When Not To Use An Essential Oil

Posted on: July 25th, 2009 by
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Essential oils have different safety ‘standards’ in different countries; as I’ve mentioned previously, essential oils in France are dispensed through a pharmacist. In the UK and in the USA, this is not the case. Anyone can walk into a store, or order online, any essential oil regardless of their knowledge about essential oils.
Essential oils, if used correctly, are relatively safe to use – those three words, ‘if used correctly’ are what makes the difference. Before qualifying as an aromatherapist and having no knowledge of aromatherapy or what essential oils actually were, I did not realise the power held in one essential oil bottle. Since qualifying as an aromatherapist, I am asked all sorts of questions about the use of essential oils which makes me question whether essential oils should be on restricted sale! After all, ‘knowledge is power’, and the lack of knowledge about essential oils could make a huge difference to someone’s reactions to a particular essential oil.
I discussed the safety of essential oils in a previous blog post but thought it prudent to mention some of the ‘risk’ factors (or contra-indicators) on when not to use an essential oil. Essential oils are made up of different chemical components and therefore the chemical make-up of an essential oil can determine the ‘risk factor’ of a particular oil. Some essential oils are toxic, sensitizing and an irritant. Some other potential risks of essential oils, and therefore ‘contra-indicators’, include:
- risk to pregnant women
- risk to children and babies
-risk to those with liver problems
-risk to those with kidney problems
-risk if not used in moderation
- risk if used in sunlight
- risk of skin irritation.
Not all essential oils carry these risks, it is dependent on the chemical make-up of the essential oils; some essential oil ‘families’ do share common characteristics and therefore similar risk factors. For example, the majority of citrus essential oils are photo toxic, and the high menthone content of most mint oils is a huge risk factor for young children and babies; however, there are often exceptions to the rule (and between different botanical species), making it wise to have some knowledge of essential oils before using them.
For those with little or no knowledge of essential oils, it is important to note that essential oils should normally be administered through a carrier oil; only few essential oils should be used neat, and then only with care and knowledge. There are other methods of essential oil administeration, oral and vaginal among them, but these practices are studied at advanced level.
As I continue to learn about essential oils and their uses, I really do believe that education about essential oils is vital in their correct use. I don’t think it is necessary to be ‘medically qualified’ to administer essential oils but I do believe that having some knowledge about essential oils before using them is important. If you want to know more about a particular essential oil, click on any of the essential oil profiles on the left side of this blog to get started – and take note of any ‘risk’ factors! I would like to finish by saying that essential oils can be used in most cases relatively safely – ‘if used correctly’…

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Vetiver Essential Oil Profile

Posted on: July 24th, 2009 by
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Vetiver Essential Oil
Vetiver Essential Oil

Vetiver Essential Oil

 Another of the scented grasses which produces an essential oil is vetiver – not as well known as citronella or lemongrass , vetiver is a popular plant used in ancient perfumes of India.

It is also extremely useful for problematic skin and is a gentle, non-toxic, non-sensisitizing and non-irritating essential oil due to its high chemical content of alcohols.

Learn more about vetiver essential oil by reading my latest essential oil profile vetiver

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Quality Testing Essential Oils

Posted on: July 22nd, 2009 by
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Essential oils undergo a number of quality tests to test for their purity; as discussed in the previous blog post on essential oil suppliers, it difficult to know if an essential oil is pure. Many ‘pure’ essential oils are, in fact, ‘fragrance oils’. However, quality testing essential oils with such tests as the GC-MS and GLC means that some ‘pure’ essential oils will not ‘pass the test’. Some essential oil suppliers will provide you with the GC-MS test reports if you ask.

Quality testing essential oils is a scientific and complex process but I have tried to explain, in simple terms, the process of quality testing essential oils in my latest article Essential Oil Quality Testing

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Essential Oil Suppliers – Who Can You Trust?

Posted on: July 17th, 2009 by
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Essential oils have changed considerably since their inception in modern day aromatherapy practice. In Ancient Egypt, plant oils used were different to the essential oils of today and many of these ancient ‘oils’ were made at source. In other words, people made a lot of their own plant oils and knew what was going into them. Today, it is a much different practice.

