Topical Essential Oil Use for Connection... When to be Concerned
My apologies, my first edition of this blog post was what my hubby refers to as a “Cynthia moment”. I have this habit of starting conversations (and apparently now blog posts) in my head. Then when I start talking, or in this case writing, I forget that I need to go back and start at the beginning. I failed to do that in the first draft of this post. So here’s the part you weren’t inside my head to get. :) As I mentioned in my blog post “Trying Essential Oils vs. Clinical Aromatherapy" I’ve seen a lot of parents "try" essential oils as a way of increasing connection with their children from hard places. Many are looking for ways to help their child calm or sleep. That’s exactly what led me to an essential oils company three years ago. Some essential oils can work at calming the central nervous system, therefore supporting connection, while other essential oils can produce the opposite reaction. We’ve seen both here at my house. My son has benefitted greatly from using essential oils for his anxiety and ADHD. However, he was traumatized to be awoke in the middle of the night after an essential oil caused me to have a seizure. It's hard to hide a house full of paramedics and firefighters in the middle of the night. Two years later he still has periodic dreams about my health or issues related to it. Just last week he woke telling me his head hurt. When questioned he said, "I had a dream that you were in the hospital and we ran out of money so we didn't have a home." If I can only minimize the risk of other children having a similar experience I’ll be happy. Imagine with me if you will (and I'm showing my country here), but imagine the olfactory and sensory responses from exposure to skunk odor vs. freshly bloomed lilacs, it is vastly different. It is why some individuals have a visceral reaction at dental/medical offices, especially those that have the pungent medicinal smell. It is not uncommon for laboratories to dissect an essential oil if you will and pull out specific compounds for use. i.e. thymol from Thyme ct. thymol is used frequently as a disinfectant. To this day I have visceral reactions to a number of smells from my childhood. So that said, at the request of one of my readers, I’m writing about the specific oils used in blends by a couple of the big essential oil direct sellers. I’m going to abstain from naming companies or specific blend names which are trademarked as I have no desire to go to court over educational information. The oils chosen to be highlighted were selected by the readers’ question because they’re the oils used in the blends that are part of a topical use protocol developed by each company.
This post is a bit off track of what I usually write about but I’m happy to answer the questions of my readers. My only goal here is to give the consumer information so they can make informed decisions for themselves.
I’ve broken down the oils into two categories, non-specified and specified, because one company gives a little more information about the plants used, I wanted to highlight the difference having that information can make. I alphabetized the list because it's not about this or that blend, it's about the essential oils used in any blend and the data related to each oil. Company X Non-Specified Essential oils: Basil: There are seven different basil essential oils on the market. All have safety advisories for using in low dilutions and one is potentially carcinogenic. There is also a risk to individuals who have hemophilia.
Blue Tansy: Blue Tansy has a risk for drug interactions. A consumer needs to know what they’re using for safety sake.
Camphor: There are four types of camphor on the market. Two are potentially carcinogenic and two are skin sensitizing.
Clove Bud: key constituent is eugenol and is commonly present at levels over 70% and as high as 96%. Eugenol is carcinogenic so consumers should be warned of the potential risk.
Cinnamon: is contraindicated in women who are pregnant or nursing, is known for a significant Eugenol content, and carries a risk of drug interactions.
Cypress: There are four different cypress essential oils on the market. One is potentially fetotoxic (can injure the unborn) dependent on the potency of a particular chemistry component. This same one has a hazard of drug interactions. Please note, three of the available cypress essential oils on the market should be avoided by individuals with hypotension and one only has a concern for skin sensitization.
Eucalyptus: There are at least four different eucalyptus essential oils on the market. The 1,8 cineole found in Eucalyptus can range from less than 2% to over 90%. 1,8 cineole can cause central nervous system problems for children, as well as breathing difficulty. One eucalyptus oil is choleretic so caution should be used by anyone with liver issues. Over exposure to 1,8 cineole appears mainly as a depressed state or coma. Eucalyptus is contraindicated in individuals with seizure disorders.
German Chamomile: has a risk of drug interaction.
Grapefruit: Grapefruit essential oil is phototoxic. It should not be used on any part of the body that will be exposed to sun or UV rays for a period of at least 48 hours.
Helichrysum: There are five different helichrysum essential oils on the market. Some are potentially an issue for asthmatics; some have no safety issues to worry about.
Lavender: generally recognized as universally safe there are multiple varieties of lavender, two of which are potentially neurotoxic due to the camphor content.
Marjoram: There are four marjoram essential oils on the market. Two are of little concern, one is a hazard to young children and the other has a hazard of drug interactions.
Melaleuca: There are multiple varieties of melaleuca, two are safe, one is a risk to young children and one is a high risk of being carcinogenic.
Osmanthus: is an absolute frequently produced in China for the perfume industry. There is no known therapeutic benefit.
Peppermint: is a hazard as a neurotoxic and choleretic; and is contraindicated in cardiac fibrillation, G6PD deficiency individuals, and children under five due to potential respiratory issues.
Rosemary: there are many chemotypes of rosemary essential oil on the market. The chemical constitutes of each chemotype suggest rosemary essential oil is contraindicated in individuals with seizure disorders, may be neurotoxic, and should not be used on or near the face of infants and children.
Rosewood: is endangered. It’s native to the Brazilian rainforest. There is a chemically similar substitute available, for sustainability sake it’s concerning to find this oil in use on a mass market.
Spruce: The company fails to mention the species of spruce, there are multiple spruce oils available on the market, and each one has their own chemical makeup. Most are in the Picea family but not all. For individuals with tree allergies this could be an issue.
Wild Orange: there is bitter orange (citrus aurantium), sweet orange (citrus sinesis), orange leaf (petitgrain bigarde), and orange blossom (Neroli) identifying information is key here as one is phototoxic and the others are fine.
Wintergreen: There is considerable concern with wintergreen due to its risk for drug interactions, inhibiting blood clotting, and toxicity. Wintergreen is contraindicated in pregnancy, breastfeeding, children, hemophilia, and individuals on anti-coagulation medications, individuals with salicylate sensitivity and individuals about to have major surgery. Company XX “Specified” Essential oils: Ocimum basilicum (basil): There are three chemotypes of Ocimum basilicum, one is potentially carcinogenic dependent on the values of the chemical components and also has a potential to interfere with the bloods ability to clot. Origanum majorana (marjoram): There are three essential oils with a botanical name of Origanum majorana. One has the potential for drug interactions and may inhibit blood clotting, two have a risk for skin irritation and one has no known issues.
Lavandula angustifolia (lavender): no known hazards or contraindication for the essential oil, the absolute carries risk of skin sensitivity. Mentha piperita (peppermint) is a hazard as a neurotoxic and choleretic; and is contraindicated in cardiac fibrillation, G6PD deficiency individuals, and children under five due to potential respiratory issues.
Cupresses sempervirens (cypress): potential skin irritation if oil has oxidized. Cananga odorata (ylang ylang) flower oil: Moderate risk of skin sensitivity. May contain methyleugenol. High doses of methyleugenol are genotoxic and carcinogenic.
Coriandrum sativum (coriander) seed oil: no known hazards or contraindications. Citrus aurantium bergamia(bergamot) peel oil: Citrus aurantium bergamia is produced two ways. One production method produces an essential oil that is phototoxic; the other production method removes this constituent, leaving rectified oil. It's important to know which one you have to avoid a serious burn from sun or UV light exposure. Picea mariana (Northern Lights Black spruce) leaf oil: potential skin irritation if oil has oxidized. Chamomilla recutita (Matricaria) flower oil: has a risk of drug interaction. Picea pungens (Idaho Blue spruce) branch/leaf/wood oil: this specific spruce oil is not covered in any of the dozens of aromatherapy resource books I have. There is no data to be had to evaluate the safety of this oil. Boswellia carterii (Frankincense) oil: potential skin irritation if oil has oxidized. Vetiveria zizanoides (Vetiver) root oil: may contain isoeugenol. Isoeugenol may trigger adverse skin reactions. Cistus ladaniferus (Cistus) oil: potential skin irritation if oil has oxidized. Cinnamomum cassia (Cassia) leaf oil: is contraindicated for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. May cause drug interactions, or inhibit the blood being able to clot, may be embryotoxic and is likely to cause skin sensitivity. Artemisia pallens (Davana) flower oil: no known hazards or contraindications. Pelargonium graveolens (Geranium) flower oil: potential drug interactions and mild risk of skin sensitivity. Oreganum vulgare (Oregano): contraindicated for pregnant and breastfeeding women, risk of drug interactions, embryotoxicity, mucous membrane sensitivity, and interferes with bloods ability to clot.
Thymus vulgaris (Thyme): there are four different thymus vulgaris chemotypes on the market. Due to the chemical constituent, variations of the available thyme oils is marked. One has a risk of drug interactions, interfering with bloods ability to clot, and mucus membrane irritation. One may be choleretic so should be avoided by individuals with liver issues and is a risk for drug interactions. Two have no known risk factors. Many of the oils here are fine to use, when they're used properly. To determine if a particular oil or blend is safe for your particular need, please consult with a qualified certified aromatherapist or clinical aromatherapist. There are oils on this list that are rarely used in the practice of professional aromatherapy. When using essential oils without the proper information a parent could easily be taking risks that could be avoided, as I so clearly did. Using essential oils topically via massage can be very helpful in supporting connection when the right oils are used at the right dilution ratio. Avoiding an essential oil counteraction or adverse reaction will minimize the risk of turning the connecting activity into another trauma or broken trust. Using essential oils at the proper dilution, as low as .1% for some oils like Clove bud, protects the user from the risks of neurotoxicity and carcinogenicity. Using just one drop or two of any of the hot oils (oregano, peppermint, ginger, clove, cinnamon, etc.) just once or twice, here and there on perfectly healthy skin may not create an instant reaction. It’s the persistent habitual use of any essential oils neat on the skin that increases the risk of having an adverse reaction. These reactions can cause the body to see all essential oils as foreign invaders and mount an immune response. When an EO user applies a neat essential oil to the skin and it gets red, inflamed and irritated that is not a ‘detox’ reaction. It is a biological warning signal. Just as behavior is communication, so are biological reactions. As long as I’m updating this post, let me address some of the questions that came up in the comments. With regards to coffee essential oil, I’m waiting on one purveyor to get in touch with their supplier in Germany and then provide me a full GC/MS report. I called another purveyor and was told coffee "doesn’t work in the GC/MS” so they don’t have one. I’ve no experience with coffee essential oil or CO-2 but that just doesn’t calculate. We can GC/MS test oils as thick as Vetiver and as thin as Melissa. I don’t see why they wouldn’t be able to test coffee. That said, I asked in my aromatherapist group and we’re discussing it now. I’ll blog about trauma and ADHD and let you know when I finish collecting the data. Please note my goal is not to instill fear in any essential oil user. In fact, my goal is the opposite to educate essential oil users so they can use essential oils without fear of p