Using Essential Oils Safely – Knowledge is Everything


Using Essential Oils Safely -

This week I decided to compose an article containing some valuable information regarding the safe use of essential oils. If you are new to this practice I would highly recommend a thorough reading of the information. If you are familiar with aromatherapy I would still recommend taking a quick read through to brush up on your knowledge. A link to this article will be posted at the top of the website’s home page for your future reference.

Essential oils are compounds extracted from plant material. They are highly concentrated and can pose risks if not used correctly. When used with proper care, essential oils can enhance our overall physical and mental wellbeing. Millions of people use these oils every day without incident. There is a lot to know about using essential oils safely and this article provides general safety knowledge.

Whenever I want to double check essential oil facts and information I will most often refer to Robert Tisserand’s website. Who is Robert Tisserand?

Robert Tisserand was instrumental in bringing widespread professional and public recognition to the practice of aromatherapy. He is the author of the second edition of Essential Oil Safety; this book sets industry standards for the safe use of essential oils. He also founded the Tisserand Institute in London, setting new standards for vocational aromatherapy education. In addition to numerous other accomplishments he is also a worldwide speaker, educator and consultant on the science and benefits of essential oils and their effective and safe use.

Topical Use

It is not recommended to apply undiluted essential oils directly onto your skin. The most common adverse reaction to essential oils is a skin reaction, and in most cases it is because it has been applied without proper dilution.

Lavender and Tea Tree oil are often regarded as safe to apply without dilution. To be on the safe side, please seek the advice of a qualified medical professional before applying undiluted essential oils directly to your skin. Experienced aromatherapy users and practitioners may make exceptions to this rule.

Some individuals may want to perform a skin patch test before using essential oils. There are differing opinions regarding the validity of a patch test as it is difficult to do accurately and results may not be easy to evaluate.

General Dilution Guidelines

Below are general guidelines for essential oil dilution rates that are commonly used in a variety of scenarios as recommended by Robert Tisserand.

  • Facial cosmetics 0.2-1.5%
  • Body massage 1.5-3.0 %
  • Bath and Body products 1-4%
  • Specific problems 4-10%
  • Pain, wounds 5-20%

For more information about dilution rates, please check out this very informative and easy to use chart from the Tisserand Institute. (It’s a free download!) 🙂


Do not put undiluted essential oils into your bath water and then step into it. To avoid the risk of skin irritation, always mix your essential oils with a carrier oil before adding to your water. It is also recommended that you mix the water with your hand before stepping in.


It is not recommended to drip essential oils into your ears. In some cases diluted essential oils may be placed on a cotton swab for partial insertion.


Do not put essential oils into your eyes as this is very dangerous and may cause extreme pain and damage.

Oral ingestion

Do not ingest essential oils unless you are under the care of a medical professional who is qualified to prescribe this procedure.

“Taking essential oils orally engages many areas of risk that other modes do not. Do not take essential oils either undiluted or in water, as there is a risk of mouth/stomach irritation.”

Robert Tisserand, Tisserand Institute

Inhalation and Diffusion

It is not recommended to directly and intensively inhale essential oils for more than 15-20 minutes. This refers to steam inhalation. This recommendation does not apply to inhalation from essential oils vaporized into the air using a diffuser. The recommended time for diffuser inhalation is 30-60 minutes on, then 30-60 minutes off.

Essential Oils and Flames

Essential oils should not be used near an open flame. Essential oils are flammable to varying degrees. Using an aromatherapy diffuser is considered safe. It is not recommended to use essential oils in a diffuser that uses a flame. Candles made with essential oils are safe.


Keep all essential oils out of reach of children. Essential oils are very potent; if your child has consumed any amount please seek medical attention.

