Essential Oil Safety

by Maria on January 8, 2009

Essential oil safetyWhen working with essential oils, it is absolutely imperative that you have an understanding of essential oil safety.  Essential oils are much safer than over-the-counter drugs and chemicals, but it’s still important to know what you’re doing and know that some concerns exist.

Aromatics International has a page devoted to essential oil safety.  We recommend browsing it, and if you use oils regularly, you may want to look into one of the great books on the topic.

Internal Use

Some practitioners and teachers recommend internal use.  Internal use requires knowledge of anatomy, physiology, and the chemistry of essential oils. Oils should be used via the skin and inhalation until you understand the potential interaction of drugs and essential oils, know the safe oils to use (the safety issues are different for skin and internal use), and know the right dose and route of application appropriate for internal use.  Internal use also requires an understanding of pharmacokinetics–effects of the body on the oil, how the body metabolizes the oil and eliminates it, and what organs might be effected.  It sounds complicated because it is—and that’s why we don’t widely recommend internal use.

When using the oils on the skin at a 1%-3% dilution or through inhalation, most safety concerns are just not relevant. The oils are very safe.  However possible skin irritations can occur if an oil is old or oxidized.


Phototoxic Concerns and Irritation

Certain oils like Peppermint and Lemongrass can be highly irritating.  Others, like Lime and Bergamot can be phototoxic. Using these oils inappropriately could cause serious skin burns, and in some instances permanent discoloration to the skin.  As you can imagine, anyone using essential oils in bath or skin products or therapeutically needs to be aware of these concerns.


Use on Animals

Essential oil use on animals needs to be supervised by a vet and aromatherapist to formulate correctly.  Essential oils should NOT be used on small animals, cats, birds or small dogs. The results can be dangerous for your pet. Best results are with large animals like horses or cows.



We do not use essential oils on the skin of babies under one year of age.  Even up to ages three or four, you want to be very cautious and only use mild oils at 1% dilutions.  If you’d like to use oils, you can diffuse them into the room at any age!

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Maria Mora has worked on and off with Andrea Butje and Cindy Black since the inception of Aromatics International in 2006. With a background in writing and marketing, she enjoys assisting the talented Aromahead team with spreading their amazing wealth of knowledge. She looks forward to attending the Aromahead Institute's Aromatherapy Certification Program in the fall of 2008, and hopes that her next son waits to arrive until she's done with the last segment of the class.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Ginger March 5, 2017 at 11:03 am

I’m sure you have put this on your blog before but I’m a new student in the ACP and still learning how to navigate around to find things outside of the lessons. Would you post a picture of one of your bottles for an example showing the approved labeling or direct me where I may find one that you have already posted?


Andrea Butje March 7, 2017 at 11:29 am

Hi Ginger! I hope you are enjoy ACP so far! For labelling examples, one of the companies I can suggest to contact is Aromatics International


Jeni May 24, 2015 at 7:21 pm

When you say not to use on cats, do you mean applying it to their skin, diffusing it in the air, holding/petting cats after using it in body products or all of the above? Any thoughts or info would be greatly appreciated. Love my EO’s, but my cats are family.


Andrea Butje May 26, 2015 at 7:38 pm

Hi Jeni – applying essential oils and blends to animals skin/fur is mostly what I’m referring to. The main idea behind using essential oils around animals is that they can escape them if necessary. For example, if you’re diffusing a blend in your bedroom with your cats in there, make sure your bedroom door is open so your cats can go to another room if they don’t like the smell. Hope this helps 🙂


Jeni May 26, 2015 at 11:28 pm

Thank you. This was very helpful.


Andrea Butje May 28, 2015 at 8:13 am

You’re welcome Jeni!


Karen March 19, 2015 at 11:24 pm

What are your thoughts on EO for hand sanitizers? I mix 5 drops in 2 ounces of distilled water and spray. I use Immune Strength from Native American Nutritionals. I have been using this on my kids.


Andrea Butje March 20, 2015 at 1:07 pm

Hi Karen – I have never used Native American Nutritionals’ Immune Strength blend, but I did write a blog post just a few weeks ago on a hand sanitizer that I love: 🙂


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