetable oil (e.g., V-6 Vegetable Oil Complex, olive oil, almond oil, coconut oil, or more fragrant massage oils such as Sensation, Relaxation, Ortho Ease, or Ortho Sport) handy when using essential oils. Vegetable oils will dilute essential oils if the essential oils cause discomfort or skin irritation.

2. Keep bottles of essential oils tightly closed and store them in a cool location away from light. If stored properly, essential oils will maintain their potency for many years.

3. Keep essential oils out of reach of children. Treat the oils as you would any product for therapeutic use. Children love the oils and will often go through an entire bottle in a very short time. They want to give massages and do the same things they see you do.

Usage

4. Essential oils rich in menthol (such as Peppermint) should not be used on the throat or neck area of children under 18 months of age.


5. Angelica, Bergamot, Grapefruit, Lemon, Orange, Tangerine, and other citrus oils are photosensitive and may cause a rash or dark pigmentation on skin exposed to direct sunlight or UV rays within 1–2 days after application.


6. Keep essential oils away from the eye area and never put them directly into ears. Do not handle contact lenses or rub eyes with essential oils on your fingers. Even in minute amounts, many essential oils may damage contacts and will irritate eyes.

7. Pregnant women should consult a healthcare professional when starting any type of health program. Oils are safe to use, but one needs to use common sense. Follow the directions and dilute with V-6 Vegetable Oil Complex until you become familiar with the oils you are using.


Many pregnant women have said that they feel a very positive response from the unborn child when the oils are applied on the skin, but that is each woman’s individual experience.


8. Epileptics and those with high blood pressure should consult their healthcare professional before using essential oils. Use extra caution with high ketone oils such as Basil, Rosemary, Sage, and Tansy oils.


9. People with allergies should test a small amount of oil on an area of sensitive skin, such as the inside of the upper arm, for 30 minutes before applying the oil on other areas of the body.

10. The bottoms of feet are safe locations to apply essential oils topically.


11. Direct inhalation of essential oils can be a deep and intensive application method, particularly for respiratory congestion and illness. However, this method should not be used more than 10–15 times throughout the day without consulting a health professional. Also, inhalation of essential oils is NOT recommended for those with asthmatic conditions.

12. Before taking GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) essential oils internally, test your reactions by diluting 1 drop of essential oil in 1 teaspoon of an oil-soluble liquid like Blue Agave, Yacon Syrup, olive oil, coconut oil, or rice milk. If you intend to consume more than a few drops of diluted essential oil per day, we recommend first consulting a health professional.

13. Be aware that reactions to essential oils, both topically and orally, can be delayed as long as 2–3 days.


14. Add 1–3 drops of undiluted essential oils directly to bath water. If more essential oil is desired, mix the oil first into bath salts or a bath gel base before adding to the bath water. Generally, never use more than 10 drops of essential oils in one bath. When essential oils are put directly into bath water without a dispersing agent, they can cause serious discomfort on sensitive skin because the essential oils tend to float, undiluted, on top of the water.


Chemical Sensitivities and Allergies

Occasionally, individuals beginning to use quality essential oils will suffer rashes or allergic reactions. This may be due to using an undiluted spice, conifer, or citrus oil; or it may be caused by an interaction of the oil with residues of synthetic, petroleum-based, personal-care products that have leached into the skin.


When using essential oils on a daily basis, it is imperative to avoid personal-care products containing ammonium or hydrocarbon-based chemicals. These include quaternary compounds such as quaternariums and polyquaternariums. These chemicals can be fatal if ingested, especially benzalkonium chloride, which, unfortunately, is used in many personal-care products on the market.

Other chemicals such as aluminum compounds, FD&C colors, formaldehyde, all parabens, talc, thimerosal, mercury, and titanium dioxide, just to name a few, are all toxic to the body and should be avoided. These compounds are commonly found in a variety of hand creams, mouthwashes, shampoos, antiperspirants, after-shave lotions, and hair-care products.

Other compounds that present concerns are sodium lauryl sulfate, propylene glycol—extremely common in everything from toothpaste to shampoo—and aluminum salts found in many deodorants.

Of particular concern are the potentially hazardous preservatives and synthetic fragrances that abound in virtually all modern personal-care products. Some of these include methylene chloride, methyl isobutyl ketone, and methyl ethyl ketone. These are not only toxic, but they can also react with some compounds in natural essential oils. The result can be a severe case of dermatitis or even septicemia (blood poisoning).


A classic case of a synthetic fragrance causing widespread damage occurred in the 1970s. AETT (acetyl ethyl tetramethyl tetralin) appeared in numerous brands of personal-care products throughout the United States. Even after a series of animal studies revealed that it caused significant brain and spinal cord damage, the FDA refused to ban the chemical. Finally, the cosmetic industry voluntarily withdrew AETT after allowing it to be distributed for years.

How many other toxins masquerading as preservatives or fragrances are currently being used in personal-care products?

Many chemicals are easily absorbed through the skin due to its permeability. One study found that 13 percent of BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) and 49 percent of DDT (a carcinogenic pesticide) can be absorbed into the skin upon topical contact.¹


Once absorbed, many chemicals can become trapped in the fatty subdermal layers of skin, where they can leach into the bloodstream. They can remain trapped for several months or years until a topical substance like an essential oil starts to move them from their resting place and cause them to come out of the skin in an uncomfortable way. Besides skin irritation, you could experience nausea, headaches, and other slight temporary effects during this detoxifying process. Even in small concentrations, these chemicals and synthetic compounds are toxic and can compromise one’s health.


It is all about what chemicals were used, how much, how long, and perhaps the level of toxicity in your body.


