Essential oils are amazing. But essential oil safety must be a priority. If not, you can end up with rashes, headaches, or worse… You can end up in the ER if you are not careful.
It’s true! You should check out the first post I did about ways you shouldn’t use essential oils. It gives real stories that prove essential oil safety is so important. A few redditors were gracious enough to let me share their stories of essential oil misuse. And Aromatherapy United allowed me to cite many injury reports submitted to them.
Recently, Aromatherapy United released its new injury report for 2016. There were two common themes among the submitted stories.
First, many submitters admit they did not use their oils in a safe way, especially when ingesting them. Some noted they knew better, but just slipped in the moment.
Second, many submitters say they got injured after following advice from sales reps. Well, not just sales reps. Essential oil brands, parents, friends, co-workers … basically, persons without certification in aromatherapy or in using essential oils.
Their stories are a reminder that essential oils safety is so important every single time you use oils. So here is another post to remind you of more ways you shouldn’t use essential oils. (There may be a few repeats from the previous post … but they are all very important!)
1. You shouldn’t ingest essential oils while breastfeeding.
Oh boy! We start off with a scary one!
I do not advocate ingesting oils. Some aromatherapists and a few doctors do recommend it in safe, low quantities. But no one recommends ingesting oils if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Why? Well, some essential oils contain compounds that are mutagenic. That means the compounds can damage DNA in cells and cause mutations. Some compounds can also be toxic. This is why pregnant and nursing women are asked to limit their essential oil use. And it’s why ingesting essential oils while pregnant or nursing is a big no no!
If you are still not convinced, you should see this injury report sent to Aromatherapy United.
A 35 year old mom added 1 drop of lemon oil and 1 drop of a blend to her glass of water. The blend had tangerine, rosemary, geranium, juniper berry and cilantro essential oils. A few hours after drinking her water, she breastfed her one and a half year old son. The report noted:
“He immediately vomited after feeding. He developed a fever. [She] also developed a fever and dizziness… The toddler was nauseous and lethargic for most of the day. He also had a very pale pasty bowel movement the same day ([which was] very unusual).”
Can you imagine this happening to your toddler?
2. You shouldn’t add undiluted essential oils (like eucalyptus) to your bath.
Remember my original post? #4 was – you shouldn’t drop essential oils directly into your bath before getting in. And #5 was – you also shouldn’t use large amounts of essential oils in your bath.
It’s time to get repetitive.
Essential oils are hydrophobic, meaning they do not mix well with water. So don’t add undiluted essential oils directly to your bath. They’ll just float on the surface and burn your skin.
“.. all at once the portion of my body that’s in the water feels like it’s on fire, starting with the tip of my dick. It feels like I have tiny shards of glass in it. Then the rest of my body gets red and burns like I can’t even explain. It burns so bad that moving at all makes it much worse. I shot up out of the bath trying desperately to free my genitals from what feels like an acid bath. I just showered and washed up with sensitive skin soap to try and relieve this hellish sensation. I am now laying in bed trying not let anything touch my scorched flesh.”
He also summarized his ordeal:
“I took a bath with eucalyptus and my skin is on fire, but my breathing has never been better.”
Oh the price he paid to breathe better!
Another redditor DobroHobo had a similar experience with mint oil. He said:
“I’d already run the bath so I jumped in and thought I’d splash in a tiny bit (mint oil), because why not? So [I] sat there in my birthday suit… I opened the bottle and dashed in a bit of mint oil.
That’s when I realised WHERE I’d splashed it. I’d put the tiniest bit in the bath but it had, in actual fact, sprinkled onto my Wing Wang and the Doodle Twins.
And that’s when the pain began. I was freezing AND burning at the same time. I tried to wash it off but that made it worse. I literally cried. Like a baby.
The pain became so unbearable that I decided to bite down on a towel, except that it hurt so much that I literally bit straight through it. After 30 minutes the pain ended, and I was left with incredibly swollen, painful genitals.”
Next time maybe both of them will listen to Sylla Hanger from the Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy. She has great advice for using oils in the bath:
“oils are best emulsified before adding to bath water. Use either shampoo or bubble bath or a suitable solubilizer that will make the oil blend into the water. A carrier or fatty oil will leave an oil slick on the water’s surface and in the tub.
