Highly toxic essential oils include camphor, clove, lavender, eucalyptus, thyme, tea tree, and wintergreen oils, the researchers noted. Many essential oils can cause symptoms such as agitation, hallucinations and seizures.
Essential oils are derived from plant parts.
Many people think essential oils are harmless because they are natural and have been used for a long time. In some cases, that is not true. Many essential oils can cause rashes if used on the skin. Many can be poisonous if absorbed through the skin or swallowed.
Individuals can have varying reactions to essential oils, as they might to other medicines and products.
Here’s what is known about a few essential oils.
- Peppermint is used for gastrointestinal discomfort. It’s important to choose the correct species of mint, as some types are poisonous; for example, pennyroyal oil is very poisonous to the liver.
- Wintergreen is used in some over-the-counter skin preparations to relieve pain. It creates a feeling of warmth because it causes blood vessels to enlarge. BUT – a big but – oil of wintergreen is very dangerous if more than a tiny amount is swallowed. Oil of wintergreen is used as a food flavoring in trace amounts, but drinking from the bottle can be deadly. Swallowing oil of wintergreen is like swallowing a large number of adult aspirin. If someone is on a blood thinner, then I suggest avoiding Wintergreen.
- Tea tree oil is used for some kinds of fungal skin infections. When used topically, tea tree oil is generally safe and might be helpful in treating acne and other superficial skin infections. Avoid oral use of tea tree oil, which is toxic when swallowed.
- Nutmeg is used in food but, when misused or abused, can cause hallucinations and coma.
- Eucalyptus is used for its soothing effects when inhaled, for example during a cold or cough. If swallowed, eucalyptus oil can cause seizures.
- Sage oil has been used as a scent, seasoning, and remedy. Swallowing more than a very small amount has caused seizures in children.
- Camphor is used as a moth repellent and as an ingredient in skin preparations. Even a small amount of camphor is dangerous if swallowed. Seizures can begin within only a few minutes. Camphor poisoning also occurred when skin preparations containing camphor were applied repeatedly on children – more frequently than the label recommended and/or covered up with extra clothing.
Certain constituents of essential oils are very toxic, particularly to vulnerable people like the old, the very young, and pregnant women. On the whole, this toxicity of essential oils applies to an oil when taken internally.
One must remember that one little drop of an essential oil represents between 1 and 1 1/4 oz of the plant itself. Proportion is the key to everything. The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) has addressed the potential problem of the toxicity of essential oils. It has issued a list of oils whose use is restricted in the industries which use fragrances in their products, for example cosmetics and household products.
IFRA gives these oils strict proportion controls and of those used in aromatherapy they include angelica root, baume de Perou, bergamot, cinnamon, cassia, cumin, sassafras and verbena. IFRA has no international legal powers, but most fragrance companies worldwide do follow their guidelines.
In addition to those oils restricted by IFRA, and worthy of close and careful attention: anise,aspic, basil, clove, coriander, hyssop and sage.
These worries mostly concern constituents such as anethol, estragol (methyl-chavicol) and thujone, but I’m also careful about those containing eugenol (which can corrode metal). Toxic reactions can be felt immediately, and range from dizziness and nausea to exhaustion, epilepsy and even death.
Bottom line, essentials need to be respected and understood.
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