Oil By Oil – Specific Safety Precautions

Essential oils offer many benefits for many people around the world. They have done so for thousands of years, and hopefully will for many, many more to come. Yet, we need to be wise and clear in our choices.

First and foremost know your own strengths and limitations, be it your general wellbeing, your mood and emotions, or level of stress. Being in tune with these supports wise decision-making to guide you now and in the years to come.

Essential oils are potent, so it is important to learn and follow safe use guidelines:

Basil Safety Precautions


Ocimum basilicum

  • Do not use during pregnancy.
  • Do not use with children younger than 16 years.
  • Various basil oils may be carcinogenic due to high methyl chavicol (estragole) content. This outcome has been noted in laboratory mice.
  • May slow clotting so stop use two weeks prior to surgery.
  • Avoid in bath as it is a mild skin irritant.

Bay Laurel Safety Precautions


 Laurus nobilis

  • Do not use bay laurel  in large doses because of its high methyleugenol content. This may cause breathing and central nervous system issues in children. Children below the age of seven should not use.
  • Do not use bay laurel essential oil if pregnant.
  • Dilute well before dermal application to avoid skin sensitivities. Do not apply topically if skin is super sensitive, damaged, or diseased.
  • It may cause dermatitis in some individuals.

Bergamot Safety Precautions


Citrus bergamia

  • A component called furocomarin is present in cold press bergamot oil and this presents a moderate risk of phototoxicity (sensitivity to sunlight) in higher concentrations*
  • Topical application of higher concentrations of cold press Bergamot oil may lead to skin sensitization*
  • Cold press bergamot oil may be photocarcinogenic (cancer causing when applied topically to skin prior to sun exposure) *
  • Bergamot FCF (furocomarin-free) is a type of bergamot essential oil made by steam distillation. This oil does not have the phototoxcicity, skin sensitization, photocarcinogenic, and 0.4% maximum dilution safety advisories that cold press bergamot oil does.
  • Maximum dilution percentage for topical use is 0.4% if using cold press bergamot oil and 16.6% if using furocomarin-free (FCF) oil
  • Cold press bergamot oil has the potential to oxidize when exposed to oxygen, light, and heat. This can increase the likelihood of skin sensitization. Storing your bergamot oil in the refrigerator may help extend its shelf life. *
  • Bergamot essential oil is not suitable for use during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy
  • Note: Furocoumarin free (FCF) bergamot oil does not have the same restrictions for topical application although from an energetics perspective, the reason for this is that the sunniness has been removed from the oil. Unless you need to spend time in direct sunlight less than 12 hours after applying bergamot oil, the cold press oil with all its constituents intact imparts the most benefits

*Does not apply to bergamot FCF (furocomarin-free) oil

Black Pepper Safety Precautions


Piper nigrum

  • Avoid oxidation, which could cause skin sensitization, by storing in a dark, cool location.
  • Avoid using in high concentration since it could cause skin irritation.
  • Moderation is the best policy when using this pungent oil.

Blue Tansy Safety Precautions


Tanacetum annuum

  • Read bottle carefully to ensure it is not  simply “Tansy” Oil (Tanacetum vulgare), which is ranked as a hazardous oil as it is high in thujone that is neurotoxic and abortive. It is unsafe for topical use for multiple reasons as noted on the side effects page of this site.
  • Blue tansy is high in chamazulene, known to inhibit the human cytochrome P450 enzymes, thus interfering with enzymes that metabolize certain classes of drug. Because of this, blue tansy is contraindicated for medications processed in the body by the P450 (CYP) enzymes. The list for CYP2D6 medications includes tricyclic antidepressants among others, such as antipsychotics and even codeine! Consider reviewing these lists and consulting with your healthcare provider. Table 3 on page 312 is a list of approved drugs with CYP2D6 that have drug label information.
  • Test for reaction if allergic to ragweed or chamomile.

