Dangers of Essential Oils

Nov 16, 2017

Essential oils are a wonderful concentrated form of plants. They are used as natural remedies for an endless varieties of health issues. However, overused or used incorrectly they can be harmful and downright dangerous.

It takes a very large amount of plant material to make just one drop of an essential oil. Of course, not all of the elements from the plant material will be concentrated into the oil; only the oil soluble elements will end up in the oils once they have been processed. Even so, the oils are very strong and need to be respected as such.

It takes a pound of lavender flowers to make a teaspoon of lavender essential oil. It can take about 100 pounds of rose petals to make a teaspoon of rose essential oil. (No wonder it is so expensive!)

The old medical proverb, “the dose makes the poison,” holds very much true with essential oils. One drop of an essential oil is often more than enough when you are treating a problem. But with increased popularity and availability of essential oils it is not uncommon for people to use essential oils in much larger amounts than a drop here or there. Essential oils are commonly multilevel marketed as well. This makes it popular for people with very little experience to be selling and recommending essential oils to others for health issues, without having a well rounded knowledge of herbal medical or having the important health history of the person to whom they are making health recommendations.

Effective herbalists are ones who have studied, used and observed the results of herbs for many years. It would have been normative in small societies and communities for the “healer” to be an older and wiser man or woman who had had decades of experience using herbs and other natural meals of healing.

Certainly today there is value in a friend saying, “Hey, peppermint tea really helped me with nausea.” But a cup of peppermint tea is much less likely to have side effects that the suggestion that one use peppermint essential oil internally on an ongoing basis. Peppermint essential oil is a magnified version of peppermint tea and needs to be respected for what it is. One drop of peppermint essential oil is about the same as 28 cups of peppermint tea!!

More is Not Always Better

If your doctor gave you a prescription and said to use one a day and not more, you would respect that. You would appreciate the importance of moderation. But essential oils are often used in much larger quantities than used to be suggested.

Just because essential oils are natural does not mean that they are safe in every situation.

Side Effects of Essential Oils

Photosensitivity

Citrus based oils like orange, lemon and grapefruit can cause photosensitivity. They should not be used before you go out in the sun.

Hormonal Changes

Essential oils can affect hormones. There are formulations that are used to correct hormone imbalances, so clearly there is an expectation that they can affect hormones for the better. At the same time, essential oils can make hormone problems worse! Lavender and tea tree essential oil have been linked to prepubertal gynecomastia in boys. (Breast development in boys before puberty!)

Burns

While there are some essential oils that can be used topically in moderation, others when used “neat” (without diluting), can actually cause damage to the skin and pain.

Coma

Internal overdose1or extreme external exposure to peppermint2 can cause life threatening problems, including coma. While the amount of exposure needed to induce such dramatic symptoms is quite high, the point is that essential oils are strong and should be used with care!

Memory Loss

At least one Earth Clinic contributor found that using a diffuser to spread orange essential oil particles into the air on an ongoing basis was causing memory loss!

Seizures

Essential oils can cause seizures in sensitive individuals.3

What is the Solution?

Do your due diligence. Study the oils you plan to use. Respect them as strong medicine.

Do not assume that all essential oils are always safe for all situations. They are not the best answer to every health issue.

Don’t use essential oils as your “go to.” You would not expect a doctor to give you prescription pain medication at the first sign of pain. You would start with a mild over the counter product. Natural remedies should have that same respect. Start with a milder remedy. Don’t start with the strongest remedy. Save the stronger remedies for situations that require them.

Use small amounts of essential oils. They are never meant to be used in large quantities and can be quite dangerous if they are.

Do not use essential oils internally for children or pregnant women.

Dilute essential oils for topical use. Add a drop of essential oil to a teaspoon of olive oil or coconut oil before applying to the skin.

Be careful about diffusing essential oils. The oils will be absorbed into the body through the lungs. This can be particularly irritating to sensitive individuals, especially children or those with respiratory problems.

Have you experienced a side effect from essential oils? Please send us some feedback!

Sources:

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3546250/

2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4830155/

3.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19577489



Burns  

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Posted by Kelly (Bennington, Vermont) on 12/01/2008
1 out of 5 stars

Warning

Be careful about putting 100% tea tree on your scalp. I know that in one of Ted's remedies he speaks about putting pure 100% tea tree oil in scalp. I caution you about this. I tried this, (put a small puddle of tea tree and rubbed through entire scalp, to get rid of dandruff, and an itchiness, and my scalp, months later is still very red and inflamed, sore and burnt. (and am losing alot of hair). I do not want this to happen to any one else. So, please, please, make sure you only use tea tree if it is mixed with a carrier oil like olive oil so you do not burn your scalp. (maybe some people can put the 100% tea tree onto their scalp, but, I am still suffering the aftermath). So spot test first!!!


Posted by London (Sandusky, Ohio) on 10/08/2008
0 out of 5 stars

Yes, it's true. Putting raw undiluted essential oil on your skin is a disaster. I put grapefruit oil and orange oil in the bath, BIG MISTAKE. It burned my skin and actually left welts. Couldn't wash it off very easily either. I also made the bitter error of putting tea tree oil directly in my ear canal for an infection. I was up all night with the burning pain. Couldn't wash that out very easily, none the less. Don't underestimate pure essential oil. Cheers

Replied by Anon
Anon
11/16/2017

To lessen the burn apply a non essential oil to the area. In other words, if you put tea tree oil in your ear and it is now burning, put olive oil or castor oil in your ear. It will dilute the essential oil and lessen the burn.


Gynecomastia  

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Posted by Boobed (Spain) on 06/29/2017
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An important note to add to the cautions on Lavender: be aware that it can cause gynecomastia in men, ie breast growth - check Wikipedia. They also mention tea tree oil and dong quai as other possible herbal causes.

For info, I'm 66, slim build and have a healthy lifestyle and diet. After moving to a new flat a few months ago we were plagued for several days by small flies, and to avoid possible bites at night, for a week or so I spread a few drops of lavender oil on the back of my neck and up to below my ears before going to bed.

Later I noticed a growing lump beneath each nipple, which had also become quite sensitive, and the subsequent medical checks confirmed it as gynecomastia. At the time I had no idea what had caused this, but looking back over the previous few months, I had made no other changes in diet or medications etc - and when I read the Wikipedia article I was shocked to realise my lavender application was very likely the culprit....

So be warned guys - please be aware of the above link, and if you want to use lavender on your skin directly, I suggest you use it sparingly - if at all.

Now my question is: how can I reverse this L?


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Posted by Riya (Bangalore, India) on 03/30/2008
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I read about the remedy oil of oregano and purchased it from an online seller last year. This is really powerful stuff and I've been using it for my son's recurring viral infections with dramatic results. However, the oil actually made my sinus infection much worse. I thought the severity of my symptoms warranted around 8 drops a day under my tongue every 3-4 hours and continued the dose for 4 days. Every day I experienced a worsening of symptoms including asthma and stuffed nose with thick greenish-yellow discharge of mucous. I believe the oregano was responsible for it firstly, because the symptoms eased off when I stopped it and second, I read somewhere that yeast infections are typically exacerbated with good bacteria die-offs which is probably what the oregano was doing in those big doses. I wasn't eating enough yoghurt to compensate either. Just a note to everyone out there to be careful with overdoing the oregano oil. I'm doing far better with 2 cloves of garlic 5-6 times a day, lots of water, the homeopathic remedy arsenicum album 30X every 2-3 hours, and drastic reduction of refined carbs in my diet.