Essential Oil Safety

My Body My Blend
Essential Oil Safety

Essential oils are a wonderful complement to overall wellness, but are they safe for everyone? As a general rule they are, when they are used properly. But not every oil is safe to use in every situation or for every person. When using essential oils please keep in mind the following:

  1. Oils to avoid in epilepsy or those prone to seizure activity:Western Red Cedar, Wormwood, Genipi, Hyssop, Sage, Thuja, Pennyroyal, Buchu, Calamint, Tansy, Mugwort, Layana, Ho Leaf, Boldo, Wintergreen, Birch, Rosemary, Yarrow, Lavandin, Feverfew, and Spike Lavender. 
  2. Be very cautious of essential oil use during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Essential oils should be used during these times only at a 1% dilution and only under guidance of an aromatherapist or medical professional knowledgeable about essential oils. There are approximately 50 essential oils that are contraindicated during pregnancy and another 15 that should be restricted during pregnancy and lactation.
  3. The use of essential oils directly on the fur or skin of animals is not recommended. Small animals can have toxic reactions to essential oils being applied to their fur or skin.
  4. Phototoxic: Bergamot (0.4%), Lemon (2%), cold pressed Lime (0.7%), Grapefruit (4%), Bitter Orange (1.25%), Mandarin Leaf (0.17%), Cumin (0.4%), Angelica Root (0.8%), Laurel Leaf absolute (2%), Rue (0.15%) and Taget (0.01%). Sunlight or tanning bed rays must be avoided for at least 12–18 hours after application if any of these oils are used at levels higher than indicated. These oils applied to the skin at over the photo-toxic safety level will increase the chance of severe burns from ultraviolet light.
  5. Persons who have asthma and allergies should proceed cautiously with essential oils. Persons who have sensitivities to perfumes, or multiple chemical sensitivities should also exercise caution before proceeding with essential oils.
  6. For children between 5-12 years old, elders, pregnant women and those with serious health conditions, essential oils are to be diluted to a maximum of 1%, (a total of five to six drops of essential oil to 1 oz/30ml of carrier oil). Skin application and direct inhalation should be avoided for children younger than five years old. Hydrosols, carrier oils and butters are recommended instead. Birch or Wintergreen should not be used on or given to children in any amount due to risk of developing Reye’s syndrome.
When working with an ‘off the shelf’ essential oil blend be sure to read the label. Look through the ingredients, check for essential oil percentages. Pay attention to any contraindications that may be listed.
When working with an aromatherapist, pay attention to any information they may have for you and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask for the dilution ratio, ask for potential contraindications, ask if the blend can be used daily and for how long.
Essential oils are a great way to add to your overall wellness plan and they are generally safe but only if you use them responsibly.

*Source materials: Aromahead Institute; Tisserand and Young, Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health Care Professionals (second edition)

Essential Oils for Fibromyalgia

Full article previously published in NAHA Aromatherapy Journal 2015.3
What is Fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia (FM) is a chronic medical condition that causes widespread pain throughout the body. To receive a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, a patient must show a history of widespread pain in all four quadrants of the body for a period lasting more than three months and must show a positive pain reaction in eleven out of eighteen tender points in the body when pressure is applied. Although widespread pain is the primary symptom of fibromyalgia, patients often suffer from severe fatigue, cognitive dysfunction (“brain fog”), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), insomnia, headaches and migraines, anxiety, depression, and an increased sensitivity to light, touch, and sound.

An estimated ten million Americans are currently diagnosed with fibromyalgia, with symptoms that range from tolerable for some, to debilitating for others. Fibromyalgia patients often receive their diagnosis only after all other known causes of their symptoms have been ruled out. Recent research suggests that fibromyalgia associated pain may be caused by a demyelinating process similar to chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP).  Understanding the root causes of fibromyalgia pain can lead to better symptom management and an improved quality of life for fibromyalgia patients.

Essential Oils as a Complement Tool for Pain Management

Numerous studies have been conducted that show essential oil use may reduce inflammation and pain. As fibromyalgia research progresses, our understanding of the physiological changes that occur in the body can provide insight to the most appropriate essential oil choices for the fibromyalgia client.

Blue gum eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) essential oil research has shown reduced inflammation and pain when inhaled. Participants in the study were clients who received total knee replacement surgery and also received traditional treatment therapies, in addition to essential oil inhalation therapy. Pain and inflammation in the human body have a negative effect on autonomic body functions resulting in increased blood pressure and heart rate. Researchers theorize that inhalation has a direct effect on the autonomic and sympathetic body systems by way of the olfactory system. Participants in the study that inhaled eucalyptus essential oil had reduced blood pressure, reduced heart rate, and a reduced perception of pain when compared to the control group.

Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) essential oil studies have also shown a reduction in neuropathic pain.   Researchers theorize that neuropathic pain is perpetuated by calcium and oxygen free radicals competing for dominance. As one level increases, the other level will also increase, creating a vicious cycle that causes the pain state. Their research using rat models demonstrates reduced levels of calcium and oxygen free radicals in addition to an observed reduction in pain.

