I am writing this post in response to several emails I have received recently about essential oils. This is a huge subject. What are essential oils? Are they regulated by the FDA? How are they made? Are there any safety issues? When & how do you use them? These are great questions, keep reading for the answers!
On the FDA website, there is a page devoted to Aromatherapy. “Under the law, how “aromatherapy” products are regulated depends mainly on how they are intended to be used.
FDA determines a product’s intended use based on factors such as claims made in the labeling, on websites, and in advertising, as well as what consumers expect it to do. We also look at how a product is marketed, not just a word or phrase taken out of context. Finally, we make decisions on a case-by-case basis.
If a product is intended for a therapeutic use, such as treating or preventing disease, or to affect the structure or function of the body, it’s a drug. For example, claims that a product will relieve colic, ease pain, relax muscles, treat depression or anxiety, or help you sleep are drug claims.
Such claims are sometimes made for products such as soaps, lotions, and massage oils containing “essential oils” and marketed as “aromatherapy.” The fact that a fragrance material or other ingredient comes from a plant doesn’t keep it from being regulated as a drug.
Under the law, drugs must meet requirements such as FDA approval for safety and effectiveness before they go on the market. To find out if a product marketed with drug claims is FDA-approved, contact FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is important to know. If you see an essential oil that claims to cure cancer it is considered a drug & is subject to the same regulations as any medication. More than likely it is a false claim & should be reported to the FDA. I am not in favor of “over regulation” by the FDA but I am in favor of protecting vulnerable populations.
Essential oils have been very popular for several years. Mountain Rose Herbs sells 42 different essential oils. Other companies sell over 80 essential oil singles. There are countless numbers of combinations of oils sold as well. Amazing selections!
On the EWG.org: Skin Deep Cosmetic Data Base site, you can search for the safety of a product with essential oils or an essential oil itself by company. Here are examples for my search of the essential oils by NOW
Essential Oils are an exceptionally concentrated oil that has been extracted from a plant by steaming, pressing or by a solvent. The preferred way is by steaming or pressing. The extraction process is dependent upon the plant. Some are very fragile & require a specific type of process. The resulting oil smells like the original plant & is volatile, which means it can evaporate easily at normal temperatures.
If you are interested in the different processes of extraction, NAHA, National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy, has a very thorough article on the subject. How Are Essential Oils Extracted?
Essential oils can be used in cosmetics, cleaning solutions, lotions, creams, salves, steam inhalers, as aromatherapy & more. There are some basic facts that you should be aware of before using them. For more safety guidelines click here
- They should be used externally in a carrier oil only. Never directly on the skin.
- Essential oils should never be taken internally/by mouth. University of Maryland Medical Center: “You should never take essential oils by mouth unless you are under the supervision of a trained professional. Some oils are toxic, and taking them by mouth could be fatal. Be cautious with the words Trained Professional.
- Use in a diffuser for aromatherapy. Don’t overheat the essential oil.
- To use medicinally in a steam inhaler, use a small amount of the oil. Inhale a few times only. Prolonged use could cause problems.
- Pregnant women & people with severe allergies, asthma or lung conditions should avoid using them. University of Maryland Medical Center: Should Anyone Avoid Aromatherapy? “Pregnant women, people with severe asthma, and people with a history of allergies should only use essential oils under the guidance of a trained professional and with full knowledge of your physician. Pregnant women and people with a history of seizures should avoid hyssop oil. People with high blood pressure should avoid stimulating essential oils, such as rosemary and spike lavender. People with estrogen dependent tumors (such as breast or ovarian cancer) should not use oils with estrogen like compounds such as fennel, aniseed, sage, and clary-sage. People receiving chemotherapy should talk to their doctor before trying aromatherapy.
- A little bit goes a long way.
- Read the labels. Research the companies you want to buy from. The bottle should say 100% pure essential oil. Here is an example of some of the information you should see: Lavender I would also look for the scientific name & the part used to make sure they used the correct plant & the correct part of the plant; roots, seeds, leaves or blossoms.
- Use only Organic essential oils. They come from plants & could have toxic pesticide residue on them. Research the companies!
