Using essential oils safely is a topic that is very important to me as an aromatherapist and in the product creation process for my business. There is a lot of misinformation and unsafe practices that come across in Google searches, Pinterest boards, blog posts, and Facebook groups.
Human physiology is different for everyone and the constitution for babies and children is extremely delicate. The safety standards espoused by aromatherapy educators and industry experts is based on science and decades of experience. These standards apply to all essential oils even ones that are 100% pure or "therapeutic-grade."
General Safety & Dosage Guidelines
Keep oils out of reach of children to prevent any issues with accidental ingestion or large doses of undiluted application.
Do not use undiluted oils around the nose or mouth of children under 2 as this could cause respiratory distress.
Premature babies - do not use essential oils
Newborn to 3 months - 0.1% (1 drop per ounce of carrier oil) with a maximum at 0.2% of 2 drops per ounce.
3-24 months - 0.5% dilution (2-3 drops per ounce of carrier oil) with a maximum of 4-6 drops per ounce
2-6 years old- 1% dilution (8-10 drops per ounce of carrier oil) with a maximum of 2% at 20-23 drops per ounce.
7-14 years old - 1.5% dilution (12-14 drops per ounce of carrier oil) with a maximum of 3% at 25-28 drops per ounce.
Oils to avoid and why
There are plenty of essential oils that are perfectly safe to use on babies and children as long as you follow the correct dosage guidelines. However, there are many essential oils that you will want to avoid all together depending on their age. You may have used some of these oils on your children and have had no issues, but you should be aware of the safety precautions and wary of bad advice that is easily accessible online. Just because you have not had an issue, does not mean that it can never happen. Children do not metabolize essential oils in the same manner that adults do.
Avoid use on children under 2 years old
Certain essential oils should be avoided topically due to a moderate risk of mucous membrane irritation, skin sensitization, and the potential for phototoxicity. The only exception is Hyssop ct. pinocamphone which should be avoided using (all routes) due to methyleugenol content which is neurotoxic.
Clove Bud, Clove Leaf, Clove Stem
Lemon Leaf/Lemon Petitgrain
Myrtle (lemon)/Sweet Verbena
Tea Tree (lemon)
Avoid use on children under 5-6 years old
Oils to Avoid due to estrogenic content
Oils to Avoid due to Menthol content which can slow breathing and possible cause neurological issues in young children when applied on the face or nose.
Oils to Avoid due to 1,8 cineole content which can cause CNS and breathing problems in young children when applied on the face or nose.
Laurel Leaf/Bay Laurel
Niaouli ct cineole
Sanna, Kapoor Kacheri, Ginger Lily
Avoid Use on Children Under 10 Years Old
Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus camaldulensis, Eucalyptus globulus, Eucalyptus maidenii, Eucalyptus plenissima, Eucalyptus kochii, Eucalyptus polybractea, Eucalyptus radiata, Eucalyptus Autraliana,Eucalyptus phellandra, Eucalyptus smithii) avoid using (all routes) due to 1,8 cineole content which can cause spasms of the glottis due to the cooling effect on the respiratory system especially when applied on the face or nose. Ingestion of the oil is toxic and can affect the central nervous, gastrointestinal, and respiratory systems.
Rosemary ct 1,8-cineole avoid using (all routes) due to 1,8 cineole content which can cause spasms of the glottis due to the cooling effect on the respiratory system especially when applied on the face or nose.. Ingestion of the oil is toxic and can affect the central nervous, gastrointestinal, and respiratory systems.
Avoid Use on Children under 14 years old
Birch avoid (all routes) due to methyl salicylate content which can increase the risk of Reye’s Syndrome. It should be avoided on anyone with ADD/ADHD due to the association of salicylate sensitivity in such individuals.
Chaste Tree avoid using (all routes) with prepubertal children due to its impact on hormonal development.
Wintergreen avoid (all routes) due to methyl salicylate content which can increase the risk of Reye’s Syndrome. It should be avoided on anyone with ADD/ADHD due to the association of salicylate sensitivity in such individuals.
Diffusing in classrooms and shared childcare spaces
The topic of diffusing essential oils in classrooms, day cares, and other shared childcare spaces comes with a whole host of issues. It seems innocent enough to want to replace chemical air fresheners with a natural alternative, but it does pose a risk for children with medical issues and chronic illnesses.This poses the same concerns from parents and educators as it would for a child with a severe food allergy. You will see plenty of articles for and against this practice.
Diffusion should be done with care especially when you are around babies and children as essential oils that are mucuous membrane irritants like Clove, Lemongrass, and Ylang Ylang could potentially irritate the mucous membranes in the nose and mouth from prolonged exposure to diffusion. Now take into account anyone with chronic issues involving irritation and inflammation in these areas.You also have to take allergies into consideration as well. A parents consent should be taken into consideration. Would you want someone exposing your child to them without your consent?
Thieves - Is it safe to use on or around children?
I've received several private messages about the safety of Thieves and similar essential oils blends and product lines. Thieves is a blend of Lemon, Clove, Cinnamon Bark, Eucalyptus Radiata, and Rosemary essential oils. It is not clear which chemotype (camphor, cineole, or verbenone) of Rosemary is being used.
