Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Essential Oils and Children

More and more people are using essential oils in their home and with their families. Today I wanted to give some guidelines about using essential oils on and around children.

Never apply undiluted essential oils to any part of the body. 

Not the chest. Not the soles of the feet. Never. No matter how "pure" the essential oil is, any undiluted essential oil poses the risk for skin irritation and sensitization. You may not notice any ill side effects at first and think that what you're doing is safe, however, exposure to essential oils "neat" can trigger an accumulative immune response that will show up in the future. Expose yourself or your child to an essential oil enough and then one day you'll all of the sudden have an allergic or toxic reaction to the essential oil. (This is called sensitization.) 

Do not add undiluted essential oils to bathwater

Essential oils aren't soluble in water, so when you add essential oils to bath water, you're potentially applying them at full strength to your child's skin, which can lead to reactions and sensitization.

Don't add to drinks

Don't add essential oils to juice, water, or other drinks. Essential oils won't disperse in a drink because they're not soluble in water, so when you add them to juice, you're basically ingesting them at full strength. 

Keep out of reach of children. 

Some common essential oils are potentially toxic to small children if ingested at full strength. Always keep your essential oils out of reach of children and use oils with child-proof caps if available. Common essential oils, (yes, even when they're "pure") can be toxic to a child if swallowed neat, including thyme, peppermint, birch, rosemary, tea tree, cinnamon, clove, basil, pine, oregano, eucalpytus, and some lavenders.

Don't ingest

Some essential oil companies (or their sales reps) propose that ingesting essential oils can cure ailments. Don't give essential oils to children to take internally, even diluted. Some essential oils can have accumulative toxicities--just because you've been ingesting them for months or even years safely doesn't mean that it's okay--you may have hidden toxicities that will appear later.

Properly dilute

If using essential oils externally for massage, always dilute in a carrier oil like coconut oil, olive oil, almond oil, etc. Here is a general guideline for dilution:

Premature infant: do not use
Up to 3 months: .1%
3-4 months: .25%
2-6 years: 1%
6-15 years: 1.5%

(Adapted from "Essential Oil Safety" 2nd ed, Robert Tisserand.)


Anonymous said...

Great information! Can you please tell me what the dilution percentages mean in ratios? Carrier oil to essential oils?

graciegirl said...

Thanks for an informative post! Just wondering what the conversion is of the percentages to # of drops are.

Samantha said...

For those who want a conversion of the percentages to # of drops, here is a great chart from Plant Therapy's blog:

Leslie Nyholm said...

Love this article! Thank you for being ethical and making safety a priority!
You would not believe the amount of people I try to convince that oil does NOT mix with water...no matter how "pure". :)

Anonymous said...


Stephanie Greenwood said...

Thanks for your question! Yes, our product is safe for your 9 month old when used as directed, applied as needed to exposed skin. Some infants can be sensitive to peppermint and it can cause respiratory irritation, so apply to extremities, but maybe not around the mouth and nose area just to be safe. (PS. We've had a 2 year old drink almost a whole bottle of the spray with no side effects.)

Anonymous said...

Interesting article! One of the major tenets of Young Living Essential Oils is that they can be ingested safely (for adults), but now they have a new product line created specifically for children and a new line for pets. I know that your article is geared toward children, but now I'm wondering about safety for adults. I've been using one drop of their peppermint oil on dark chocolate and one drop in green tea daily (it doesn't bother me that the drop does not fully mix with the tea) to get the benefits of all of these. Why is peppermint oil recognized as safe in so many edible products if it is not safe to ingest?

Stephanie Greenwood said...

Thanks for your question! It is one of the claims of Young Living, doTerra, etc, that because their oils are pure, they're safe to ingest. Not so. No matter the purity, essential oils should not be ingested for medicinal purposes unless guided by a qualified and certified aromatherapist preferably with a background in medicine. Ingesting incidental amounts of peppermint oil (or other oils) that may be present as flavorings in candies and foods isn't a problem; it's when you ingest essential oils on a daily basis that it becomes an issue. Many of these essential oil companies recommend ingesting essential oils almost like a daily vitamin or to treat an illness. Some essential oils are safer for ingestion than others; but repeated daily ingestion of any essential oil can lead to toxicity.

Monica C said...

Hi Stephanie, thanks so much!! I was looking for reliable information about this no later than last night! Can you make a spray out of a carrier oil + essential oils? Do you need to add some kind of preservative in the mix? Or is doing that unsafe since a spray would "nebulize" the oils that may be ingested / inhaled? Thanks in advance.

