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The dangers of essential oils: why natural isn’t always safe

| Markovics Vera

illóolajok veszélyei

Essential oils are concentrated plant extracts. It takes a tremendous amount of plant material to make essential oils. When used incorrectly, essential oils may cause more harm than good! The caveats of an aromatherapy.

Just imagine: about 5,000 pounds of rose petals make 1 pound of rose essential oil. Only one drop of oil can be made from two large handfuls of chamomile flowers. As essential oils are real ‘drug bombs’, they can, of course, be harmful if you do not know their benefits, drawbacks and how to use them properly.

Those who want to enjoy the benefits of real fragrant drops should also be aware of the harmful effects.

Caveats

  1. As essential oils are hazardous substances, do not use them unnecessarily, permanently and in higher doses (recommended amount is up to 0.1-1% of the carrier material). It is recommended to use it in higher concentrations only under the supervision of an aromatherapist, phytotherapist or a doctor.
  2. Essential oils are in no case for oral use. Even a drop or two can be very irritating and corrosive to the mucous membranes and skin.
  3. Always dilute essential oils, according to use. Please note that they are not water-soluble, but they are soluble in vegetable oils, alcohol, honey and cooking cream. If you accidentally ingest concentrated essential oil, do not drink water but drink oil instead and see a doctor immediately.
  4. Do not add more than 5-6 drops in 50 ml of vegetable oil (eg olive oil) in the aroma kitchen, and do not use more than 1 teaspoon of it at a time.
  5. Although most essential oils can be used for several years if kept in dark glass, protected from light, heat and air (although essential oils pressed from the peel of citrus fruits are ‘best before’ 1 year), always pay attention to the shelf-life when buying and using them. Make sure that the vials are always closed tightly, do not touch the dropper by hand.
  6. Store essential oils in labeled bottles and keep them out of the reach of children.
  7. Keep in mind that the elderly and children are more sensitive to essential oils, so give them half the adult dose.
  8. Dispose of expired essential oils in pharmacies. According to Dr. Péter Babulka, we can still use them against plant pests when diluted heavily and put in a diffuser/vaporizer.

 

Contraindications

Expectant mothers should not use essential oils during the first three months of pregnancy. In the future too (during breastfeeding), they should avoid using ketones (Italian straw, hyssop, rosemary, yarrow) or phenols (thymol chemotype thyme, oregano, cinnamon, cloves, basil), circulatory enhancers (cedar, verbena rosemary, pine), antispasmodics, substances linked to the initiation of labour (fragrant verbena, jasmine, geranium, palm rose, anise), fluid secretagogues (juniper, cypress) and hormone-like essential oils (chrysanthemum).

  • Essential oils containing large amounts of toxic ketones and phenols (neurotoxin, aborative) are not recommended for young children or the elderly.
  • Children under the age of six are not allowed to use peppermint essential oil for inhalation or rubbing, as it may cause respiratory paralysis.
  • Peppermint essential oil should not be used permanently because it destroys the capillaries of the eye due to its vasoconstrictive effect.
  • Cyprus is not recommended if you suffer from breast disorders.
  • Juniper and cypress oils should be avoided for kidney patients.
  • Individuals with or prone to epilepsy should refrain from essential oils of basil, fennel, peppermint, and rosemary.
  • Sensitive skin can be irritated when using basil, laurel, elemental, eucalyptus, black pepper, pine, ginger, mountain periwinkle, clove essential oil. Several essential oils may lead to allergic skin rashes. Before using chamomile essential oil, it is especially advisable to perform a skin test on the elbow flexion of the forearm and refrain from prolonged use.
  • It is not advisable to use essential oils of citrus fruits (bergamot, lemon, orange, mandarin, lime) and essential oils of toothpick weed (Ammi visnaga) and angelica before sunbathing and before tanning (within 24 hours), because they make the skin more sensitive to UV rays and more prone to malignancies. The photosensitizers called furo- and pyrocoumarins can cause permanent blemishes and darker patches on the skin.
  • For those with high blood pressure, refrain from essential oils of thyme, rosemary, peppermint and basil.
  • In case of low blood pressure, essential oils of marjoram, ylang ylang and lemon eucalyptus should be avoided.
  • Aromatherapy experts warn those with lower than normal blood sugar levels of geranium essential oil.
  • The use of thyme and myrtle essential oils is not advisable for those with an overactive thyroid gland. However, if the thyroid gland is underactive, it is recommended to use myrtle, but not myrrh essential oil.
  • Clove, cumin and anise essential oil are not useful with people suffering from any kind of liver disease.
  • It is worth to note that the long-term use of the essential oil of marjoram eliminates sexual desire. This essential oil can also make you drowsy, so it is not recommended before driving.
  • Some experts say you should not drink alcohol at the same time as using sage essential oil because it enhances the effect of alcohol, also, a hangover can be more severe than usual.
  • In case of convulsive cough, refrain from the use of essential oils of the eucalyptus globulus and radiata chemotypes, as well as niauli, camphor rosemary and myrtle.
  • Cube pepper essential oil is dangerous in the case of cataracts.
  • Patients with hormone-dependent cancer should not use essential oils of varicose, cumin, nutmeg and sage.
  • Cumin (Foeniculum vulgaris) and anise are not recommended when taking paracetamol-containing medicines.
  • Anise essential oil should be avoided in case of prostate problems.

 


Green&Safe LIFE-styles project is supported by the LIFE programme of the European Union and co-financed by the Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture. Project number: ENV GIE HU000622

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