I don’t have the time or the room on our Blog to list all the essential oils & their various uses. I will concentrate on the most popular essential oils. The uses I have listed have not all been verified by research or the FDA. They are from personal experience, articles by herbalists or physicians I trust, or anecdotal. ***See the end of this post for links to peer review journals for essential oil research & research articles.
Aromatherapy essential Oils for congestion & cough: Use these in a diffuser or humidifier~ using the manufacturers instructions~ in the “sick” room. Do not use directly on the skin or internally. You can also put a few drops of the essential oil onto a cotton ball & place it on your bedside table or even in your pillow case.
- Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) essential oil: Congestion & cough. Anti-microbial.
- Camphor (Cinnamomum camphora) essential oil: Congestion. Can be combined with eucalyptus for use in diffuser/humidifier. Add equal drops.
- Peppermint (Mentha Piperitaessential) oil: Congestion & headache. Anti-bacterial.
- Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) essential oil: Congestion & cough.
- Tea Tree (Melaleuca Alternifolia) essential oil: Clears sick room; anti-viral. Congestion & cough.
- Oregano (Origanum vulgare) essential oil: Proven antibacterial. Fights sinus infections.
- Orange (Citrus Sinensis) essential oil: Stimulates appetite. Add a drop to your place-mat or napkin.
Aromatherapy essential oils used for relaxation in a diffuser. I also combine the ones I like in a small spray bottle of water. A few drops of each is all that is needed. The following oils have been used to help with anxiety, stress & depression.
- Bergamot: From the peel of citrus fruit, Citrus Bergamia,
- Chamomile: My pick would be Matricaria Chamomilla It can also be used to help with migraines.
- Jasmine: Jasminum Grandiflorum.
- Lavender: Lavendula Angustifolia, intensely calming. I combine this with lemon grass & chamomile in a spray bottle to use in my treatment room before my clients enter.
- Lemon: Citrus Limon.
- Orange: Citrus Sinensis Brightens mood.
- Rose: My favorite is Rosa Rugosa.
- Sandlewood: It is endangered due to over harvest in India. I would use this one:,Australian Sandalwood, Santalum Spicatum. It is being grown ethically on plantations.
These are a few essential oils that your can add to a carrier oil to use topically. Always test a patch of skin to see if you have a reaction. My favorite natural carrier oils to use are: Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Sweet Almond Oil, Jojoba Oil, Shea Butter or Vitamin E Oil. Yes, you can use Coconut Oil too. These oils have healing properties of their own. Vitamin E oil is also used as a preservative in salves, creams etc. This is a good guide for you from Healing Solutions: An Essential Oil Dilution Guide for Beginners and Beyond.
- Peppermint oil: Mentha Piperita In a carrier oil it can be rubbed into your temples for headache relief. I also rub it under my nose to help a headache.
- Tea Tree Oil: Melaleuca Alternifolia This oil should only be used topically with a carrier oil if used directly on your skin or nails. You can use it without the carrier oil but it is very harsh. I use it with carrier oils or add it to my homemade healing salves. It is an antimicrobial. It’s well known for it’s anti-fungal properties. You can add it to a steam inhaler, use a small amount, for lung & sinus infections.
A few other oils people like to use topically are: Frankincense, Lavender, Sandalwood, Cinnamon, Clove, Oregano,Thyme & Lemon.
Another good article & guide is by Sustainable Baby Steps: How to Use Essential Oils with Four Applications Methods
Other Essential Oils that are popular & their uses.
- Clove: Syzygium aromaticum Clove oil has been used for centuries for toothaches. It is our go to for a painful tooth or gum. It has an anesthetic, antibacterial & anti-inflammatory effect. Remember it is only a temporary solution. See your dentist if the pain persists.
- Lemon Grass: Cymbopogon flexuosus One of my favorites. Very refreshing. This scent is all I need for those time I am tired & need a lift!
- Pine: Pinus sylvestris Another uplifting scent. It is also invigorating. Combine with Cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica) & Juniper Berry (Juniperus communis) for a fresh forest scent.
- Rosemary: Rosmarinus Officinalis Primarily used as aromatherapy to improve memory.
A couple of my favorite “recipes” for summer:
Natural Insect Repellant Spray from the American college of Healthcare Sciences. Read the article about other essential oils to repel insects.
