Keystone Pharmacy - September 21, 2022

Whether it's to inspire a positive emotional state, enhance your physical wellness, enhance spiritual awareness, purify your home or refine your beauty routine, essential oils are a great option whatever the reason that inspired you to use them.

Essential oils have been used for thousands of years dating back to ancient Egypt and were central to Ayurveda practices in India. They provide so many benefits and can be used as analgesics, anti-inflammatories, antiseptics and can promote relaxation while relieving stress. Knowing when and how to use essential oils properly is key to your health and the environment.

In the eight years that I have been using essential oils I've picked up a fair bit of knowledge and a few safety tips. Learning from my own experiences -- ranging from toxicity, adulterated oils, burns on my skin and essential oils going rancid - will hopefully set you up for essential oil success.

So, what exactly is an essential oil? It's not actually an oil at all as it lacks fatty acids. Essential oils are highly concentrated compounds from distilled or compressed plants. There are many great resources out there in terms of usage and safety. There are many great resources out there in terms of usage and safety. I particularly like mountainroseherb.com and naha.org. However, do your homework and don't settle for the first article or Pinterest item you come across as you may be harming yourself or a loved one.

Safety Tip #1

Make sure to buy your essential oils from a reputable source. With their increasing popularity, unscrupulous manufacturers and many brands produce adulterated oils, meaning they are mixed with either a carrier oil or other substance that dilutes the plant essence.

You can check if your essential oils are diluted by performing a simple blot test on a sheet of white paper. Simply place a drop of the oil on the paper and, after it evaporates, a pure oil will dry without leaving an oily stain behind. If it does not, you've likely got an adulterated version. To ensure you're buying a pure essential oil, be wary of products labeled "natural oil" or "fragrance oil" as these are not essential oils.

Safety Tip #2

If you're allergic to the plant, you will be allergic to the essential oil. For example, chamomile is in the asteraceae (ragweed) family of plants and may cause someone allergic to ragweed to react. To avoid allergic reactions, I suggest you start out with the most versatile essential oils. My favorites are lavender, peppermint, tea tree, rosemary and lemon. Even with these safe bets, always do a patch test with the essential oil purchased from a trusted source.

Safety Tip #3

Make sure you're storing your essential oils properly. Citrus oils have a relatively short shelf life of about two years and should be stored in a dark-colored glass bottle in a cool, dark place. Citrus oils include lemon, lime and bergamot to name a few.

Metal and plastic are NOT good storage options for essential oils as they can cause a negative reaction. Additionally, exposure to heat and sunlight will cause the essential to deteriorate over time. Most other oils will last for five plus years if stored properly.

Safety Tip #4

Keep your essential oils out of the reach of children and pets. Many essential oils are unsuitable for consumption or contact with the skin or the mucous membrane and can be very dangerous if inhaled or swallowed.

Always store them correctly and research when and how to use your oils properly. Not all essential oils can be applied directly to the skin; some require a carrier oil such as almond or coconut oil. Citrus oils are phototoxic, meaning they shouldn't be applied to sun-exposed skin as they can cause burns.

While this is not a comprehensive list of essential oil safety tips, I hope you learned something new, or were reminded of the power of essential oils. If you have any more questions about your current essential oils or are interested in expanding your collection, stop by Keystone Pharmacy