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© 2012-2020 Linda Mabry Lewis DBA Mountain Oils & Healing

Moderation in all things - including moderation.
Linda M. Lewis

It's been a busy few months, but I've managed to take a few online courses for the Continuing Education credits needed to keep my certification.

In one course, the instructor said she was burned by using baths salts that contained one drop of rose oil without a dispersant. Of course, the instructor is in the business of creating and selling dispersants. But this tells me that either: a) she was using an adulterated rose oil, or b) she was mostly interested in advertising her business and convincing us that we needed her services.

When I first got involved with essential oils, I was using store-bought oils, and yes, they burned. I had read that lavender oil was good for healing cuts and burns, but on me it just caused more damage and I hated the smell. Then I was introduced to Young Living and learned about pure oils verses adulterated oils. Young Living's lavender really did help with cuts and burns ( I have quite a story about that, too ), and smelled completely different from what I had in my bathroom cabinet. That was many, MANY years ago, and there are now some oils you can buy in the store that are good. Several mail order companies provide good oils, too. I'm still a member at Young Living, but I'm researching and testing out other companies as well. Just because the label says "pure" does not mean it is 100% properly produced essential oil from the plant they claim it to be. You need to know where the oils came from, how the plants were grown and harvested, how the distillation was done, how the oils were stored. You need to trust the integrity of the company.

Another thing that happened when I was first introduced to Young Living is that I was told that all of the oils are perfectly safe to use at any time undiluted, internally or topically. From what I've heard and seen on social media, that is common for other multi-level companies as well. The companies are not saying this and are asking distributors not to, but some distributors are making these claims anyway.

And it is simply not true. All true essential oils are powerful, containing many chemical constituents. Some are gentle enough to use topically undiluted, although it's rare that you would want or need to. For instance, rose oil should not burn your skin, but it's so expensive and strong-smelling that I always dilute it. A little goes a LONG way. I apply lavender undiluted on occasion, but prefer it diluted. The Raindrop Technique uses undiluted oils, some of them quite "hot" (oregano and thyme, especially), but the practitioner always keeps a bottle of diluting oil handy in case of skin irritation.

As far as internal use goes, you should ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS use oil that has been LABELED for internal use. And even then, moderation. I see posts on Facebook saying that a great way to start your morning is to put a drop or two of lemon oil (yes, even properly labeled lemon oil) into hot water or tea. If you do that every day, though, you might damage the mucus lining of your esophagus. I've seen several articles that say there are hospital visits for this damage, but I have yet to find one that actually provides access to those reports, or whether there is any information on the brand and method of use of the oils in question. Still, any oil that will dissolve petrochemicals is likely to irritate mucus membranes, so why risk it? Putting a fraction of a drop of oregano oil into a pot of spaghetti sauce is unlikely to harm you - the amount that will taste good is likely the same amount you would get from the appropriate amount of the herb. Ingesting a drop on the advice of a knowledgeable aromatherapist or doctor, appropriately diluted, might help with certain conditions, but most certainly should not be repeated daily for a long period of time. Oregano oil contains compounds known to cause damage to the liver. There are benefits and cautions for almost every essential oil out there.

And there are also drug interactions and medical conditions to be considered. Are you on any kind of blood-thinners? Avoid clove and wintergreen oil, even diluted, even topically; both of those oils are blood-thinners themselves. Asthmatics should not directly breathe in eucalyptus oils, even though eucalyptus supports the respiratory system; in a person with asthma it can trigger an attack. Some oils increase the effectiveness of antibiotics, some oils interfere with your body's ability to metabolize various medications, some oils can help diabetics and some can make you more susceptible to sunburn.

There's so much to know about essential oils. I've taken classes in the chemistry, and I have many reference books. But what can people do who don't want to devote their lives to learning about essential oils, yet would like to use them as a safe and natural way to promote well-being?

  1. Dilute, dilute, dilute. Your reference book probably says to use oils anywhere from neat (no dilution) to 1-to-4 (one drop oil to four drops diluting oil, or a 20% solution). The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA, a major certifying board for aromatherapists) says not to go over 5% essential oil for adults, 2% for children. There are numerous "expert" companies and organizations that will tell you all sorts of things. My opinion, based on many years of experience with essential oils and hours and hours of classes from different organizations, is that there are times when using oils neat is appropriate. However, that should not be done without much training, experience, education, and research on the specific client, oil, and circumstance. In blends I've made for clients and for myself, I've found 5% to be quite effective. More is not better. Why waste oil, waste money, and risk injury?
  2. One appropriate, and indeed, necessary, use of undiluted oil is in a diffuser. Oils used for diluting are oily, unlike the volatile essential oils, and they will gum up and possibly ruin your diffuser. Diffusing is an excellent way to get essential oil compounds into your body. The lungs rapidly disperse essential oil compounds into your bloodstream in a reasonably safe way. Again, check for any contra-indications if you have a medical condition, and please be cognizant of other humans or pets in the diffusing area.
  3. Do not use the same oil repeatedly over a long period of time. Switch off now and then.
  4. Keep oils away from mucus membranes and eyes. If you get essential oil in your eyes or on a mucus membrane, immediately flush the area with a high-quality cooking oil or diluting oil (organic is preferred, but use the best oil you have). Do NOT use water - it will spread the oil, not dilute it.
  5. Never put drops of essential oil into your ear. You can rub the diluted oil on your head and jaw area around the ear and the molecules will go through your skin to the ear canal. Your body is smart - when a needed compound is detected, your body will send it where it will help.
  6. Do not use essential oils on young children without consulting a professional, and even then they should be highly diluted. Never use peppermint oil on a child younger than three years old. There are other oils that should be avoided with children, but peppermint is so common that I wanted to mention it specifically.
  7. Do your homework if you are pregnant or nursing. Some oils can stimulate contractions, and some oils will slow down milk production. Plus, whatever you put on your skin will wind up in your baby's body.
  8. And finally, research your company. Make sure their oils are produced without chemical solvents, that they test EVERY batch thoroughly using the latest methods, and that they also send their oils out to third-party labs for testing. Learn all you can about how they source their oils - do they own their own farms, or buy from vendors who may or may not be reputable? How much control do they have over the entire process from growing the plant to bottling the oil? Where did they get their education, and how much experience do they have?

There's a lot of inaccurate information floating around, from the scary things that sound like every oil is a poison (well, improperly used so is water) to the free-wheeling "just drink it out of the bottle" crowd. Moderation, caution, and common sense are essential. Education and research are a must. But essential oils are helpful, and they should be used to improve well-being. Just use high–quality oils, and use them appropriately.

Blessings, and Be Well~