Essential Oils and Children

When using essential oils around little ones you need to be very careful. There are some oils which shouldn't be used around children (scroll down) at all and all of them need to be used with care. 

Essential Oils Safe to Use with Children

  • We suggest no essential oils on or around babies before the age of 6 months, due to their thinner skin and immature immune systems. 
  • From ages 6 months – age 2, you may diffuse child safe oils (below) for a specific purpose and short periods of time. For an acute case (something very specific like a bee sting or bug bite), you may use essential oils topically, but this should be the exception and not the norm. Children are particularly sensitive to aroma and products applied to the skin.
  • After the age of 2 you may start topical use with a very low dilution, but keep in mind a child's immune system takes years to fully develop, making them less able to deal with the adverse affects which may arise when concentrated products are used improperly on or around them. Herbs and hydrosols are often a better and safer choice for children.

Here is a list of essential oils safe to use around children (this list is not exhaustive).

  • Bergamot
  • Black Pepper
  • Blue Tansy
  • Cedarwood
  • Clary Sage
  • Copaiba
  • Coriander
  • Cypress
  • Frankincense
  • German Chamomile
  • Geranium
  • Ginger
  • Grapefruit
  • Juniper Berry
  • Helichrysum
  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Mandarin
  • Marjoram (Sweet)
  • Neroli
  • Palmarosa
  • Patchouli
  • Petitgrain
  • Pines -except Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa), or Huon Pine (Dacrydium franklinii)
  • Roman Chamomile
  • Sandalwood
  • Siberian Fir Needle
  • Spearmint
  • Spruces
  • Sweet Marjoram
  • Sweet Orange
  • Tangerine
  • Tea Tree
  • Vetiver

Essential Oils to Avoid Using with Children

Here is a long – but not exhaustive – list of essential oils with warnings against using on or around children (source: Essential Oil Safety).

Please note not just the Common Name but also the Latin Name(s) and/or chemotypes listed in this list. Many oils have different species (indicated by different Latin names) and some are safe and some are not, depending on the Latin name. The * indicates essential oils high in 1,8-cineole which can cause slowed respiration and/or labored breathing. For alternatives, read this post: Family Friendly Anti-Congest Blends

NOTE: if it says “avoid using (all routes)” that means do not use topically or allow them to inhale.