Essential oils have been known to digest toxic substances, and so when they come in contact with chemical residue on the skin, the oils start to work against them.


The user may mistakenly assume that the threat of an interaction between oils and synthetic cosmetics used months before is small. However, a case of dermatitis is always a possibility.


Essential oils do not cause skin problems, rashes, or eruptions on the skin; but they may, only indirectly, as they go after the chemicals. Do not make the mistake of blaming the essential oils. Just be glad this chemical residue is coming out of your body.

You can always reduce the amount of oil you are using or stop the use of any oil for a couple of days and then start again slowly. You can also use V-6 Vegetable Oil Complex, other vegetable or massage oils, or natural creams to dilute the oils.

ENDNOTES:

1. Bronaugh RL, et al. Extent of cutaneous metabolism during percutaneous absorption of xenobiotics. Toxicol. Appl. Pharmacol. 1989 Jul;99(3):534-43.


Before You Start

Always skin test an essential oil before using it. Each person’s body is different, so apply oils to a small area first. Apply one oil or blend at a time. When layering oils that are new to you, allow enough time (3-5 minutes) for the body to respond before applying a second oil.


Use a small amount when applying essential oils to skin that may carry residue from cosmetics, personal-care products, soaps, and cleansers containing synthetic chemicals. Some of them—especially petroleum-based chemicals—can penetrate and remain in the skin and fatty tissues for days or even weeks after use.


Essential oils may work against such chemicals and toxins built up in the body from chemicals in food, water, and work environment. If you have this kind of an experience using essential oils, it may be wise to reduce or stop using them for a few days and start an internal cleansing program before resuming regular use of essential oils. In addition, double your water intake and keep flushing those toxins out of your body.

You may also want to try the following alternatives to a detoxification program to determine the cause of the problem:

• Dilute 1–3 drops of essential oil in 1/2 teaspoon of V-6 Vegetable Oil Complex, massage oil, or any pure vegetable oil such as almond, coconut, or olive. More dilution may be needed.

• Reduce the number of oils used at any time.

• Use single oils or oil blends one at a time.

• Reduce the amount of oil used.

• Reduce the frequency of application.

• Drink more purified or distilled water.

• Ask your healthcare professional to monitor detoxification.

• Test the diluted essential oil on a small patch of skin for 30 minutes. If any redness or irritation results, dilute the area immediately with a pure vegetable or massage oil and then cleanse with soap and water.

• If skin irritation or other uncomfortable side effects persist, discontinue using the oil on that location and apply the oils on the bottoms of the feet.


You may also want to avoid using products that contain the following ingredients to eliminate potential problems:

• Cosmetics, deodorants, and skin-care products containing aluminum, petrochemicals, or other synthetic ingredients

• Perms, hair colors or dyes, hair sprays, or gels containing synthetic chemicals; shampoos, toothpastes, mouthwashes, and soaps containing synthetic chemicals such as sodium laurel sulfate, propylene glycol, or lead acetate

• Garden sprays, paints, detergents, and cleansers containing toxic chemicals and solvents

You can use many essential oils anywhere on the body except on the eyes and in the ears. Other oils may irritate certain sensitive tissues. See recommended dilution rates in the chapters for singles and blends.

Keep “hot” oils such as Oregano, Cinnamon, Thyme, Eucalyptus, Mountain Savory, Lemon, and Orange essential oils or blends such as Thieves, PanAway, Relieve It, and Exodus II out of reach of children. These types of oils should always be diluted for both children and adults.

Children need to be taught how to use the oils so that they understand the safety issue. If a child or infant swallows an essential oil, do the following:

• Seek immediate emergency medical attention, if necessary.

• Give the child milk, cream, yogurt, or another safe, oil-soluble liquid to drink.


NOTE: If your body pH is low, your body will be acidic; therefore, you could also have less of a response or perhaps a minimal negative reaction to the oils.


Topical Application 

Many oils are safe to apply directly to the skin. Lavender is safe to use on children without dilution. However, you must be sure the essential oil you are using is not lavandin labeled as lavender or genetically altered lavender. When applying most other essential oils on children, dilute the oils with carrier oil. For dilution, add 15–30 drops of essential oil to 1 oz. of quality carrier oil, as mentioned previously.

Carrier oils such as V-6 Vegetable Oil Complex extend essential oils and provide more efficient use. When massaging, the vegetable oil helps lubricate the skin.

When starting an essential oil application, depending on which oil you use, you may want to test for skin sensitivity by applying the oil first to the bottoms of the feet. See the Vita Flex foot charts to identify areas of best application. Start by applying 3–6 drops of a single oil or blend, spreading it over the bottom of each foot.


When applying essential oils to yourself, use 1–2 drops of oil on 2–3 locations 2 times a day. Increase to 4 times a day if needed. Apply the oil and allow it to absorb for 2–3 minutes before applying another oil or before getting dressed to avoid staining clothing.

As a general rule, when applying oils to yourself or another person for the first time, do not apply more than two single oils or blends at one time.

When mixing essential oil blends or diluting essential oils in a carrier oil, it is best to use containers made of glass or earthenware, rather than plastic. Plastic particles can leach into the oil and then into the skin once it is applied.


Before applying oils, wash hands thoroughly with soap and water.

Massage

Start by applying 2 drops of a single oil or blend on the skin and massaging it in. If you are working on a large area, such as the back, mix 1–3 drops of the selected essential oil into 1 teaspoon of pure carrier oil such as V-6 Vegetable Oil Complex, a massage oil, or any other oil of your choice such as jojoba, almond, coconut, olive, and/or grape seed.