Dilution and Safety
There is a lot of contradictory information about the safe use of essential oils on the internet and it can be confusing. One thing is for sure: essential oils are potent. In fact they are 50-100 times more concentrated than the plant. Below I detail some important aspects of how to use essential oils safely and effectively.
Please note that these are my personal opinions after doing lots of research. I have two science degrees and have studied chemistry, biochemistry and pharmacology (amongst many other things). I want to empower you to use essential oils safely in your home.
Here are some main points to consider with regard to safety when using essential oils
- Never place essential oils in the eyes, ears, nose or genitalia area
- Do not apply essential oils neat to your skin. Always use a carrier oil when using essential oils (see below for more details)
- Choose your dilution ratio based on your current needs. Remember with essential oils, less can be very effective
- Always consult with a qualified professional or someone who has done further training if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or using on babies, children and pets
- If you are taking medication or have any medical conditions (such as, but not limited to asthma, epilepsy, blood pressure issues) please consult with a medical practitioner before using essential oils
- Essential oils can be used in three ways: Diffused/inhaled, Topically and Internally. Always ask yourself what is the best way to use the oils for the issue that you are trying to address. Very often diffusing an essential oil can provide the best result
- Do not add essential oils directly to the bath. Essential oils and water do not mix. Always ensure that you use a carrier oil or emulsifying agent such as castile soap or milk.
- Do not ingest essential oils unless you have done your research and are aware of the risks. There are often other ways to use essential oils that are more effective
- Do not add them to food-they will potentially cause internal injuries including organ damage
- Be aware that most citrus essential oils (unless they have been steam distilled) are phototoxic i.e. you are more sensitive to the sun after using the oils. Therefore do not go in the sun or on a tanning bed for 24 hours after use
- Keep all essential oils out of reach from children and pets
- If essential oils have been accidently ingested, contact your local poisons control centre immediately
- Always perform a skin patch test if you are using a new oil and are unsure
- If irritation occurs or an essential oil gets into the eye, rinse/wipe with a fatty oil or milk
Please note that I do not advocate the use of essential oils in water. Whilst I am aware many people do use them as water flavourings and dōTERRA has stated that this is a safe practice, I chose not to consume them in this way and I educate others about my research during consults and workshops. Please ensure that you empower yourself with information and research when you make a decision regarding the internal use of essential oils.
These are great resources to consult if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant:
If you would like to explore more about the safety of essential oils this is a great resource:
A carrier oil is an oil that has been derived from the seeds, kernels or nuts of the plant as opposed to essential oils that come from the leaves, barks, roots of the plant. Carrier oils are used to dilute the essential oil before using topically.
dōTERRA make a beautiful fractionated coconut oil (FCO) that stays liquid all the time, whatever the room temperature. This is because it has been distilled to filter out and contain only the medium chain triglycerides of coconut oil. It is very light and silky smooth. It can be purchased as part of your dōTERRA wholesale order.
The choice is often down to personal preference but here are some things to also be mindful of:
- Ensure that the oil does not have a rancid smell
- Avoid using cooking oils (soy, rice bran, vegetable etc)
- Purchase organic where possible
Below is a table of carrier oils that I use and recommend (click for large version).
Water Based Carriers
A water based carrier can be used when an oil is not appropriate (for example for acute pain) as they absorb into the skin very rapidly. I recommend aloe vera gel, witch hazel or a lotion. Ensure that you buy organic and avoid synthetic or petroleum based. Please remember to always ensure that you shake before using on the skin because essential oils and water based carriers do not mix as well as essential oils and carrier oils (remember essential oils are lipophilic meaning they are attracted to fat, not water)
The essential oils do not evaporate so quickly with butters because they are thicker than oils. Shea and cocoa butter are great examples but they are solid at room temperature so do work better for making body butters etc.
I recommend for topical application that all essential oils are diluted. The dilution ratio depends on many factors, including but not limited to:
- Age of person i.e. baby, child or adult
- Any health issues i.e. compromised immune system
- Whether the person is taking any medication
- Whether the person is pregnant (or trying to conceive) or breastfeeding
- The reason for the use i.e. is it sudden severe pain or cramping or a temporary issue such as respiratory congestion
This is also a great visual:
Remember to always start with the minimum amount of essential oils.
You can always add more if you feel this is necessary but it is better to be cautious.
Robert Tisserand recommends a ratio of 0.25-0.5% for babies 3 months to two years old. Some aromatherapists do not recommend using essential oils before 3 months old.
Please use Mama instinct and do your research!
- 1% dilution would be recommended for children 2-6 years of age, pregnant women, elderly, anyone with sensitive skin or other health issues such as a compromised immune system. This is also the recommended dose for massaging over a large area of the body or using on the face.
- 2% dilution would be recommended for most adults and generally most situations. This is also a good dilution for daily skin care.
- 3-10% is suitable for a short term, temporary heath issue such as muscle injury or respiratory congestion. I would recommend only using at this ratio for a short period of time until healed
- 25% dilution may be appropriate for an acute issue such as muscle cramps, bad bruising or severe pain
Always use the lowest dilution possible that gives you the most effective results
Please remember that some oils such as (but not limited to) cinnamon, thyme, oregano, cassia, clover and lemongrass are ‘hot oils’ and require extra dilution.
Some oils are also not safe to be used on children or babies. Please consult with an aromatherapist if you wish to discuss this further. Recommendation available upon request.
Resources taken from:
As you can see, there are many different views on how essential oils should be safely used and the correct ratios to use. Please do your research, arm yourself with all the information and use your mama instinct when using on your children.
Please find dōTERRA’s official safety information here:Blending and Safety Chart