The internet has been passing around misinformation. Again.
I know, I know, about what? That’s your question at least, I’d imagine it would be mine if I was reading this article.
Essential oil safety myths.
Yeah, the internet’s been misinforming you about essential oils and about how afraid (or not afraid) you should feel when using them.
Sorry! That stinks, I know.
I’ve read the articles, too. But I dug around and found out what those with decades of experience (and in many cases advanced degrees) had to say about some of the most popular scare article topics, and well…these quotes are guaranteed to challenge what you thought you knew about essential oils.
It will at least make it a little more likely that you’ll want to un-pin some of those articles.
So let’s tackle some of those topics and look at what some actual experts say, ok? Great!
Oh, if you want to skip to a particular subject, you can click below if you want. Otherwise, just scroll on down!
Drinking Essential Oils in Water is Dangerous
You’ve read the posts and the articles and seen the clever graphics, right?
- One aromatherapist says that you’ll burn your mucous membranes and trash your liver if you drop a few drops of essential oil in your morning water.
- Another item shows up in your news feed with a picture of a Styrofoam plate dissolved by a drop of lemon oil with the dire warning that the same will surely happen to your stomach and esophagus.
The articles pass around social media like wildfire, complete with knowing friends dogpiling on and sharing how foolish those “MLM oil people are” for using oils in such a dangerous way.
So what does an expert (non-MLM) have to say about casual ingestion of oils in a glass of water? For that we turn to Kurt Schnaubelt, PhD.
Who is Kurt Schnaubelt?
Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt, PhD. is the founder of Original Swiss Aromatics and the Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy. He founded both the company and the school in 1983 and holds advanced degrees, including a doctorate. Dr. Schnaubelt is a published author of several well respected essential oil manuals.
On page 131 of this book, Dr. Schnaubelt explains:
“The discussion about the safety and overall usefulness of ingesting essential oils has gone on for a long time; it consists mainly of a superficial back and forth of talking points provided by different parties with vested interests.”
Ok, so he’s saying there has been a lot of bickering for quite some time about “ingestion yes” vs. “ingestion no.” Check!
Where does he come down on the issue?
He then goes on to explain on page 132:
“Common sense helps to resolve the issue. While there are essential oils that are toxic when ingested…, the question immediately arises: should, for example, authentic Lemon oil not be ingested just because adulterated essential oils may contain harmful chemicals, or because some ketone-containing essential oils may be toxic? In other words, limiting the discussion to a general ‘ingestion yes’ or an ‘ingestion no’ misses the point.”
In other words, don’t throw the essential oil baby out with the bathwater. Just because some oils are not ok to ingest, that doesn’t mean we should consider them all to be bad. That would be like saying that you shouldn’t drink a peppermint tea because the herb arnica can harm you if taken internally. Clearly anyone who know anything about both herbs would know that would be comparing apples to oranges. Each is suitable for different purposes which are completely knowable simply by checking.
On that same page he references the list of oils (he specifically lists 35 oils) on the next page as “a list of oils suitable for casual ingestion in a glass of water” and on the opposite page gives a number of suitable drops as 1-3 drops per glass of water.
He then directly says (page 132) that:
“The most effective method [to take oils internally] is to put a drop of oil in a glass of water. Quite a number of oils will form a very fine film on top of the water. Vigorous stirring will not really dissolve the drop but will disperse it sufficiently so that drinking the glass of water will take the oil into the stomach and ideally into the small intestine.”
It seems plain that Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt is comfortable with the causual ingestion of 1-3 drops of suitable oils in a glass of water. Interesting contrast to other articles, isn’t it?
Lavender Essential Oil is Estrogenic and Shouldn’t be Used on Boys
This is one of the original essential oil rumors turned urban “fact”. It was probably one of the very first I ever heard, even before I dared to think of using essential oils.
Of course it gave me great concern when my baby son came around and I, out of an abundance of caution, wouldn’t even use a lotion scented with lavender because someone told me that lavender essential oil was estrogenic and would cause boys (and even young girls) to grow breasts.
Hormones are scary things to mess with, and I certainly wasn’t going to take any chances. Plus all my mommy friends were sure their boys would grow breasts, too, should any lavender essential oil be used on them. So the deal was sealed.
Until Robert Tisserand entered the picture.
Who is Robert Tisserand?
Robert Tisserand is a 45 year aromatherapy expert, author of 3 books, with a long list of impressive credits to his name. He is one of the most out-spoken essential oil safety authors with a comprehensive tome to his credit called Essential Oil Safety.
