When to Avoid Using Essential Oils | Using Essential Oils Safely

You see all over the internet how you CAN use essential oils – albeit most of what you are seeing is put out by people who sell essential oils (not certified aromatherapists) and so they are not very accurate, and are often unsafe.

I like to balance that out by promoting how to use essential oils safely and this also means you will see a lot of information from me as to what is not safe.

Where do I get my information? My training through Aromahead Institute where I graduated from the Scholar's Program. This represents over 400 hours of study (I think I took every course except the hands-on massage one!) and earned me the title of Certified Clinical Aromatherapist. Andrea Butje (lead teacher and AIA Lifetime Achievement Award recipient), like me, uses the work of Robert Tisserand for specific guidelines such as topical max dilutions and other safety information.

There's a bit of common sense needed when it comes to what is safe and what is not. Essential oils are concentrated plant extractions and need lots of care when using. When you wash your clothes you don't fill up the whole washer with laundry soap, right? Of course not! You add a plop (or a pod) because you know it's concentrated enough to do it's thing when diluted with gallons of water.

Essential Oils Have No Risk?

Some people believe essential oils can be used however you want to use them, and that what I do is “scare” people against using essential oils. These people have not been properly trained (no matter what they claim) to respect essential oils. A trained aromatherapist knows to respect essential oils and their “power” and will use caution. If you ever want to know if someone “knows their stuff” when it comes to essential oils, they will encourage you to use essential oils, but also to respect them and use with caution. Knowledge is power.

Actually, They Can

Some essential oils are neurotoxic, potentially carcinogenic, or reproductive hormone modulators, and are best avoided (yup, no matter which brand you use). It's just not worth the risk to use them – any potential benefit they may have is outweighed by the risks. Fortunately, instead of using a risky essential oil, you can find another one that will do the job without the risks. Great, right?

Avoid Using Essential Oils That are Potentially Carcinogenic

It seems obvious, right? But then you have those stubborn people who want to use them because they smell pretty, and argue “everything” causes cancer. Um, okay. You do you, and I'll do me.

Here are some of the potentially carcinogenic essential oils it's best to steer clear of:

  • Allspice Pimenta officinalis
  • Anise Pimpinella anisum
  • Arborvitae Thuja plicata – also goes by Thuja and Western Red Cedar
  • Camphor (Brown) Cinnamomum camphora
  • Chaste Tree Vitex agnus castus – also goes by Vitex
  • Fennel Foeniculum vulgare
  • Nutmeg Myristica fragras, Myristica officinalis, Myristica moschata, Myristica aromatica, Myristica amboinensis

Click here for a longer list of essential oils which are potentially carcinogenic.

Avoid Using Essential Oils That are Anti-Coagulant (Thin the Blood)

This is not always a bad thing – if you have a blood clot you will want to reach for the anti-coagulant essential oils! This is why I don't totally avoid them. But if you are taking aspirin or blood thinners, prone to nose bleeds, etc., you will want to avoid these:

  • Cinnamon Bark Cinnamomum verum, Cinnamomum zeylanicum
  • Cinnamon Leaf Cinnamomum verum, Cinnamomum zeylanicum
  • Clove Eugenia Caryophyllata, Syzygium aromaticum, Eugenia aromatica
  • Oregano Origanum vulgare, Origanum onites
  • Wintergreen Gaultheria procumbens, Gaultheria fragrantissima

Click here for a thorough list of essential oils that can thin the blood.

Avoid Using Potentially Convulsant Essential Oils

For people with a seizure disorder, there are essential oils to avoid due to the possibility of convulsions or seizures. Some of them include:

  • Hyssop Hyssopus officinalis ct pinocamphone
  • Lavender (Spanish) Lavandula stoechas spp. stoechas
  • Lavender (Spike) Lavendula latifolia and Lavandula spica
  • Rosemary Rosemarinus officinalis ct a-pinene, Rosemarinus officinalis ct verbenone

Click here for a thorough list of essential oils that can trigger seizures.

Avoid Using Certain Essential Oils in the Sun

Some essential oils can cause burning on the skin when exposed to UV light. It's best to avoid using these essential oils on the skin unless properly diluted. Some essential oils which may cause redness or blistering are:

  • Bergamot (cold pressed) (Citrus bergamia, Citrus aurantium)
  • Grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi)
  • Lemon (cold pressed) (Citrus x limon, Citrus limonum)
  • Lime (cold pressed) (Citrus x aurantifolia, Citrus x latifolia)

Click here for a full list of essential oils, along with dilution guidelines.

Avoid Using Essential Oils During the First Trimester of Pregnancy

This is something you'll hear from your doctor or midwife, and it's a word of caution that is generic, but has to be said. There just is not enough research to know the exact amounts they are safe, and are not safe, when it comes to being pregnant. This is largely due to ethical reasons. So they are best avoided.

However…if you are having extreme nausea or back pain, or something else really bothering you, as long as you are using essential oils known to be safe during pregnancy, I say go for it. Dilute them or inhale them within reason, and the benefit can outweigh the unknown risks.

Click here for a list of essential oils safe/not safe for pregnancy.

Avoid Using Essential Oils with Babies

My general recommendation is to avoid encouraging essential oil use around babies. You've probably heard me say not to expose babies under age 6 months old to inhalation, and avoid using topically on kids under age 2 years old. Also what I've always said if there is a situation that is serious (congestion, bug bites, chicken pox, burns, etc) you can use essential oils. Just use essential oils that are safe for children, dilute properly, don't over-diffuse, and the benefits outweigh any risks.

Click here for a list of essential oils to use and to avoid with children.

Avoid using Peppermint and Eucalyptus with Children

The menthol in Peppermint, and the 1,8-cineole content in Eucalyptus, Rosemary, Cardamom (among others) can cause breathing problems and slowed respiration in young children. It's best to avoid Peppermint with kids until they are 6+ years old, and hold off on Eucalyptus, Rosemary, Cardamom, etc until they are 10+ years old.

Now age is arbitrary, it really should go by weight or immune system strength, but they are good numbers to use as guidelines. As one who is exposed to hundreds of thousands of essential oil users on a daily basis, this has been confirmed by way too many parents who have sadly watched their children struggle to breathe when one of these has been present in a blend they've been diffusing. It's not worth the risk. Use Fir Needle, or other pines and spruces instead.

Click here to download the Congestion Guide for Children which includes a safe recipe.

There's More…

This just scratches the surface of the safety you need to know when using essential oils safely. If it could be summed up in one post, there would be no need for hundreds of hours of training, right?


As you can see, as wonderful and useful as essential oils can be, some of them have safety considerations. It's best to do your research first and study the safety of the individual essential oils before using them so you can have confidence you are not causing more harm than you hope to remedy 🙂

You can find all our resources for further learning in our library: UEOSlibrary.com.