The risks of important oils: Why pure is not at all times protected


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At first glance diffusing essential oils seems perfectly safe. How harmful can it be to enjoy scents like lavender, lemon and eucalyptus? The rise of brands like Doterra and Young Living, beautiful diffusers to match any home decor, and the new trend of applying essential oils to fabric face masks have made these wellness staples seem completely harmless.

Words and phrases like “all natural” and “therapeutic” make it easy to get interested in richly scented oils. People often assume that “natural” means safe, but there are many natural compounds and chemicals that are not safe (may I offer mercury as an example) and many “good” substances that research studies have shown no use (Echinacea isn’t as effective as many people think).

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This concept also applies to essential oils. Yes, they’re natural and herbal, but it’s worth taking a closer look before adding oil to your diffuser.

The safety of an essential oil largely depends on the person who is using it. However, like any herbal product, these oils can cause skin irritation, respiratory problems, and even hormonal symptoms.

Essential oils and the endocrine system


Lavender is a well-known endocrine disruptor.

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Your endocrine system contains glands that produce hormones to regulate your metabolism, sleep, mood, appetite, sexual function, growth, and much more. When these glands produce too much or too little hormone, symptoms such as weight gain, mood swings, low libido, difficulty sleeping, hot flashes, and fatigue can result.

Dr. Romy Block, a certified endocrinologist and co-founder of Vous Vitamin, says that essential oils can act as endocrine disruptors, which means that they interfere with the natural production of your hormones.

“These chemicals can either lower or raise the normal levels of hormones in the body,” says Dr. Block.

There isn’t enough evidence of all essential oils being endocrine disruptors to make any blanket statements, says Dr. Block, but a handful of essential oils, has been linked to hormone-related health complications. Research has shown that lavender oil is associated with early breast development in girls, for example. Lavender and tea tree oil are also thought to lead to a condition known as prepubertal gynecomastia (abnormal growth of breast tissue) in boys.

Dr. Block advises against the spread of lavender and tea tree oils because of possible complications, especially in children and adolescents. Pregnant women and people with hormone-related conditions like diabetes should speak to their doctors before using essential oils topically or with a diffuser.

Essential oils and allergies

A woman sneezing into a handkerchief in bed

Like any herbal product, essential oils can cause allergies.

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The most important and immediate health consequence of essential oil use is likely to be allergy symptoms. You would know if you are allergic to an essential oil as it would lead to typical symptoms like itchy and watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing and congestion. Topical application of essential oils can lead to dermatological allergy symptoms, including redness, hives, itching, and swelling of the skin.

Dr. Sanjeev Jain, a licensed allergist and immunologist at Columbia Allergy, says that while allergy symptoms depend on the route of administration (inhalation versus topical application), it is not uncommon for people to experience both at the same time.

If you suspect that you are allergic to an essential oil, stop using the product, says Dr. Jain, and see your allergist or dermatologist for further evaluation.

“It is very important to know which extract is causing a reaction and which extracts are safe for you to keep using,” he says. “They can be sensitized to multiple allergens at the same time, so it is important to make an adequate assessment before proceeding to use these essential oils or extracts.”

Unfortunately, allergies to essential oils must be strictly avoided, says Dr. Jain. If you’re only sensitive to contact, you might be able to use an essential oil diffuser if you don’t develop respiratory symptoms. Handle the oils carefully to avoid skin contact.

Which essential oils are safe?


Some essential oils are known allergens and skin irritants.

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At this point in time, there isn’t enough evidence for essential oils to make a definitive “safe” and “unsafe” list. Currently, most essential oils are considered safe when used properly, and various studies have reported the health benefits of various essential oils. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have any disadvantages.

For example, a 2019 study shows that essential oils made from eucalyptus and ginger could support the immune system. However, the researchers point out that most of the studies were done in eastern countries, where the compounds are “traditionally used and valued” and that all pure oil use in studies does not always match what you see on store shelves Find.

Here are just a few examples of the pros and cons of essential oils: Lavender is known to help you sleep and relax, but as mentioned above, it can act as an endocrine disruptor.

  • Eucalyptus is calming but can cause seizures if swallowed.
  • Chamomile can help you relax, but people with allergies to ragweed, daisies, and other plants can have serious reactions.
  • Peppermint is loved for its cooling effects on the skin, but it is also known to cause rashes, burning, and flushing, among other things.

Again, it’s difficult to make a black and white list of essential oils to avoid. Because people can react differently to different oils: only individuals can know which ones to avoid. A quick search of the internet will return hundreds of lists that do not match. So it is really up to you to review the risks of the essential oil you plan to use and use them safely.

What about pets?

Plants and Pets

Some essential oils may not be safe for pets.

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If you have one or more fur babies, you may have wondered whether essential oils are safe for pets. Personally, I have an orange tabby cat that I love more than most people. I also love peppermint essential oil, so I was sad to learn that peppermint oil is a no-go for kittens.

Cats are particularly sensitive to essential oils, according to ASPCA, says Lambert Wang, co-founder of Cat Person. “While the safety of using essential oils is individual and varies from cat to cat, the rule of thumb is that your cat should never be kept in a room where oil is diffusing,” he says.

As for dogs, the American Kennel Club says that essential oils can irritate a dog’s skin when applied topically and that ingestion can cause gastrointestinal upset.

Remember that cats and dogs have much stronger noses than humans. So a smell that you find mild can really irritate your furry friend.

Keep your doors open to allow your pets to move away from diffusion areas and never apply essential oils directly to your cat or dog. Take close care of your pets when handing out essential oils, Wang says. “If you notice any behavior change after using essential oils, stop using them immediately and see your veterinarian.”

As always, the safety of any particular trend depends on you, your health, and your preferences. Take into account factors such as allergy symptoms, sleep quality, pets, and other members of your household.

How to Use Essential Oils Safely

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If you want to enjoy essential oils, these tips can keep aromatherapy safe for you and your pets.

  • Talk to your doctor before use if you are pregnant or have any illness.
  • If you want to use essential oils on your pet, talk to your veterinarian.
  • Stop spreading essential oils that cause allergy symptoms like coughing, sneezing, or watery eyes.
  • Try a patch test before using an essential oil topically. To do a patch test, put a diluted drop of oil on a small part of your skin. If you develop dermatological symptoms, wash it off and do not use this oil on your skin.
  • Don’t keep your pet in a room with a running essential oil diffuser and leave the doors open so they can move around freely.

Continue reading: Terpenes, the smelly compounds that can benefit your health

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a doctor or other qualified health care provider with any questions about an illness or health goals.