How safe are essential oils? I get asked this quite a lot. And if you don’t mind, I am going to answer it with another question: How safe are plants?
Do you see the point? It is totally impossible to generalise. Some plants are great to eat; some taste horrid; some are poisons. And it is just as hard to generalise about essential oils, which are, after all, simply plant essences. Sometimes you will read that it is dangerous to use essential oils directly on the skin. And certainly for some oils this is true. But equally some are quite safe.
Do you know the story about Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, who is the first person to coin the term ‘aromatherapy’, and is generally considered to be the ‘father’ of modern day use of essential oils?
Gattefosse was doing research on essential oils, but suffered bad burns to his hands as a result of a laboratory explosion. According to the story, ‘without thinking’ he plunged the affected areas into neat Lavender oil. He was totally amazed to find that his skin healed dramatically, and quickly, without scarring. So maybe aromatherapy actually owes its existence to the fact that you can use lavender essential oils neat on the skin.
So the answer is to proceed with caution, by all means. Spend a little time reading up about the properties of essential oils, and find out which are the ones you need to be most careful with. But absolutely don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. A sense of proportion please, and always bear in mind that there may be much greater risk factors if we choose not to use essential oils, and instead turn to allopathic medicine.
The opponents to aromatherapy would argue on the one hand that aromatherapy is ineffectual, but on the other that it can be dangerous. They can’t have it both ways.