Because pure essential oils are so powerful, it is extremely important to follow dilution rates, instructions, and safety precautions. All is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice.
Essential oils can be administrated in three ways: through the respiratory tract, by dermal application and taken internally.
*Humid: add 3 to 5 drops of EO in warm water, close your eyes, place your nose above the rim of a bowl with a towel over your head and breathe in the vapours for about 10 minutes
Indications: head cold, chill…
*Dry (olfaction): place a few drops on a clean handkerchief and breathe in deeply.
Indications: stress, nausea….
Atmospheric diffusion allows the purifying of the air. To benefit fully of the properties of essential oils, a diffuser is the most suitable (a few drops suffice). The use of an incense burner is more decorative…
Examples: relaxing diffusions (lavender, citruses, geranium); children (mandarin, petitgrain); respiratory (ravintsara, cedarwood); mosquito repellent (eucalyptus, geranium); anti-infectious (Melaleuca, grapefruit)…
2. Dermal application
Essential oils penetrate the skin and reach the blood vessels.
Essential oils can spread through the entire organism by traversing the skin surface and spreading to all our cells, then being absorbed and joining the body’s blood circulation thus acting on the entire body (organs, glands…) or in the place where it is to be active.
On the skin, you can apply essential oils in four ways: by massage, by compress, in the bath or under the shower.
The oil does not dissolve in water. It must be mixed with a product where it will be diluted easily before pouring it into the bath water (a shower gel, milk, bath salts). This will prevent skin irritation or burning.
Ideal temperature: 36-38°C
Duration: 15 to 20 minutes
Dosage: Mix with a neutral base
Children: 2 to 3 drops of EO / Adults: 5 to 10 drops of EO
Advice: Do not wash after the bath. Dry yourself lightly so as to allow the EO to act on your skin. Avoid eye contact.
Indications: fever, cellulite…
Examples: pain relief baths (lavender, eucalyptus); skin care baths (ylang-ylang, geranium); stimulating baths (lemon, linalool thyme); anti-cellulite baths (eucalyptus, lemon)
In massage, essential oils can be used directly on the skin if
they are mixed with other vegetable oils.
These will be virgin cold pressed without chemical treatment
and will be chosen according to taste or indications.
Essential oils in compress
6 to 10 drops of EO on a compress or a cotton square and apply directly on the affected area for about 20 minutes.
3. Taken internally
When used internally, essential oils are never taken purely to avoid burning mucous. It is therefore diluted in oil or honey for example. Dosage has to be respected (one drop per 25 kg body mass 3 times a day – all oils combined and no treatment of more than 3 days should be undertaken without the advice of a health professional).
Such absorption will not be made on an empty stomach nor is it recommended for people suffering from inflammatory problems of the upper gastrointestinal area.
And in cooking?
Some essential oils can be used in the preparation of some dishes (addition of essential oil is always done at the very end of the preparation):
*aromatic herbs (basil, rosemary, thyme,…) in extra virgin olive oil, for example, spices (cinnamon…)
*citruses (lemon, orange…)
Respect the dosage stated as a too concentrated amount will “spoil” the dish.
1 or 2 drops is all that is needed for a dish.
4. What is the recommended dilution?
For a massage oil applied to an important surface (relaxation), the dosage of EO is 3 to 5 % in a base oil.
For a massage oil applied to a specific area (cellulite, burn…) the dosage of EO is 4 to 8 % and up to 10 % for a therapeutic application (3 % for children) in a base oil.
On very rare occasions it can be used purely on a small skin surface and when certain of perfect skin tolerance of the essential oil used (eg. Lavender), a few essential oils can be applied directly on the skin, some being irritant, others provoking skin stains when exposed to the sun. See chapter on precautions
Precautions for use
Pure Essential Oil (EO) are powerful concentrated substances that can present undesirable effects and contraindications. Numerous precautions are therefore needed when using them.
A specialist should be consulted and always seek the advice of your doctor before using an EO.
- CHILDREN: keep containers of EO out of reach of children (some containers have a safety cap). As a general rule, the use of essential oils is forbidden for children under the age of three (except if medical advise is given).
