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Are Essential Oils Toxic; Everything You Need To Know

Are Essential Oils Toxic; Everything You Need To Know

Essential oils are compounds that have been extracted from plants, herbs, and flowers. The extract contains what is considered the 'essence' of the plant and captures the plant's scent and flavour. Essential oils have been used in alternative medicine dating back thousands of years.

Nowadays, essential oils are used in aromatherapy, massage, and skin and body care. Most essential oils are considered to have healing properties and are used alongside other alternative medical practices.

While most essential oils are deemed safe, untrained users may make dangerous essential oil mistakes. Generally, essential oils are considered safe for human use, but some may need to be diluted, used with a carrier oil, or only used briefly to ensure their safety.

In this article, we'll be exploring the ways essential oils can be used safely and when you need to work with caution. Keep reading to find out more about essential oil safety.

Are Essential Oils Toxic; Everything You Need To Know

Are essential oils toxic?

Essential oils are considered safe, however, there can be dangers in using them. Essential oils, though natural, are not always used safely. It is never recommended that you ingest or drink essential oils, and there are a few things to consider when using essential oils. These include:

  • Dosage. Ensure you follow any instructions on the packaging to make sure you're using the essential oil products safely.
  • Purity. Essential oils are not regulated, meaning you need to check the label to ensure no synthetic compounds have been added to it.
  • How you will be applying the essential oil. If using on skin, ensure you do a patch test as some essential oils can lead to skin irritation if misused. When inhaling, do not use more than is advised on the packaging.
  • Possible drug interactions. Some essential oils may interact with prescription drugs and you should speak with your doctor before using them if you are concerned about this.

Which essential oils are toxic to humans?

While essential oils are generally considered safe, there are some that can be toxic under certain circumstances. Ingesting essential oils is always advised against as they can be dangerous when consumed, but there are other instances when oils can cause negative reactions in humans, these include:

  • Lavender oil has been known to affect hormones in boys who have not reached puberty when used topically
  • Phototoxic essential oils, like lemon oil, lemon verbena oil, bergamot oil and cumin oil, can cause skin irritation if applied to the skin before sun exposure
  • Nutmeg oil can cause a rash when applied topically

Oils that should never be ingested include:

  • Anise which lowers antidepressant effects of medication and interferes with drugs that target the central nervous system
  • Eucalyptus oil can cause seizures when ingested
  • Nutmeg oil can cause hallucinations and even a coma if ingested in high amounts
  • Sage oil cause many symptoms including rapid heart rate, restlessness, vomiting, tremors, seizures, and kidney damage

Are Essential Oils Toxic Everything You Need To Know

Can breathing essential oils be toxic?

Most essential oils can be diffused without any issues. You are always advised to diffuse intermittently and in a well-ventilated area as well as follow dilution guidelines. There are some essential oils you should diffuse with caution. These include:

  • Bay
  • Cinnamon bark or leaf
  • Clove bud or leaf
  • Lemongrass
  • Peppermint
  • Thyme

These oils are mucous membrane irritants.

Is lavender essential oil safe?

Lavender essential oil is considered safe for human use. It should not be ingested, particularly by children, but can be used in small amounts on the skin. It is used frequently in aromatherapy for calming and relaxing the body and is safe to inhale.

Is tea tree oil safe?

Tea tree oil is safe for human use. It can be applied topically and is an effective remedy for acne and breakouts. It can also be inhaled safely, but should only be done intermittently. Tea tree oil is toxic if ingested and so care should be taken not to consume it.

What is essential oil poisoning?

Essential oil poisoning ranges from mucous membrane irritation and gastrointestinal problems to nausea, convulsions, seizure, and a coma. Different essential oils cause different symptoms and so care should be taken not to ingest any essential oils if you do not have proper training. If you suspect someone close to you has ingested essential oil, you should seek emergency medical advice.

Are essential oils toxic to dogs?

Lots of essential oils are toxic to dogs. As smaller animals, they are more sensitive to scent and so even diffusing some essential oils can be harmful. Essential oils that are toxic to dogs include:

  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Cinnamon oil
  • Tea tree oil
  • Citrus oil
  • Peppermint oil
  • Pine oil
  • Wintergreen oil
  • Ylang-ylang oil

Are essential oils toxic to cats?

Diffusing essential oils, applying them to the skin, or using them as cleaning aids can all pose a threat to cats. Cats are more sensitive to essential oils and lots of them are toxic to your furry little friend. Essential oils that are toxic to cats include tea tree, peppermint, pine, ylang-ylang, and eucalyptus. Always check before diffusing any oils to make sure you're not putting your pets at risk.

Are essential oils toxic when heated?

Though essential oils are frequently used in candles and oil burners, it may actually be better to diffuse them! The heat can burn the essential oils and make them break down in a different way. This means the more volatile molecules in the essential oils break down first and it messes with the balance of the oils. It can also be dangerous to heat essential oils as they can catch fire more easily.

Are Essential Oils Toxic Everything You Need To Know

How many essential oils are toxic?

Most essential oils can be damaging if not used properly, though they would need a large amount to cause significant issues. Most damage from essential oils comes from improper dilution and ingestion. You should always avoid ingesting essential oils and make sure to dilute them correctly before applying them topically. In addition, children should be protected from essential oils and should not use them topically as their skin is thinner and more absorbent.

What essential oils should you avoid when pregnant?

There is much debate as to whether essential oils are safe for use when pregnant. While some essential oils can help to calm stress and anxiety and are good for pregnant people, there are some essential oils you should always avoid when pregnant. Always speak to your doctor before using essential oils, or any other kind of alternative medicine, during pregnancy to avoid any complications or harm to you or the foetus.


Essential oils have been used for centuries in alternative medicine. While you should never ingest essential oils, use in aromatherapy is generally safe. Make sure to always follow the guideline on the packaging, dilute when necessary, and seek urgent medical attention if you suspect you or someone close to you has ingested essential oils.

Keep essential oils out of reach of children and pets and do not use them when pregnant unless it is deemed safe by your doctor.

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