Diluting Essential Oils for Safety

With all the talk of essential oils – and my recent flurry of posts about using them – it is REALLY important to understand just how strong essential oils are when they remain undiluted.  Essential Oils are oftentimes part of the plant’s natural defense system.  In production of essential oils for consumers, the oils are extracted from the plants in a variety of ways, and become concentrated in the process.  These concentrated substances contain chemical compounds with a huge range of benefits, including antimicrobial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory and other healing actions.  BECAUSE THEY ARE SO CONCENTRATED, it is necessary to dilute them according to their chemical makeup in order to obtain the best benefit without causing harm.

Would you use bleach – undiluted – ever?  

When I began using oils, I NEVER diluted them because I didn’t know ANYTHING about dilution.  IN my case, I am very thankful that I began with Lavender as it is not one of the “hot” oils which can cause burning and tingling, and even lead to permanent damage if used incorrectly.  Few oils can be applied “neat” – or undiluted – and for even the most gentle of oils dilution is recommended.  Also of note, it IS quite possible to be allergic to an essential oil because of a related allergy to the source plant.  “Natural” does not rule out allergies.

When it comes to blending and diluting essential oils, there are certain aspects of it that I really need to refer to more experts to get my information.  I can read and study books and website, but I don’t have a certification in aromatherapy or a degree in biology or natural sciences, so I continue to look for direction from those who have taken their education to another level.  Lea Harris, one of my primary resources, is clinically certified in aromatherapy.  She has learned about the scientific makeup of essential oils, the constituents contained within the oils, and how and why they can be used for specific complaints.

One of her quotes is

We dilute essential oils before applying to the skin to minimize adverse reactions

and systemic toxicity

I like that she is completely passionate about the benefits of essential oils, and realistic about allergies and adverse reactions, and always takes a cautionary stance when discussing dilution rates.  I find her to be both encouraging to essential oil users and very keen on providing excellent, accurate information about the use of essential oils, hydrosols, tinctures, and other herb-related products.

What to dilute with?

There are several carrier oils which I have tried and some work best in different applications.  The mildest (in  my opinion) has been Sweet Almond oil and I love to use it on my kids.  It has little to no scent and is quickly absorbed.  Fractionated Coconut oil is probably my most commonly used oil, but I even like to dilute this half and half with sweet almond whenever I can.  I have also tried this Hemp Seed Oil.  This was a surprising oil, but I bought it for specific application – joint pain – as it has its own intrinsic properties that help relieve joint discomfort (it is green-tinged and quite greasy, but lovely to use in my joint/inflammation blends).  I am currently using Argan oil from Grove Collaborative for a night-time facial application and am LOVING IT!!!

When Curly had pneumonia in December last year, we tried a few oils, but I kept skirting around eucalyptus.  Eucalyptus is a very strong oil, and I have held off on using it regularly, despite its renowned respiratory effects.  When Curly was so sick, I decided to venture into using some Eucalyptus with Lavender and Sweet Orange, dropped into some epsom salts and used in a steam shower to help with her breathing.  After the first use, Curly said she felt so much better and she finally slept – HARD – for the first time in days.  I have to say that she had been using an antibiotic, nebulizer breathing treatments and some OTC decongestants for several days already which did give her some relief.  But it wasn’t until I used the oil blend WITH eucalyptus that SHE said she felt so much better, and we used it as a chest rub in coconut oil as well and she was really happy about it!

FYI – some essential oils should NOT be used for children.  Ever. We know there are medications children should never take.  And we should be very cautious in just slathering oils on our kids just because we read about it somewhere on Facebook.  {Remember when aspirin was okay to give to kids?  I remember taking that orange flavored tab as a kid – but NOW it is taboo because studies have shown a link between using aspirin and developing other health issues.}

If you want safe guidelines for diluting essential oils for yourself and your family, I HIGHLY recommend visiting Lea Harris’ site Using Essential Oils Safely (www.usingeossafely.com).  The  nice thing is – she has done the math and calculated proper dosing information, and provides a lot of information about blending oils as well.  One thing she touches on regularly is creating “Master Blends” of oils that can then be diluted for application in rollerballs.  I haven’t done this yet, but for a few of my go-to oils, I might need to do so!!!

Do you have a favorite carrier oil that you use to dilute your oils with?  Do you have any questions about essential oils or diluting them for application?