In the UK, when common usage of modern day essential oils became popular, it was in the beauty and massage industry they were used the most; not many people really knew about the therapeutic powers of essential oils and essential oils were often used for their ‘nice smells’ rather than for healing power. Today, this is true in the USA with the use of fragrance oils, which are synthetically made and are not from nature’s plants; indeed, many ‘essential oils’ are also not of the qualitative and therapeutic standards required for aromatherapy practice, even some of those which claim to be so.

As the use of essential oils for their therapeutic properties has risen, people are learning to educate themselves more on what they are actually buying. It is difficult to know if the information being supplied by the large essential oil companies (and some smaller companies too) is both correct and believable.

Some guidelines for buying from a true and pure essential oil supplier include:

- the reputation and the history of the essential oil supplier – if you have heard rumors or ‘bad press’ about a particular essential oil supplier, you may believe in the old adage ‘there is no smoke without fire’. Check your facts, do your own research and decide for yourself.

- pricing of essential oils – if you study essential oils, you will have some idea of what is a reasonable charge for a particular essential oil – for example, rose essential oil is a really expensive oil. If you see it being sold really cheaply, its probably not the ‘real deal.’

- check the latin names of the essential oil – true essential oils will have come from the botanical plant of the same name and not from a ‘blend’ or ‘infusion’ of a synthetically engineered oil in a factory.

- essential oils go through a number of qualitative tests for evaluation. These include gas chromatography and mass spectometry (more on that in subsequent posts) and some essential oil suppliers will allow you access to the GS/MS reports.

-ask where the essential oil supplier gets their essential oils from – essential oils are available from plants which only grow in certain areas of the world. For example, if someone tells you they buy their frankincense essential oil from a local farmer and they live in England, alarm bells should be ringing!

- if possible, get a recommendation of a good essential oil supplier from a friend or professional you trust.

Currently, regulation governing the sale of essential oils is little or non-existent in most areas of the world so it is up to the consumer to work out who is ‘trustworthy’ and who is not. Studying essential oils helps you to have some knowledge of what you are looking for – after all, knowledge is power! But, even then, it can be difficult to identify a trustworthy supplier of true essential oils.

In my time I have spent living in the USA, I have learned from peers, forums, publications and my own internet searches and research about the essential oil suppliers in the USA; after 3 years, I am only just beginning to ‘trust’ some of the information I have on essential oil suppliers who supply the ‘real deal’. I am not going to post a list of the ‘good guys’ and the ‘bad guys’ on my aromatherapy blog, but if anyone has any thoughts or ideas on essential oil suppliers, I would love to hear from you, either by posting a comment at the end of this post or through my personal contact information in the right hand side column of the blog!

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Lemongrass Essential Oil

Posted on: July 17th, 2009 by
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Lemongrass Essential Oil
Lemongrass Essential Oil

Lemongrass Essential Oil

 Lemongrass is another lesser known essential oil but it a light and fresh essential oil with a number of uses; traditionally used in Indian Medicine for fevers and disease, it has also been used as an insect repellent – quite apt for this time of year!

It can be an irritant to those with sensitive skin so should be used with care. However, for anyone who has experience of using essential oils with animals, it is reportedly a natural way to repel fleas from dogs…

For more information read Lemongrass Essential Oil, my latest essential oil profile.

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An Essential Oil Glossary – Understanding Aromatherapy Terms

Posted on: July 15th, 2009 by
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Aromatherapists use some complicated terms to describe essential oils and what properties essentials hold. To the student of aromatherapy this can be very confusing. A simple list or glossary of essential oil terms can help.

There are many aromatherapy books out there – the good ones will contain a glossary of essential oil terms and their meanings. Some are self-explanantory, such as deodorant; others are more complex, such as emmenagogue.

Then there are the terms used to describe the odor of an essential oil. What does ‘green’ mean? It doesn’t mean the essential oil is green in color, in fact it describes an essential oil which has a grassy odor! Of course, many aromatherapists use different terms and can interpret things slightly differently but in general there are some common aromatherapy terms used by most.

As an initial student of aromatherapy, I found the composition of an essential oil glossary helpful and still add to it today, as I continue to learn, or re-visit, new terms. If you want to know more about an essential oil glossary and some of the more common aromatic terms, check out An Essential Oil Glossary of Aromatic Terms.

If you have any suggestions or thoughts on essential oil terms please let me know!

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