The Issue of Essential Oil Safety

The Issue of Essential Oil Safety | Growing Up Herbal | With all the confusing info on essential oil safety these days, I've written about my experience with learning to use essential oils safely in my home.

There’s a lot of debate surrounding essential oil use and safety on the web these days. So much so that it’s overwhelming and frustrating to try to decide where you stand on any given issue. From learning more about how to use essential oils to using them safely on different ages, much is debated and much is murky. It seems there are no clear cut answers.

My Beginnings With Essential Oils

Now I’m not new to essential oils. In fact, I’ve been using them for years. Unfortunately, my use of essential oils has most-likely not always been the safest.

Until recently, I’ve used essential oils based on their recommended usage for things without really researching the chemistry behind them or knowing which species is best for what. I’ve used them not knowing whether they were safe for certain ages or safe for certain times in my life, without paying attention to proper dilution, and without consulting a certified aromatherapist.

As I’ve grown in this area, I’ve come to realize how unsafe this has probably been for myself.

Thankfully, it’s not really affected my kids too much as I always tend to choose herbs for them first because as I feel they’re a much better first step than essential oils anyway. No matter, I’m sure I’ve used the wrong oils for the wrong age on my kids here and there… like maybe using a eucalyptus vapor rub on them at too high of a dilution rate and at the wrong age.

My Search For Quality Information

So in my constant efforts to learn more and do a better job at taking care of myself and my family, I’ve been searching for more information on how to go about learning to use essential oils safely in my home. This includes using them in my household cleaning products, my homemade (and business) skincare products, in aromatic products as well as homemade natural remedies.

The point in doing all of this is to become healthier, to grow, to learn, to move forward.

If I use something in an unsafe way, then that doesn’t fit with that mindset at all. I have to stop listening to “everyone” out there or even to particular companies that I favor (because their essential oils will always be best) and start listening to various experts on this topic.

Now I must say that even these various experts disagree. You’ll see in the essential oil safety links below that there’s a difference among safety protocols.

No matter, in everything, whether it’s food and nutrition, herbs and oils, or buying a new high-tech gadget… you need to do your own research and that doesn’t include asking your friend who’s into essential oils what she thinks only. Same goes for me.

When I research anything about herbs, putting together a new formula, when learning how they work in the body, I always consult multiple herbalists and research information in order to see what everyone else thinks or says on the subject. I don’t go off of what one person says… or one herb company… or one blogger.

When To Do It Yourself vs. Seek Professional Help

When it comes to using natural remedies and alternative treatments for yourself and your family, there’s a lot of information you can take advantage of to learn how to do it correctly and safely on your own. You don’t always have to go see a professional for every little thing.

Of course, there will be exceptions to this rule.

For example, you can’t read a few articles or take a 1-hour online course and learn to do acupuncture at home, now can you? Not safely at least. So instead, you go see a certified, licensed acupuncturist. Same with herbs. You can learn to use herbs on your own, in your home, on your family for a lot of different things, and the more you learn, research, and train in the particular field of herbalism, the further you can go in doing things on your own, but we all have our limits. If you are beyond your abilities, you go to see a certified, practicing herbalist.

Same thing with using essential oils. There’s a lot of good info out there… a lot of information that will make you feel confident and like you have it figured out, but so much of it, I’ve found, is very conflicting. When you’re constantly coming across different information within a particular field of study, it does make you doubt and fear. If you’re doubtful and fearful, that is not the time to be experimenting or using something you don’t fully understand. You need to be sure and confident… and well researched.

My Commitment To You

My purpose here with GrowingUpHerbal.com is to encourage you to take charge… to take responsibility for your children’s health.

That’s what I’m trying to do as well. I’m a nurse. I’m an herbalist. I’m a mom. I have a say in my and my families health, and I want to be responsible in that position. That’s what I want for you too.

Here at GrowingUpHerbal.com, my main goal is to help you see how I use herbs with my family. This is because I’m an herbalist, and that’s the area I’m more trained and confident in.

From time to time, I do talk about using essential oils. Essential oils are wonderful, effective, and herbal, but I’m not a certified aromatherapist. As of now, I’ve had no formal training in using essential oils from a certified school of aromatherapy (I’m currently taking a beginners course), and I’m not here to teach you how to use essential oils to heal your family of this or that.

I love sharing what I’m learning with you as well as where I’m getting my information. I ALWAYS try to source my information because I want you to see that I’m not just coming up with this stuff on my own or trying to look like an expert in this area when I’m not. I’m learning from other experts, not because I want to consult with you or treat other people here in my community, but because I’m interested in natural living and I want this lifestyle for my family.

So enough explaining… below you’ll find links to some places around the web that talk about using essential oils safely. This includes safety information for babies, children, pregnancy, and beyond. I’ve tried to find sources that aren’t affiliated (that I know of) with any particular essential oil brands because I wanted to find unbiased sources.

