We offered our Plant Therapy customers a chance to ask questions and have them answered by Robert Tisserand on our Facebook page. The topic for this Q&A was “Topical Applications and Safety”. Questions were posted within a thread and for an hour Robert answered some of them! Of course, situations like this don’t allow for every question to be answered but below you can see the ones that were:
“Hello Robert, There are alot of opinions regarding the usage of eo’s on children under 2 and I would like further clarification from you since your book does not specifically say not to use eo’s on babies, just particular cautions are mentioned. Can, for instance, properly diluted roman chamomile be used topically on the outer jaw line of a teething infant, regardless if 3 months old or 12 months old? Also, is it safe to use lavender eo in homemade baby powder that would then obviously be applied topically to baby’s bottom or inside clothing, i.e. like 10 drops per cup of organic arrowroot powder? Basically, so long as properly diluted (.5-1%) can eo’s safe for children be used on babies as well?”
RT: “I have general age/dilution guideline maximums, such as 0.2% for up to 3 months, 0.5% for up to 2 years, and these are for total essential oil. In addition there are sometimes even more restrictive guidelines for specific oils, such as 0.07% for cinnamon bark oil. Apart from the very few cases of highly toxic oils like horseradish, which should not be used at all, and those that are best avoided in young children, like peppermint, yes most oils can be safely used on babies if properly diluted .”
“How often can one apply a diluted oil, for example for a headache. once an hour? every few? every 4? ”
RT: “I would say there is no fixed rule for this. I have applied lavender oil to minor burns or bee stings every few minutes. That would be too frequent for a headache, which will be more like every 20-30 mins. ”
Are the EOs that are listed as phototoxic also more likely to provoke a sensitivity reaction?
RT: “Phototoxic oils of course can cause photosensitivity reactions, but they are not more likely to cause sensitivity (allergic) reactions, because the mechanisms involved are very different.”
“I have a question about ALLERGIES: When I try a new oil, I do a patch test. Here are some questions about the best way to do that:
- 1) how long does it need to stay on? I’ve seen 12 to 72 hours.
- 2) what dilution should I use for the test?
- 3) does it matter what body part it is on? I usually see inner arm recommended – is that because it is a convenient section of sensitive skin? Can I use abdomen? It causes a lot of attention to walk around with multiple bandaids on! ”
RT: “You are supposed to leave on a patch for 48 hours. The dilution depends a little on the oil, but generally 5% would be appropriate. Patch testing is most frequently done on the upper back (by dermatologists, who sometimes want to test 2-3 substances at the same time) or the inner forearm. I don’t see any reason why you could not use the abdominal area (not generally used because in men, can be too hairy..) ”
“Several companies promote “neat” EO use. When is that appropriate? Is it most always better to dilute? ”
RT: “From a safety angle, it’s important to understand that some essential oils can cause allergic reactions, and that once your immune system creates antibodies to an essential oil constituent, such as cinnamaldehyde in cinnamon bark oil, it’s more or less there for life. Two of the important risk factors in skin contact allergies are (1) the essential oil used and (2) the dilution. So when you use undiluted oils you do increase risk. Also, a small point, but most undiluted oils have a drying effect on the skin.
“My dad is on Cumadin. He has arthritis. I know that wintergreen and birch cannot be used due to interactions. What eos can I use for him topically for pain that won’t react with his medication?”
RT: It’s much easier to list the oils to avoid, that might react with coumadin when used tpoically: Wintergreen, Sweet Birch, Garlic, Onion.
“What is the highest dilution recommended for adults when 2-5 is not working? Also, is it possible that when a given blend isn’t working that another blend should be tried rather using a higher dilution rate?”
RT: This really depends on what the problem is, but I would suggest using a different blend before going higher that 5%.
“In reference to child safe oils and safe use..I notice that sandalwood( Australian) santalum spicatum is listed as safe…but why not santalum austrocealeddonicum (new Caledonia) ? Is it ok for kids ..if not why?”
