4 Common Yet Risky Mistakes People Make With Essential Oils

Without question, the essential oil market is booming. Since I first entered the arena in the late 1980’s, the surge of people not just using them, but selling them has grown exponentially over the last decade. In fact, Transparency Market Research just released a report claiming that by 2022, the essential oil market will be valued at just over $27 billion US dollars. However, even though this enthusiasm is a valuable acknowledgement of sorts, I am equally concerned about the lack of understanding regarding what they have to offer beyond palliative body care and flavorings, especially in the U.S.

It’s reported that most of the growth is taking place in Europe ‘due to the presence of key players and high awareness among the people regarding different applications of essential oils.

An additional point made in the report:

Lack of Awareness Could Restrain Growth Opportunities

Despite several driving factors, growth in the global essential oil market may suffer in the near future. High prices of essential oils and lack of awareness among consumers regarding their key benefits prime factors hampering growth in the global essential oil market.


This of course brings me to my thoughts regarding the

4 Common Yet Risky Mistakes People Make With Essential Oils

Because they’re being included in a growing number of products, knowing how and when to use additional oils is the key factor between enhancing or undermining health

  1. Disregard for photosensitivity

  2. Neglecting application precautions

  3. Improper storage

  4. Believing natural is safe

Notice I said ‘knowing how and when to use additional oils’; this is because countless personal care products are listing them as ingredients. When it comes to the food industry, their focus is primarily on individual constituents which are no different than any other chemical being produced in a lab (and that’s another post). That said, it takes more than just recognizing an essential oil as a nature-made chemical compound…

On that note:

  1. There are a number of phototoxic oils that must considered, which include; Angelica Root, Bergamot, Bitter Orange, Cumin, Grapefruit, Lemon (expressed), Lemon Verbena, Lime (expressed), Rue and Tagetes. In fact, it’s a good idea to avoid applying any undiluted phototoxic oil to skin that’s going to be exposed to direct sunlight or tanning beds (UV light) for at least 12 hours. That said, to dilute them does provide a bit of a buffer and at the same time, I don’t recommend taking a chance. Every body is different and there is no safe way of predicting how yours will react given your hormonal, digestive and immune function. All of these factor into how your body reacts to an oil .. phototoxic or not. In any case, here is my dilution chart for you to download.  As a side note: citrus oils that are NOT photoxic: distilled Lemon, distilled Lime, Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis), Mandarin Peel, Neroli, Petitgrain, and Tangerine

  2. The method of application makes a significant difference with regards to why they’re being used. The recommended options are inhalation, taken internally, and applied topically. In my practice and teachings, inhalation is smelling an oil or blend directly from the bottle and quite possible placing a drop or two just under the nose; not diffusing. I’ve used this method countless times with anxiety, overwhelm and confusion. Since the sesquiterpenes influence the brain immediately, inhalation is an excellent choice for mind and mood. Internal application gets rather sticky since many organizations encourage oral consumption. I don’t. Why? Because essential oils are already secondary metabolites and to swallow them introduces them to further breakdown. Truthfully, the digestive system is already disrupted due to being in chronic survival mode (please check out a few of my most recent posts) and just like the concern with the way your skin will react to phototoxic oils, the same can be said for your digestive system. Adding stress to the system is counterintuitive. At the same time, an even more effective way of getting essential oils internally is by taking a bath with 10 -20 drops added to half a tub of water. Essential oils are lipophilic chemicals, meaning they are repelled by water as they are drawn to oil; therefore, the oil of the skin, vaginal and rectal areas readily absorb the oil into the bloodstream without fear of it being wasted in a tub. And that’s what we want, to get them into the blood and circulating as quickly as possible. This doesn’t happen when taken by mouth. Conditions warranting internal application: chronic health issues, systemic infections, serious health conditions undergoing medical treatment that would do well with essential oil support, chronic pain as well as insomnia. As for topical use; this option is always good for localized concerns with the best results being achieved with proper dilution and consistency of application. This last thought goes for all modes of introduction. If you’re simply using them for palliative or preventive care, then once of twice a day is sufficient, in which case even using a diffuser is helpful. If the issue is chronic / ongoing, then incorporating them 3 to 4 times a day through various methods is best until the situation appears to be improving. Keep in mind, this is not the easiest thing to describe as a general recommendation; again, because every body is different. Not to mention, our use of personal and body care is so vast and varied which leads me to say this …… if you’re living with a chronic illness, it’s in your interest to reduce your use of personal care products, especially if choosing to use essential oils for their health benefits. (something I cover in detail in Aromatherapy as a Lifestyle)

  3. We’re probably aware that it’s best to store essential oils in amber bottles; however, that’s not enough. They’re best stored in a cool dark cabinet, not on the windowsill and exposed to sunlight. The reason for this is the heat changes their chemistry over time just like cooking turns a raw food into a processed one … the chemistry is altered. The same thing happens when we put and leave them in plastic bottles. The are active chemicals with the potential to influence the activity of other chemicals which means that after a while, they are no longer the same chemicals that were originally used. This is my biggest concern with personal care products that have added essential oils. While I realize a lot of these plastics are treated for use with essential oils, there is no telling how the entire mixture will degrade the container and then if you leave the container sitting where the sun can heat it up …….Therefore, it’s best to keep your single notes separate and blend only small amounts at a time and never add them to any body or personal care package!

  4. This is why natural does not equal safe. Chemicals are the language of nature and as man likes to make and create, we’ve added a lot of chemicals to the world … some beneficial …. some wreaking havoc. Nonetheless, our additional chemicals has led to a great deal of confusion in the unseen world … at the cell level. The use of essential oils has the potential to stabilize and enhance this activity OR make it worse and making it worse is typically what happens because we do not understand the potential we hold. This is my number one concern and I feel these issues are rising as quickly as our interest in essential oils is. Between my appreciation and love for essential oils and my passion for stability and wellness, I think it’s important to throw some caution out there. Please don’t let your interest and enthusiasm mislead you. What’s more, don’t let the GRAS (generally regarded as safe) stamp of approval fool you. Essential oils often interact with medications either increasing or decreasing their effects with such constituents as phenol, menthol, camphor, caryophyllene oxides, thujone all known for their influence on the CYP450 enzymes. Ketones are a class of constituents not recommended for very young children or the elderly. Additional constituents have neurotoxic potential and should only be used from time to time. I don't say this to cause alarm … I share this to raise awareness and hopefully spark curiosity because the better our understanding, the greater our experience.

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