Mary said...

Stephanie, are there any products you recommend to safely disperse essential oils into bathwater? I know Turkey Red castor oil and Polysorbate 20 are effective dispersants, but surely there has to be a less toxic, less processed product that will do the job? Thank you so much for sharing all your helpful knowledge!

Stephanie Greenwood said...

Monica--yes, you can make a spray with a carrier and essential oils. The safety of the product would depend on how you're using it, which essential oils you're using, and the concentration.

Stephanie Greenwood said...

@Mary--I'd definitely not recommend Red Turkey Oil because of its caustic nature, and polysorbates can contain traces of 1,4-dioxane. If you have a favorite natural bubble bath, you could add a few drops of your desired essential oil to the bottle and use it that way.

Kristin S. said...

Hi, Stephanie,

I have been using essential oils mixed with epsom salts in my bath, based upon some recipes I found on the web for DIY bath salts. My 12 year old daughter loves lavender bath salts; we usually use 1 drop oil to 1 cup epsom salts.

Is this an unsafe application, too, or do the salts help the oils disperse?

If I diluted the lavender oil in a carrier oil first (I like jojoba), would that be ok to use in the bath salts?

Stephanie Greenwood said...

Thanks for your question! Yes, I would dilute the essential oil in a carrier oil first, just to be safe.

Carol said...

Stephanie, your article cautioning us against ingesting or applying essential oils topically is spot on for 98 % of essential oils in the world today, as they are adulterated or contain harmful chemicals. However, this is not the case for Young Living therapeutic grade essential oils. Are you aware that most Young Living essential oils are FDA approved for ingesting? Many Young Living oils fall into the categories of GRAS (Generally Regarded as Safe), FA (Food Additive) and DS (Dietary Supplement.) If you peel back the label on a bottle of Young Living essential oil where is says "PEEL HERE," you can see the dietary "Supplement Facts" data for oils that are ingestible. Unfortunately, 98% of the oils on the market today say "Not for Internal Use." And as you may know, “Organic" or "100 % pure" on the label is not an indication of purity or superior quality.
The source of your guidelines (Robert Tisserand) is based on the British model, which emphasizes the use of essential oils only diluted in carrier oils and discourages undiluted use on the skin or ingestion. Developed by aromatherapists from the fragrance industry, the British model focuses more on aroma than on therapy, relying on scientific research on animals using lesser quality oils. This has led to invalid applications to use of oils on humans.
Conversely, the French model emphasizes oral and neat (undiluted) applications of essential oils as well as inhalation and massage in carrier oils. Developed by medical doctors, the French model focuses on therapy in healing disease and maintaining health, relying on scientific research on people using whole oils of therapeutic grade. Thus, there is a huge difference in the grades of oils used in the British and French models, with the French model standards being much higher.
The chemistry of essential oils is complex and separate from all other forms of chemistry. Unlike any other distilled products, it requires an analytic chemist specially trained on the different scientific issues of quality and purity and the use of a very different set of tools. Most companies in the US do not properly analyze essential oils, using equipment suited for synthetic chemicals in place of tools for natural essential oil analysis. Young Living analyzes its essential oils by gas chromatography (GC) and mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and has the only instruments in the world that are matched and calibrated for therapeutic essential oils analysis to the instruments used at the National Center for Scientific Research in France (CNRS). Additional lab testing using column settings that include carbon isotopes identify adulterated or synthetic-based oils.
Personally, my family has been using Young Living therapeutic grade essential oils for over a year now to support our physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. The benefits of these essential oils have been life-changing and complement our holistic lifestyle, as we diffuse/inhale, apply topically and ingest many oils. So do the hundreds of "Happy Oilers" in our group of Young Living essential oil users, including children. Young Living standards are unmatched in the essential oils industry. They use no synthetics or adulterants of any kind and every single batch of is oil tested twice at its own labs and independently at an outside lab. Through their painstaking "Seed to Seal" production process, Young Living is able to produce the best, most authentic essential oils in the world. I have learned how to safely use Young Living essential oils on myself and my family by attending workshops, conferring with others in my group, using common sense precautions and reading extensively - especially the “Essential Oils Desk Reference” (Life Science Publishing) and "The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils" by Kurt Schnaubelt. These books are a must-buy for anyone using or considering essential oils.

Stephanie Greenwood said...

@Carol--Can you cite your sources in regards to 98% of essential oils being adulterated?

