Safely Diluting Essential Oils – Children, Pregnancy & Elderly
Essential Oil Safety
As a Certified Aromatherapist I am passionate about helping people use essential oils safely. Most essential oils can be applied to the skin safely as long as they are properly diluted with a carrier oil. Of course, some essential oils carry their own guidelines in order to ensure safe topical application, please be sure to research every essential oil prior to use to ensure you are blending within the guidelines of that particular essential oil.
In my previous blog post I covered some basics when it comes to proper essential oil dilution. In this post, I want to go a little more in depth so you can rest assured you are using essential oils safely.
Notes and Essential Oils
An essential oil is a volatile plant compound. Being volatile means that essential oils evaporate quickly. Their note (Top, middle or base) determines just how fast they evaporate. Generally speaking we can say that:
Citrus peels are top notes and will evaporate the fastest. Some examples: Lemon (Citrus limon) & Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi)
Flowers, Leaves and Stems are middle notes and will evaporate the second fastest. Some examples: Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) & Geranium (Pelargonium roseum X asperum)
*An exception would be Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata) which is distilled from flowers but is considered more of a base note than a middle note*
Roots are base notes and will evaporate the third fastest. Some examples: Spikenard (Nardostachys jatamansi or Nardostachys grandiflora) & Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanoides)
Diluting Essential Oils Properly
You can see from the examples above how notes play a part in aromatherapy. By looking at the note of an essential oil you can determine how quickly it will evaporate in a blend. Diluting essential oils in a carrier is a must in order to allow the essential oil to “hang out” longer than it would if you were to apply the essential oil neat. By diluting the essential oil properly in a carrier, you end up using less essential oil and the outcome will be just as effective. Most essential oils can be applied to the skin safely as long as they are properly diluted.
*Neat use of an essential oil refers to using the essential oil straight from the bottle and applying it to the skin.
Extra precautions you should be aware of when making a blend….
Essential oils are extremely concentrated. If you are making a blend for daily use and are a typical healthy adult, a 2% dilution (10-12 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier) or less would be recommended. If you are blending for a child, the elderly or someone that is pregnant, there are extra considerations that need to be taken into effect.
During pregnancy, the first trimester is considered the most crucial in terms of fetal development.
Essential oil use during the first trimester should only be used on occasion such as inhaling for morning sickness.
During the second and third trimesters, essential oil use should be limited to an as needed basis at a 1% dilution (5-6 drops of essential oils per ounce of carrier).
Neat use, oral, rectal and vaginal use is not appropriate during pregnancy.
All solvent extracted (absolutes) essential oils, poor quality oils and perfumes should be avoided while pregnant.
There are roughly 50 or so essential oils that should be avoided all together during pregnancy, please be sure to consult a Certified Aromatherapist, Midwife or other qualified practitioner prior to using essential oils while pregnant. While there isn’t an authoritative list per se of which essential oils are safe or unsafe its best to choose essential oils with a history of low toxicity.
Caution should be noted when making a blend for the elderly population, their skin tends to be thinner than that of a typical healthy adult.
Elderly tend to have a lower irritation threshold when it comes to essential oil use than that of a typical healthy adult.
Recommended dilution for the elderly population is 1% or less (a 1% dilution is 5-6 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier).
Essential oils should always be properly diluted when working with the elderly population. Neat use is not recommended unless under the supervision of a Certified Aromatherapist or other qualified health practitioner.
Let me start this category by saying, as a Certified Aromatherapist I take an extremely conservative approach when it comes to essential oil use and children. Children are much more delicate than a typical healthy adult. I have found in my practice that herbally infused oils and/or hydrosols can give their little bodies the nudge it needs to get back on track without ever having to use essential oils. Children and essential oils have caused much debate on a number of Facebook groups I am a part of. I have seen a lot of individuals recommend dilutions for children that would be appropriate for a typical adult, however children come with their own set of dilution guidelines.
To put it into a better perspective, I like to use this analogy with my clients; If an adult dose of Tylenol cures your headache, you wouldn’t in turn give that same adult does to your 2 year old when they are complaining of a headache, now would you? There are specially formulated variations of Tylenol for children and babies based on their delicate systems. Essential oil formulations are no different.
General Guidelines for Children
Age < 2 years – Consult a Certified Aromatherapist
Age 2 – 4 years – Only use essential oils on an as needed basis for this age group at a dilution of .5% or less. Keep in mind certain essential oils carry safety considerations for children that should be taken into account
Age 5 – 12 years – Essential oils may be used at a 1% dilution (5-6 drops per ounce of carrier). Keep in mind certain essential oils carry safety considerations for children that should be taken into account
Very low ambient intermittent* inhalation is generally safe for babies ages 3 months and up and children that are too young for topical application. When diffusing around babies and children essential oils should limited to just a few drops per 24 hours. Be sure to choose extremely gentle age appropriate essential oils and keep diffuser use to 30 minutes at a time. Diffuser use with babies and small children should be limited and used on an as needed basis. When in doubt be sure to consult a Certified Aromatherapist.
*Intermittent use refers to 30 minutes on, 30 minutes off
I can not stress enough how important it is to use caution when utilizing essential oils with children. Essential oils are extremely concentrated substances. Often times children are too young to effectively communicate if they are having an adverse reaction to an essential oil blend. Please be sure to consult a Certified Aromatherapist or other knowledgeable practitioner when making a blend for a child and always be sure to research the particular essential oil you are choosing to use to be sure there aren’t any safety precautions that need to be considered.
Blend on Friends!
As you can see there are so many factors that come into play when formulating an essential oil blend. I hope this post sheds some light on additional safety factors that should be taken into consideration when creating the perfect essential oil blend for a friend or loved one.