Use no more than a couple drops of safe oils like lavender in shampoo (or bubble bath, etc) added while in the tub. More can be added as it evaporates of course. Dilution depends on tub size, thus you can’t go wrong with 2 drops… [By doing this] you won’t sit on another [oil] drop ever again LOL!”
Haha! Let us all resolve to never sit our cute, little tushies directly on essential oils ever again!
3. You also shouldn’t let your boyfriend add undiluted essential oils to your bath.
“As I put the oils in, I yelled asking how much I should put in. I got the answer of only a little bit. Apparently our definitions of a little bit are different… As we climbed in the hot bath, I realized that my ass$%#$ was starting to feel like an ice cube was getting shoved up it.
In my congested, mentally-drained-from-illness mind, I said “Hey babe, hot water rises right?” Right away she looked back at me and screamed “How much #$#%$%# peppermint oil did you put in?!” I said I turned it upside down and maybe like 10 drops got out.
So we jumped out, body covered in water with peppermint. It burned like icy hot. My balls were on fire. My girlfriend starts crying from the pain, and is screaming. I’m in the fetal position trying to wipe water off my balls.
I then get the idea of jumping in the shower and seeing if getting the peppermint off of me was possible. NOPE. Makes it much worse.
Fast forward ten minutes, we are curled up on the couch both covered in multiple blankets trying to get warm. It wears off on my girlfriend and she says she just feels numb, but it doesn’t hurt anymore. Takes me an extra 15 minutes for it to stop hurting.
The heat from the blankets warmed me, but I felt like I had ice under my skin. Half an hour later, it went away. And that’s why I’m not allowed to draw our baths anymore.”
Aww! While he insists there’s nothing wrong with using essential oils, he found too many commenters on his post had similar stories to share.
So the lessons to learn here? Define what a little bit means when it comes to essential oils.
If you do end up in a situation like this guy, you shouldn’t shower first with soap. Try slathering on a carrier oil like jojoba or sunflower oil on your skin before showering. This should relieve the pain almost immediately. Depending on how bad the burns are, you will need to go to your doctor or an emergency room as soon as possible.
4. You shouldn’t listen to that friend who tells you to use a ton of undiluted essential oils in your bath.
Is it me or are there way too many bath stories using undiluted essential oils?
That’s a little unnerving!
Reddit user, psulady, has her own tale.
She followed the advice given to her by a ‘friend at work’. Here’s more:
“I have back problems, and don’t like to rely on medication to help with it. A friend at work suggested that I try an epsom salt and essential oil bath to help relieve the pain… I texted my coworker for instructions on what to do and drew my bath.
I got into the bath and sat there for a while and just closed my eyes. It smelled so good and the bath felt so relaxing on my sore back. I was in there for about 10 minutes and started to feel some burning. I like the water scorching hot, so I figured it was just that.
A few more minutes pass and I’m starting to feel intense burning all over the parts of my body that were immersed in the water. I freaked out, and realized it was probably the oils. I’ve used essential oils (not for the body) before and remembered they can burn your skin. I quickly jumped out of the bath and rinsed off, but it was still burning.
I googled it and found that the only way to stop the burning is to dilute the oils, by rubbing some sort of cooking oil on your skin and wiping it off repeatedly. Luckily I had a jar of coconut oil.
After finally getting the burning to stop, I looked up the correct way to take an essential oil bath, and it was not the way I was told. My coworker told me to “just pour a shit ton in there”. Everything was burning especially my lady bits…”
Her poor lady bits! Another lesson – don’t pour “a shit ton” of undiluted essential oils into your bath…
5. You shouldn’t touch your junk if your hands have essential oils on them.
“While climbing in, the boys get out of place and I reach down to adjust them. It was at that moment I realized my mistake. My nut sack burned hotter than that one time I stuck my hand in battery acid and then instinctively put my hand in my mouth. I immediately started screaming.
One very cold wash cloth later, I was able to subdue the pain. But from now on, cinnamon bark oil and me will be staying away from one another.”
He hopes sharing his story here will save someone else’s scrotum. I hope so too!
6. You shouldn’t glob neat essential oils on your nose to breathe better.
A 29 year old provided this report to Aromatherapy United.