Black pepper (Piper nigrum) essential oil has been shown to have strong analgesic and antiinflammatory effect. Furthermore, the study conducted by Farhana et al. showed black pepper essential oil had significant analgesic effect when compared to the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) and control groups in the study. Essential oil from Piper nigrum has the potential to be skin irritating if not well-diluted due to the hot and spicy nature of the oil.  Black pepper essential oil should be well tolerated as a topical application when diluted with a carrier oil at a one percent ratio. Proper use of black pepper essential oil at safe levels also demonstrates far fewer side effects than its pharmaceutical counterpart.

Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanioides) essential oil research involving mice shows reduced inflammation and strong analgesic activity in both acute and chronic cases. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) essential oil research shows reduction in free radical activity, neuropathy pain reduction, and improvement in cognitive function due to diabetes mellitus.  Significant research has been conducted on the neuroprotective effects of turmeric (Curcuma longa) essential oil that shows reduction in inflammatory response, free radical expression and improved cognitive function.  Ginger (Zingiber officinale) extract research has alsoshown improvement in both myelinated nerve fiber loss and oxidative stress in nerve lesions associated with neuropathic pain.

Essential Oils Offer Added Values for Fibromyalgia Sufferers

Fibromyalgia clients struggle with multiple issues along with the primary complaint of chronic pain. In addition to answering the primary concern of pain, an essential oil has multiple beneficial values to offer. For example, Black pepper (Piper nigrum) essential oil offers energetic qualities such as a reduction in both fatigue and depression in addition to its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.  Blue gum eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) essential oil also provides support by soothing exhaustion and aiding with concentration.

It is the energetic values of essential oils that potentially provide a greater health benefit to the fibromyalgia patient. Not all patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia display every symptom, nor do they all experience the same level of pain. An aromatherapy blend has the potential to address primary and multiple secondary complaints simultaneously.

Aromatherapy as an art, is designed to support the individual by getting to know that individual. While generalizations can be made about the benefits of a specific essential oil, it is not assumed that one particular essential oil will be a match for everyone in need of that benefit. By following current research on essential oils and chronic health problems we, as aromatherapists, can provide appropriate choices for individual clients.

1. The National Fibromyalgia Association, “FM Fact Sheet,” [Online]. Available: [Accessed April 30,  2015].
2. Caro XJ, Winter EF (2014) “Evidence of abnormal epidermal nerve fiber density in fibromyalgia: clinical and immunologic implications.” Arthritis Rheumatol, vol. 66, no. 7, pp. 1945-54. DOI: 10.1002/ art.38662.
3. Giannoccaro MP, Donadiao V, Incensi A, Avoni P, Liquori R. (2014, May) “Small nerve fiber involvement in patients referred for fibromyalgia,” Muscle Nerve, (49) pp. 757-9. DOI: 10.1002/ mus.24156.
4. Yang Suk Jun, Purum Kang, Sun Seek Min, Jeong-Min Lee, Hyo-Keun Kim, and Geun Hee Seol. (2013) “Effect of Eucalyptus Oil Inhalation on Pain and Inflammatory Responses after Total Knee Replacement: A Randomized Clinical Trial,” EvidenceBased Complementary and Alternative Medicine, p. 7. DOI: 10.1155/2013/502727.
5. Kaur, Gurpreet, Bali, Anjana, Singh, Nirmal, & Jaggi, Amteshwar S. (2015) “Ameliorative potential of Ocimum sanctum in chronic constriction injury-induced neuropathic pain in rats,” Anais da Academia Brasileira de Ciências, Vol. 87, pp. 417-429. DOI: 10.1590/0001-3765201520130008.
6. Kaur, Gurpreet, Jaggi, Amteshwar Singh and Singh, Nirmal. (2010) “Exploring the potential effect of Ocimum sanctum in vincristineinduced neuropathic pain in rats,” Journal of Brachial Plexus and Peripheral Nerve Injury, Vol. 5. DOI: 10.1186/1749-7221-5-3.
7. Farhana Tasleem, Iqbal Azhar, Syed Nawazish Ali, Shaista Perveen, Zafar Alam Mahmood. “Analgesic and anti-inflammatory activities of Piper nigrum L,” (2014) Asian Pac J Trop Med,  (7) pp. S461-S468. DOI: 10.1016/S1995-7645(14)60275-3.
8. Black and Butje, Inc. (2015) “Aromatherapy Courses,” Aromahead Institute. [Online] [Cited: May 15, 2015.]
9. Mahesh B. Narkhede, Atul E. Wagh, Ashish M. Rathi. (2012, April) “Anti-inflammatory activity of vetiveria zizanioides (linn.) Root,” Journal of Pharmacy Research, (5) pp. 2016-2017.
10. Akan, Z, et al. (2014, June) “Effects of Thymus Vulgaris L. and Thymbra Spicata L. on diabetes mellitus associated cognitive impairment and neuropathy: Thymus Vulgaris and Cognitive Function Improvements,” Medical Science and Discovery, (1) pp. 16-21.
11. Zhang, D, et al. (2013) “Curcumin and Diabetes: A Systematic Review,” Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. DOI: 10.1155/2013/636053.
12. Wattanathorn, J, et al. (2015) “The Combined Extract of Zingiber officinale and Zea mays (Purple Color) Improves Neuropathy, Oxidative Stress, and Axon Density in Streptozotocin Induced Diabetic Rats,”  Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. DOI: 10.1155/2015/301029 ecam/2015/301029
13. Black and Butje, Inc. (2015) “Aromatherapy Courses,” Aromahead Institute. [Online][Cited: May 15, 2015.]