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How To Avoid Common And Harmful Mistakes Using Essential Oils

So you've been told to use Lavender oil, Clove oil, Eucalyptus and Lemon for a million different ailments and even around your home but honestly... where do you start?

It's so often that I have clients letting me know they already 'use essential oils' or have been 'recommended' a specific oil by a friend of a friend and it scares me! Especially as rules in this country are so confusing around aromatherapy practise. Did you know that in the UK, a clinical aromatherapist must properly consult and keep records of consultations with clients to recommend oils for overall wellbeing and no specific ailment? We're talking about the same oils which the client can just go and buy off a shelf, having been kept in less than ideal conditions to preserve them and without any instructions or training! It baffles me!

I'm not against the formal consultation AT ALL, in fact I think it's in the best interest of both the practitioner and client to have those records and especially the client to know there is some real knowledge behind the recommendations they have received. But if the 'dangers' are so real, which they are, why is this not shared with the wider public and why is there not more advice on caution of use at the point of sale in stored or through network marketing representatives.

To help you use your essential oils more safely at home and avoid the most common mistakes people make when using essential oils, I have put together these 5 steps to consider when making your decisions.

1. Essential Oils Should ALWAYS Be Diluted For Use.

Because as we said before, essential oils are powerful. They may have the power to improve your life but actually using many oils neat on the skin could cause burns and irritation, especially with prolonged use.

If you're looking at applying oils to the skin, they should always be blended with your cream or a base oil (like grapeseed, olive or sesame) first and if it's a relaxing bath you're after, you'll want to make sure you pop them into a solubilising base or even into some milk (if you drink it) before running them under the warm water. A few drops of neat Lemon Essential Oil in your bath will just sit on top of the water and could result in direct burns to your skin!!

  • A note to those who, like me, use plant milk instead of animal sourced milk - You are best to purchase a base solubilised from somewhere like as plant milks won't emulsify oils in the same way.

There are exceptions to this rule where oils can be used 'neat' for certain applications but this is so rarely necessary and I wouldn't advise it without proper research.

2. Keep Essential Oils Well Away From Children.

It goes without saying usually but you need to keep oils away from children in the same way you keep your paracetamol locked away on a top shelf. Ingestion of essential oils can not only make your little ones very poorly but could even cause fatalities, so it is important to allocate a safe space for your diffusing blends, out of reach of your children.

And while we're on the subject of children.. I would always suggest seeking a professional therapist if you want to use essential oils with your bunch! There are some great options out there for helping to calm and energise children at different stages but a professional therapists will be more familiar with appropriate dilutions for both children AND vulnerable adults who need to take more care with heir choices.

3. Check How Essential Oils Work With Your Medications.

...or allergies and medical history for that matter! We're talking here about oils which have been known to lower blood pressure and encourage circulation, so if they're having physical effects on your body, you need to know whether they work with YOU!

If you're not sure from reading written information in your medications or don't feel confident researching, it would be wise to consult your doctor before creating any home blends.. that includes in your diffuser! For example, those of you on blood pressure medications may want to avoid Grapefruit fragrances just as much as in your breakfast!

(ALSO...Don't forget, some allergies including nut allergies can be affected by applying oils to the skin)

4. Buy From A Reputable Supplier.

How your essential oils are harvested and stored is super important to their quality, preservation and therapeutic properties. The ideal place for an essential oil to be stored is in a tightly closed dark container, away from light in a cool, dry place.

We suggest seeking an online supplier or making sure store-bought oils have been kept in correct conditions on a shaded shelf (out of the bright light of the store and in a cool enough environment). Your supplier should be providing information of the source of the oil including country of origin and once it arrives a good quality oil will usually have a batch number on it somewhere. If you can't find this on a store bought product, it may be worth contacting the company that produces the oil to see if they can provide this information.

5. Think About Your Timings.

Timings can make all the difference as to whether your essential oil has the affect you want on your lifestyle and holistic wellbeing.

Time of day - Using an oil with properties known to energise is all well and good in the morning or for a late study-night but it isn't going to be assisting you with your insomnia!

Best Before - Clearly we aren't eating these oils, so why would we need a best before date. Well the truth is, most essential oils don't smell horrendous after their best before dates BUT they probably won't have the properties their most volatile components bring to the table- uplifting qualities, more gentle calming properties etc. What's more, the oil will have slightly more 'harsh' qualities than before and is less 'friendly' in it's approach! I'd say approach out of date oils with caution, especially when using with children and vulnerable adults.

Length of use - Diffusing ALL DAY LONG is not necessary to feel benefits from your oils and can actually result in opposite symptoms of the ones you've been having. We're aiming for balance here, so we'd suggest diffusing for no more than an hour at a time.

Consistency of use - Regular use of aromatherapy is said to have the most benefit on those that use them. The nervous system starts to recognise scents and react more quickly and the habit itself of self-care has always been hugely beneficial to my clients. It's also worth noting that blends should be changed every so often, to make sure they are still having effect. Even a subtle aroma in a bath can make a huge difference for a client who uses aromatherapy regularly but we also sometimes need to shake things up to re-stimulate our body's responses. It's also important to mix things up with some topical applications like moisturisers to avoid overuse and irritation.

So now I feel more confident that some of you out there are a little more informed about using essential oils at home. Please enjoy them, there is so much power to be harnessed!

Joanna Rennie is a MIFPA Clinical Aromatherapist and professional movement coach who aims to help people suffering with anxiety and stress find clarity, calm and pain relief through use of essential oils and lifestyle consulting so that they can feel confident, energised and maintain strong healthy relationships with themselves and those around them.

Clinical Aromatherapy Consultations with Joanna TruthPie can be booked online or in person at TruthPie, London and at Joanna TruthPie, Andover.

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