Welcome to my letter H post in the #AtoZChallenge on aromatherapy and essential oils. Today, I will talk about hazardous essential oils. I will also talk some about the risks of generally safe essential oils.
There are some oils you should definitely not use. These include bitter almond, boldo leaf, deertongue, sassafras and garlic. See a more complete list on AromaWeb.
However, you should not assume that an oil is safe just because it doesn’t appear on the list. For example, birch oil can make people very ill. Some people will use it for its phenomenal painkilling properties, but I wouldn’t recommend taking the risk. Birch oil used to appear on the AromaWeb list I linked above. So did wintergreen, which is now commonly used in diffuser blends.
In general, pregnant women should be cautious about using essential oils. While some oils are safe to use in pregnancy, the list of oils that can affect the unborn baby, is long.
Never apply essential oils on the skin undiluted by a carrier oil. Many essential oils, though, can be irritating to the skin even when diluted. These include citrus oils such as lemon and bergamot, peppermint oil, spicy essential oils such as cinnamon and clove, etc. AromaWeb has another list of skin irritant oils. Oils that are photosensitizing will cause the skin to be more sensitive to sunlight. Phototoxic oils are even worse, in that they can cause severe sunburn.
Even with generally skin-safe essential oils, it is recommended to do a patch test (applying the diluted essential oil to a small spot on the skin) before using an essential oil in baths or for general massage. After all, you may get irritated skin from or develop an allergic reaction to any oil.
Lastly, there are some other risks to using essential oils. For example, clary sage essential oil should not be used when you’ve consumed alcohol because of its sedative properties. Certain oils, such as ylang ylang, can cause a headache when inhaled over a prolonged time. Finally, oils such as fennel and hyssop may not be safe for people with seizure disorders.
In general, if you have any chronic medical conditions, you should be extra cautious when using essential oils. I’ve also heard that essential oils can interact with medications or natural remedies. I haven’t personally experienced such interactions as far as I know.