  • Anise/Aniseed Pimpinella anisum – avoid using (all routes) on children under 5
  • Anise (Star) Illicium verum – avoid using (all routes) on children under 5
  • Basil (lemon) Ocimum x citriodorum – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Benzoin Styrax benzoin, Styrax paralleloneurus and Styrax tonkinensis – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Birch (sweet) Betula lenta – avoid using (all routes) on children
  • Black Seed Nigella sativa – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • *Cajuput Melaleuca cajuputi, Melaleuca leucadendron – avoid using on children under 6
  • *Cardamon Elettaria cardamomum – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • Cassia Cinnamomum cassia, Cinnamomum aromaticum – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Chaste Tree Vitex agnus castus – avoid using (all routes) on prepubertal children
  • Clove Bud, Clove Leaf, Clove Stem Syzygium aromaticum, Eugenia caryophyllata, Eugenia aromatica – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • *Cornmint Mentha arvensis, Mentha canadensis – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • *Eucalyptus Eucalyptus camaldulensis, Eucalyptus globulus, Eucalyptus maidenii, Eucalyptus plenissima, Eucalyptus kochii, Eucalyptus polybractea, Eucalyptus radiata, Eucalyptus Autraliana,Eucalyptus phellandra, Eucalyptus smithii – avoid using (all routes) on children under 10
  • Fennel (bitter), Fennel (sweet) Foeniculum vulgare – avoid using (all routes) on children under 5
  • *Galangal (lesser) Alpinia officinarum, Languas officinarum – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • Garlic Allium sativum – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Ginger Lily Hedychium coronarium – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • *Ho Leaf/Ravintsara Cinnamomum camphora (cineole chemotype) – avoid using on children under 6
  • Hyssop Hyssopus officinalis (pinocamphone chemptype) – avoid using (all routes) on children under 2
  • *Laurel Leaf/Bay Laurel Laurus nobilis– avoid topical use on children under 2; avoid all routes for children under age 6
  • Lemon Leaf/Lemon Petitgrain Citrus x limon, Citrus limonum – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Lemongrass Cymbopogon flexuosus, Andropogon flexuosus, Cymbopogon citratus, Andropogon citratus – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • *Marjoram (Spanish) Thymus mastichina – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • Massoia Cryptocarya massoy, Cryptocaria massoia, Massoia aromatica – avoid using (all routes) on children under 2
  • May Chang Litsea cubeba, Litsea citrata, Laura cubeba – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Melissa/Lemon Balm Melissa officinalis – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • *Myrtle (red) Myrtus communis – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • Myrtle (aniseed) Backhousia anisata – avoid using (all routes) on children under 5
  • Myrtle (honey) Melaleuca teretifolia – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Myrtle (lemon)/Sweet Verbena Backhousia citriodora – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • *Niaouli (cineole chemotype) Melaleuca quinquinervia – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • Oakmoss Evernia prunastri – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Opopanax Commiphora guidottii – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Oregano Origanum onites, Origanum smyrnaeum, Origanum vulgare, Origanum compactum, Origanum hirtum, Thymbra capitata, Thymus capitatus, Coridothymus capitatus, Satureeja capitata– avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Peppermint Mentha x Piperita – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • Peru Balsam Myroxylon balsamum, Myroxylon pereiraw, Myroxylon peruiferum, Myrospermum pereirae, Toluifera pereirae – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • *Rambiazana Helichrysum gymnocephalum – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • *Rosemary (1,8-cineole chemotype) Rosmarinus officinalis – avoid using (all routes) on children under 10
  • Saffron Crocus sativus – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • *Sage (Greek), Salvia fruiticosa, Salvia triloba Sage (White) – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • *Sage (White) Salvia apiana – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • Sage (Wild Mountain) Hemizygia petiolata – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • *Sanna Hedychium spicatum – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • *Saro Cinnamosma fragrans – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • Savory Satureia hortensis, Satureia montana – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Styrax Liquidambar orientalis, Liquidambar styraciflua – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Tea Leaf/Black Tea Camellia sinensis, Thea sinensis – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Tea Tree (lemon-scented) Leptospermum petersonii, Leptospermum citratum, Leptospermum liversidgei,– avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Treemoss Pseudevernia furfuracea – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Tuberose Polianthes tuberosa – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Turpentine Pinus ayacahuite, Pinus caribaea, Pinus contorta, Pinus elliottii, Pinus halepensis, Pinus insularis, Pinus kesiya, Pinus merkusii, Pinus palustris, Pinus pinaster, Pinus radiata, Pinus roxburghii, Pinus tabulaeformis, Pinus teocote, Pinus yunnanensis– avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Verbena (Lemon) Aloysia triphylla, Aloysia citriodora, Lippa citriodora, Lippa triphylla – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Wintergreen Gaultheria fragrantissima, Gaultheria procumbens – avoid (all routes) on children due to methyl salicylate content under age 10
  • Ylang-Ylang Cananga odorata – avoid topical use on children under 2

You may wonder if you can use essential oils NOT safe for children around YOU, when you are around your children, and the answer is – you can! A personal inhaler is a great solution because then you can take advantage of essential oils without worrying about affecting the little ones you are around. If you choose to diffuse, please be sure to do it in a room away from baby and allow time for the scent to dissipate before bringing baby back in the room. If another family member has a particular reason where they need to use an essential oil topically, then please find a time when they can stay away from the baby for a while so the scent can dissipate.

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Lea Harris is a Certified Clinical Aromatherapist Scholar's Program graduate from Aromahead Institute. This website is home to educational advice and information about using essential oils safely. Lea founded and runs the Using Essential Oils Safely facebook group, with hundreds of new members joining each week. Lea is the author of The TRUTH About Essential Oil Safety, and the creator of Safe Essential Oil Labels and apps for essential oils and carriers. You can find FREE classes here: Free Essential Oil Classes.

Lea is Professional level member of the Alliance of International Aromatherapists and received her herbalist certification through The Herbal Academy of New England.

Businesses, groups, and individuals can hire Lea to consult on safety, product formulation, and more on her website Lea Harris CCA.

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