Essential oil 101: Safety First, part 1 (quality and dosage)
When I started using essential oils and educating others on the subject, these questions would come often: What, when, how and how much? There is not one simple answer as there are many variables in play but here are a few guidelines to keep in mind when you want to feel safe about essential oil use.
Quality is first about purity!
When it comes to safety there are numerous factors one has to keep in mind. The first one has to do with quality. Knowing how to find the highest quality oils can be a real game changer is you are concerned with toxicity levels.
There are many different quality of essential oils found on the market today and most of the essential oils we find are synthetically made. Like a wine connoisseur one expert nose knows when an oil is synthetic. So if using these essential oils you will surely have a fragrance to it but do not look for the health benefit there. In fact, you are better off using nothing than using these. I suggest everyone avoid ALL products with the ingredient “fragrance” on the label. This should be your first no-no on your list. I will dive more into this subject at some point but to let’s get back on track here.
Synthetic fragrance ingredients (this term often involves at least 14 ingredients disguised as a ‘’secret formula’’) is similar to a synthetic fragrant essential oil. Synthetic fragrance oils are primarily made from petrochemicals and attempt to duplicate the smell of a specific plant. By dismantling the unique chemical compound of an essential oil, chemists re-assemble a “Frankenstein” fragrance. A 1986 report by the National Academy of Sciences reports that 95 percent of the chemicals used in synthetic fragrances are derived from petroleum and include benzene derivatives, aldehydes and many other known toxins and synthesizers capable of causing cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders and allergic reactions. Enough to make you look for healthier alternatives, right?
Pure and/or natural:
Did you know that these two words are deceptive in nature because they are not regulated by any industries? Any manufacturer can use these words without having to prove anything when it comes to ingredients lists, traceability etc. This applies to essential oils too. If you cannot read the label with confidence stay away!
Food grade essential oil:
Have you ever thought about this? Some people are afraid to use essential oils internally and they do not know they use them all the time in food already made for them….Interesting fact isn’t it? Some essential oils are approved as GRAS (generally recognized as safe) so they can be used in food. I am not sure though if this does mean you are dealing with natural or organic quality here.
When you are buying organic essential oil you are getting higher quality as there are certain standards to meet when a company is certified organic. The only thing that cannot be sure is whether you are dealing with heavy metal and pesticide residue. Organic practices garanty a process not an end result. This was not a concern for me in the past until I understood that. We need to remember that because essential oils are able to cross the blood brain barrier, there is more concern when you think about substances that can harm you such as these mentioned above. This is where now Organic is not a high enough standard for me anymore.
Therapeutic grade essential oils:
These are what you can find as in the purest form of all. Still, there there is no industry standard yet, but companies voluntarily added some great rigidity to their standards to assure us we have a product of the highest quality. When you have a battery of test like this, it is reassuring:
- Organoleptic testing
- Microbial testing
- Gas chromatography
- Mass spectrometry
- Fourier Transform Infrared spectroscopy (FTIR)
- Chirality testing
- Isotopic analysis
- Heavy metal testing
When you know what what you are applying on your skin contains no GMOs, no pesticides, no heavy metals nor chemical residues, it feels good. As a mother, I do not want to expose my children to contaminants; I want to avoid them! When something is able to penetrate the cell’s membrane I only want what is best!
With essential oils a little goes a long way. The potency compared to herbs is about 50-70% more so you can understand that you do not need to ingest or apply a quarter of a bottle to experience some results. A few drops is enough! Isn’t it wonderful?
When we look at dosage we need to think about dosage per use as well as maximum dosage per day. Dosage will vary depending if you are an adult or a child. There are also some extra precautions to take with pregnancy, breastfeeding, babies and toddlers. This will be addressed in an upcoming post.
Last but not least it also depends on the modality used. Topical, or aromatic? Internal or oral use? In terms of internal use not all agree, but I would suggest you to first assess how you feel about internal use and also to follow the manufacturer’s information on the label. Most essential oils are not pure. They are diluted to make them more economical. Hence the reason why you see so many brands warning you not to use internally! Some of these carrier oils are nasty! Beware! Companies are not forced by law to disclose all their ingredients so you never know what you get if you buy oils diluted in a carrier.
So how do you know what is best? This chart is a replica from what I have learned at an essential oil convention.
You can also learn more by reading this article.
There is always a chance of fear when trying something new for the first time but dealing with essential oil is less complicated than it seems. And the benefits outweigh it all! If you have any questions or subject you are wanting to know more about let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org Next week we will be covering potency in more depth, the benefit of dilutions and some ratios.