Essential oils are everywhere! They are being used in homes, waiting rooms and even in the classroom. This can be a very GOOD thing- as long as they are being used safely and wisely. Unfortunately, from what I am reading & hearing, that is frequently not the case.
I am all about intelligent, research-based safe usage of essential oils and admittedly get driven to the brink of insanity by some of the advice I see given on social media which most often has a profit-driven MLM (multi-level-marketing) company behind it. ( Have you heard of the DIY essential oil female suppositories for instance? )
What prompted me to write this post on safe classroom diffusing was the Mom of a pre-schooler. She was in for her monthly adjustment with her 4-year-old and was concerned because the pre-school her daughter attended was diffusing essential oils ( On Guard ) all day long.
In the room.
My patients, especially those who have come to one of my free safety and usage classes, or have asked my advise on safe ways to diffuse for their family, know that nobody should be inhaling essential oils all day long, but especially not the little ones! Just like nobody should be regularly ingesting essential oils! (except in rare instances of serious illness and under the guidance of a certified professional), But more about that nonsense later.
So where is all this misguided healthcare “advice” coming from? Sadly, the same people who have done such a phenomenal job bringing essential oils into mainstream, are also putting sales above safety and marketing tactics above education. Like all professionally educated healthcare providers, I am concerned with how responsible education and safety has been left in the wake of aggressive and defiant sales tactics disguised as “wellness advocacy”.
- “You can drink or diffuse OUR oils non-stop because OUR oils are pure therapeutic grade and natural.” ( MLM sales pitch ) The problem with that statement is that the term therapeutic grade is a marketing term rather than a term signifying an actual regulated quality standard. There IS NO governing body that designates one essential oil more pure or therapeutic compared with another. The company’s internal standards may be very stringent, but they are NOT independent, so the company is basically declaring itself top dog. It’s like me declaring myself The Royal Chiropractic Queen. In other words, “therapeutic” means absolutely nothing. The brand of an oil or it’s self-proclaimed designation as “therapeutic and pure” does not make it safe for classroom or public exposure or for ingestion. Truth.
- The same line of thinking applies to diffusing aaaaaallllllll daaaaaayyyyyy loooonnngggg. Even the most expensive, highest quality, Jesus-himself-only-used-these-oils should not be diffused all day long. Users of essential oils have to remember that the chemical constituents of the oils such as aldehydes, phenols and esters enter the blood stream through the skin or respiratory system, circulate about the body and have to be processed by the liver and excreted by the kidneys and urinary tract. Little bitty livers are not meant to process these chemicals all day long. They also process differently than adults. Diffusing all day long puts you, but especially children at risk.
- “Pure and Natural” does NOT equate with safety. Hemlock is a plant that is pure and natural as well, but we all know where consumption of that leads! Many essential oils are contraindicated for use around children depending on age and underlying health conditions. Some essential oils can cause mild symptoms like headaches, others can trigger an epileptic seizure in certain adults and children. People on blood thinners and cholesterol medication also have to be careful not to use certain essential oils. Check out a few case reports; here, here and here.
- Public classroom diffusing needs to take into account the individual health concerns of children. Children with migraines, epilepsy and any sort of respiratory concern such as asthma need very specific oils deemed safe for them. Two popular classroom oils ( and the one that prompted this article ) are Thieves ( Young Living ) and OnGaurd (DoTerra ) These oils, because of oils containing 1,8 cineole, should only be diffused around children over 10 and not at all around children with respiratory issues such as asthma. Neither of these blends are safe for skin application on children under 10 either. Even on adults, I blend several of the oils contained in them such as cinnamon and clove highly diluted, and “with caution”. Here is an example of what can happen with irresponsible classroom diffusing.
A few guidelines to follow for safe classroom/public space use
- Diffuse only in 15-30 minute intervals and only a couple of times throughout the day if with the same children.
- Never apply essential oils or products containing essential oils to children or anyone else undiluted, but my advice to teachers is to not apply them to your students ever.
- EDUCATE YOURSELF ( using aromatherapy school websites or a certified professional ) on which oils are safe for children of the age in your classroom. For pre-schoolers and young elementary children there is a huge list of safe oils to use that include basil, clove, ginger, lemongrass, oregano, spearmint and patchouli, to name a few.
- Steer clear of EO’s that can put epileptics at risk such as rosemary, fennel, sage, eucalyptus, hyssop, camphor and spike lavender.
- Keep in mind that each individual responds differently to essential oils. Most assume that lavender is always calming. Some kids have the opposite reaction and get wound up rather than calmed down. Oils with 1,8 cineole ( rosemary, eucalyptus & peppermint for instance) can be very effective for asthmatic children, but other children can experience respiratory problems from them. They are NEVER to be diffused around infants and small children.
- Create your own disinfecting spray using oils appropriate for your children and highly diluted for regular use on desks etc.
- CONSULT A CERTIFIED PROFESSIONAL to create a diffuser blend for your classroom or work space taking into consideration any health concerns of the children in your class. Diffuse only intermittently throughout the day.
Help your child’s teacher ( or any public space ) diffuse essential oils safely
- Use your knowledge, not your opinion and don’t get defensive or angry. You may even consider printing off an article like this one and giving it to the person in question.
- Tell them that you support the safe use of essential oils and fully understand how wonderful they can be in the classroom.
- Include in your conversation that; A. Professionally educated aromatherapists do not advocate continuous diffusion of essential oils, particularly around children. B. Not everyone reacts the same to essential oils. No matter how pure the brand, there is no essential oil that is always safe for everyone. There are absolutely essential oils that are unsafe for children with allergies and medical conditions such as epilepsy and asthma. Because of that, indiscriminate diffusion is not recommended. C. Blends containing oils such as Oregano, Clove and Cinnamon Bark, ( both Thieves and OnGaurd contain some of these ) are highly irritating to skin and should be used very carefully and never diffused continuously.
Aromatherapy is such an amazing and powerful tool for those wanting to avoid drugs and optimize their physical and emotional well-being. I have oodles of cases where families health has been dramatically different since utilizing essential oil custom blended for their families needs.
The priority of anyone promoting a therapeutic anything should be the safety of the individual and the most effective usage of the product. Unsafe usage puts the practice of real aromatherapy at risk and in the spotlight for regulatory agencies to “regulate”. It fails to get people well and can cause harm. That is contrary to what the healing profession of aromatherapy is all about.
Sources; Tisserand Institute, The English Aromatherapist, NAHA