- PREGNANT WOMEN or nursing mothers: ask a medical opinion
- People suffering from hepatitis, allergic or sensitive, having had seizures or convulsions need to be extra careful
- Asthmatics need to avoid essential oils diffusion in their homes.
- Always wash your hands after a dermal application or a massage
- Never apply essential oils near or in the eyes, mucous or ears
In the case of eye contact, do not use water (EOs do not dissolve in water) but wash with a vegetable oil (preferably almond oil) on a cotton swab or directly on the eyeball. Finish with water or a hydrosol. Consult an ophthalmologist for further precautions.
In the case of accidental intake, do not drink water but try to vomit by ingesting vegetable oil (1 to 3 tablespoons). If it is an important amount or if the person is a child, contact the nearest anti-poison centre.
In all cases, consult your doctor if in doubt or in the case of a serious pathology.
- Do not diffuse continuously or close to young children (diffuse for 10 minutes before they enter the room).
3. Conservation of EO
Away from light and air in order to prevent evaporation or oxidation.
4. Adverse effects
- Abortive essential oils: they are strictly forbidden for pregnant women as they may cause a miscarriage (ex. peppermint, organic sage, vetiver, eucalyptus or eucalyptus dive, Italian Helichrysum,…)
- Allergenic essential oils and/or irritating for the respiratory tract: certain molecules (phenols and ketones) may trigger allergies or asthma, notably in the case of atmospheric diffusion (ex. Yarrow, cinnamon, cypress, fragrant inula, lemon balm)
- Skin sensitive essential oils: certain natural substances are very irritating to the skin and mucous and may provoke burns or irritation. (ex. Possible skin sensitivity: dilute up to 20% at most in a vegetable oil: Dill – exotic basil – citruses (Lemon mandarin – sweet orange) –citronella – tarragon – ginger – lemongrass – Lemony litsee – marjoram – melaleuca – pines – sandalwood – linalool thyme – peppermint ; Strong skin sensitivity: dilute between 5 and 20% at most in a vegetable oil: Ajowan, cinnamon, clove, oregano, savoury, thymol thyme.
- Neuro-toxic essential oils: these oils contain ketones and lactones that act on the nervous system. These oils are forbidden with young children and with pregnant or breastfeeding women (ex. Dill – camphor – Italian Helichrysum – CT verbenone or camphor rosemary and even Peppermint)
- Photosensitive essential oils: these oils react to light and you should therefore keep away from sunlight (wait several hours after usage) in order to avoid permanent skin blemishes (ex. Angelica, bergamot, celery, sea cistus, lemon, fennel, mandarin, neroli (orange blossom), orange, grapefruit, petit grain, exotic verbena. A complete blog post here
5. The allergy test
This test is strongly recommended before using an essential oil, even more so if you have a tendency to be allergic. In order to test the EO, put a drop in the crook of your elbow and wait for 15 to 20 minutes. If nothing happens, no redness or disagreeable feeling, it would indicate that you can use it safely.
– 1 pure drop in the crook of your elbow or behind your ear if the EO is not skin sensitive
– 1 drop of EO + 1 drop (or 2) of vegetable oil if you are dealing with an irritating essential oil.
A complete blog post here
3 criteria for the dosage of essential oils in your preparations
Three criteria are to be considered for dilution: the essential oil (its chemical composition), the expected result and the total dose (frequency/duration/cumulated surface)
- The essential oil: one doesn’t use in the same way a dermo-caustic or irritating (skin sensitive) essential oil and a “gentle” essential oil, well tolerated by the skin.
- The type of usage: for one’s well-being, as a perfume, for a cosmetic purpose or as a remedy
- On what skin surface and how often will the preparation be applied. One refers to the total dose that will be finally absorbed through the skin: on a pimple, two or three times is different from massaging both legs daily.
Order of magnitude for the dosage of essential oils
1/ The first question that needs answering is: on what is my essential oil going to act: the epidermis, a muscle, nerves?