- Lavender: Lavandula angustifolia oil: 15 drops
- Lemon eucalyptus: Eucalyptus citriodora oil: 10 drops
- Tea tree Australia: Melaleuca alternifolia oil: 10 drops
- Lime Citrus: aurantifolia oil: 6 drops
- Bergamot Citrus: aurantium var. bergamia oil: 6 drops
- Distilled water: 2 ounces
- Vinegar from your kitchen: 2 ounces (I prefer white vinegar, but apple cider works too! Leave the balsamic for the Caprese salad!)
Blend all the ingredients and put into a spray bottle. Shake well before using. Note: Both bergamot and lime are photosensitive oils. This is an aromatic blend meant to be diffused into the air around you and is not intended for topical or internal use. I make a similar one by adding Yarrow Oil (Achillea millefolium) to the same mix. I use 80 proof vodka rather than vinegar. I do this because I use it when I make tinctures. They last a long time.
DIY Hand Sanitizer by Live Simply We love this hand sanitizer. I keep a glass bottle with a regular cap in the car & I have a plastic spray bottle to use when hiking. We have found that it also repels bugs! 🙂 Spray it on your hat.
Ingredients I found Thayer’s Witch Hazel with pure Aloe & Lavender. Makes it easier to put this together.
- 3 TB aloe vera Get pure aloe vera. Check the labels!
- 2 TB witch hazel or rubbing alcohol, if using alcohol reduce to 1 TB We only use witch hazel in our house. It is a great wound cleaner.
- 1/2 tsp vitamin E oil You can get this in a small bottle or you can open capsules if you have them.
- 16 drops tea tree Australia (Melaleuca alternifolia) oil
- 8 drops lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oil
I am going to add eucalyptus oil next time. Just a thought.
Instructions: I use a dark colored bottle.
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl. To use the hand sanitizer store in a small jar or a squeeze tube. I also use these tubes for homemade toothpaste. Note: This recipe will make 2 fl oz (one tube.)
This is a simple way to make your own Lip Balm from MaryJanesFarm Magazine.
Love this from HealingSolutions: RE-CREATING (10) OF OUR FAVORITE FALL SCENTS: Use these recipes to reawaken fall-time memories, freshen up your workplace and/or living environment, and promote good health in both body and mind!
I make my own herbal medicinal salves & tinctures. I use the herbs from my garden & I buy essential oils to add to the salves if needed. I make cleansing sprays for the house from water & essential oils & I use them in the cleaning supplies I make. My favorite scent right now is either lemon or orange. So refreshing.
Don’t be afraid to use essential oils, just follow the safety guidelines, read the labels & research the companies.
Until next week…Mary 🙂
Research Articles for Essential Oil use:
- American Journal of Essential Oils and Natural Products is a Peer Reviewed Journal. Prime Focus of the Journal is to publish articles related to the current trends of research. This Journal provides the platform with the aim of motivating the students and personals in the Essential Oil and Phytochemistry Research and Development.
- Journal of Essential Oil Research The Journal of Essential Oil Research (JEOR) is the major forum for the publication of essential oil research and analysis. Each issue includes studies performed on the chemical composition of some of the 20,000 aromatic plants known in the plant kingdom. JEOR is devoted entirely to all phases of research from every corner of the world by the experts in their field. JEOR can provide you with the information that you need to complete vital research projects. In a day and age of rapidly changing technology. JEOR can help keep you up to date on the latest discoveries. This is a journal from the UK. Very good information on research. You can see a summary for free, if you want access to the research you will have to pay for it.
- International Journal of Advanced Biological and Biomedical Research (IJABBR) is a monthly open access, peer reviewed and international journal published by Center of Advanced Scientific Research and Publications (CASRP) in United Kingdom from September, 2015. IJABBR will be published high quality and novelty papers focusing on Biological and Biomedical Research.
- Essential Oils for Complementary Treatment of Surgical Patients: State of the Art Susanna Stea, Alina Beraudi, and Dalila De Pasquale 2014
Science Daily: Orange essential oil may help alleviate post-traumatic stress disorder Researchers find evidence that essential oil reduces fear, diminishes immune system markers of stress in mice. April 24, 2017