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Some essential oils are POISON if swallowed; Never put these commonly consumed oils in your body
Essential oils can be helpful, but there are risks, sometimes fatal, when used incorrectly. - photo by Wendy Jessen
Essential oils have become overwhelmingly popular. Everyone knows someone who either sells them or uses them, and most have probably at least tried an oil or two at some point. They can be used strictly for fragrance, used topically or occasionally taken internally.

Derived from plants, most people think that because they're natural that means they're safe. However, even though many use essential oils to treat various ailments, essential oils must be used with caution to prevent certain ailments.

Use properly

As with prescription and over-the-counter medicines, only use essential oils as directed. Failure to do so can result in injury or death. If you use essential oils, you need to follow the recommendations for the product.

Understand the oils you use, what they're used for and how to use it properly. Some may only be safe for topical use, some may not be safe for children or pregnant women, and some need to be diluted before applying. Follow the directions and err on the side of caution.


As with any food or medication, different people can have varying reactions to essential oils. One oil that is fine for one person, may cause an allergic reaction in others. These oils pose the most serious risks:

1. Photosensitivity

Some oils can increase your photosensitivity, or rather, make your skin more susceptible to blistering, swelling and sunburn. According to Natural Living Ideas, this can happen even with limited exposure. While this list isn't inclusive, be sure to avoid wearing these particular oils before going out in the sun:

  • Lemon essential oil
  • Lime essential oil
  • Grapefruit essential oil
  • Orange essential oil
  • Bergamot essential oil
2. Warnings for pregnant or nursing mothers

Wellness Mama states that "Essential oils can affect hormones, gut bacteria and other aspects of health and extreme care should be used when taking them while pregnant or nursing."

Because what an expectant mother or nursing mother eats or puts on her skin can easily transfer to her baby, extreme caution needs to be used if you decide to take or apply any essential oils. Again, everyone reacts differently to oils, so what may be safe for one person may not be for another.

The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) lists multiple oils pregnant women should avoid. You can click here to see the full list, but there are some to avoid:

  • Wintergreen essential oil
  • Sage essential oil
  • Camphor essential oil
  • Parsley essential oil (seed or leaf)
  • Wormwood essential oil
3. Cautions for oil use on babies and children

While some oils are safe for use on children, they still should be diluted twice as much as you would dilute for adults. But some oils should never be used around a young child or infant.

Erika Krumbeck, ND, highlights several cases where essential oils have caused seizures in children. Certain oils can slow or stop breathing altogether, particularly for those with respiratory issues. The results can be fatal. Avoid these oils on, in, or around children and babies:

  • Wintergreen
  • Eucalyptus
  • Rosemary
  • Peppermint
Additionally, always keep essential oils out of reach of children.

4. Adverse reactions

Because most oils are not regulated and have ben tested for safety, Poison Control warns essential oil users to treat these oils with caution. If you don't, there are some harmful or even fatal side effects:

  • Pennyroyal and other types of mint are poisonous to the liver.
  • Misuse or abuse of nutmeg can cause hallucinations and coma.
  • Eucalyptus, while soothing for coughs, can cause seizures if taken internally (and is unsafe for children).
  • Sage oil can cause seizures in children.
  • Camphor, when swallowed, can cause seizures within a few minutes. Also, frequent topical applications on children is poisonous.
While essential oils can be helpful for some things, please consult a trained professional before using any essential oil. No one wants to suffer skin irritation, health problems or even death caused by using these oils incorrectly.

Educate yourself and use caution before diffusing, applying, or swallowing any essential oil. Even though they are natural, they are only safe when used correctly.
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