What does he have to say about boys (and girls) and lavender?
“Lavender oil does not mimic estrogen nor does it enhance the body’s own estrogens. It is therefore not a ‘hormone disruptor’, cannot cause breast growth in young boys (or girls of any age)” (SOURCE and full article)
He goes on to debunk the original 2007 research that started the myth of lavender causing hormone disruption explaining that the estrogen that they discovered in the study may have been from the plastic labware they used! Want to read the full explanation? Click here.
Using Eucalyptus Essential Oil with Children (and other oils rich in 1,8 cineole) Could Stop Their Breathing
This topic gets the most mileage in mom groups where well-meaning friends warn other moms to never use oils like eucalyptus or other oils that contain a compound called 1,8 cineole on their children because there is a “high risk of respiratory arrest.” And it’s not only eucalyptus that should be avoided, according to these articles and sources, but any essential oil blend or product that contains them.
And you know, this one I can’t necessarily blame them for, because EVERYONE wants to take care of their children. None us wants to take cavalier or foolish risks with the lives of our children.
This is how it usually goes:
Super scary article headline of article gets you to click and read more.
The article then tells you that oils like eucalyptus (or any oil that contains a botanical compound called 1,8 cineole )can cause children to stop breathing and the article urges you to never put eucalyptus essential oil on your child anywhere on their body or to diffuse it in the home where they live. They say that it is not safe to use on children under age six (some go up to age ten, and some go as low as age two).
Often they make sure to point out that very popular oils like Thieves contain 1,8 cineole (although they don’t actually tell you how much) and imply that you’ve done damage to your child if you’ve used it on or around them, even if they’ve not shown any negative response to the oil.
These articles typically mention a passage in the Essential Oil Safety book by Robert Tisserand (yes, the expert from above) and Rodney Young as the proof for this warning and then urge you to tell every other mom you know about this grave danger.
I’ve seen otherwise confident essential oil using moms completely ignore the actual experience of their child with one of these oils and enter into a fear based paradigm of oil use.
But is there truth to this warning? Let’s see what aromatherapist Jade Shutes says about it.
Who is Jade Shutes?
Jade Shutes is a certified aromatherapist of 25 years, trained in England and the Director of Education at The School for Aromatic Studies. Ms. Shutes was also the President of the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA), one of the most well known and generally respected United States based essential oil associations from 2000-2003. (Read her full biography here.)
She actually has quite a lot to say about it:
Right from the start she calls out three of the top posts that deal with the safety of 1,8 cineole rich oil use with children, calling them incorrect and explaining that this myth seems to have originated with a self-proclaimed essential oil safety website that misquotes the original safety data from Tisserand and Young.
So what do Tisserand and Young say about this particular argument? (SOURCE)
- Do not instill 1,8 cineole rich oils into the noses of babies or young children. (Instilling means to put directly into the nose, so in other words, don’t put the essential oil in the nose of these children)
- Do not apply these oils to the face of children 10 years old and younger.
Jade Shutes explains the actual warning given by Tisserand and Young this way:
“The contraindication for Eucalyptus cineole rich oils states: “Do not apply to or near the face of infants or children under ten (10) years of age.” (page 273)
PLEASE NOTE: The contraindication does NOT state, do not use 1,8 cineole rich eucalyptus oils with children under 10 but DOES state, “do not apply to or near the face”.
This is very different from saying ‘do not use at all’. (SOURCE) emphasis mine
(Read the whole article here)
So what does that mean for parents?
Well, it seems fairly plain that eucalyptus essential oil should be used with common sense, and as long as it is properly diluted, kept out of the nose and not applied on or near the face there should be no concern for the vast majority of children. Can you diffuse these oils around your children? Of course! Just don’t put drops of the oil into their nose or put a diffuser INTO their nostril and you’ll be good to go.
So what about essential oil safety?
I absolutely want everyone who uses essential oils to do so safely and get the results that they want. With that said, it is very easy to assume everything passed around on the internet about safety is true. I encourage you, when you see a shocking article, do what you can do read more. Don’t just take it as fact.
Who knows? Maybe you’ll uncover another essential oil safety myth of your own.
Which of these 3 essential oil safety myths surprised you most? Let me know in the comments!
What other myths should I tackle next? Let me know that in the comments, too!
You may also like:
7 Places You Should Never Put Essential Oils
How I ACTUALLY use essential oils with my own kids
Are essential oils safe?