RT: Yes, both are equally safe
“How long can you safely use the same blend topically before it loses effectiveness and/or you risk sensitization? For instance, if I’m using a blend to reduce scarring or similar.”
RT: This is a great question, but there is no simple answer. For both continued efficacy and avoiding sensitization, you might consider changing blends every 3-4 months if you are using something long-term
“When you want to apply several oils-is it better to make a blend (like in a roller ball) or is it OK to apply the single (diluted) oil and then another over it and so on?”
RT: Well you can do either, whichever is easier, but there is no advantage to “layering” in my opinion
“I have an infant. Can I use oils topically on myself (chest, neck, etc.) when I’m around him? Is there a timeframe for how long I need to wait before holding him if I use them? Is it safe to use them if they’re covered with clothes or does it just depend on the oil?”
RT: Basically, yes, so long as you are not using undiluted oils or very concentrated blends
“Certain oils/blends work best for certain things (anxiety, sleep, etc). If I only get results from a certain combo, and have the condition daily, how can I prevent sensitization and still use frequently enough to get benefit?”
RT: See my previous comment on frequency, but I would say do change, or alternate your blend every 3-4 months.
“For those that have chronic illness’ like Fibromyalgia, chronic pain, etc, what are the risks associated with using EO’s everyday, (alternating blends to avoid sensitization), and what would be the max dilution you could apply for Pain aid or muscle aid? Thanks Robert!!”
RT: There are no increased risks because a person has fibromyalgia / chronic pain, and for general use, maximum would be around 5% for long-term use
“If you have known allergies to tree pollen, grass pollen, ect. Do you run a risk of having allergy to eo?”
RT: No, there is no increased risk. Inhaled allergies don’t cross-relate
“There is some conflicting information concerning using essential oils during preganancy. The latest information that I took from NAHA basically is stating that ‘normal use of eo’s by inhalation or diluted topical application shows no record of abnormal conditions to fetus. Because of the conflicts, I am wanting to hear your thoughts concerning using eo’s and pregnancy.”
RT: Most of the research is carried out in animals, using moderately high doses, but we do know from this that certain oils or constituents pose a greater risk of causing fetal malformations that the majority of oils. These include cinnamon bark, sage, wintergreen and others, which I recommend should not be used topically.
“Is there another way to do sensitivity test of oils besides bandaids, as I highly allergic to the adhesive.”
RT: Bandaids are not ideal anyway, but the patches made specially for patch testing are only sold to dermatologists. Perhaps a business opportunity here?
“If you have a reaction to an oil topically, is it still safe to use it by diffusing/inhalation or does the body process these the same way? Thank you for taking the time to respond.”
RT: 99% of the time it is safe to use it by non-topical routes, yes. Very rarely, there will be a reaction though
“I like to inhale from my hands over my nose/mouth rather than a difffuser, plastic inhaler, etc. Is it OK to use a higher dilution (30%?) If it’s only going on the thicker skin of my palms?”
RT: If you are not experiencing an adverse reaction then in a sense yes, it’s safe. But be aware that a few aromatherapists have developed hand dermatitis to some of the oils they used, so such reactions are possible
“Can sensitization be reversed? Thanks and you are awesome RT!”
RT: It sometimes just goes away after 10, 20, 30 years (similar to some vaccinations) but otherwise, I don’t think so
“Is clary sage safe to apply topically on the abdomen at a 1% dilution immediately following a birth? Thank you Plant Therapy and Mr. Tisserand!”
RT: Yes, totally safe
“I am sorry I can no longer see my question posted and it was about topically applying EOs. I have been putting Cedarwood on my 12 year old son’s feet to sleep at night and I wonder how many nights I can do that in a row and what signs I look for to see if there are problems.”
RT: It’s a very safe oil to use, but you might want to consider switching tom something else occasionally.
We want to thank Robert for doing this, and we hope that you have learned something while reading this! If you have specific questions or concerns, please be in touch via email at firstname.lastname@example.org We look forward to hearing from you!