And actually, organic certification is the only way you can know if an essential oil is truly unadulterated: http://bubbleandbee.blogspot.com/2014/08/usda-organic-vs-therapeutic-grade.html

Also, the British vs. French schools of thought is a myth. Visit http://aromatherapyunited.org/ and see Guest Posts, "British vs. French - by Gabriel Mojay:

Carol said...

As you requested:

Sources for essential oils being adulterated and info on grades of oils:

1. Essential Oils Desk Reference, Sixth Edition, Life Science Publishing, April 2014. See Preface, Chapter 2, Subsection: “Purity and Potency of Essential Oils;” Subsection: “Adulterated Oils and Their Dangers.” Chapter 4, Subsection: “Grades of Essential Oils;” Subsection: Essential Oil Production;” Chpt. 4, Subsection: “Testing.”

2. The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils: The Science of Advanced Aromatherapy, Kurt Schnaubelt, Ph.D. , Healing Arts Press, 2011. Chapter Four, “Authentic Essential Oils: Recognizing Authenticity, Safety, Diversity, Fragrance,”

Regarding organic certification:

1. Essential Oils Desk Reference, Sixth Edition, Life Science Publishing, April 2014. See Chapter 4, Subsection: “USDA Weakens the Purity of the Organic Label; ” Subsection: “Seed;” Subsection: “Cultivation;” Subsection: “Organic Herb Farming;” Subsection “Harvesting;” Subsection: “Distillation;” Subsection: “Testing;” Subsection: Sealing.”

2. http://www.dgaryyoung.com/blog/tag/organic-essential-oil/

3. http://airase.com/blog/2014/03/08/essential-oil-safety/

Regarding British vs. French models, see:

1. The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils: The Science of Advanced Aromatherapy, Kurt Schnaubelt, Ph.D., Healing Arts Press, 2011.
Chapter Six: “Aromatherapy Connects with Diverse Traditions.”

2. Essential Oils Desk Reference, Sixth Edition, Life Science Publishing, April 2014. See Chapter 1, Subsection: “Different Schools of Application.”

3. http://airase.com/blog/2014/03/12/different-thinking-about-essential-oils/

Stephanie Greenwood said...

Essential Oils Desk Reference--published by Young Living.

Dgaryyoug.com--Founder of Young Living

AIRASE--Founded by Young Living.

Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt--longtime friend of Gary Young.

These are all sources from Young Living. Can you find any independent (not associated with any of the MLMs) studies that state that 90% of essential oils are adulterated?

Baylor's Mommy said...

Thank you so much for this very helpful information. Do you think it is safe to have the oils diffused into the air in our home to help in times of colds and flu? Or is breathing it in not good for children/adults?

Anonymous said...

I am wondering the same thing as Baylor's Mommy...what are your thoughts on the safety of diffusing oils in the home? I haven't been able to find much information in relation to this that I believe is unbiased. Thanks in advance!

Stephanie Greenwood said...

Oh yes, sorry I didn't respond here, I had spoken to her personally through our chat system. So, diffusing essential oils. Yes, it is safe, but with some cautions. Don't use those on my "avoid at all times list" found here: http://bubbleandbee.blogspot.com/2010/08/essential-oils-and-pregnancy.html

I also don't recommend diffusing mint around children under 6 years of age. If the concentration gets too high it can affect their breathing.

Hope that helps! :D

Anonymous said...

Oh Carol. I'm embarrassed for you. Education, my dear. Please educate yourself and learn how to properly research beyond your MLM world.

Anonymous said...

I know this article is old(er), but I have to say THANK YOU SO MUCH for being a voice of reason and sanity in the crazy EO world. I have dabbled in trying a few different oils from a few different companies but have tried to be very safe about diluting or putting into a spray (diluted). I never put directly on my kids. But I have a friend at y.l. who advocates for heavy capsule usage (internally) and straight/neat application on anyone. She does it on herself and her kids all day every day and it scares me. I actually listened to her at first and was taking thieves spray (luckily diluted) internally almost daily during any illness in the family. During the ~6months I did this, I had 2 of the most severe illnesses I've had in my life, requiring antibiotics both times when I hadn't needed abx for a decade prior. This friend reasoned them away as something unrelated to the oils or caused by my body detoxing with oil usage, but I was unconvinced and I stopped taking it internally. I DO think thieves and some other EOs have great uses, but absolutely do not think ANYONE should be suggesting someone else take them internally. So dangerous! Thank you!!!

Joy said...

Thanks for the info! Love your articles. Where would you recommend buying essential oils from?