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How to use Essential Oils - the Dos and Don'ts of making your own blends


How to use Essential Oils - the Dos and Don'ts of making your own blends

It only takes a glance at some of the online forums to realise the huge debate around the use of Essential oils. We wrote recently about this and looked at some of the key topics for debate, and now we take a look at how you can use these amazingly powerful natural oils safely and how to minimise risks.

Read on for our top tips..

Essential Oils are highly concentrated and powerful botanicals and so we should be following some basic guidelines when we blend. These range from dosages, dilutions and storage to limitations we need to bear in mind depending on who our blend is for. Most people will experience essential oils without any issues at all, but some will have a negative reaction, so you need to make sure you’re using the right methods and taking the right precautions to reduce as much risk as possible

A) USING OILS: Knowing how strong each oil is and the limits of its use are crucial to using essential oils safely. There are certain (rare) situations when a higher dilution or even a neat undiluted drop is better choice eg a drop of lavender essential oil applied to a bee sting, but using undiluted oils is a highly controversial topic within the industry. You will find a lot of detail on the chemistry and safety in this book by Robert Tisserand which is one of the best I have come across so far in my studies.

1) Dilution: the concentrated nature of essential oils means a little goes a long way. Diluting the essential oils in a carrier oil before applying topically not only makes it more effective but it reduces risk of a reaction and sensitisation. Additionally, the various natural carriers, carrier oils and butters offers their own therapeutic effects in nourishing and hydrating the skin, offering protection to the drying nature of a neat essential oil. It is worth trying them individually to see how you like them on their own before adding a blend.

2) Dosage: you can develop different dilution rations based on the number of drops you add to a carrier oil or a butter. I follow Andrea Butje’s ratio of 1-3%. The viscosity of the oil makes drop sizes inconsistent, but Andrea has settled on 25 drops per ml as a good average to assume:

  • 1%: work with this dilution if your blend is for pregnant women, children over 5 or the elderly, or if your skin is especially sensitive or you are treating the face
  • 2%: a good dilution for day to day care, physically and emotionally
  • 3%: a higher dose for the short-term- for pain relief or for a cold.

Remember, always patch test first and leave on for 24 hrs. Here’s a handy table to remind you of the dosages:

 

1%

2%

3%

1 oz

5-6 drops

10-12 drops

15-18 drops

2 oz

10-12 drops

20-24 drops

30-36 drops

3 oz

15-18 drops

30-36 drops

45-54 drops

 3) Storage: as with all products, essential oils have shelf lives which vary from months to years, depending on how quickly the oil oxidises and deteriorates, losing its therapeutic benefits. Shelf life actually begins in the year and the season that the oil was produced, and not simply when you open the bottle.

 - Store out of sunlight: daylight speeds up the process of oxidisation and so bottles should ideally be colour-tinted – not clear glass – and in a closed box.  Undiluted oils can eat into plastic, so never decant into plastic bottles.

- Store in the cool: the cooler your oils, the longer they will last. Aromatherapy expert Robert Tisserand recommends storing essential oils in the fridge, or at least, a cool location. Some oils may solidify at cooler temperatures eg Rose Otto, Fennel and Aniseed, but just warm these ones before use by either holding in your hand for a few minutes or leave at room temperature.

- Store with caps tightly closed: keeping oxygen away from the oil is key, so keep the lids closed tight and re-bottle the oil into smaller bottles are you use it so reducing the amount of airspace, and therefore oxygen, that stays in contact with the oil

- Store away from children and heat: it goes without saying that you need to keep essential oils stored safely away from reach of children.  Given the flammable nature of the oils, keep away from cookers, fires, candles etc also.

- What to make blends in: glass is preferred, but this isn’t always ideal if for example, you are in the bathroom or shower. In this instance it is advisable to use PET plastic.

B) EFFECTS of OILS

1) Pregnancy: I had regular acupuncture during my pregnancy, but avoided treatment and using essential oils during the first trimester. The safest bet during pregnancy: work with a professional who knows how to use them. If you are happy to go ahead with a blend, stick with a 1% dilution of essential oils and if you are not certified, use the 5 “safe’ oils that don’t come with many precautions: Andrea recommends these as Lavender, Roman chamomile, cedarwood, sweet orange and frankincense.

2) Children: many believe that just using a lower dosage of oils for children makes them safe, but there are real risks involved from some oils. It has nothing to do with the quality but the actual oil and its chemical make up. There is no hard and fast rule about the age at what you can start treating children, but Andrea uses only butters, hydrasols and carrier oils for those under 5 years old, uses lower dilutions and dosages and often more kid-friendly oil options such as the same 5 ‘Safe’ oils recommended in pregnancy. Even after that age, just as we give Calpol to our kids rather than adult grade Nurofen, we need to be gentler in our approach: start usage slowly and gently, both with the choice oil and the method of use: don't leave the diffuser all night when 15-20 minutes can deliver an impact. And don't overuse - you don't want your child to become sensitised and not be able to use it again

3) Pets: another area where we would turn directly to a qualified professional

4) Asthma: those with respiratory difficulties react to essential oils in different ways, so test first by smelling the oils you are going to use and the effect.this has on the individual.

5) Photosensitivity: when blending for leave-on products you need to avoid using phototoxic essential oils, i.e those that react on exposure to UV light and sunlight. The risk of such a reaction lasts for around 18 hours after you apply the oil or blend. (source: Tisserand and Young). Wash off products however have no restrictions, as regulated by the IFRA (International Fragrance Association).

C) IMPACT of USESkin reactions can occur, both in the form of allergies and irritations. If your skin becomes irritated, wash the blend off immediately with soap and water and apply a plain carrier oil to the area, which should help calm it down. If allergic, your skin will stay irritated for a while and you may need to consult a doctor. Needless to say going forward, you should avoid that essential oil

Want to find out more?: One of our key references has been Aromatherapy guru Robert Tisserand and his amazing reading recommendations - check them out here. Also these: 

- Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health Care Professionals, Second Edition

- https://www.healthline.com/health/are-essential-oils-safe

https://wellnessmama.com/26519/essential-oils-risks/

Alix

Alix

Alexandra Turner, better known as Alix, is the co-founder of Malavara. Having spent 15 years working with European Luxury Goods brands, Alix's passion for wellness, aromatherapy and travel led her to India and Ayurveda. Alix lives in London and keeps busy with a day job, a toddler and our exciting Malavara journey.

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