“I had a runny nose. Someone told me peppermint oil helps them breathe better. I globbed the oil on my nose thinking it would open my nasal passages. Bad bad idea.”
She added 1-2 drops of neat peppermint oil on her nose. And she experienced extreme discomfort, burning and redness. It took quite a few hours, cool water and fresh aloe for her nose to return to normal.
7. You also shouldn’t add neat essential oils to your ears.
Why would anyone do this? If neat essential oils can burn your skin, what do you think is going to happen if you stick them in your ears? Sigh! If you want to use essential oils in your ears, talk to your doctor first.
If you don’t you may have stories like these.
One woman submitted to Aromatherapy United that a nurse told her to use sweet orange oil to deal with her ear infection. The instructions given were to apply one drop of undiluted sweet orange essential oil to her ear. When she did, she was in so much pain she had to be rushed to the emergency room. She developed a severe chemical burn in her ear.
Unfortunately, the hospital didn’t do much to help her. They flushed her ear with saline solution and gave her pain meds. They also gave her ear drops and antibiotics.
Her story didn’t end there:
“Two days later my eardrum ruptured. I had to be put on stronger antibiotics and a different ear drop… the doctors told me never to use essential oils on mucous membranes…”
A ruptured eardrum! It’s safe to say she’s not going to do that again.
“my right ear has been throbbing. I’m also deaf (since birth), so I wear hearing aids… an hour before my first Algebra class, I decide to rub some Frankincense under my ear. I don’t know why I thought it was a good idea, but I decided to put a drop in my ear to see if that would create results.
A minute passes. Pain. Pain comes rushing through. I look on the little bottle; “Caution: Don’t use in inner ear”. AAAHHH!!!! My mom is getting groceries, so I’m home alone, adrenaline pumping, stinging dry Frankincense destroying my already deaf ear. I hear the disappointment from my mother’s voice as she realizes her son is mentally retarded.
My mom finally makes it home… (she) makes something and pours it down my ear. She finds a hot compress and gives it to me…
Miraculously, my ear feels better now, but I’m still in bed …”
He summarized his post by saying:
“Got swimmer’s ear, shoved frankincense in my ear to cure it, possibly became deaf again.”
Thankfully, there was no permanent damage to his ear.
8. You shouldn’t overuse essential oils.
Think for a minute. How many cups of coffee do you drink a day? How many painkillers would you take in one day? And how many drops of essential oils would you use in a day? Over fifty?
That’s how many one woman used. She sent in this to Aromatherapy United.
“… I purchased a new bottle of eucalyptus and applied it undiluted to my neck, from the base of my skull to my shoulders, multiple times throughout the day in an attempt to alleviate the pain of a soft tissue tear in my neck. The first application caused some mild dizziness and nausea … as the day went on my reactions became incrementally more extreme.”
Besides the 50 drops of eucalyptus oil, she also used a mouthwash containing high amounts of eugenol.
“By the end of the day, I was extremely drowsy and unable to walk straight. My husband said I acted drunk. Shortly after my last application of oil I went to bed… I began to have extreme chest pain and a very slow heart rate (30 – 40 beats per minute). While laying in bed, my bladder began emptying uncontrollably multiple times. I also experienced muscle spasms and shortness of breath. I was very sick and drowsy even hours later, and continued to lack mental focus… My husband was concerned that I would actually die, but I refused to be taken to the hospital… I was extremely weak and nauseous for many many days. It took several weeks to recover from the fatigue and mental fog. I have never felt quite right since.”
Wow! Severe chest pain AND a slow heart rate AND an uncontrollable bladder? Crazy!
Essential oils are very potent. A little goes a long way. A little is enough…
9. … especially if you are a masseuse.
One masseuse submitted a unique injury report to Aromatherapy United. She was certified to do massages using a technique taught by a particular oil brand. She had seven scheduled massages over a three-day period.
That meant she used a few drops each of several different essential oils and blends. The oils included lavender, orange and peppermint. The blends contained many oils like wintergreen, camphor, clove, blue tansy, and rosemary.
By the end of the third day she:
“… began experiencing severe dizziness, cold sweats, nausea. [And the] room [was] spinning. “
She wasn’t aware if her certification had:
“any information about adverse effects, cautions, how many to do, breaks needed … hydration … etc.”