Cajeput Safety Precautions


Melaleuca cajeputi

  • Cajeput essential oil should not be taken in oral doses.
  • Because of the high 1,8-cineole contents of the oil, it may contribute to breathing problems in children. It should not be used in close proximity to the faces or noses of children below the age of seven.
  • Cajeput may cause skin sensitivity when used in high concentration. Ensure to dilute well.
  • Do not use if pregnant or breastfeeding.

Cayenne Safety Precautions


Capsicum annum

  • Application of this oil in the nose is not recommended since it can cause serious pain.
  • Avoid using it on a broken or damaged skin.
  • For skin application, keep the dilution at 1% maximum

Cedarwood Safety Precautions


Juniperus Virginiana

  • This oil can’t be ingested internally and should just be used externally. If consumed, the side effects could include thirst, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and extensive damage to the digestive system.
  • Consult your doctor if you’re taking prescribed medication.
  • This oil should be avoided during pregnancy and if you’re breastfeeding, you should consult your doctor before using the oil.
  • High concentrations of this oil can cause skin irritation.
  • Don’t apply directly to your skin without a carrier oil.
  • Keep away from children and animals.
  • Avoid using it on sensitive areas on the skin, around the eyes, and mucous membranes.

Cinnamon Safety Precautions


Cinnamomum verum

  • Cinnamon leaf is highly irritable to the skin and should not be used in high concentration or undiluted.
  • It may interact with medications that prevent blood clogging, peptic ulcers, and bleeding disorders.

Clary Sage Safety Precautions


Salvia sclarea

  • Clary sage is not to be used during pregnancy. This is because of the tendency to stimulate uterine contractions. Because of this, please do not use clary sage in diffuser, spritzers, or open inhalation methods when a pregnant woman is present.
  • Because clary sage has sedating effects, it is advised to avoid drinking alcohol and to use caution while driving.
  • Clary sage use is not advised for people with low blood pressure. If you do not know your blood pressure, it is wise to have it checked a couple of times prior to beginning clary sage use.
  • Please use lower dilutions with children.
  • Use a lower dilution with people who are 65 years or older or in frail health.
  • Use caution with continuous use as doing so may prompt headaches.

Clove Bud Safety Precautions


Syzygium aromanticum / Eugenia Caryophyllata / Eugenia Caryophyllus

  • As a moderate dermal irritant, clove bud essential oil should be used only in small dilutions, which, according to Tisserand and Young, should not be more than 0.5% dilution. Also, never use undiluted clove bud oil on the skin, but always dilute it in a carrier oil prior to application.
  • Based on the fact that it can trigger skin irritation if used in high dilutions, it is better to avoid altogether using it topically on children who are 2 years old or younger.
  • People with platelet problems such as hemophilia should avoid it.
  • There is a hazard of clove bud oil interacting with blood thinning medication such as warfarin, heparin or enoxaparin.
  • Tisserand and Young support that there is a moderate risk of irritating the mucous membranes. This risk can get significantly reduced by avoiding to use a personal inhaler or inhaling directly from the bottle. You can, also, avoid topical application of clove oil blends very close to the mucous membrane areas such as the nose, eyes, ears, and lips or use this oil in very low dilutions.
  • As an extra precaution, this oil should be avoided during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.

Copaiba Safety Precautions


Copaifera officinalis

  • Copaiba essential oil is not to be used during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy. This is to be protective of fetal development during those initial critical months.
  • There is mixed opinion about use of copaiba essential oil during the balance of pregnancy and breastfeeding, thus it is wise to check in with your healthcare provider about its use.
  • Maximum topical dilution is 8%. (Recommended dilution for home use is 3%.)
  • Use low or minimum dilutions with people 65 years or older, people with compromised immune systems, or those who are frail.
  • A typical dilution for these groups is 1%.
  • Copaiba essential oil is generally considered safe.
  • Please avoid long-term use of higher dilutions.
  • A go-slow approach is recommended for essential oil use with children, as their skin thickness and immune systems are still developing.
  • Suggested dilution of topicals for children 3 years and older is 1-2%.
  • Dilution example: a 1% dilution is 2 drops of essential oil in 10 ml of carrier oil.
  • Begin with a patch test for safety purposes.
  • Children aged 7 or older have immune systems that are about fully mature, and their skin has thickened. Use a 1.5-3% dilution of essential oils for topical application.
  • First consult with pets’ vet about essential oil use around your special friends.

