Essential Oils, What You Need to Know…

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It seems as though everywhere you look today, there is a new display of essential oils products available to consumers.  I have seen these displays in the major discount retailers and pharmacy stores as well as high-end department stores, beauty salons, and dollar thrift stores.  The products all have the same message for the consumer, emphasizing the natural remedy to many ailments. Many people enjoy the natural aroma and have faith in the healing or behavior changing claims of these products.

As a former classroom teacher, I was always careful to not wear perfume or cologne around my students.  I was cautioned of this by my college advisor before student teaching because of the concern for any students with respiratory problems or asthma.  I was also made aware of the dangers of aerosol sprays and air fresheners for the same reasons, so when I became aware of some classroom teachers using essential oil diffusers in their classrooms, I naturally wanted to see if the same was true of these fragrances.

I found out that there are two possible concerns with essential oils, one being toxicity, and the other as mentioned above, respiratory complications.  With any product in the home, it is important to keep essential oils out of reach of children.  Oils are highly concentrated, and according to the Tennessee Poison Center at Vanderbilt, the primary route of poisoning is by ingestion, but it may also occur by excessive or inappropriate application to the skin.  Justin Loden, Pharm. D., certified specialist in Poison Information (CSPI) at TPC states, “Children are at risk for poisoning because they may try to ingest essential oils from the container. Most have a pleasant smell but bitter taste, so children easily choke on them and aspirate the oil to their lungs. Children are also at risk because their thin skin readily absorbs essential oils, and the protective barrier that covers their brain is easily penetrated.” This has also raised concerns about the use of oils by prenatal mothers, as they can cross the placenta to the unborn baby.

Clinical studies are underway in the United States and many other countries on the benefits of essential oils used for their healing properties as well as safe use. Check out this article for more information on the toxicology of essential oils. Rise in Children Ingesting Essential Oils. Another article on the safety of essential oils by a board certified pediatrician cautions on the use of oil diffusers around children. What Does The Research Say, also provides more information on the difficulty in conducting research on essential oils and the concerns for toxicity in use with children and prenatal mothers. I encourage you to explore more on this topic and to seek advice from your trusted pediatrician or OB/GYN to help you make well informed decisions for you and your family.

Lynn DeVries, Extension Educator | The Learning Child

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