What is wrong with pre-made thieves blends? what makes thieves blends unsafe + what to use instead

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During cold and flu season you hear many essential oil users talk about using thieves blends on their kids. This post is going to inform you why that is not the best idea, and what to use instead.

First – let's define “thieves” blends.

Long before a popular essential oil company began using Thieves as a name for their anti-germ blend, it was a name used to identify a herbal blend used to ward of germs during the black plague. So when I say “thieves blends” I mean blends from any company which contain Eucalyptus, Rosemary, Peppermint, Orange, Lemon, Cinnamon, and/or Clove essential oils.

So what is wrong with these blends? A few things.

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First, Eucalyptus and Rosemary are not recommended for use around children under the age of 10 due to 1,8-cineole content. 1,8-cineole, if it makes up more than 40% of the essential oil, has been known to cause respiratory distress in some young children. Theoretically, if your children have been previously exposed and have not experienced slowed respiration, it might be safe to use with your child, but it is not a guarantee.

For example: if you have been diffusing it around your kids and they have not adversely reacted, you may feel comfortable applying topically to the chest and throat to help with respiratory issues. This topical application provides a stronger effect than if simply diffused, and if done on a young child, it may trigger an adverse reaction.

What to do?

You can add to a personal inhaler and use yourself. You can diffuse apart from your children. You can theoretically apply to yourself, however…

This brings me to the other issue.

These blends also contain Cinnamon Bark and/or Clove, which can irritate the skin and need to  be very well diluted. Cinnamon Bark on its own needs to be diluted to 0.07% to be safely used; Clove 0.5%. Because companies by and large do not disclose the dilutions of their blends (they believe they are proprietary), there is no way of knowing how much to dilute the pre-made blend to safely use topically.

Some blends also contain Peppermint which is high in menthol. Menthol can slow respiration by stimulating cold receptors in the lungs. It is for this reason Peppermint is best avoided using with children under the age of 6.

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For a safety break down of the various blends mentioned here and others please visit our Blend Safety page.

So if you can't use it around your kids, and it is probably asking for skin irritation if applying topically – what do you do?

Make your own anti-germ blend with family-safe essential oils, such as one of the two recipes I share here: Anti-Germ Essential Oils.

There are several essential oils which are GREAT at dealing with congestion issues without risking slowed respiration – and they are safe for all ages. Here is a chart showing some of those:

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If you don't see the species you have on the list, it's best to avoid. For example, I do not recommend:

Ponderosa Pine Pinus ponderosa
Huon Pine Dacrydium franklinii
Blue Cypress Callitris intratropica

View the Anti-Congestion class to learn how to make your own family-safe blend.

Want to learn more? View our website index here.

Have a question or comment? Leave it below, ask in our Facebook group, or e-mail Lea.

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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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