Cypress Safety Precautions


Cupressus sempervirens

  • Cypress essential oil is non-toxic and non-irritant.
  • Avoid dermal application if skin is diseased, damaged, or hypersensitive.
  • Oxidation: Oxidation may occur because of the a-pinene and d-3-carene constituents of the oil. It’s recommended that you store the oil in a sealed container and refrigerate to prevent oxidation.
  • The oil will cause hypersensitivity if oxidation occurs.
  • The reduced ‘reproductive toxicity’ of constituents such as pinene, myrcene, and limonene suggests that cypress is non-hazardous. The essential oil may be used during pregnancy.

Eucalyptus Safety Precautions


Eucalyptus globulus / Eucalyptus dives / Eucalyptus radiata / Eucalyptus citriodora

  • Eucalyptus essential oil is not safe for use by pregnant women
  • It can present as neurotoxic.  For this reason, it is best avoided by persons with epilepsy and other types of neurological disorders such as schizophrenia.
  • Too much use of Eucalyptus essential oil  can damage the kidneys and can arrest respiration.
  • Eucalyptus essential oil used in excess of the 3% maximum dilution may cause skin irritation.
  • Eucalyptus essential oil is quite potent and may cause some irritation to sensitive people and children.  Proceed with caution, and start with a lower dilution and/or a gentler chemotype of this oil like E. radiata or E. citriodora
  • As always, when diffusing an essential oil into your environment-whether with a steam diffusion method or a diffuser-be sure that the area has proper ventilation, and that you take regular breaks from diffusing.

Fennel Safety Precautions


Foeniculum vulgare

  • Fennel has potential drug interactions such as with diabetes, blood clotting, and seizure disorders.
  • Could cause a potential estrogen increase, concerning if you have endometriosis or estrogen-related cancers.
  • Do not use during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
  • Do not use on children under 5 years of age.
  • Potentially carcinogenic.
  • Skin sensitization if oxidized. Avoid using in large doses.

Frankincense Safety Precautions


Boswellia carterii, B. sacra, B. frereana, et al

  • May cause skin sensitization if left to oxidize. Store in a refrigerator and airtight container to prevent oxidation.
  • Do not use old or oxidised frankincense oil topically. Use it in an evaporator or candle.
  • Do not use within the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.

Geranium Safety Precautions


Pelargonium graveolens

  • Always dilute the oil first. Never use it without a carrier oil. If you have sensitive skin then test some first. Geranium oil is generally considered safe for use, but it has been known to have a sensitizing effect on extremely rare occasions. If you find that it causes skin irritation or pain, then it would be better to stop using it completely.
  • Don’t use the oil near your eyes, ears or any other sensitive areas on the body.
  • Geranium oil is non-toxic
  • Geranium oil has been known to have some effect on hormones, so it would be best if pregnant women or women who are breastfeeding don’t use this oil.
  • Avoid using on babies, and when using on children make sure to use at half-strength or double-dilution.

Ginger Safety Precautions


Zingiber officinale

  • Ginger oil is non-toxic and non-irritant (except when used in high concentrations) but could irritate sensitive skin and can also cause photosensitivity.
  • If you’re taking a blood thinner medication, talk to your doctor before taking ginger essential oil because it can increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Ginger is not advised in certain conditions. For example, it can irritate gastric ulcers and can also aggravate hepatitis and some conditions of the kidney that involve inflammation.
  • Don’t use ginger essential oil if you are on medication for diabetes because it may lower your blood sugar level.
  • Exercise caution when using during pregnancy or on children under the age of 2.

