Essential Oils Safe For Kids? Here’s What You Should Know

using essential oils for children

Undoubtedly essential oils are one of the best ways to care for an protect your children. They support healthy immune function, create emotional resilience and simply maintain a wonderfully loving ambiance in the home. It would be very easy then, to imagine these might be safe medicines that can be used with no consideration, but especially in the case of children there are a few guidelines that require extra care and attention.

No Side Effects

The first myth that I would like to bust is that because they are natural they must be completely harmless.

Deadly Nightshade is natural, but if you ingest it, it will kill you.

Organic does not necessarily mean friendly.

While it is true that unlike synthetic drugs essential oils do not have side effects, what they have instead are many main effects.

This is important, because you may be asking the body to do something with an essential oil but be oblivious to the other effects it will have.

Ginger is an excellent example of this.

It is tremendous for helping with weight loss.

It’s predominating action is warming so suddenly when you use it you will feel like a furnace. You sweat more and will eventually smell. This action on metabolism means your stools become looser and using too much may cause diarrhea. As it speeds the internal processing, you will find your thoughts become much clearer, but also your mind will whizz at the most tremendous speeds…

All that from one drop.

You ask it to do one thing… but instead this triggers a cascade of many changes within the body.

For this reason, we always approach essential oils from a holistic view point

Check For Existing Conditions

Conditions such as

  • Epilepsy
  • Diabetes
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Low Blood Pressure
  • Cancer
  • Blood Medications
  • Some depression medications
  • And other preexisting conditions especially those involving cytochrome P450

may cause your essential oil to act in something outside of the normal guidelines given.

Always check the safety guidelines even more closely than usual if your child has one of these, or ideally consult a certified aromatherapist for guidance. Details of locally registered practitioners can be found through professional organisations.

The Power Of Inhalation

Later, we will talk about suggested dilutions for topical use, but never overlook the power of aromatherapy over essential oil therapy.

Often many conditions such as coughs, colds, anxiety and depression respond better to simply inhaling the vapors of the oil rather than feeling you have to apply them to the skin.

Inhalation of the molecules affects the mind, allowing it to send new healing messages out to the body, such as to release more white blood cells to overcome infection, or to calm sensation in pain inducing neurons.

Likewise, as we breathe in the vapors, they relax the respiratory tract, opening it and making it easier to breathe. For chest infections and breathing conditions then, inhalation of antibacterial oils is particularly helpful because the tiny chemical molecules can travel far more quickly to the places that need them.

Finally, when it comes to conditions with an emotional or mental element, such as anxiety, depression or ADHD the oils will work far quicker being inhaled than they will being absorbed into the system.

Connection Of Fragrance To Memory

Some of the reason, the emotional and mental faculties are affected so efficiently is the part of the brain that governs olfaction (the sense of smell) resides in the limbic system.

This primitive part of the brain also affects learning, memory, cognition and the emotions.

In other words, when you smell something, the brain will often link it, extremely quickly, to something from your past. The signal has almost no distance to travel across the brain, so you are mentally transported back to another place and time almost instantaneously.

This means that everybody’s relationship to every different smell will be different.

If, for example, a child has been abused by someone who always wore patchouli, there is no way that fragrance will ever be relaxing to him… even though every book will tell you that it is.

Likewise, if a child has spent many months in hospital, oils with a clinical aroma such as wintergreen or camphor may have a depressing action even though they will be very useful for their pain.

Conversely, many people will smell lavender, rose and violet oils and have memories of grand parents evoked. How they felt about those people will be reflected in the emotions the essential oils will induce. Where one many feel safe and nurtured, another may suddenly be reminded of feelings of inadequacy or not feeling liked.

Introduction to aromatherapy should be done gently and with respect.

Offer no judgement or worry about how an essential oil might make someone feel (remember my examples are deliberately severe to illustrate a point. For the most part, a link may be fleeting and inane… to quick or banal to even be able to anchor into a memory. Most reactions are nothing to do with abuse.)

We don’t need to understand what the emotion or memory might be… just that there may be a fragrance that would suit the child better.

The very best aromatherapists understand the nuance of these connections and choose essential oils not only based on the physical effects they are likely to see but also on the happiest, healthiest and beneficial journey they can expect the child to embark upon.

Personal Experience Is Better Than Books

Part of the beauty of aromatherapy it is an intimate journey that allows you to observe and learn about your child in an extremely rare manner.

This observation is vital to the journey because, as it unfolds you begin to discover that books can be little more than guides.

It will be your own research and experience that informs choices for quick, and efficient shortcuts to healing.

Read many books and cultivate relationships with professional aromatherapists to fully enjoy the dynamism of learning to heal your child in a completely unique way.


