I wrote a post a long time ago called the 10 Best Essential Oils To Use For Children (my first guest post in fact) where I talked about 10 essential oils that are must-haves in your natural medicine cabinet when you have children.
What I failed to mention was which oils were best for what ages.
For example, I mentioned that peppermint and eucalyptus essential oils are great to have on hand with kids, but I didn’t mention that age and the method of use impacts the safety of those oils.
So today, I want to share some brief information and links with you to help you make sure you’re using essential oils safely for your children.
Essential Oil Safety
Essential oils are sourced from herbs, but essential oils are much stronger and more concentrated than herbs so there is more of a chance to experience problems with them such as topical irritation, allergic reactions, sensitivities, etc. than there is with herbs… especially with children.
Children differ from adults in how they respond to essential oils due to a few things. For starters, their bodies are smaller than an adult’s so they don’t need the same amount of oil as an adult would. Another reason is that they’re more sensitive to the therapeutic effects of oils, therefore, smaller amounts of oils work as well for them as the larger adult doses do for adults. And lastly, they’ve not been exposed to as much as an adult has, therefore, their bodies are less able to handle a lot of something new than we are.
Now I’m in no way saying that all herbs are totally safe for kids. There are some to be careful with and some that shouldn’t be used at all with children. But when it comes to using essential oils, you’re dealing with a distilled extract of an herb and not the whole plant. That means that many of the buffering constituents in the plant have not crossed over into the oil and there’s a chance that more side effects can occur.
The whole point of using alternative methods over more modern-day ones is to find safe, more natural routes to helping our kids, but we as moms need to do our research… on essential oils and herbs both.
Essential Oil Dilution Ratios
In my research on using essential oils safely for children, I’ve found that the key factor to safe usage is the dilution ratio. Many essential oils are strong and not recommended for children under a certain age, but depending upon the dilution ratio used, some of these oils can be used.
The safest dilution ratio for children under 6 years old is a .25% dilution and for children over 6 years old, the typical ratio is a 1% dilution. Now, this can vary depending upon whether the oils are being used for prevention or during an actual sickness, but it shouldn’t vary too much.
This is a great post on properly diluting essential oils which includes a dilution chart for you to bookmark and reference.
Safe Essential Oils For Children
There’s a lot of varying info online about essential oil safety, and you’ll have to do some digging to sift the wheat from the chaff. Now I’m not an essential oil expert by any means, and I try to make that clear here on Growing Up Herbal. Nonetheless, I do use essential oils in my home, and I want to know about and pass on good information concerning using essential oils for kids because essential oils can be effective and helpful allies for wellness.
Here’s a link to a list of safe essential oils for children from Mommypotamus. It details plant species, age ranges, and application methods for the oils mentioned. It also mentions the controversial 1,8 cineole present in peppermint and eucalyptus essential oils that can be a safety concern, particularly where small children are concerned. Speaking of 1,8 cineole, here is another great article from the New York Institute of Aromatic Studies that I’d highly recommend a parent reading before using any cineole-rich essential oil on their child. It helps debunk a lot of the 1,8 cineole safety scare information you often come across online.
Finally: Your Child’s Health Is Ultimately Your Responsibility
The point of all of this, and hopefully everything I put across here on Growing Up Herbal, is that it’s our responsibility as parents to take charge of our children’s health.
I know it’s not possible to be an expert in all health-related things, which is why we go to experts for their advice, but that doesn’t mean we can hand all decisions and responsibility over to them. We ultimately have the final say which means we have to know and understand some things ourselves. Sure these experts should help us, but I think it’s wise to have multiple sources to go to for information and for cross-references. I hope Growing Up Herbal can be one of those sources for you, but I never want you to rely on my information alone. I’m human. I’m not perfect. I make mistakes. We all do.
This post was originally written on December 26th, 2013, but has been updated as of November 7, 2019.