Grapefruit(Pink) Safety Precautions


Citrus paradisi

  • Risk of phototoxicity when used topically. Do not expose skin to direct sunlight for 12 hours following topical application.
  • Topical application of higher concentrations or use of old, oxidized oils may lead to skin sensitization
  • Maximum dilution percentage for topical use is 4% for adults and 1% for children
  • High risk of oxidation. Keep bottles sealed and in a cool, dark location. Do not use old oils, especially for topical application as it may lead to skin sensitization.
  • Not suitable for use during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Do not use if you are taking HIV medications or calcium channel blockers like heparin or warfarin.

Helichrysum Safety Precautions


Helichrysum italicum

  • Mild risk of skin irritation
  • Those with an allergy to any plants in the Asteraceae family need to be sure to use a skin test.
  • Avoid if on blood thinning medication, suffering from hemophilia or before going into surgery.

Jasmine Absolute Safety Precautions


Jasminum officinale

  • Jasmine absolute may cause skin sensitization; use moderately. Some individuals may encounter an allergic reaction.
  • A maximum dermal use of 0.7 percent is recommended.
  • Jasmine absolute is a strong uterine tonic, and therefore not to be used within the first 37 weeks of pregnancy.

Juniper Berry Safety Precautions


Juniperus communis

  • Do not use if you have liver or kidney disease.
  • Do not use during pregnancy because of diuretic properties.

Lavender Safety Precautions


Lavandula angustifolia

  • Lavender essential oil is not to be used during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy. This offers protection during the critical months of fetal growth and development.
  • Maximum topical dilution is 10%.
  • Begin with a patch test to assure there is no sensitivity.
  • Can be used neat, directly from the bottle.
  • Recommended maximum dilution for home use is 3%.
  • Use low or minimum dilutions for people who are 65 years or older, and those who have compromised immune systems or who are frail. A typical dilution for these groups is 1%.
  • It’s best to make special considerations with children, as their skin thickness and immune systems are still developing.
  • Recommended topical dilutions for children 3 years and older is 1-2%.
  • It should be avoided by persons with Epilepsy and Diabetes.

Lemon Safety Precautions


Citrus limonium

  • Do not use lemon essential oil during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.
  • The recommended maximum topical dilution is 2%.
  • There is the potential for sun sensitivity. Please allow several hours to pass between use and time in the sun.
  • Skin may become sensitized by use of old or oxidized oils.
  • Do a trial patch test prior to use.
  • Sensitization to an oil means that it is likely you will not be able to use that oil again.
  • Best to use oils that have been on the shelf less than 12 months.

Children’s safety considerations are:

  • Lemon essential oil blends should not to be used on the faces of children who are under age three.
  • Best to use low dilutions for diffusion (0.5%) and topical applications (0.5-1.0%) until children are seven years old.
  • Keep essential oils out of children’s reach, and preferably locked.

Lemongrass Safety Precautions


Cymbopogon Flexuosus (East Indian), Cymbopogon Citratus (West Indian)

  • Hazard: May cause drug interactions and skin sensitization. Individuals with sensitive skin should dilute the oil well prior to topical application.
  • Do not use on diseased, damaged, or hypersensitive skin.
  • Children under seven should not use lemongrass essential oil.
  • Do not use lemongrass oil within the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.

Litsea Safety Precautions


Litsea cubeba

  • Dilute litsea essential oil well (less than o.5%) before topical use.
  • Do not use on children below the age of seven years old.
  •  Never use on super sensitive skin.
  •  Do not use within the first 16 weeks of pregnancy. Only take internally after consulting with a doctor.

Mandarin Safety Precautions


Citrus reticulata, C. nobilis

  • Mandarin essential oil may cause skin sensitization if left to oxidize.
  • Old or oxidized mandarin essential oil should be thrown out. Store in a dark container in your refrigerator to minimize oxidation.
  • Mandarin essential oil may or may not be phototoxic. It’s best to avoid sun exposure for at least 12 hours after application.
  • Do not use within the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.

Marjoram Safety Precautions


Origanum majorana

  • Do not use during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Use a 1% dilution when nursing

Niaouli Safety Precautions


Melaleuca viridiflora, M.quinquenervia

  • The impact of niaouli when used dermally is non-poisonous and non-sensitizing.
  • As a consequence of the high 1,8-cineole contents of the oil, it may cause respiratory problems in children. Be careful when used around asthmatics.
  • Avoid using close to the faces of infants and children.
  • Do not use within the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.