Essential Oil Resources

Online Information:

Robert Tisserand’s blog on essential oils

Alliance of International Aromatherapists – This site discusses information on essential oils and safety as well as details the standards of practice for aromatherapists and lists educational resources you can look into to learn more.

AromaWeb.com – safety information

UsingEOsSafely.com – a great resource for learning about using essential oils safely


Below are a couple books that I see over and over again, being recommended as good sources of information on using essential oils safely and effectively. These books are written by well-known aromatherapists that have many hours of experience in this field and their experience has gone much further than just using oils on clients as they have done extensive research and teaching on the subject.

The Complete Book Of Aromatherapy and Essential Oils by Valerie Ann Worwood

Essential Oil Safety by Robert Tisserand


Aromahead Introduction to Essential Oils Course – FREE

Aromahead is a recognized, certified school of aromatherapy, and to me, this course is perfect for learning about the basics of essential oils and how to use them safely. If you’re looking for a more advanced course on blending and using oils for your family, this Aromahead course, Aromatherapy for Natural Living, may be a better choice for you, and of course, they have even more extensive courses available as well.

Essential Oil Safety

Essential Oils for Babies and Children

There are many conflicting “lists” online for which oils are okay to use on babies and children and about what ages they’re appropriate for. From my understanding, these oils will vary based off of the species of the oil as well as the quality of the product.

Many aromatherapists think no essential oils should be used on a child under the age of 2, and many also believe that oils containing menthol (camphor, peppermint, wintergreen, eucalyptus) should never be used before the age of 10. I’ve also read from other aromatherapists that these oils can be used in younger children, but only if they’re diluted appropriately depending upon the age. You can find two more lists of appropriate essential oils for children from AbundantHealth4U.com and Esoteric Oils.

Essential Oils for Pregnancy

In trying to find a list of essential oils for pregnancy, I came across this list by Esoteric Oils that specifies oils that are NOT SAFE to use with pregnant mamas and this list on UsingEOsSafely.com that talks about unsafe and safe oils for pregnant and nursing mamas.

Again, I’ve seen oils on these lists vary among other sites, but these are the most thorough ones I could find to share with you. You can Google “essential oils for pregnancy” and get tons of info, but remember not all of it is good info. In fact, I did just that and came upon a good blog, in my opinion, that was giving recipes for essential oil remedies that were used for preggo mamas undiluted and internally. In my opinion, that’s no good, so just be aware of where you’re getting your information. Like I said earlier, I highly recommend the above sources.

Toxic Essential Oils – Not To Be Used

Esoteric Oils also has a list of essential oils that are toxic and should not be used. I’m not sure if this list is for topical and internal use only because I know a few of these oils are used for various things. How safely, I don’t know.

For example, wintergreen is used in toothpaste, camphor is used in diffusers and vaporizers for respiratory congestion, and pennyroyal has been used as a flea deterrent for pets. I’m sure this too will vary among aromatherapists.

So there you go… there’s seems to be no set-in-stone list which is why we all need to do our own thorough research when using oils on ourselves and our families.

Basically, Essential Oil Safety Comes Down To This

From my research, and by looking for these lists, it seems that essential oil safety, for the most part, comes down to dilution. There are many oils that are listed as not safe for children or pregnancy, but you’ll find that many people will say it all depends on the dilution rate used. Perhaps this is something that certified aromatherapists would know and it isn’t common knowledge among at-home users which is why it’s best to stay away from certain oils with certain people and consult an aromatherapist if need be.

AromaWeb.com and UsingEOsSafely.com both have good information on how to properly dilute essential oils so check those links out before using any oils.

Again, I encourage you to look into things yourself… do your own research. Don’t just take my word, don’t just take the word of the company you’re purchasing your oils from, don’t just take the word of one aromatherapist or one website. Use multiple sources and references so that you’re sure you have the best, most accurate information possible in order to use oils in your home and on your family in a safe, healthy manner.

I hope you’ve found this information helpful, and my plan would be to add to this and update it as I find more information on this topic in order for it to be a great reference to not only myself, but to you as well.

If you have any tips, resources, or suggestions that would be of help to me and any other Growing Up Herbal reader, please share them in the comments below. I’d love to add your resources to this list!
  1. Lea Harris, Certified Clinical Aromatherapist says:

    Great post! I wanted to point out that Wintergreen is actually OK to use, you just have to use a low dilution and be aware of safety issues, such as if you are on blood thinners. I have an updated list, based on the information from Robert Tisserand’s new book, Essential Oil Safety: http://www.learningabouteos.com/EOnono

    The biggest reason why there may be some different “takes” on safety information, is because most books out there have not been updated with the fresh information out of Robert’s new book.

    Again, thank you for your wonderful blog post! It’s refreshing to see a blogger that is truly interested in safety, and not just pushing a popular brand to make a sale.

