Essential Oils that Should Not be Used

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I doubt that anyone taking the time to read this article is using an essential oil such pennyroyal on a regular basis but as with all factions of medicine, there is precautions that should be taken. Aromatherapy is no different. Certain essential oils should not be used by certain people who have pre-existing conditions & some should never be used at all by lay people or anyone else for that matter. While this was touched upon in the article before this one, it’s important to go deeper into the precautions needed to be taken when using highly potent remedies, known as essential oils.

Valerie Ann Worwoods classic title “The Complete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy” has 18 essential oils which she states should never be used for healing in Aromatherapy. I picked to use her list as an example because the oils listed are all rightly so & common knowledge to all Aromatherapists. These essential oils are:

Bitter almond
Boldo leaf
Calamus
Yellow champhor
Horseradish
Jaborandi leaf
Mugwort
Mustard
Pennyroyal
Rue
Sassafras
Savin
Southwood
Tansy
Wintergreen
Wormseed
Wormwood

Now to some people, a few of these botanicals seem to be unfairly posted on her list. Can Wintergreen… a member of the mint family really hurt you? What about bitter almond? people eat almonds all the time & suffer no ill effects. Common mustard? Although it would have been better for Worewood to list why she placed the above 18 botanicals on her “Warning” list, herbs, flowers & other natural plants can be totally different in essential oil form then they are in whole, herbal form. The mustard you use as a condiment is dramatically changed once in the form of an essential oil. This can be due to the extraction process that had to be done in order to obtain the essential oil or the fact the deadly aspects of the plant, which was always present, are now greatly magnified in the concentrated oil. Let’s take a look at a few of the essential oils on Worewoods list to find out why they shouldn’t be used….

Mustard – Brassica nigra Essential oil of mustard is extracted from the mustard seeds which have been first soaked in water to soften them. While it was used years ago to treat problems such as chills, colds, arthritis, etc. it is now known as “the” most toxic essential oil in existence. Even smelling it can cause irritation & inflammation to the nose.

Horseradish – Armoracia rusticana Another botanical commonly thought of as a harmless condiment, it is known as a highly hazardous essential oil. Just as with the mustard, it can cause extreme effect on the body just by simply smelling it including eye irritation in this case & nose inflammation.

Mugwort – Artemisia absinthium Due to thujone, essential oil of mugwort should never be used. It also has severe effects on the uterus which can cause abortion & can also cause deformities in babies while in the womb. The toxicity can poison anyone though, so all should refrain from using it.

While, as I said in the beginning it is unlikely you are using one of these toxic essential oils right now, it is always important to be armed with such information & be on the look out for blends, perhaps from countries that still use such oils or are unaware of their toxicity, which contain them. Sometimes people like to prepare their own essential oils or even a cold infused oil extraction themselves. They’ll go to their herb garden & pick one of the above mentioned toxic herbs for use, not knowing that while they are beneficial in whole form, they are poisonous in essential oil form. Hence why it is always important to have a good botany reference on hand before diving into essential oil extraction for the first time.

Other precautions that should be taken with any essential oil includes never using the oil directly from the bottle onto your skin.. unless the essential oil is not completely pure & comes pre-mixed in carrier oil. Even then I would still mix it in a little vegetable or jojo ba oil. Don’t attempt to ingest essential oils. The verdict is still out on if people should ever take essential oils internally but with the oils extracted with chemical solvents instead of natural steam distillation this wouldn’t be a good idea. Of course in that case is rubbing it on your skin any better? So comes in the mention of Fragrance oils which are like 99.9% chemicals & alcohol’s. Don’t substitute them for essential oils ever. We’ll get into this more later but for now.. just don’t do it.

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