There are important guidelines to follow when using essential oils, especially if you are unfamiliar with the oils and their benefits. Many guidelines are listed below. However, no list of do’s and don’ts can ever replace common sense. So, start gradually, and find what works best for you and your family.

Guidelines for Safe Use

1. Always keep a bottle of a pure vegetable oil handy when using essential oils. Vegetable oils dilute essential oils if they cause discomfort or skin irritation (water doesn’t).

2. Keep bottles of essential oils tightly closed and store them in a cool location away from light. If stored properly, essential oils will maintain their potency for many years.

3. Keep essential oils out of reach of children. Treat them as you would any product for therapeutic use.

4. Essential oils rich in menthol should not be used on the throat or neck area of children under 30 months of age.

5. Angelica, bergamot, grapefruit, lemon, orange, tangerine, and other citrus oils are photosensitive and may cause a rash or dark pigmentation on skin exposed to direct sunlight or UV rays within 3 to 4 days after application.

6. EYES: Keep essential oils away from the eye area and never put them directly into the ear canal. Do not handle contact lenses or rub eyes with essential oils on your fingers. Oils with high phenol content—oregano, cinnamon, thyme, clove, lemongrass, and bergamot—may damage contacts and will irritate eyes. If you accidentally get essential oils into your eyes, flush with milk, cream, or a vegetable oil immediately. Water will not help.

7. Pregnant women should consult a health care professional when starting any type of health program.

8. Epileptics and those with high blood pressure should consult their health care professional before using essential oils. Use caution with hyssop, fennel, basil, wintergreen/birch, nutmeg, rosemary, peppermint, sage, tarragon, and Idaho tansy oils.

9. People with high blood pressure should avoid using sage and rosemary.

10. People with allergies should test a small amount of oil on an area of sensitive skin, such as the inside of the upper arm, before applying the oil on other areas. The bottom of the feet is one of the safest, most effective places to use essential oils.

11. Before taking GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) essential oils internally, dilute one drop of essential oil in one teaspoon of an oil-soluble liquid like honey, olive oil, or milk. Never consume more than a few drops of diluted essential oil per day without the advice of someone who is knowledgeable about essential oils.

12. Do not add undiluted essential oils directly to bath water. Using Bath Gel or Epsom or sea salts as a base for all oils applied to your bath is an excellent way to disperse the oils into the bath water.

When essential oils are put directly into bath water without a dispersing agent, they can cause discomfort on sensitive skin because the essential oils float, undiluted, on top of the water. [I don’t bother diluting lavender, geranium, or sandalwood in my bath, but I do not have sensitive skin]

13. Keep essential oils away from open flames, sparks, or electricity. Some essential oils, including orange, fir, pine, and peppermint are potentially flammable.

14. Skin test an essential oil before using it. Each person’s body is different, so apply oils to a small area first. Apply one oil or blend at a time. When layering oils that are new to you, allow enough time (3 to 5 minutes) for the body to respond before applying a second oil.

15. Read the labels on your oils and research what you’re using. For instance, NEVER take an essential oil internally unless you are certain it is listed as a “supplement” on its label AND is a pure, therapeutic grade essential oil.

16. Be careful not to use adulterated or synthetic oils. Some may be toxic.

Caution: Essential oils may sting if applied in or around the eyes. Some oils may be painful on mucous membranes unless diluted properly. Immediate dilution is strongly recommended if skin becomes painfully irritated or if oil accidentally gets into eyes. Flushing the area with a vegetable oil should minimize discomfort almost immediately. DO NOT flush with water! Essential oils are oil soluble, not water soluble.

Water will only spread the oils over a larger surface, possibly exacerbating the problem.

Keep all essential oils out of reach of children and only apply to children under supervision. In case of accidental ingestion:

  • Call a Poison Control Center or seek immediate emergency medical attention if necessary.
  • They may tell you to administera quality vegetable oil, such as olive oil or a mixture of milk, cream, yogurt, or another safe, oil-soluble liquid.