When she mentioned her reaction to her brand, she was told she was detoxing. But she thought:
“I was having a very bad reaction/ possibly overdose symptoms. Better safety knowledge is needed. Still love the oils, but they need more respect.”
10. (Speaking of ‘detoxing’) You shouldn’t believe anyone that says essential oils can’t hurt you because they’re from plants.
Poison ivy and stinging nettle are plants. And they can hurt you! Don’t believe anyone that says essential oils could never hurt you because they are all natural. Or they are pure. Or they are from plants.
Seriously! Every example here shows you essential oils can hurt if you do not use them in a safe way.
This poor mom who submitted a report to Aromatherapy United learned this lesson the hard way. She added 20 drops of peppermint to her 11 year old’s bath. (Yes another bath story!)
Unfortunately, her son felt chill and dizzy for almost a day. When she reported it to fans of a particular brand she was told:
“… [the oil] couldn’t hurt, it was just natural plant oil.”
I think we can all agree this is … an alternative fact …
11. You also shouldn’t believe anyone that says your Lyme disease is making you react to an essential oil.
Um… yeah! You read that right. Let’s get into this report submitted to Aromatherapy United.
A woman applied a small amount of coconut oil to her skin. She then applied a popular blend from a certain essential oil company. The blend contained blue chamomile, blue tansy, camphor, helichrysum, osmanthus, peppermint, wintergreen and ylang ylang.
She noted that:
“Shortly after applying the [blend], a rash started to appear on my shoulder where it was applied. The itching was painful and the rash became very pronounced… When I first contacted my [sales rep] about my reaction, I was told it was a detox reaction due to my Lyme disease.
She was very surprised that I had a reaction even “diluting” it as most people apply it neat frequently with no reaction. She then suggested I try lemongrass and there was no need to dilute it as it was safe to apply neat. I did dilute it some, but had the same reaction. Once again, I was told it was a detox reaction and I may need to dilute it more to be able to use those oils.”
Um what? It’s not a detox reaction. It’s either an allergic reaction or a chemical burn from using neat essential oils.
And for the record, ‘detoxing’ caused by essential oils is … another alternative fact …
12. You shouldn’t use essential oil blends without knowing what’s in them.
You don’t only need to know what is in them. You also need to know if you are sensitive or allergic to them. At the least, you should patch test new blends. Don’t just slather them on. And don’t just slather them on your family members too.
This cautionary tale was submitted to Aromatherapy United by a young mom with two kids. She used a homemade immunity rub made by an essential oil rep on her kids. The rep didn’t tell her what was in the rub.
Unfortunately, her kids got rashes from the rub. Here’s more.
“The first time was on my son who was 2. I was assured that [the rep’s] immunity rub was safe but my son (2) and daughter (6) both got a terrible rash all over.”
Side note: your skin isn’t as sensitive as your kids. Be careful what you are putting on them.
13. You shouldn’t let your kids use neat essential oils.
Speaking of kids and their sensitive skins, take a look at what happened to this eleven year old.
“My son applied [brand blend] loyally to his upper arms, chest. Within five minutes, he had burning and tingling to the area. He tried to wipe it off with a paper towel but it did not work. So he took a shower. As soon as he got out of the shower, he experienced abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and frequent urination. [He had] a total of 75 mg Benadryl and he felt better within a few hours.”
The blend contained peppermint, clove bud, wintergreen, and helichrysum and he used it neat!
There are a few lessons to learn here. Firstly, kids are more sensitive than adults so they should only be exposed to very low concentrations of essential oils. Secondly, talk to your kids about essential oil safety. Make sure they are aware of the dangers of ingesting the oils or using too much of them. Finally, you should supervise your kids when they want to use the oils. Just to be safe!
14. You also shouldn’t have essential oil products within reach of curious little hands.
Keep essential oils and products containing essential oils safely out of reach. Kids are naturally curious. And they love to play.
But don’t let them play with essential oils. They can be badly injured.
One mom submitted this report to Aromatherapy United. Her friend dropped off an essential oil applicator at her door.
