I saw yet another video today showing a family with young children using essential oils.

Mom passes them around for everyone to inhale…

Mom and Dad unscrew the caps, shake the oil on their hands, and rub them on their infants and children…

Mom adds them to her water…

Dad talks about leaving a legacy, and Mom says that even if the oil she is choosing is “not the best choice” that she has still done something positive…

Everyone smiles.

The Reality

Unfortunately, using essential oils around young children is not all sunshine and roses. Due to the high concentration of essential oils, there can be serious adverse consequences to using essential oils without diluting.Children are particularly sensitive to aroma and products applied to the skin. A child’s immune system takes years to fully develop, making them less able to deal with the adverse effects which may arise when concentrated products are placed on the skin without dilution.

Essential oils are never recommended for use without first diluting, especially when using them on children. You can find dilution guidelines here: Properly Diluting Essential Oils.

Although it’s generally recommended to avoid using essential oils with young children, even older children can react negatively to some essential oils when inhaled.

For example, Eucalyptus and certain chemotypes of Rosemary should be avoided on children under age 10, and Peppermint for children under age 6 due to the possibility of slowed respiration caused by menthol and 1,8-cineole. It should not be used topically or inhaled. Read more about that here: What is wrong with pre-made thieves blends? what makes thieves blends unsafe + what to use instead

An alternative to Eucalyptus and Peppermint: Anti-Congest Essential Oils family safe blend recipe.

Signs of Over-Use

Some adverse events can be seen right away. Redness, irritationitching, and phototoxicity (read more here) are some signs that you are having an adverse reaction to essential oils.

This could be due to one of the following:

  • using oxidized essential oils
  • not diluting the essential oil enough before applying to the skin
  • using an essential oil that you are allergic to

or a combination of the above.

Sensitization is another thing altogether. Unlike allergic or irritant reactions which show up right away, sensitization reactions may not be visible for some time. Sensitization is a delayed reaction which involves the immune system, and is not reversible. My biggest fear when I see the type of video described in my first comments, is that the children are going to grow up sensitized to essential oils and be unable to use them at all due to the over-use and lack of dilution when applied by the parents. Read more about sensitization here: Sensitization to Essential Oils – what it is, how it happens, what to do, and how to prevent

Therapeutic Grade

If you’re thinking that because you use “therapeutic grade” essential oils that your children are somehow protected, you will want to read my post Name Games. In this article you will learn that all essential oils, by definition, are therapeutic grade, and there is no official certification – only self-certification.

Essential Oils Safe to Use with Children

Here are some general recommendations, even for essential oils safe to use with children…

  • Essential oils should be used with caution and intent. 
  • It is not recommended that essential oils be used (topically, or inhaled) with babies before the age of six months due to their thinner skin and immature immune systems.
  • After the age of six months, you may diffuse child safe essential oils for a specific purpose and short periods of time. For an acute case (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 years you may start topical use with a very low dilution (less than 1%), but keep in mind a child's immune system takes several 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 (like for baby wipes) are often a better and safer choice for children.
  • After the age of 6 years the immune system has likely matured, and adverse reactions from low dilutions of essential oils are not as likely. You'll still want to use low dilutions (usually 1%), but thicker skin is going to provide more protection from topical applications.

When used appropriately, in the right situations, with the proper dilution and application, the following essential oils (pay attention to chemotype and Latin/botanical name) are not known to produce adverse reactions when used with 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

You can find profiles with details for most of the above essential oils on our app, ebook, or print book on our resources website here.

Essential Oils to Avoid Using with Children

There are essential oils which should be avoided with children – either just inhaling, just topically, or both (referred to below as “all routes”) – due to various reasons noted below (source: Essential Oil Safety).

Some essential oils have several different species or chemotypes – some are safe for children, and some are not.  Please take note of the species or chemotype noted to lessen confusion with other essential oils with the same name.

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

  • Anise/Aniseed Pimpinella anisum – avoid using (all routes) with children under 5
  • Anise (Star) Illicium verum – avoid using (all routes) with 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) with children
  • Black Seed Nigella sativa – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Cajuput Melaleuca cajuputi, Melaleuca leucadendron – avoid using with children under 6
  • Cardamon Elettaria cardamomum – avoid using (all routes) with children under 6
  • Cassia Cinnamomum cassia, Cinnamomum aromaticum – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Chaste Tree Vitex agnus castus – avoid using (all routes) with 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) with 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) with children under 10
  • Fennel (bitter), Fennel (sweet) Foeniculum vulgare – avoid using (all routes) with children under 5
  • Galangal (lesser) Alpinia officinarum, Languas officinarum – avoid using (all routes) with 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 with children under 6
  • Hyssop Hyssopus officinalis (pinocamphone chemptype) – avoid using (all routes) with 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) with children under 6
  • Massoia Cryptocarya massoy, Cryptocaria massoia, Massoia aromatica – avoid using (all routes) with children under 2
  • May Chang Litsea cubeba, Litsea citrata, Laura cubeba – avoid topical use with children under 2
  • Melissa/Lemon Balm Melissa officinalis – avoid topical use with children under 2
  • Myrtle (red) Myrtus communis – avoid using (all routes) with children under 6
  • Myrtle (aniseed) Backhousia anisata – avoid using (all routes) with 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) with 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) with children under 6
  • Rosemary (1,8-cineole chemotype) Rosmarinus officinalis – avoid using (all routes) with 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) with children under 6
  • Sage (White) Salvia apiana – avoid using (all routes) with children under 6
  • Sage (Wild Mountain) Hemizygia petiolata – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Sanna Hedychium spicatum – avoid using (all routes) with children under 6
  • Saro Cinnamosma fragrans – avoid using (all routes) with 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

It goes without saying children should also not be exposed to the essential oils on the list here: Essential Oils Never to Buy.

This applies to all brands of essential oils, even “therapeutic grade” or essential oils that are “GRAS” or “safe for ingestion.” Read more: Name Games.

You can find profiles for some of the above on our app, ebook, or print book on our resources website here.

Using Essential Oils Not Safe for Children on YOU

If you want to inhale essential oils not safe for kids, instead of diffusing in a main area your children are in, the best solution is to use a personal inhaler.

If you do decide to diffuse essential oils not safe for children, be sure it is in a room your children are not currently in. After diffusing, give the room an hour to air out before letting kids in. To accelerate the process, you can open a window for about 15 minutes before letting your children back in the room (the objective is to eliminate all aroma of the essential oil). Using a fan along with a window might eliminate the aroma in only 5-10 minutes.

Using essential oils not recommended for children topically is also OK, as long as you follow these guidelines:

  • When applying topically under clothing, give yourself 15-30 minutes before getting close to your children. This should give the essential oil enough time to evaporate so the aroma is virtually undetected when you are around your children.
  • When applying topically to exposed skin, give yourself about 30 minutes before getting close to your children. Higher dilutions of essential oils – for example, a muscle blend using Peppermint and Eucalyptus at a 20% dilution – may take longer to evaporate (up to an hour), but a 2% dilution of the same might be safe after 15 minutes.

Cleaning with Essential Oils not Safe for Kids

Yes, you can clean with essential oils not safe for kids. Just be sure they are in a different room when you are spritzing your counter or wiping things down – then give the essential oils a few minutes to evaporate before your kids return to the room. If your kids are near you, in the same room, or helping you clean, be sure to use essential oils safe for children to be around.

Final Word

Please do your own research before using essential oils as presented by marketers who have a business to sell products. Our children rely on us to look out for their best interest. Lets not let them down.

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