Essential oils may seem benign, but they can be dangerous. Here’s how.
Essential oils have a wide variety of uses that range from flavorings to body care to medicinal applications, depending on the type of oil. In most cases, the properties of a plant — whatever they may be — are concentrated in the plant’s oils. Used in the correct applications, this can be beneficial. On the other hand, if oils are misused, they can be toxic to the user. The top essential oil dangers include anything from local pruritic reactions to potentially fatal poisoning from ingesting the wrong oil. In addition, adulterated oils of all types — which are very common on the market due to the lower cost of production — may present dangers from use that differ from the packaging, even if the pure oil is supposed to be beneficial for a different application. Before you take advantage of the awesome benefits of essential oils, make sure you know exactly what you’re getting and how they must be used.
Dangers of misapplication. Bear in mind that anything used on or in the body can affect it in a number of ways. Essential oils used on the skin are often in carriers such as jojoba or almond oil in order to prevent absorbing too much. For instance, tea tree oil tends to work very well to fight fungal infections. Large quantities of tea tree oil on the skin, or any of it consumed orally, may cause severe adverse reactions. The Mayo Clinic explains, “Several reports describe people using tea tree oil by mouth who developed severe rash, reduced immune system function, abdominal pain, diarrhea, lethargy, drowsiness, inflammation of the corners of the mouth, slow or uneven walking, confusion or coma.”
Adulterated essential oil dangers. Essential oils may be adulterated in a number of ways, and for a number of reasons. Fragrance oils, for instance, may be adulterated to lower the cost, augment the scent or increase shelf life. Taking the ever-popular lavender oil as an example, adulterated oils will likely still be perfectly safe to use as fragrance. However, pure lavender oil also has applications as a local remedy for several skin conditions. If adulterated lavender oil is used for these skin conditions, it will potentially worsen them due to other chemicals in the oil. Only medicinal-grade oils should be purchased for their topical therapeutic value.