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The dawn of the Internet age opened up a whole new and ever-expanding informational highway that has liberated many and also, unfortunately, misinformed many.
Anyone who wants to have a blog, website etc.. can have one and they can post just about anything they want to these sites. No matter how well intended these bloggers are, many are putting information out there that is incorrect, and sometimes even dangerous.
Although essential oils are natural, don’t ever underestimate their power, to heal and even their power to harm. Essential oils should never be approached without caution and much understanding as to their safe application.
Here are a few essential oil facts that may help you to better see the magnitude of their strength:
- It takes 150 pounds of lavender flowers to make just one pound of lavender essential oil.
- It takes 256 pounds of peppermint leaves to make one pound of peppermint essential oil.
- It takes thousands of pounds of roses to make 1 pound of rose essential oil.
Just one drop of peppermint oil is equal to 28 cups of peppermint tea. The bottom line, essential oils are powerful and need to be handled with respect!
The combination of growing interest in alternative therapies, including essential oils, combined with the Internet, has made it possible for some very misleading information to be published.
This article will explore just some of the many myths around essential oils that people believe but are not true. Hopefully, this will shed some light on what is safe and not safe when it comes to the therapeutic use of oils.
Myth #1: Therapeutic grade oils don’t exist
The truth is that there are numerous therapeutic grade standards. It is just hard to know which one to trust. These standards are simply internal standards created by the companies who develop the oils. It is possible that these standards do not include a quality control by a third party lab.
With that said, it is critical to understand how the company defines “therapeutic grade” It could mean that the oil is pure or it could also mean something else beyond that purity. Essential oil can also be very pure but also be low quality. The reason for this is that making a judgement call on a quality oil takes years and years for experience – not just a lab and some equipment.
While there is not one independent standard for therapeutic grade and not one set body that controls this standard, it is also not true to say that therapeutic grade oils do not exist. However, where you must use extreme caution is in believing marketing jargon used by oil companies.
Dr. Robert Pappas, a leading expert in essential oils and an essential oil chemist explains:
“There seems to be a misconception that there is some kind of independent body that certifies oils as therapeutic grade, but to this date there is no such body, at least not one that is widely recognized. Does this mean there is no such thing as therapeutic grade? No, but just realize that any therapeutic grade standard out there right now is an internally derived company standard. Now this standard may be an overall great standard and perfectly acceptable to me or any other analyst or aromatherapist out there but it just needs to be noted that it’s not an independent standard.”
Myth #2: If you use a pure essential oil on your skin and it causes a rash or burn then it’s just a detox reaction
The plain and simple truth of this one is that if you put any substance on your skin and it causes a rash or burns, it should not have been put on your skin in the first place. This is an adverse reaction, not a harmless detox reaction. Clearly a burn, rush, or any other type of abnormal issues with your skin indicate an irritation. In addition, a detox reaction occurs when something is taken away, not added. So, if you find yourself with a rash or a burn after using an essential oil on your skin it is your body saying to stop! This is one of the reasons why a patch test is recommended on a small area before using any substance on a larger area. In addition, it always recommended that you dilute an essential oil in a carrier oil before using on your skin (see below for more information on how to do a patch test).
Myth #3: Pure essential oils without additives should last forever
This is just another very ridiculous claim. Oils may seem to last for a long time but in reality, they will eventually go bad because of oxidation. Citrus oils that contain a high level of limonene – a substance that oxidizes pretty fast, destroying the fresh citrus odor. In addition, wax will form in the citrus oil over time. It is best to use the oil within one year if you can. Blue oils also such as German chamomile, blue tansy, and yarrow breakdown over time. To slow the breakdown, be sure to put blue oils in the refrigerator and keep only a small amount of airspace in the container.
Myth #4: You can ingest any essential oil without a problem
The internal use of many essential oils is not safe unless under medical supervision. A small amount of essential oil is the equivalent to about 10 – 50 cups of herbal tea. There is a certain lack of guidelines and safety precautions when it comes to ingesting essential oils.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that just because an essential oil has the same name as a familiar herb that it is safe to ingest. The reality of this statement is that some of the most dangerous essential oils bear the name of common herbs. Herbs and their essential oil counterparts are not anywhere near the same. While you can liberally apply basil to your pasta, you can not liberally ingest basil essential oil. Be very careful to jump to the conclusion that just because an oil has a familiar name of an herb you love that it is ever safe to ingest it.