It contained tea tree and oregano essential oils in a coconut oil carrier. Her four year old son:
“…did not want it applied to him but was curious about how a roller ball applicator worked. Two touches to his palms caused significant problems.”
Significant problems indeed. Her son had blistered hands and a dark red rash on his body. His throat also had blisters. It was so bad, his pediatrician ran tests to rule out hand-foot-and-mouth disease and strep throat. Yikes!
All that from just two touches!
15. If you are asthmatic, you shouldn’t use essential oils before talking to your doctor.
This is important. Some reports to Aromatherapy United involve asthma attacks. For instance, a seven year old who had lavender on his blanket had trouble breathing. He actually had an asthma attack and had to be taken to the hospital!
One woman also had an asthma attack. Here is more about her story.
“I came down with a cold and horrible cough… was offered a care package from a friend who is a nurse practitioner who sells and uses [name withheld] brand. I was told to diffuse [a blend], apply it undiluted to my pressure points, and drink tea with 3 drops lemon and 2 drops [of the blend].”
Note, the blend contained oils like clove, lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus radiata, and rosemary. She diffused about 12 drops of the blend. Then:
“Initially I was fine, but developed asthma flare ups a few hours after diffusing. Then 36 – 48 hours later [I] experienced the most terrible diarrhea.”
She needed treatment with a rescue inhaler! But that was not the end of it:
“… after reporting back the next day that the oils had aggravated my asthma I was told that if I diffused several other oil types each night for a period of time and give it a chance to work, it would improve my chronic and severe asthma.”
Um… what? Diffuse several oils, give them a chance to work to improve chronic and severe asthma? Really? How many asthma attacks does this friend want her to have?
If you suffer from asthma attacks, seek medical advice about using essential oils safely. Don’t use too much. And having your inhaler close by isn’t a bad idea either.
16. You shouldn’t use essential oils to cure your cancer.
There are several lab studies that show many essential oils have anticancer activity. But these are lab studies. These are not clinical trials. There is little to no evidence showing essential oils can cure cancer in our bodies.
But this doesn’t stop brands from marketing oils like frankincense as cancer cures. So the report below isn’t surprising.
A 68 year old woman tried to cure her cancer by taking capsules containing 5 drops of frankincense oil. She noted:
“When you are dealing with trying to heal cancer naturally, sometimes you get quite desperate to find something that will really work… somehow I became convinced by all the enthusiastic testimonials that this would be a good thing. [This] in spite of knowing that there are definite risks of consuming essential oils internally.”
She took the capsules daily. But after a few days she developed serious pain, swelling and inflammation in her liver. It was so bad that her liver enzyme levels went far beyond the normal range.
It took weeks – yes weeks – for her severe pain to subside and her enzyme levels to return to normal. She was lucky there was no permanent damage.
If you have cancer, talk to your doctor to get sound medical advice for dealing with the disease. Trying to heal yourself may not work out as planned. Take this woman’s story as an example of that.
17. You shouldn’t use essential oils like pennyroyal on your dogs – they can die.
If you want to use essential oils on your pets, talk to your vet first. You should also try searching oils in the ASPCA’s Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants List.
If you look up eucalyptus, you’ll find it can cause “salivation, vomiting, diarrhea, depression, and weakness”. And it is toxic to dogs, cats, and horses. Some oils can also cause pets to be lethargic or make them throw up. And some – like pennyroyal essential oil – can kill them.
Pennyroyal is a good insect and tick repellent. But it is very, very, very toxic to animals. There’s even a a scientific study that documented this. It showed a very tiny amount of pennyroyal oil added to a dog’s skin to control fleas caused it to die.
One submitter to Aromatherapy United shared this tragic story about pennyroyal.
“Two healthy poodles died from me putting on two or three spots of pennyroyal, eucalyptus and citronella to ward of fleas… The company book [I used] said that was what should be done if the fleas were serious… [I] washed them with shampoo within an hour or so of application because I grew afraid that I had made a mistake from trusting the … book of the company.
The dogs’ bowel movements were pure red like jello… [The next morning] my black poodle just feel over on her side … She died a horrible death in the vet’s office… My younger poodle lasted a whole next day before she too was gone.”
