I typed away on the keyboard and then paused to review my post. The question struck me, should I include more safety information, is safety relevant on this occasion? I worried about what professional associates may think, how they may critique me. Was I being hypocritical for not posting a safety warning, or was I trying to keep a balanced viewpoint and not spread fear? I checked the facts on the oils I was suggesting, looking at the contraindications. I researched a bit more on whether those contraindications were relevant for the method of use I had proposed in my post. I questioned my values, what I felt was important, and what message I was going for overall in this specific moment. It was all a lot to consider.
My mind flashed back to the exact moment when I would connect the dots on why safe use of essential oils was such an important subject for me personally, the memory of my youngest child in his Father’s arms as he struggled to breathe. There will always be a part of me that wishes I could have connected the dots sooner between essential oil use and the instances of asphyxiation and him turning blue. Modern reports are still being circulated of other parents unknowingly poisoning their babies and that fear comes back to grip my heart. Memories of other cringe worthy examples of my untrained oil use in the bath came to mind; it is scary to think how little I knew back then, just like millions of others who are in the world, still naive to the adverse reactions essential oils can cause.
My decision in regard to that post, was not to include the safety information on contraindications this time but write this instead. I am desperate to share my story and include some brief details on why professional aromatherapy should be valued over larger companies trying to sell high volumes of oils for financial gain. As they mislead others into helping them do that, they irresponsibly turn a blind eye to the damage they cause.
If you follow any qualified and trained aromatherapists, you may have seen them post about not ingesting essential oils, not apply them topically. You may have seen them throw around caution on what oils shouldn’t be used during pregnancy. There may even have been information on oils that aren’t suitable if you’re on certain medication. People who sell oils aren’t keen for you to discourage oil use with talks about safety concerns. The same way that Health & Safety is brushed aside in companies where the procedural red tape will take too long or cost too much, safety becomes viewed as fear mongering. Tell that to people who have had serious reactions to oils, who have been poisoned by them. Share that view with mothers like me who have seen their child suffering because you used what you thought was something natural and therefore safe, but actually cause your child to visit hospital because you had good intentions but didn’t know any better. People have suffered chemical burns, allergic reactions, psychotic episodes, and there have been rare instances where essential oil ingestion has caused liver damage and death. Even knowing all these risks and experiencing what I have, I still use oils. Why, you may ask, horrified. Haven’t I learnt my lesson? Well, yes, but now I know how to use oils safely and I’m aware that they aren’t the answer to everything, sometimes more suitable options are a better course of action.
We are living in strange times, and aromatherapy is a great way of supporting people going through a variety of struggles. Entrepreneurs seem to have cottoned on to the benefits of this too, but again, when trying to sell your products, unless you’re professionally trained in aromatherapy, contraindications may not be something that gets promoted. So how do we keep a balance? I think through awareness, helping consumers realise the dangers that over exposure to all of these ‘natural living’ items can actually do more harm than good over the long term. There’s a saying ‘The dose makes the poison’ and its completely true. A glass or two of alcohol a week may not be too overwhelming for your body, but two or three glasses a night and you’ll start to see your body struggling. The same with essential oils. Conservative use when required is a sensible approach, but essential oils are being pumped into everything: our hand creams, face creams, shower gel, soaps, diffuser blends that people will use in large amounts and keep on for hours, massage oils, roller balls for headaches or anxiety, diffuser jewellery, the list goes on…
When those oils enter your body, they have to be metabolised, and your body will actually treat them as a foreign substance, immediately trying to break it down to get rid of it. The problem is though that this isn’t a quick process, and the oils will enter your blood stream, going through all your different biological systems, so affecting all of you, and they can stay in your body for days! In the mean while you use more products, keep overloading your body with more oils, and your body hasn’t finished getting rid of the last lot. This is when you start to have adverse reactions, and that might not appear physically on the outside of your body for a while, by which time it may be too late. And all of this of course, will depend on personal factors such as age and health, also something not considered when you’re just trying to make a sale on your cosmetic products.
Again, I’m not throwing these cautions around to try and blame, but instead to raise awareness. If I had been more aware of the dangers as well of the benefits of oils, I may not have had to experience a very real example of watching my child suffer and of other physical suffering myself. Essential oils are powerful substances, and it seems more and more people are coming to realise the consequences of misuse. I’m trying to stop that from happening so we can use these beautiful by products from nature to benefit our wellbeing.
So, if you receive essential oil gifts for Christmas, if you gift others aromatherapy products, or if you’re tempted to pick up a bottle of those ‘nice smelling oils’ from a local giftshop, pause for a moment, just for a moment, to think about suitability, or get in touch to discuss safe use with a qualified aromatherapist like me. It isn’t always a confirmed approach on what can’t be done, but a realistic approach on what can be done safely.
Suzie Black is a qualified and professionally trained Aromatherapist. She currently offers Aromatherapy consultations through her online clinic and loves to share her knowledge of essential oils whilst promoting safe use and sustainability, across all her social media platforms and through her wellness blog. www.anwenaromatherapy.com