What are Essential Oils 

Essential Oils are naturally occurring, volatile compounds that are found in the seeds, bark, roots, flowers, stems, and other plant parts. And what exactly is a volatile compound? I will give you a brief explanation, these compounds are small organic molecules that tend to change quickly from their solid or liquid state to a gas at room temperature. They are called volatile because they change state quickly.

Main safety considerations

* Oils should be stored correctly, out of the reach of children.

* Some oils are flammable, keep away from flames and burners.

* Oils should not be used until a consultation has taken place to identify all the general and local contraindication to practice 

* Oils should not be used unless the practitioner is familiar with the therapeutic properties and all the contraindications. 

* Oils should always be used at the recommended dilution. 

* Oils should never be taken internally. 

* If a consultation suggests skin sensitivity, test oils on a skin patch first.

Missing and Using Essential Oils Safely

* Wash hands before and after use. 

* Use oils in a well-ventilated area. 

* Mix blends away from the client. 

* Use within recommended dilution. 

* Use smaller quantities for babies, small children and the frail elderly. 

* Handle oils carefully to prevent contact with skin and cross-contamination. 

* Keep out of contact with the eyes. Avoid prolonged or excessive exposure. 

* If prescribing oils for a client's home use, ensure that they understand the instructions for use. 

* Keep accurate records of treatment and blends.

* Lavender and Tea tree are the only oils that can be applied directly on to the skin undiluted.  

* Always skin test first.

Prohibited Oils by the International Fragrance Association (IFRA)

The following oils have been reported to be potentially harmful. Many are toxic, and others, are powerful irritants if misused by untrained therapists

Cade oil crude Juniperus oxycedrus (carcinogen)

Calamus oil Acorus calamus (some forms contain high levels of the carcinogen b-asarone)

Chenopodium ambroisoides oil (acute oral toxicity)

Costus root oil, absolute & concrete Saussurea costus (sensitiser)

Elecampane oil Inula helenium (sensitiser)

Fig leaf absolute Ficus carica (sensitiser)

(Horseradish oil) Armoracia rusticana (toxic, irritant) IFRA has banned allyl isothiocynate therefore effectively prohibiting use of Horseradish.

Mustard oil Brassica nigra (toxic; irritant)

Peru balsam Myroxylon pereirae (sensitiser) distilled oil is allowable

Sade tree oil ? further details not to hand

Savin oil Juniperus sabina. (J. phoenicea oil allowable).

Verbena oil Lippia citriodora (sensitiser)

Tea absolute Thea sinensis (sensitiser)

Sassafras albidum (carcinogen) - effectively banned by imposing a limit on the carcinogen safrole limit of 0.01% in perfumes.

Styrax gum Liquidamber orientalis and other L. spp. Only Liquidambar styraciflua var. macrophylla products produced by methods which give products not showing a potential for sensitization should be used.(e.g. steam distilln, vacuum distilln, extraction with ethanol or hexane, neutralisation with aqueous alkali followed by solvent extraction.

Wormwood oil Artemisia absinthium (neurotoxic)



IFRA Restricted list

Angelica root oil Angelica archangelica (phototoxic) 0.78%

Bergamot oil expressed Citrus aurantium ssp. bergamia (phototoxic) 0.4%

Bitter Orange oil Citrus aurantium (phototoxic) 1.4%

Cassia oil Cinnamomum cassia (sensitiser) 0.2%

Cinnamon bark Cinnamomum zeylanicum (sensitiser) 0.2%

Cumin oil Cuminum cyminum (phototoxic) 0.4%

Grapefruit expressed Citrus paradisii (phototoxic) 4%

Lemon oil cold pressed Citrus limonum (phototoxic) 2%

Lime oil expressed Citrus aurantifolia (phototoxic) 0.7%

Tagete oil & absolute Tagetes minuta (phototoxic) 0.05%

Oakmoss absolute & Resinoid Evernia prunastri (sensitiser) 0.1%

Pinaceae oils to have a peroxide value of less than 10 millimoles peroxide per litre (sensitiser)

Rue oil Ruta graveolens limit (phototoxic) 0.78%

Verbena absolute Lippia citriodora (sensitiser) 0.2%

Treemoss absolute Evernia furfuracea (sensitizer) 0.6%

You should always obtain permission from the clients' GP before treating people with the following conditions:

  A history of thrombosis or embolism

  High or low blood pressure



  Major system dysfunction (renal, hepatic, digestive etc.)

  Nervous system dysfunction

  Fatal illnesses (cancer etc.)

  Recent severe hemorrhage

  If client on medication or homeopathic preparations

Special care is needed for

  Allergies and skin disorders


  Babies, children and the elderly

  Sensitive skin

  People with disabilities

When in doubt, get GP permission or ask the client to sign a disclaimer.