Essential oils are clearly as potent as pharmaceutical drugs and since you probably would not go ingesting a whole bunch of pills without some caution, you should most definitely, give the same respect to essential oils. Again, when it come to ingesting oils, be sure that you are working with a certified and reliable practitioner that can supervise your use.
The Alliance of International Aromatherapists gives this statement on the internal use of essential oils:
“AIA does not endorse internal therapeutic use (oral, vaginal or rectal) of essential oils unless recommended by a health care practitioner trained at an appropriate clinical level. An appropriate level of training must include chemistry, anatomy, diagnostics, physiology, formulation guidelines and safety issues regarding each specific internal route (oral, vaginal or rectal).”
Myth #5: All essential oils in their diluted form are safe for children
The truth is that many oils are very dangerous to use on children five and under. Here is an excellent article on understanding how essential oils impact children. Be sure to consult a professional before using essential oils on children.
Myth #6: It is safe to use essential oils on your skin and go out in the sun immediately after
Citrus oils will always make your skin sensitive to the sun because they contain particular constituents that increase the damage caused by UV light. This increased sensitivity can cause blistering, burning and discoloration. Oils. that increase the risk of UV damage include lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit and bergamot.
Myth #7: If you don’t like the way an oil smells it means that your body needs that oil
The human body has been designed to protect us from things that may harm us such as bad smelling food that may be rotten. This built-in protective mechanism (to smell odors) is critical to our survival. The opposite is also true, that we can be conditioned to like things that are not good for us such as the pleasurable and alluring smell of hot donuts or french fries. The food manufacturers have a great knack for manipulating natural flavor enhancers to make “bad” food seem good. When it comes to essential oils, you may not like the aroma initially because it is new to you and you have no previous experience with it. Give yourself time to become acquainted with oils that may seem offensive at first. However, always listen to your body if it is telling you to stay clear of something.
Myth #8: Real essential oils without additives do not freeze because there is no water in there
Like just about every other liquid, essential oils will freeze if the temperature is cold enough – water has nothing to do with keeping this from happening. In fact, many oils will freeze in your household freezer and some even in your refrigerator. Some oils are even solid at room temperature.
Myth #9: It is safe to put essential oils directly in a hot bath
If you want to use essential oil in a bath, be sure to first emulsify it. The best substance to use is sesame oil or milk. If you don’t emulsify the oil it won’t disperse but will float on the top of the water and enter the skin directly. When the oil combines with the heat and water in this way it can cause dermatoxicity.
Tips for Using Essential Oils
- Never use undiluted essential oils on your skin. There are some oils that are generally considered safe to use on unbroken skin including lavender, chamomile, and rose, however, it is still best to dilute them. The exception to this is if you are using oils under the strict supervision of trained professional. Dilute oils with a carrier oil such as almond or jojoba. In addition, always do a patch test with the oil on a small area of skin before using it more widespread. To do a patch test mix a little bit of essential oil/carrier oil at twice the amount of concentration that you plan to use. If you are going to use a 3% mixture of oil, mix it at 6% using six drops in a teaspoon of carrier oil, or 3 drops to ½ teaspoon of carrier oil. Put a couple of drops of the concentrated oil mixture on a bandaid and place on the inside of your arm. Check for irritation after 48 hours. If the skin under the bandage becomes irritated, red, itchy, swollen or develops bumps or blisters, this is a reaction you don’t want.
- Never store essential oils in plastic containers. Many oils, in their undiluted form, can eat right through plastic. Even when you do dilute them for personal care use or even household cleaning, it is best to store them in a glass bottle. Be very careful with undiluted oils around wood finishes as well.
- Pregnant and nursing women need to be very careful when using essential oils. These are just a few of the oils that are considered unsafe for pregnant and nursing women, cedarwood, cinnamon, sage, clove, ginger, jasmine, lemon, nutmeg, rosemary, ginger and chamomile. Check with a qualified practitioner before using any oils.
Remember: Essential oils are potent and although highly therapeutic, can be dangerous if used incorrectly.
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