Safety Guidelines for Essential Oils

I subscribe to a few massage therapy periodicals so that I may stay informed about what is going on in my profession as well as the related industries that are being incorporated into massage therapy.

This month, I have yet again read an article on essential oils and aromatherapy that raised questions concerning some of the statements being made.  Please take some time to read the original article before continuing with my commentary:

Massage Today

August, 2010, Vol. 10, Issue 08

Safety Guidelines for Aromatherapy

By Shellie Enteen, RA, BA, LMBT

Because there is no governmental regulation of aromatherapy or the essential oil industry in the United States at this time, it is easy for a company or an individual to give out information that might not be accurate and in some cases, could even be harmful.

(1) While it is true that there is currently no government regulation of aromatherapy or of the essential oil industry in the USA, it is my opinion that it is not necessary.  We do not require the government to “regulate” every aspect of our lives.  Even where the government is already allegedly protecting our interests (i.e. the FDA) and regulating aspects of health care, consumer use of products for safety, industry production of these products for health concerns, etc, they still approve harmful and deadly products with ingredients that sicken/maim/slow-kill millions of Americans.  I ask:  Who’s regulating the regulators?

Some examples of the misguided intervention of our government are the approval and wide-spread use of aspartame as a sugar substitute, fluoride in our drinking water and toothpastes, as well as mercury, thimerosal, aluminum, and other heavy metals in vaccines.

More statism in this country is not the solution.  A better way to assure quality and safety is via private industry,  private organizations providing certification of practitioners, and associations that provide public safety for these certified practitioners.

Sometimes, that is intentional (as in the case of a company making claims about their product that they know aren’t true, but sound good and will create sales) and sometimes it is unintentional (as when an individual is repeating information received that wasn’t questioned). In both cases, having a good education from a qualified school or instructor is the best way to prevent making the mistake of following bad advice or falling for a sales pitch. (More about quality and education in a future Aromatic Message article.)

(2)Advertising in America is already bound by rules and regulations regarding misleading and false claims.  Seek out qualified practitioners for your health care.  Ask questions.  Keep asking until you have satisfactory answers.  Investigate the practitioner’s credentials.  Find credible sources of validation before accepting/following instructions blindly.  Educate yourself!!!

In my own experience, many years ago, I followed the suggestion of a fellow therapist and took a drop of peppermint oil on my tongue to disguise the odor of onions lingering from lunch. That seemed harmless enough. The essential oil had been purchased from a very reputable source. However, almost immediately, I felt very strange and that feeling lasted for several hours. Some time later, I learned from a well-known aromatherapy chemist that this batch had been tested after similar reports and instead of containing Mentha x piperita, which is the peppermint used in food flavoring, it was actually cornmint, Mentha arvens. Cornmint is cheaper than peppermint to produce, tastes and smells close enough to use as an adulterant but unlike peppermint, it contains a large amount of a chemical component that makes it toxic to the liver.

(3)By the author’s own admission, she failed to follow her own advise and be proactive about her own health care.  Must we always punish the innocent for the ignorance or stupidity of the uninformed?  (i.e. the case of McDonalds being sued because a customer was served a cup of hot coffee and was burned.)  Would you also jump off the Golden Gate Bridge because a friend told you to do it?

Never ingest essential oils, unless you are under the care of a licensed physician or other licensed medical practitioner who has been well-trained in the method of internal dosage for essential oils and is using essential oils that are 100 percent pure. It is not legal for a massage therapist to suggest or invite a client to ingest essential oils. Once again, there are people who will argue this point but with more education about safety, they would learn that the most serious side effects that have resulted from using essential oils (including liver and kidney damage and death) have been from the intentional or unintentional ingestion of small amounts of essential oils. Lesser symptoms can include nausea, vomiting and irritation of the gastrointestinal tract. Unless a large amount of a specific hazardous oil [such as pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)] is taken, the damage may take a while to show itself.

(4)Millions of Americans that self-medicate regularly with a variety of substances just by supposedly following the directions on the label.  Many times even the licensed practitioners are “dosing” incorrectly.  Just take a look at the stats on how many deaths occur in hospitals from OD of NSAIDs alone.   To say “never” to an individual in this regard is unrealistic. However sound the advice may be, lets face it…people are wanting to take care of themselves more and more.  There are many essential oils that are GRAS (Generally Regarded  As Safe by the FDA) and may be  for internal use.  Oils that not deemed as GRAS that are listed as dietary supplements may be for internal use, according to the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) Again, be proactive with your own health care.  Know what essential oils are and learn what they can do for you.  Read the labels and verify that they are TG (therapeutic grade).  Follow the instructions and do not deviate.

Approval of an essential oil by the FDA means that it is possible to use it in food and flavoring and does not constitute safety for general ingestion. The amount and method used with essential oils in food flavoring is quite different from putting a few drops of oil into water (even diluting it first into honey, etc.) and drinking. Apart from the real risks associated with doing this, it is good to remember there is no regulation on essential oil companies in the U.S. and elsewhere for the most part, so it is very hard to be certain of purity or that what is in the bottle is exactly what it should be.

(5)Regarding the FDA…please see my comments (1) above.  And as a solution to helping you to sort out where to find the best essential oils for your health care needs, I offer to you a reputable private corporation that goes above and beyond the scope of the FDA or any government regulation to provide the public with pure 100% therapeutic grade essential oils for your health, happiness and well-being.  You will find no other organization of this integrity anywhere on the planet!

I offer essential oil classes and try to educate all my clients as to the benefits and safety uses of essential oil in everyday ordinary life.  Please also see  the following two links for Young Living Essential Oils.

Young Living Essential Oil User’s Guide

Young Living Codex Policy Statement

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