Orange (Sweet) Safety Precautions


Citrus sinensis

  • Sweet Orange essential oil is considered a safe, non-toxic, non-irritant, non-sensitizing oil.
  • If the essential oil is oxidized, skin sensitization is possible
  • Old or oxidized oils should be avoided as they can increase chances of irritation
  • It is recommended that Sweet Orange is stored in a dark, airtight container in a refrigerator.
  • There is conflicting information out there regarding whether this oil is phototoxic or not, however Tisserand and Young (2013) state that it is not.
  • Make sure you read your labels properly as Bitter Orange is phototoxic

Oregano Safety Precautions


Origanum vulgare

  • According to Tisserand and Young, there is a low risk of skin irritation, so this oil is not recommended for damaged, diseased or hypersensitive skin. Maximum dilution recommended for dermal use is 1.1%.
  • The risk of mucous membrane irritation is moderate. As a precaution, you can refrain from inhaling the oil from the bottle. Also, you can make low dilution blends or avoid applying oregano oil blends close to the mucous membrane areas.
  • Oregano is, according to Tisserand and Young, an embryotoxic oil. Therefore, it should be avoided by both pregnant and breastfeeding women.
  • Due to its ability to inhibit blood clotting, it is not suitable for people who are under anticoagulant medication.
  • For the same reason as above, Origanum vulgare oil is not recommended for people dealing with peptic ulcer, hemophilia or other bleeding disorders. Patients who have undergone a major surgery should also not use this oil.
  • Due to possible skin irritation (low risk), it may not be safe for children who are under two years of age.

Palmarosa Safety Precautions


Cymbopogon martinii

  • Palmarosa may cause skin sensitization. Do not exceed a maximum dermal application level of 3 percent.
  • Do not use palmarosa essential oil until after the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.

Patchouli Safety Precautions


Pogostemon cablin

  • Patchouli is not to be used during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy. This is to be protective of fetal development during those initial critical months.
  • Patchouli inhibits blood clotting, thus is not to be used while taking blood-thinning medications, preparing for surgery, or if living with a clotting disorder.
  • Avoid overuse because of potential sedating effects.
  • Some people are affected by patchouli’s richness, experiencing headaches, dizziness, or reduced appetite.
  • Use patchouli judiciously at first to determine how it affects you.
  • If you or anyone where patchouli is being used does not feel well, move to fresh air or a well ventilated area.
  • Maximum topical dilution is 10%.
  • Use low or minimum dilutions with people 65 years or older, people with compromised immune systems, or those who are frail.
  • A typical dilution for these groups is 1%.
  • A go-slow approach is recommended for essential oil use with children, as their skin thickness and immune systems are still developing.
  • Suggested dilution of topicals for children 3 years and older is 1-2%.

Peppermint Safety Precautions


Mentha piperita

  • Do not use if pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Do not use on topically or internally on babies or small children (strongly diluted in an inhalation is ok).
  • Never use in conjunction with homeopathic remedies, as it will act as an antidote.
  • Do a patch test before topical application, as in rare cases it can cause irritation in sensitive skin.
  • When using peppermint for children, be very careful, as it is a strong oil. The maximum dilution for children should be .25 % until around the age of 6. The oil should never be used on or near their faces. It is best used on their backs or feet. Do not put essential oils on children’s hands as they may rub their eyes and essential oils in the eyes is NOT a fun time!

Roman Chamomile Safety Precautions


Anthemis nobilis / Chamaemelum nobile

Roman chamomile essential oil is generally regarded as safe. As an extra precaution, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Roman chamomile is considered to be safe for kids and, in some cases, babies as well.
  • Nevertheless, for dermal use, you should always dilute the oil in a gel, cream base or carrier oil. Tisserand recommends no more than 1% dilution for babies while other aromatherapy experts do not go over 0.25% dilution for 2-year-old babies as well as kids up to the age of 6.
  • It should not be used during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.

