We all love essential oils – they smell lovely, have plenty of health benefits and can be used in a number of ways. But, can essential oils be harmful, and should you take care when you buy them?

Essential oils are made from plants. They’re natural, which we love, and they have plenty of different uses. We add drops directly to our baths, or mix with creams to rub onto our skin. We use them in burners and diffusers, or in massage oils. The right oils can help with digestion, ease the symptoms of a cold or soothe nausea and side effects of cancer treatments. We even use them as natural anti-bacterial cleaners in the home.

As well as health benefits found in some oils, the different smells can have a chemical impact on our brains – hence their use in aromatherapy. Lavender and chamomile, for example, help to relax us, while peppermint and wild orange are stimulating and help us feel happier.

Using essential oils incorrectly, however, may cause more harm than you realise. You may be fine putting peppermint on your skin, but you wouldn’t want to put it in your mouth, or get it in your eye. Eucalyptus is great if you breath it in, but can have serious complications if you swallow it.

Ask a trained aromatherapist about essential oils

So, how do you know which oil you need, and how to use them? The best way is to ask an aromatherapist who has been trained in essential oils, and how to use them safely.

A trained aromatherapist, like myself, will explain how to keep your oils, and when they are too old and should be thrown out. We’ll check to see if you are on medication – some oils can interfere with treatments – and we’ll ask if you have any known allergies, or diabetes.

Essential oils can cause complications with medication or pregnancy

If you are pregnant, there are certain essential oils that can cause complications, such as wormwood and sage. And while some oils are safe for children, they should be diluted to a lower dosage than for an adult.

The oils used to dilute essential oils can also cause reactions. The most common is vegetable oil, although we do also combine essential oils with bubble bath, massage oils and skin creams. It’s essential that the dosage is correct, to avoid skin irritations or other side effects.

A professional aromatherapist will be able to advise you on how best to dilute oils for your bath, massage, vaporisation and inhalation. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to tell who is trained – there are a lot of inexperienced people who sell essential oils on behalf of a company, without having had any training or certification. If in doubt, always ask your aromatherapist first.

Aromatherapy courses

I have a diploma in aromatherapy, and ensure that all my essential oils are pure and sourced from a reputable company. I’m happy to advise you and create combinations to treat any issues you may have.

But if you love your essential oils, and really want to know how to use them safely, why not come along to my aroma balance course. We’ll talk about the best ways to use essential oils, which ones are best for certain ailments, and you’ll be able to create your very own, personalised, bath oil or body cream.

Essential oils are a fantastic, natural remedy for many things – but please, do make sure you use them safely. If in doubt, ask your local, certified aromatherapist for help.