Phototoxic Essential Oils

Some essential oils can cause inflammation, blistering, redness and/or burning when exposed to UVA rays. Click here to learn more about phototoxic essential oils. Some examples of phototoxic essential oils are:

  • Angelica Root
  • Bergamot Bitter Orange
  • Grapefruit
  • Lemon Lime
  • Mandarin Leaf

Hazardous Essential Oils

Some essential oils are more toxic and possess greater risk than other essential oils. For this reason they should only be used under the care and advice of a qualified aromatherapy practitioner. Some examples of these hazardous oils are:

  • Wormwood
  • Pennyroyal
  • Camphor
  • Wintergreen
  • Rue
  • Bitter Almond

For more information and a more detailed list of hazardous oils please see AromaWeb’s Hazardous Essential Oil List.

Essential Oils and your Cat

I am a cat owner and I have never used essential oils to treat any type of ailment for her. I am not sure that I would. I have always been careful to make sure there is adequate ventilation and have given her access to other areas in our home in case she does not like being in the room where I am diffusing oils.

“I certainly don’t advocate dousing your cat in large quantities of neat essential oils – ever. And cats are quite susceptible to toxicity from nutmeg oil and tea tree oil. But a small amount of any essential oil, and a moderate amount of most, will not harm your cat.”

Robert Tisserand, 2011

“Neat” or undiluted application is the use of essential oils applied to the skin without the use of a base or carrier oil.

For further information regarding essential oils and pets, the book Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals by Kristen Leigh Bell is recommended.

“Kristen Leigh Bell is the most recognized expert in the safe utilization of aromatherapy with animals and her book is the resource that I have the most confidence in when researching safe practices for animals.”

Wendy Robbins, AromaWeb, 2002

Adverse Reactions

If you are experiencing an unexpected or dangerous reaction to essential oils, you may want to read the information provided by Robert Tisserand called First Aid Guidelines and/or seek medical attention.


Please note, if you are pregnant, have asthma, epilepsy, skin conditions or taking prescribed medications it is recommended that you seek the advice of a medical practitioner before using essential oils.


I hope you have found this information helpful. I know this article was maybe a little different from the norm, however I really felt sharing it was important and worthwhile. With this knowledge you can safely enjoy your essential oils even more as you can now feel more confident about what you are doing. Please remember that this post will be made available at the top of this website in the menu area for your reference in the future.

Check out Robert Tisserand’s second edition of Essential Oil Safety! Available at Amazon.

I love my essential oils and I find them so beneficial for my everyday health and wellness. I do appreciate the time you spent reading this week’s post. I wish you all great happiness and health. Have an awesome day.

Angela (founder of Your Aromatherapy Store)


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6 Replies to “Using Essential Oils Safely – Knowledge is Everything”

  1. Such a detailed post. I learned a lot.
    You mentioned lime and lemon are photophobic essential oils. If they are essential oils, then, is vinegar an essential oil too?

    1. Hello
      Thanks for stopping by. Lemon and lime essential oils are made through a process of distillation ( this process uses a very large amount of the original plant, thus making the end product VERY potent) As far as I know, vinegar is made through the process of fermentation, so, no, vinegar is not an essential oil. I appreciate the question. Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!

  2. This information was very helpful! I really didn’t realize the precautions to take when applying to the skin. I would assume that also goes for the scalp? Some recommended I use essential oils for my hair, Cayenne Pepper I believe. So I need to dilute this?

    1. Hi there,
      Thanks for the great question about Cayenne Pepper essential oil and applying it to your scalp. In my opinion you should blend this oil (and all oils) with a carrier oil before using topically (this would apply to your scalp as well). Take good care and have an awesome day!

  3. Hi Angela,
    I never knew there were instructions with bathing with essential oils so thank you. I would have poured it in and stepped right into it. You have a lot of great, valuable information here that will be of use. Thanks so much for sharing, I will keep this post handy!

    1. Hi Jen,
      It’s nice to hear from you again. I am so glad this safety information was useful for you. It is very important to mix your essential oils with a carrier oil or a base before adding to your bath water. I wonder how many people know the risks of just adding pure oils to the water? I hope you have a great day and I look forward to hearing from you again someday. Take good care Jen!

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