Rose Absolute Safety Precautions


Rosa centifolia

  • Recommended dilution for rose absolute is 3 percent to avoid skin sensitization.
  • Rose absolute is safe to use during pregnancy. It’s wise to use it only after the first 37 weeks.

Rosemary Safety Precautions


Rosmarinus officinalis

  • Do not use during pregnancy.
  • Do not use for those with high blood pressure or epilepsy.
  • Do not use on children’s faces because of eucalyptol, also known as 1,8-cineole.
  • Best not to use with children under the age of 10.
  • Maximum topical dilution is 6%.
  • Begin with a patch test to assure there is no sensitivity to rosemary essential oil.
  • This oil can be neurotoxic so use with care, following all safety guidelines.
  • Recommended maximum dilution for home use is 3%.
  • Use low or minimum dilutions for people who are 65 years or older, and those who have compromised immune systems or who are frail.
  • A typical dilution for these groups is 1%.

Tea Tree Safety Precautions


Melaleuca alternifolia

  • Tea tree oil has a low risk of skin sensitization. Discontinue use if sensitization occurs. More dilution can help to decrease risk of sensitization.
  • The maximum recommended dilution for tea tree oil is 15%.
  • Tea tree oil is not suitable for use during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.

Thyme Safety Precautions


Thymus vulgaris 

  • The chemotype Thymus vulgaris is best avoided by children. Instead, try the gentler chemotype of thyme: Thymus Linalool
  • Thyme essential oil is very stimulating to the thyroid system of our bodies. People with thyroid issues should proceed with caution with this oil.
  • Thyme essential oil needs to be avoided during pregnancy

Valerian Safety Precautions


Valeriana officinalis, V. fauriei

  • Although valerian essential oil isn’t poisonous, it may irritate the skin when used undiluted. Always dilute before applying topically.
  • As valerian may cause sleepiness, you may want to avoid using the oil with other sedatives. This may cause too much drowsiness.
  • There are no known contraindications of valerian essential oil. However, it may not be safe for use during pregnancy.

Vanilla Absolute Safety Precautions


Vanilla planifolia

  • Use vanilla absolute sparingly. The balsamic, potent scent does get overwhelming at times.
  • Use well diluted before dermal application. May cause skin irritation; conducting a patch test is a must.
  • Consult a doctor if pregnant, breastfeeding, epileptic or on medications before using vanilla absolute.
  • Be sure to purchase true vanilla CO2 total extract.

Vetiver Safety Precautions


Vetiveria zizanioides

  • Vetiver essential oil may be used in pregnancy. Do not use within the first 16 weeks.
  • There are no known contraindications. However, the isoeugenol content of the oil may be a hazard. A dermal maximum of 0.2% is recommended by Tisserand & Young based on its isoeugenol content.

Wintergreen Safety Precautions


Gaultheria procumbens

  • Patch test first as it can cause allergic reactions.
  • Do not use in children.
  • NEVER INGEST as excess methyl salicylate (active pain relieving component of wintergreen) can be toxic.
  • Methyl salicate is 30 x more powerful than aspirin that’s why this is such a pain killing oil, but it also a very strong blood thinner. So much so that it has only been taken off the IFA hazardous oils list in the last 5 years. Those with a platelet conditions, and / or taking blood thinning medications must not use this oil.

Yarrow Safety Precautions


Achillea millefolium

  • Use yarrow essential oil in appropriate dilutions to prevent skin irritation.
  • Do not use yarrow while pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • A maximum dermal use of 3 percent is recommended.
  • Yarrow essential oil may interact with some medications.

Ylang ylang Safety Precautions


Cananga Odorata

  • Ylang ylang may cause skin sensitization; use moderately. A maximum dermal use of 0.8% is recommended to avoid sensitization.
  • The oil is strong and may cause headaches or nausea. Dilute appropriately unless advised to use in neat application.
  • Do not use on damaged, diseased, or hypersensitive skin.
  • Do not use within the first 37 weeks of pregnancy.

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