There can be a temptation to find an essential oil that works for you, to stick with it and possibly use it for too long.

Sensitization can take many forms. Some of the most common:

A reaction on the skin to undiluted essential oils or ones that have not been diluted enough.

While this can often not have an immediate effect, it can develop over time. The most common example of this is people developing reactions to tea tree over time.

Chemical rash caused by an essential oil being used correctly but then being exposed to sunlight.

Phototoxic sensitization most often happens with citrus oils such as bergamot and grapefruit where the essential oils have been extracted from the peel of the fruit.

Skin reactions derived from using oil oils.

Oils high in monoterpenes, such as citrus oils, oxidise very quickly and can lead to an oil which previously worked very well suddenly causing a skin reaction. Check your use by dates properly and replace old oils regularly

Being exposed to fragrance for long periods of time, especially in poorly ventilated areas.

Long term use of an essential oil that can then lead to headaches over time. The most common protagonist is lavender.

Use in small dilutions and vary your choices of oils regularly.

Dilution For Kids

This has the honor of being the most important and least important part of the post all at the same time because dilution is vital but also is much easier if you use common sense.

Dilution advise is based on safety data taken from books like Tisserand and Young’s Essential Oil Safety for Health Professionals (2013).

In turn, their recommendations are taken from The International Fragrance Association and in turn that comes from knowledge of how much of a certain essential oil it will take to kill a rat!!!

In that context…

We can see how these are useful guidelines and nothing more. A vital thing to remember is that the term is MAXIMUM DILUTION.

And so whatever that recommendation is, we can always use less. Less is a better choice when it comes to children.

So, maximum dilutions:

How To Calculate Dilutions

1 teaspoon of carrier = 5 mls = approximately 20 x 5 = 100 drops of carrier oil

1% of 100 drops = 1 drop

Put very simply, 1 drop of most essential oils in a teaspoon, is right for children over 6. For younger than that, use 2 teaspoons.

Remember though, this is maximum dilution, so feel free to dilute more and go one drop to a tablespoon of carrier.

The essential oils are easily strong enough for your treatment and it avoids possible problems with hot oils like cinnamon for example that has a different suggested maximum dilution of 0.6% even on adults which you might potentially miss.

Using more carrier oil is one of your best insurances against making harmful mistakes.

Hot and Cold Oils

Oils such as cinnamon, cloves, ginger and camphor get a tremendous amount of good press because they are extraordinary antimicrobials.

They will kill infection.

But this power comes at a cost to the skin and the mucus membranes (that’s the slimy tissue inside your nose or on your lungs, for example).

They burn.

These are the maestros of chemical warfare and they are just too harsh for little ones.

It’s a bit like sending an Oxford Professor to teach kindergarten.

It’s simply not a good fit.

Use gentler oils which will be much more nurturing to tiny bodies.

There’s no need to use sledgehammers to crack nuts.

Use Eucalyptus And Peppermint With Care

Eucalyptus and Peppermint are both extraordinary oils to use in the fight against coughs and colds but are too strong for your everyday kid’s snuffle.

Both contain constituents (1,8 cineole and menthol respectively) that slow respiration, making them difficult to use on little ones.

We talk about this more in the article about babies and infants.

If you must use them, use them in very low concentrations of not more than 0.5% and only on the child’s back.

The Clean Home

We spoke earlier about skin sensitization from old oils. Since production of essential oils is both costly in a financial sense, but also to the planet, finding ways to still use them usefully is a tremendous thing.

They can still be used in diffusers to lift the ambiance but also to disinfect the air.

Use oils such as lemon, orange and lime with tea tree to wash down surfaces, banisters and light switches, especially when you have coughs and colds in the house, to combat the spread of infection

Keep Out Of The Reach Of Children

Lastly, one of the most dangerous memory cues with essential oils in the connection between citrus and spicy fragrances with sweeties.

Keep essential oils right out of the reach of little fingers to avoid chemical burns, stinging eyes or death through ingestion.

Essential Oils Recipes For Children

Stuffy noses

Use three drops of frankincense in the diffuser to open the airways and comfort upset children.


  • 1 tablespoon Tamanu Carrier Oil
  • 1 drop Myrtle essential oil
  • 1 drop Myrrh essential oil
  • 1 drop Frankincense essential oil

Massage a finger full to the child’s check and back three times a day.

Calmer Chicken Pox Rash

  • 1 oz Oatmeal
  • 1 drop Mandarin essential oil
  • 1 drop chamomile essential oil
  • 1 drop Lavender essential oil

Mix the oils and oats well, then rub all over the rash to calm the itching and promote restful sleep.

The Bottom Line

Raising a family can be made easier by using essential oils. Use them carefully and mindfully to build safer closer relationships.

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