- cosmetic usage, on the skin’s surface (ex: dilated pores, blackheads, wrinkles): 1%
- dermo-cosmetic action, on the skin, more deeply (ex: blood vessels as in the care of rosacea): 3%
- wellbeing action, on the nervous system, up to 5%
- circulatory action, muscles, tendons (it is more about physical relief): 10%
- lipolytic action, on fats: 20-30%
- strong local action (therapeutic care – beyond relief): 30%
The cumulative 20 drops dose
2/ The second question to ask oneself is: given the chosen dosage, the quantity I wish to apply daily (skin surface + frequency), will I exceed the adult limit of 20 drops of essential oil/day? If you use several creams, shampoos or other essential oils, it does cumulate.
For a short-term application on a small area (a pimple for example), you can apply it pure or at 50% within the framework of being sensible. This can be done with tea tree oil on warts or with niaouli on fever blister.
For an application on a large area, a concentrated mixture: so, ravintsara is diluted to 50% in chest massage to get rid of bronchitis. In this case, care must be taken to remain within the 20 drops a day for an adult.
Beyond 20 drops, it is believed the body cannot eliminate within 12 hours. Over several days the body will not succeed in eliminating little by little and the risk of “overworking” organs such as the liver and the kidneys (all the more with hepato-toxic or nephro-toxic essential oils)
Please note, that this threshold of 20 drops goes down to 10 drops at puberty, at 5 drops of essential oil below the age of 6-8 and below the age of 2-3 the advise of a therapist is very recommended to avoid committing mistakes.
All essential oils are not as good as each other.
3/ The third criteria to consider regarding the specificity of an essential oil, for a cosmetic use, and therefore prolonged use, is to leave out all dermo-caustic oils, to be cautious with doses of citrus oils (zests) before sun exposure. Some things need to be known. The dangers are listed in the adverse effects.
However, even if all three criteria are taken into consideration before determining dosage, one needs to remain attentive to the body’s reactions, the possible changes (redness, itchiness,…). Remember that if each essential oil has its specificities, so do humans.
The dosage for certain people will also need to be modulated in regard to the essential oils selected: people suffering from asthma, liver failure, hormone-dependent pathologies, allergic terrain, pregnant women, babies, etc.
What to do with your out-of-date essential oils?
EO are expensive and it would be a shame to have to throw them away once they have reached their use-by date!
To be frank, it is difficult to determine this date exactly as it depends on so many factors – on their quality, the plant that was distilled, how you used it and how you stored it… Most essential oils can be used beyond that date… EO, in general, are fine for about 5 years (legal duration), 3 years for citrus ones (zest) and perhaps less still for resinous ones.
An EO is considered out-of-date when
- Its smell has turned
- It has become viscous
- It has a darker colour
If you no longer want to use these EO for yourself, don’t throw them away because they can easily be recycled in the home!! Here are a few “recycling” suggestions.
- Perfume your “pots pourris”
- Dilute it in vinegar and add this mixture to water for cleaning the floors
- Make a bottle of vinegar / EO to clean and disinfect toilets
- A few drops in the softener dispenser of your washing machine
- A few drops at the bottom of the rubbish bin to avoid bad odours
- 2 drops to perfume the ironing water
- Make perfumed soaps
- A few drops on a handkerchief or a flat pebble to perfume cupboards
1. Do not expose to sunlight
Do not store them in a glass cupboard on which the sun shines or a shelve next to a window. They like neither heat nor light. Any source of light or artificial heat is to be banned.
2. Choose opaque bottles
The added cardboard packaging of certain brands may result in a better conservation if the oil is in clear glass but is it really necessary from an ecological viewpoint?
3. Neither heat nor humidity
Avoid storing them in the bathroom. It is far better to store them in a dark, fresh and dry place. We keep all our oils in a wine cellar. This allows for an optimal conservation of the oil and its properties.
4. Storing them head up
Some essential oils have a corrosive action and the prolonged contact with the plastic dropper tip could harm the bottle.
5. Do not put your fingers in the bottle
This is tempting for some oils (rarely the case) that can be applied undiluted to the skin. Your fingers’ contact with the stopper and all the impurities it caries will alter the strength of your essential oil.
6. Don’t forget to close it
Aromatic compounds are volatile. Therefore, a bottle should not be left open but should be resealed immediately. Furthermore, the contact with air will provoke an oxidation that will eventually shorten the life of your essential oil (this is why it is sometimes advised to pour the remaining content in a smaller bottle when half empty).