Recently, the Queensland Department of Health issued a warning stating that:
“Essential oils are NOT safe to consume”
WA Health also reported that they have seen an increase in poisonings occurring from the use of essential oils in kids:
“The Western Australian Poisons Information Centre (WAPIC) has recorded an increase in poisonings as a result of essential oil ingestions in children.”
I shared this information on a Facebook post (you can find it here), and it was viewed by over 28,000 people. I shared:
Intuitively it hasn’t felt right for me to ingest essential oils. Given how sensitive my family is to foods. I couldn’t understand how it would be safe to ingest these oils at such concentrated doses.
I was very open with the fact that I do use essential oils. I use them very rarely, as a tool to supplement my medicine kit. They are highly potent and I treat them as such. I do not use them in my food and definitely not in my kids food.
There were over 280 comments on that post. It was a very respectful and intelligent debate.
The very interesting points that were uncovered during this debate were:
From my review of their Modern Essentials book – every single oil blend states that children under the age of 5 SHOULD NOT ingest. And children older than 5 should be used with caution.
International Federation of Aromatherapy:
“Oral ingestion of essential oils is not advocated. Certain oils are toxic when ingested, so under no circumstances should anyone take essential oils orally without a prescription from an appropriately qualified medical practitioner.”
“Babies, children, teenagers, pregnant and lactating women, palliative clients in particular require a gentle approach and should always seek professional advice”
“Always contact a professional aromatherapist who will guide you on the oils that are suitable for your individual needs”
Naturopath, Corinne Louise
“I’m a naturopath and I work with plant medicine all day every day and I would never consume the essential oil the most potent and volatile reduction…”
What became very clear to me through these conversations were….
There is no science to back up the safety of using essential oils for kids
The information that was presented to me even from Doterra was conflicting in itself. Some places it mentioned it was ok to ingest, others said only with a qualified practitioner and others again only particular oils are safe for kids.
The debate highlighted that there isn’t enough rigour / consistency / education around recommendations for kids.
Remember that is my whole focus here…..Kids!
This prompted me to investigate essential oils a little further.
The claims especially from Doterra are that they are a science company. They “discover and develop the world’s highest quality therapeutic grade essential oils and related natural wellness products. We accomplish this with a strong team of in-house scientists as wells highly accomplished scientific and medical advisors”
People see this and just assume that it must be safe. They don’t dig any deeper!
One thing that I kept asking over and over again during this debate…where are the studies that show these essential oils are safe for kids?
So I went hunting….trying to find scientific studies that supported the use of essential oils in kids.
I didn’t come across many at all. What I did come across was comments from Paeditricians that had undertaken the same exercise. Dr Smith (a paediatrician at Cook Children’s Health Care System) tried to find evidence of essential oils being safe for children and searched through the following:
Dr Robert Pappas Essential Oil University
NIH Centre for Complimentary and Integrative Health
the MedLine Encyclopedia
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database
Sloan Kettering Integrative Medicine Database
The gist from his review is that there are tons of articles of test tube and animal models with adult studies mixed in, but they have very little to no information on children.
And of the research that has been done on humans, the bulk of the studies on essential oils’ effectiveness and safety has been performed on adults said Dr Smith.
Paeditrician Dina Kulik (Kids Health Expert) – “there is a lack of peer reviewed medical studies to prove the benefits or safety of essential oils and there are no guidelines for how old kids should be before they’re safe to use. Some oils can interact with certain drugs or cause problems for people with specific health conditions”
Kulik advises: “Don’t let kids ingest them, even if manufacturers claim their oils can be consumed. Kulik warns that swallowing them can be poisonous for kids and could lead to a number of health complications, including respiratory problems, stomach pain, vomiting, seizures, coma – even death. Err on the side of caution and never administer these oils orally to a child”
Many manufacturers also suggest mixing essential oils with a carrier oil to be applied to the skin. Kulik cautions against using essential oils on kids topically, even diluted “Children have thinner, more porous skin’ Absorbing unsafe amounts of the concentrated oils can be toxic for kids and cause any of the symptoms mentioned above.”
There is no oversight, no one is systematically watching for effective or safety.
Here is a great article on the adverse reactions to essential oils in Australia from a small survey of 92 essential oil consumers who had experienced adverse reactions to essential oils. The majority of the respondents were aged 24-40.
This blog recommends that there needs to be a way for adverse reactions to be collated and reported centrally for research and reporting purposes – “there needs to be accountability for sales representatives in particular with recommending dosage or prescribing as well as ensuring minimum standards for all health professionals advising on essential oils”
Similar to food additives….food additives are tested on an adults body mass…they aren’t tested on a child’s body mass.
Little is known about how these oils affect young growing bodies.
“Children are more likely to have side effects from essential oil exposures than adults are” said Dr Weber from NIH. “They are still developing, which makes their brains and other systems more sensitive to potential toxicity from essential oils”. Their livers and kidneys are less likely to be efficient at processing the compounds.
If you are wanting to use essential oils with your kids, visit a qualified professional.
Be wary of essential oil reps that are regurgitating the company line and not qualified to give advice in this area. As I have seen in our AFK community we have many reps that have done the research / study.
However, there are many more that have jumped on the bandwagon and are concerned more about making dollars and advancing ranks than sharing the essential knowledge about how toxic they can be if not used correctly.
All we can do is share the information, increase awareness and inform people to undertake the required research.
I would love to hear your comments….are you a rep, do you recommend children use essential oils? Are you a mum and have seen your child experience a negative reaction to essential oils? I’d love to hear about your experiences below.
Do you have friends that are using essential oils with their kids? Share this with them so that they can make an informed and educated decision.
Frankie Bell is the Managing Director of Additive Free Kids, a food coach, mentor and is one of Australia’s leading activists against additives in foods.
Frankie is a mum to 5 boys and has personal experience working through the damaging effects of additives to resolve the multiple health issues and behavioural problems in her own children. It became Frankie’s purpose to help other families achieve the same improvements for their families.
These changes can be overwhelming, especially for time poor parents, Frankie has done all the hard work for families to ensure they have access to additive free food, anytime, anywhere. Additive Free Kids specialises in assisting families to live healthy lives free from additives. See how you can work together with Frankie here.
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