Aroma Info, Health

Essential Oils NOT To Use

The chemical components of essential oils can, in some instances, adversely affect the reaction of an essential oil. Many essential oils can be used safely, when used with knowledge, in a controlled way and in the correct circumstances. Essential oils have many therapeutic uses which are used in the practice of aromatherapy.

However, there are some essential oils which are not advised for therapeutic use in aromatherapy, due to the high content of active chemical components. In addition, there are other essential oils which are safe for use under normal circumstances but are not advised for use with babies, young children or in pregnancy.

The Adverse Effects of Some Essential Oils

  • skin sensitivity/irritation
  • phototoxicity
  • toxicity/poisonous
  • allergies
  • be carcinogenic
  • liver toxicity
  • death.

Essential oils, even in a pure and unadulterated state, can cause harm, if the essential oil is not correctly identified and the adverse effects are not known; in addition, an essential oil extracted from a plant may be chemically different to the plant in its natural state. Therefore, some plants used in plant medicine may be harmless but, in essential oil form, may be dangerous.

Essential Oils to Avoid in Aromatherapy

There are many essential oils which are distilled from plants but are not suitable for aromatherapy use; the following list is not intended to be a complete and absolute list of unsuitable essential oils for therapeutic purposes, but an example of essential oils which may be dangerous. Before using any essential oil it is advisable to learn as much about it before using it.

  • Ajowan (Trachyspermum copticum) – dermal irritant; high thymol content
  • Arnica (Arnica montana) – highly toxic; do not confuse with Arnica tincture which is different
  • Bitter Almond (Prunus dulcis var. amara) – contains the poison prussic acid (cyanide)
  • Calamus (Acorus calamus var. angustatus) – possible carcinogenic effects
  • Cassia (Cinnamomum cassia) – dermal toxin, sensitizes and irritant
  • Chevril (Anthriscus cerefolium) – possible carcinogenic effects
  • Costus (Saussurea costus) – extreme dermal sensitivity
  • Deertongue (Carphephorus odoratissimus) – liver toxicity; possible dermal and phototoxic risk due to lactone content
  • Dwarf Pine (Pinus mugo var. pumilio) – sensitizes and dermal irritant.
  • Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana) – both a dermal irritant and oral toxin
  • Jarborandi (Pilocarpus jaborandi) – abortifacient, skin irritant and oral toxin
  • Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) – oral toxin due to high thujone content; abortifacient
  • Mustard (Brassica nigra) – extremely toxic in oral and dermal
  • Orris (Iris pallida) – often adulterated; the fresh roots cause sickness in large doses. Do not confuse with orris powder
  • Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium) – oral toxin and abortifacient due to pulegone content. Large quantities may cause death
  • Rue (Ruta graveolens) – contains methyl nonyl ketone; oral toxin, abortifacient and skin irritant.
  • Santolina (Santolina chamaecyparrisus) – oral toxin
  • Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) – extremely toxic; carcinogenic, irritant and abortifacient
  • Spanish Broom (Spartium junceum) – toxic; contains the component sparteine
  • Spanish Oregano (Thymus capitatus) – skin irritant and dermal toxin
  • Summer Savory (Satureja hortensis) and Winter Savory (Satureja montana) – dermal toxin and irritant
  • Sweet Birch (Betula lenta) – harmful due to menthyl salicylate content.
  • Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) – oral toxin and abortifacient ; high thujone content
  • Tonka (Dipteryx odorata) – oral and dermal toxin; high coumarin content
  • Thuja (Thuja occidentalis) – abortifacient and oral toxin; high thujone content
  • Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) – irritant, toxic and sensitizing
  • Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium) – toxic and an abortifacient.

Factors Affecting the Use of Essential Oils in Aromatherapy

The essential oils mentioned in this article are not a complete guide to dangerous or unsuitable essential oils for therapeutic purposes in aromatherapy; it is recommended that each individual circumstance is assessed individually as to the dangers associated with the use of a particular essential oil and/or professional advice taken. With reference to oral toxicity, some practices of aromatherapy, particularly in Europe, administer essential oils orally; this is not a recognized practice in the USA and, in any circumstances, should never be attempted without professional advice.

However essential oils are used and in whatever circumstances, it should be noted that all the essential oils listed in this article have active chemical components which is what makes them, in general, unsuitable essential oils for therapeutic use in aromatherapy.

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