Their deaths were attributed to the oils. So sad! RIP poodles! 🙁 🙁
18. You shouldn’t use essential oil cleaning wipes without protecting your hands and airways.
You can react to wipes that have essential oils in them. Even if they are diluted, they can still affect your skin. And even smelling them for long periods can also affect your body.
Gloves are your friends. Using gloves when cleaning is never a bad idea, even when your cleaning wipes are free of essential oils. And using a nose mask isn’t a bad idea either.
One woman reacted to cleaning wipes that had clove bud, lemon, cinnamon bark, and rosemary oils. Here’s her story via Aromatherapy:
“Immediately after using the wipes, I would thoroughly wash my hands. Within an hour my face felt like it was on fire. I thought it was strange, but didn’t make the connection at first. After 3 separate uses, I realized it must be the wipes. Now just smelling [the blend] has the same effect on me. My face continued feeling very hot and flushed for hours afterwards. A cold washcloth helped ease the discomfort and by morning it was better…”
19. You shouldn’t wipe spilled essential oils with your bare hands.
Gloves really are your friends. Take it from this woman who tried cleaning up a spill without using any protective clothing. She was cleaning up spilled peppermint and rosemary oils.
“… while measuring the oils out some got on my scale… I was not wearing gloves, without thinking I wiped the oil off my scale with my right hand… After about 15 minutes I felt my right hand starting to burn. I was not smart, when I felt my right hand burning, I turned on the cold water in the sink and started letting the water run over my hand, then made the mistake of rubbing my hands together under the water. Within one week my hands started to crack and bleed… I went to 3 different dermatologists in two different states. Both of them informed me that this is something I will be suffering with for the rest of my life that there is nothing I can do about it…”
In retrospect she noted:
“I was not careful, I should have been using gloves. Safety should always be thought of first. Because of this misstep I have been suffering over 2 years. Please remember safety first, never put any kind of essential oils on your skin without diluting them. Never ever rub your hands together if you’ve only got an oil accidentally on one hand, all that will do is transfer it to both hands… Try to moisturize often. And always have a box of gloves in the drawer, don’t believe everything you read about putting essential oils directly on your skin!! Essential oils are extremely powerful and should be used with care. And always dilute with a carrier oil! With essential oils less is more!”
Her words were submitted to Aromatherapy United. And we should heed them. As she said, essential oils should be used with care.
20. You shouldn’t use citrus oils without first learning about photosensitivity.
Many citrus oils like bergamot, grapefruit, lime, orange and tangerine can be phototoxic. What does that mean? Well, if you have the oils on your skin and then expose that skin to sunlight, they can burn your skin badly. You can get bad rashes, burns, swelling and more.
This is definitely a repeat from my previous post. But it continues to happen. Take this report from Aromatherapy as a reminder.
One woman added 4 drops of orange and tangerine essential oils to her hand lotion every day. She used the lotion daily for four weeks. Then she:
“went to the beach with oils under my arm, mixed in lotion (as a deodorant). Felt no effect while I was there. Was exposed to sunlight for 2 hours and have developed hyperpigmentation on my underarm skin… 10 days later the hyperpigmentation is still here… So grateful this is not my face and is under my arm… Was not told the citrus oils could cause photosensitivity… I feel the [brand name] representative did not give me proper warning of the photosensitivity to citrus oils.”
Can you imagine if she used the oils on her face?
21. You shouldn’t use essential oils to get high.
Um yeah…. There’s a lot on reddit about using essential oils to get high. Some reportedly ingested large amounts (40 drops or so) of lemon oil to get high. Some tried adding peppermint, eucalyptus and even wormwood oils to their bongs. And teens even attempt smoking or vaping essential oils because they are underage and don’t have access to narcotics.
First off, you must remember essential oils are potent. You can have very bad reactions to oils if you use too much, if you use them incorrectly, or if you are allergic to them. This entire post shows you what misusing essential oils can do to your body. Be careful with them, else you may end up in the emergency room… or worse.
If you are a parent, talk to your kids. Educate them about oils, essential oil safety and what could happen if things go wrong.
That’s the end of 21 more ways you shouldn’t use essential oils. If you’ve been injured in any way by essential oils, submit your report to Aromatherapy United. You can help so many by sharing what you went through. Otherwise, share what happened in the comments below. Let’s all prioritize essential oil safety!