Lemon is the component in the blend with the lowest safety precaution. There is a low risk for phototoxicity, but it is recommended that if it is applied over a 2% dilution to the skin, that the individual not be exposed to sunlight or sunbed rays for 12 hours
Clove is a mucous membrane irritation and should not be used on children under 2 years old. It should also be avoided during pregnancy and lactation as it may contain methyleugenol which inhibits blood clotting and can cause embryotoxicity.
All variations of Eucalyptus and Rosemary ct cineole should be avoided with children under 10 years old (all routes) due to 1,8 cineole content which can cause spasms of the glottis due to the cooling effect on the respiratory system especially when applied on the face or nose. Ingestion of the oil is toxic and can affect the central nervous, gastrointestinal, and respiratory systems.
Cinnamon Bark has a whole host of safety issues including:
When topically applied, it may inhibit blood clotting; cause skin sensitization or mucous membrane irritation.
When used orally, it may interact with pethidine, MAOIs, SSRIs and anticoagulant medication.
Caution should be used for people who are about to undergo major surgery
It should be avoided with peptic ulcers; hemophilia or other bleeding disorders.
It should be avoided during pregnancy and lactation as it may contain methyleugenol which inhibits blood clotting and can cause embryotoxicity and it can stimulate contractions.
On Guard is a similar blend to Thieves and is a blend of Wild Orange Peel, Clove Bud, Cinnamon Leaf, Cinnamon Bark, Eucalyptus, and Rosemary. It would also pose the same risks as mentioned above.
I know many people who use Thieves and similar blends in the homes without having any issues. It is a trade off between using the standard chemical-laden cleaning products and room fresheners, but essential oils and essential oils products have their own safety precautions as well. They do not get a carte blanche 100% safe mark across the board.
Raindrop Therapy / Aromatouch Technique
Raindrop Therapy and Aromatouch Technique are widely regarded throughout the professional aromatherapy community as dangerous for not only children, but adults as well.
Raindrop Therapy utilizes the application of undiluted Oregano, Thyme, Basil, Cypress, Wintergreen, Marjoram, Peppermint, and two proprietary blends from Young Living: Valor and Aroma Siez. Valor is a blend of Black Spruce, Camphor, Blue Tansy, Frankincense, and Geranium. Aroma Siez is a blend of Basil, Marjoram, Lavender, Peppermint, and Cypress.
Aromatouch Technique utilizes a similar application of undiluted Lavender, Peppermint, Tea tree, Wild Orange, and proprietary blends by dōTERRA: AromaTouch, Deep Blue, Balance, and On Guard. Balance is a blend of Spruce, Ho Wood, Frankincense, Blue Tansy, Blue Chamomile, and Osmanthus. Aromatouch is a blend of Cypress, Peppermint, Marjoram, Basil, Grapefruit, and Lavender. Deep Blue is a blend of Wintergreen, Camphor, Peppermint, Ylang Ylang, Helichrysum, Blue Tansy, Blue Chamomile, and Osmanthus. On Guard is a blend of Wild Orange Peel, Clove Bud, Cinnamon Leaf, Cinnamon Bark, Eucalyptus, and Rosemary.
As discussed above, several of these oils should be avoided with children, especially wintergreen, but also including Eucalyptus, Rosemary, Camphor, Oregano and Peppermint. Even some of the other oils can be problematic as well, Cinnamon Bark and Thyme depending on the chemotype can be a mucuous membrane irritant and skin sensitizer as well.
Read more about the dangers of these popular methods of application:
Adverse Reaction Database
For more information on essential oils safety, the Tisserand Institute's Adverse Reaction Database is an excellent resource, but be warned some of the images shown in the database are graphic. Please note that these are reported issues, many people have reactions to essential oils and do not report them or do not recognize them as injuries due to improper use.
My intention is not to scare anyone aware from aromatherapy and using essential oils on your babies and children, but I urge you to do so safely. Do you research including pro's and con's and make your decisions based on this information, but be sure to discern the difference between marketing hype meant to sell products and actual research based on safety standards. The aromatherapy industry loves essential oils and we want you to use them safely for yourself, your families, and customers.
Clark, Demetria. Aromatherapy and Herbs for Pregnancy, Birth and Breastfeeding. Book Publishing Company, 2015.
Shutes, Jade and New York Institute of Aromatic Studies. "Essential Oils and Pregnancy: For Doulas and New Moms." Workshop Materials, 2018.
Shutes, Jade. “Is It Safe to Use Wintergreen Essential Oil?” New York Institute of Aromatic Studies, 22 Aug. 2018, aromaticstudies.com/safe-use-wintergreen-essential-oil/.
Siegmund-Roach, Sherilyn. “A Guide to Essential Oil Safety.” Herbal Academy, 30 Aug. 2018, theherbalacademy.com/a-guide-to-essential-oil-safety/.
Tiran, Denise. Aromatherapy in Midwifery Practice. Singing Dragon an Imprint of Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2016.
Tisserand, Robert, et al. Essential Oil Safety: a Guide for Health Care Professionals. 2nd ed., Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier, 2014.
UsingEOsSafely.com. “Using Essential Oils Safely with Children.” Using Essential Oils Safely, www.usingeossafely.com/essential-oils-and-children/