With so much information available on using essential oils, how do you know that the information you're receiving is safe and accurate? In the natural health community, and especially the natural parenting community, we try and do the best we can with the information that's presented to us. When I first started my journey with herbal healing and essential oils, all I had to do was meekly mention a germ or ailment, and I'd have multiple people rushing to sell me essential oils, with very little information about how to use them, and zero safety information. You see it everyday. 'My baby is teething/coughing/not sleeping', and the usual response is 'use essential oils for that!'. While well meaning, we need to make sure to do our due diligence with fact checking the advice that's offered.
Some of the most common EO usage suggestions are actually the most unsafe for use with our children. Clove on the gums for teething, peppermint or eucalyptus for a cold, undiluted oils to the feet for basically any ailment, daily use for prevention, and the list goes on. While there is absolutely a time and a place for essential oil usage, we need to ensure that we are using these potent medicinals safely. We also need to look at the evidence supporting this, and weigh out if it's an actual safety concern, or just a scare tactic. So to help you with that, I'm going to walk you through common essential oil uses for children, and some safety concerns to be aware of.
Whenever we are using essential oils on or around children, they need to be diluted, and only ever topically or aromatically. When we dilute oils, we greatly reduce the risk of sensitization or allergic reaction, but can still maximize therapeutic potential. Less truly is more. We favour fractioned coconut oil as our carrier oil. But how do you know how much to dilute them? Here's some general guidelines for dilution rates. Keep in mind, hot oils and known sensitizers you'll want to use much less of, usually a quarter or less of the usually recommended amount.
Ages 6m-12m dilute at a rate of 0.25%
Ages 12m-2 years dilute at a rate of 0.5%
Ages 2-10 dilute a rate of 1%
Ages 10 and up dilute at a rate of 3%
If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have blood pressure conditions, epilepsy, or are on medications, please consult your health care practitioner or aromatherapist for specific usage amounts.
With hundreds of essential oils available, how do you know which ones to avoid? Just because it's natural, doesn't mean it's without risk. There's aways a safe alternative when it comes to using oils on the youngest members of our families, and the easiest way to do that is to be aware of which oils should be avoided. Here's a list of common essential oils to avoid with children (ref Essential Oil Safety by Rodney Young and Robert Tisserand). This is not an extensive list, just the ones you're most likely to come across while using essential oils.
So why can't you use these oils with your children? Our biggest concerns are if they're sensitizers, can cause respiratory issues (1,8 cineole or menthol content) or if they're known to be toxic. We all want to keep things as natural for our families that we can! The following will help walk you through oil and plant based alternatives for common ailments that we see at home. This is in no way medical advice, nor should it replaced medical treatments without the care of a physician. Also remember, for young children try and use herbs or hydrosols first, as they're gentlest on the little ones. Additionally, there's no substitution or better illness preventative than proper nutrition consisting of vitamin and mineral rich produce, and lots of it!
Common Cold- Diffuse Fir Needle (albies siberica), Ravensara (ravensara aromaticum), Sweet Orange (citrus sinensis), Spearmint (mentha spicata), Lavender (lavandula angustifolia or denata) or Cinnamon Leaf (cinnamomum verum) for 15 minutes every 2 hours or as needed. Elderberry Syrup or tincture is a companion to boost the immune system while treating the symptoms of a cold.
Flu or GI Upsets- Diffuse Spearmint (mentha spicata) and Sweet Orange (citrus sinensis) to tame the nausea. For children over 6, a drop of chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) or peppermint (mentha piperita) hydrosol in a glass of water or tea can calm the stomach as well.
Sinus Infections/Bronchitis- Make a mixture of Ravensara (ravensara aromaticum), Helichrysum (helichrysum italicum), Cedarwood (cedrus atlantica) and Chamomile (anthemis nobile)and dilute at 0.5%. You can apply this to the chest every 6-8 hours. You can also diffuse Fir Needle (albies siberica) and Spearmint (mentha spicata) to help calm the cough or clear the sinus. For children over 3, adding Eucalyptus (globulus, smithii or radiata) to the diffuser can be very helpful. There's also a lot to be said for a spoon full of honey to soothe the throat when you have a cough (for 12m+ plus).
Growing Pains- A dilution of German Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) and Helichrysum (helichrysum italicum) is the gentlest way to tame the pains. Dilute at a rate of 0.5% to 1% and massage the effected area. If the pain is on a large area, dilute at a rate of 0.25-0.5%. You can also use 1 cup of epsom salts and mix in 3 drops lavender, 1 drop chamomile and 1 drop helichrysum and add to bath water, this is also useful for restless leg syndrome and leg cramping during pregnancy! If you have it available, a compress with Immortale (helichrysum) hydrosol is also extremely effective.
Bumps and Bruises- Add 3 drops of chamomile to Calendula extract oil and apply to site of injury. You can also use a St John's Wort salve for bruising and swelling, alternating with a lavender, immortale or chamomile hydrosol compress.
Scrapes, Bites and Small Cuts- I don't recommend the use of essential oils on open wounds, but once it's 'scabbed' over, it can be beneficial to use them to speed healing. A simple mix of lavender at 1% in carrier oil is all you need for healing wounds. For bug bites, a mix of Tea Tree (melaleuca alternifolia) and Lavender (lavandula angustifolia) in coconut oil at 25% dilution rate is ideal. For spider bites and splinters, a treatment of Black Drawing Salve is your best course of action, unless infection or extreme swelling is present.
Teething- Teething can be a real beast! Sleepless nights and the fussiest babies and toddlers. My two absolute go to's for teething are chamomile hydrosol, and a chamomile, lavender and cardamom blend. You can put 1 single drop on your finger of chamomile hydrosol and rub it into the baby's gums where the irritation and inflammation is, you can repeat this 2-3 times a day. You can make a mix of the lavender, chamomile and cardamom and add it to coconut oil at a 0.25% dilution rate. Apply this to the jawline closest to the irritated gums, and do not use this IN their mouth, only for external use and for babies 3 months and up.
Sleeping Issues- There' many oils that can encourage sleep, and help you get a peaceful sleep as well, but you want to be sure that they're safe for everyone. My favourites to diffuse at bed time for the kids contains Marjoram, Patchouli, Lavender, Chamomile and Clary Sage. This is safe for everyone 6m+, or you can dilute it at a rate of 0.5% and apply topically. This is best done about 30 minutes before bed time, or when you'd like them to start winding down.
I'm sure it goes without saying, but always make sure you're using pure essential oils, and don't fall for a company's miracle cure marketing claims. Essential oils can absolutely help us, but they're not a cure all. When used improperly they can even do more harm that good. Make sure you're clearing any treatments with your physician, and always double check EO advice with a certified aromatherapist.
MoonLily Wellness offers a kid safe line of essential oils and roll ons, formulated by an aromatherapist with your families safety in mind. You can find them here: Just For Kids
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