    • Meagan says:

      Oh thanks Lea! I’ll update the wintergreen info in the post and link to the new updated post on your site! I love all the info you share there, and it’s helped me learn so much! I always refer people to your site! Thanks again!

  2. Vanessa - Natural Family Today says:

    Yes, yes, yes, thank you! I have been broaching the topic of safety in regards to essential oils on my blog as well. Today, I just published a blog post on the term “food grade” and how it relates to the essential oil industry. Unfortunately, this term is often misused and I worry about people’s safety. Please everyone, listen to Meagan and get your essential oil information from trained professionals. Essential oil company sales reps are just that, sales reps. They are not trained aromatherapists! Great information and resources Meagan. Keep up with the informative info!

  3. Hope says:

    Essential oil safety is Also very dependent on the purity and grade of the oils. This is a fantastic reference for not only EO safety but general usage as well. http://www.lifesciencepublishers.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=1024

    • Meagan says:

      I agree with you Hope. Essential oil safety and effectiveness do depend on purity and quality. Many EO manufacturers have it down to a science, from the growing conditions of the herbs to harvesting, processing, storing, and shipping… there’s so much to it.

      Thanks for sharing the Young Living EO reference guide. I’ve looked through it before, and it does seem to be a great reference. From what I can remember though, it really only focuses on their brand of EOs so if you don’t use those, it’s not as much help to you. It has been a while since I’ve seen it tough. With that being said, I feel that there are many other essential oil reference books that are valuable as well. Thanks for your comment!

  4. Chasa Cochran says:

    Great read.

    Just wanted to point out two things. While Valerie’s book is great for recipes, people need to know that it was written based on outdated safety information so you still need to verify much of what is in there before applying it.

    Also, there is no such thing as grading for essential oils. Therapeutic Grade does not exist as the fed does not grade/regulate the use of essential oils in Aromatherapy. Companies can claim to grade their oils but those grades are based on their own standards which may or may not be on the up and up.

    The only true way to know of an oils purity is to have a GC/MS done which might as well be latin for those who do not know how to read it. However, you can still find great essential oil companies if you are diligent.

    Look for companies who do GC/MS testing, provide an MSDS, provide safey usage information, do not make medical claims or suggest that the seemingly impossible can be done with essential oils and look for companies that offer you all the information you ever wanted to know on the essential oils you are purchasing…..common name, botanical name, chemotype, country of origin, extraction method, distillation/expiration dates (yes, pure essential oils do expire…..even though some companies tell you otherwise). Also, talk to the trained professionals…..those who’ve been in the field and see what they are using and why.

    Knowledge is truly power when it comes to essential oils and most of the knowledge isn’t online, it is in books….so read and read some more. 🙂

    • Meagan says:

      Thanks for your comment Chasa. I’ve heard that before about Valerie’s book. It’s great, but I suppose it’s not been updated in a while. And thanks for all of your helpful info about EO grading and testing. You’re right on!

  5. Katie Short says:

    Felt the need to reply about Pennyroyal. There are at least three distinct plants that are called “pennyroyal”. I don’t mean that in the way you might say “here are three distinct types of apples, red, yellow, and green”. I mean if they called apples “pennyroyal” in the states, applied the same name to roses in Europe, then used that same name to apply to a Turkish shrub. Two “Pennyroyals”, American and European, are toxic. Not just the oils, the plants. Both can be used as abortificiants in low doses and are extremely unsafe during pregnancy. Micromeria fruticosa, or Turkish Pennyroyal, has many of the same compounds of the mint family ants great for respiratory ailments. This would likely act as a flea repellant in the same way other mints do. I’d be willing to bet that’s a whole lot of the confusion.
    I also wonder about the “intestinal is always unsafe” folks. If you’ve had a drink “with a twist”, squeezed lemon into your fish, or consumed ground cinnamon, you’ve ingested the essential oils. Same goes for having eaten any plant that is used to make oils. It is far more about quantity and dilution than it is a blanket statement like “never”. Those are just my thoughts, but they’re holding up the more I study.

    • Meagan says:

      Thanks for explaining the Pennyroyal thing. I’ve used it before for fleas as well as respiratory issues so it must have been the Turkish species. That was a long time ago, and I can definitely say that I didn’t check out anything about the species or whether it was safe or not. I simply trusted that it was because the store sold it. Crazy, right?

      And I completely agree with you on the ingesting EOs thing. The more I learn, the more I find it can be done safely, but it looks very differently from what MLM essential oil companies are teaching. Yes, you do get some of the volatile oils when you use herbs, but like you said it’s a dosage and dilution thing. There’s a lot to it, and I think, for the most part, people shouldn’t do it unless they have a good bit of focused education on it. If they do, then the choice is theirs. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Katie! I appreciate them!

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