Essential Oil Safety Guidelines for CONSUMERS

  • Internal use (ingesting, vaginal or rectal) is not recommended 

“Only practitioners who are qualified to diagnose, trained to weigh the risks against benefits, and have a knowledge of essential oil pharmachology should prescribe essential oils for oral administration.” Robert Tisserand, Essential Oil Safety, page 50

Dripping herbal essence of a vial over a spoon

NOTE: there are companies selling essential oils as Dietary Supplements or as ingredients in Dietary Supplements. Essential Oils do not have nutritional benefits. The only reason to include them in one’s diet is as a medical treatment, and consumers should always carefully weigh the risks against any possible benefits

If you choose to use essential oils internally, which includes oral ingestion, rectal or vaginal; seek the advice of a Qualified Aromatherapist if you are not yourself, qualified by having an advanced level of education in the medical use of essential oils.

If any significant amount of an essential oil is ingested, or in the case of toxic essential oils such as wintergreen, immediately call your local Poison Control Center. Do not induce vomiting. LEARN MORE:

  • Never apply Undiluted (neat) essential oils on children under the age of three

  • Do not apply Undiluted essential oils directly to the skin except in a Medical Emergency, and then only after researching the risks (sensitization) as compared to any potential benefits

  • If you are Pregnant seek the advice of a licensed medical professional and/or Qualified Aromatherapist before using essential oils

  • Essential oils are very concentrated and should always be Diluted Properly before applying to the skin

  • The Elderly are also at increased risk of sensitization and so this also needs to be considered when diluting for topical use

  • When using essential oils “off-label” for first aid or as an over-the-counter medication, consult a Qualified Aromatherapist or self-education using professional resources (NOTE: marketing materials produced by the company selling essential oils are not considered to be professional resources)

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  • Risks for consumers misusing essential oils include irritation, sensitization, photo-sensitization, liver failure, kidney damage, chemical burns, coma and death

  • When diffused, use the smallest effective amount;

“there are increased risks to young children and the elderly, and in the presence of high levels of ambient ozone.” Robert Tisserand, Essential Oil Safety, page 109.

  • Excessive inhalation of essential oils can result in dizziness, nausea, headache, blood sugar imbalances, and other side effects. Alternate diffusing essential oils with fresh air

  • “Essential oils with a high content of menthol or 1, 8-cineole should not be applied to the faces of infants or children.” Children refers to age six and under


  • Topically, minute quantities of essential oils are absorbed through the skin; this varies based on many factors including skin condition, the essential oil being applied, the dilution, the method of application and the area of the skin where it is applied. Estimates are that approximately 10-20% of the topically applied essential oil constituents get absorbed

  • Applying essential oils to the feet may reduce the risk of topical skin adverse reactions since the skin of the feet is often thicker and calloused, it is not an effective method if the goal is absorbing essential oils into the bloodstream.

Learn more:


From pages 127-128 The Art, Science and Business of Aromatherapy by Kayla Fioravanti

By law, even when a label says “essential oils” or a product is sold as an “essential oil,” it is not a guarantee that the product does not contain synthetic fragrance chemicals. This practice is perfectly legal and runs rampant in our industry. In fact, you can claim you use “essential oils” even if you use fragrance oils, reconstitutes, adulterated oils, perfume compounds, aromas, synthetic fragrance ingredients, or diluted essential oils. It is legal to claim that a product only uses essential oils, when in fact there are added synthetics in the product. The practice of using fragrance oils and labeling them essential oils is even more common in blends that are being sold as essential oil blends.

According to the rules set in place by the FDA, all ingredients must be listed in order of predominance on a cosmetic ingredient list EXCEPT ingredients added to give a product an odor. Because of this loop hole the word “fragrance” or“parfum” may represent many hundreds of ingredients in one product. The term “fragrance” is defined by the FDA as “any natural or synthetic substance or substances used solely to impart an odor to a cosmetic product.”

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If a “fragrance” is added to mask or cover up the odor of other ingredients it is not required to be added to the label. Therefore, a product that contains fragrance chemicals can be labeled “unscented” or “fragrance free.” This means that if an ingredient in a product gives it an undesired scent, then the manufacturer can add fragrance oils to mask the smell and never disclose them at all. Prior to my aromatherapy and cosmetic education I had always wondered why I still had allergic reactions, ranging from eczema to asthma, to products bearing the label “unscented” or “fragrance free.”

The fragrance exception allows formulators to not only maintain a consistent product scent, but even preservatives can be hidden behind the “fragrance” title. A preservative with the trade name Naticide has been given the coveted INCI name of “fragrance,” hence allowing unscrupulous manufacturers to call their product “preservative free.”

How do I know this? A sales representative called me to sell us what he termed “the greatest new preservative that wouldn’t have to be claimed or disclosed on an ingredient list.” I asked for a full ingredient list and was denied it because with the “fragrance” INCI name, it is granted the trade secret protection. I asked the sales person to have someone from the lab call me so I could ask technical questions and clarify the safety of the preservative. Believe it or not, no one called me back.

Any host of undesirable preservatives could be hidden within this preservative system. They could be good, bad, or ugly, but with the INCI name of “fragrance” we will never know. One company calls Naticide “manuka oil” in their ingredient list, but I have a bottle of Naticide sitting right here on my desk, and it is undoubtedly not manuka oil as it does not remotely smell or feel the same as manuka oil.

According to the Naticide manufacturer the trade name is “Naticide,” the type of ingredient is a “preservative,” the functionality is “preservative, broad spectrum (gram+/-, yeast, and fungi), and ideal for preservative free formulations.” Its INCI name is parfum a.k.a. fragrance. How can an ingredient be called a preservative, used as a preservative, with the functionality of a preservative and yet be marketed as ideal for preservative free formulations? It can’t.

When you buy essential oils or aromatherapy products be sure to do your own research. Many salespeople have been taught that their “aromatherapy-based products are totally natural and scented solely on essential oils, but you need to do your own research. So many spa lines are full of chemicals, fragrance oils and fluffery. You are responsible to your client for their health and wellness. If you are attempting to do aromatherapy with synthetic fragrance chemicals, you are doing more harm than good to the industry. As a therapist you should abide by the physician’s creed of “first, do no harm.”

From pages 149-150 The Art, Science and Business of Aromatherapy by Kayla Fioravanti

To learn more regarding recent FDA Warning Letters, as well as more information about essential oils being classified as a cosmetic rather than medicine, please read an an excerpt from Chapter 10, Do Not Pass Go Without Collecting Safety Information: