Three Mistakes I No Longer Make with Essential Oils
By Camilla Restrepo, CAHP®-AM, RPN
Welcome the world of essential oils, where there is just as much magic as there is misinformation.
Let me give you some context here before I get started. I am a nurse and a Certified Aromatherapy Health Professional®, but more than that, I am a mom, sister, daughter and friend.
One of the most common marketing slogans I’ve heard is, “There’s an oil for that!” I remember being so excited thinking about all the ways I was going to be able to solve all my loved one’s problems. Anxiety? Here’s lavender! Got a headache? Here’s peppermint. Can’t sleep? Well, vetiver and marjoram are the obvious choice! What I didn’t realize was that although essential oils work, there is so much more to know—especially when you want to use them safely!
I’m going to share a little story that seems to come up time and time again.
When I was first learning about oils, someone told me that if I added grapefruit or lemon essential oil to my tea, it would help me detox. So, I did. It seemed like everything was fine and dandy and I would stare at the drops floating on top of the cup while I drank. Then one day, a friend who had been using essential oils for a while said to me, “You know, oil and water don’t mix. You should be careful; oils are strong and they can hurt your skin.” I wish I could say that in that moment I said, “Oh that makes sense,” and I would have just stopped doing it. Instead I questioned it, in my mind I thought, “Well, I was told it was safe, healthy even! Why would a natural oil hurt me? I only added a couple drops.”
I was rationalizing, because, in reality, it was the fact that I had told everyone I loved that they should also add these oils to their water and tea in the morning. If this was bad for me, it meant that I had carelessly shared information that was bad for them, too. They were doing something that could hurt them, and it was my fault! I felt awful. So, I started researching, and found the internet full of people giving other people advice on which oils to drink based on the medical condition they were trying to treat, including diabetes, obesity and heartburn.
Let me clarify that I said “people telling people,” not educated healthcare practitioners, or experts, just people who were making up information and passing it along.
To make a long story short, it was this gut-wrenching feeling that I had potentially hurt someone I loved that sent me on a deep dive into the world of essential oils. The more I learned the more fascinated I became with how powerful, potent and real essential oil benefits could be. On the other hand, I kept learning about how people were using them so wrongly and reports kept coming up of toxicity, skin sensitivity and hospital trips for kids and pets because people didn’t know how to use essential oils properly!
I might get some hate here, but this is meant to be an honest blog about the mistakes I’ve made along the way. Here are three things I’ve learned NOT to do with my essential oils.
I do not add oil to my water
The common misconception is that if something can be so good for you, then it will work even better if you eat it. Not the case. There are so many ways to use oils, and any trained aromatherapy professional will tell you that the best benefits will come from inhalation or topical use—NOT DRINKING THEM! This just hurts your inner tissues and can cause very serious damage and problems down the road for you.
I do NOT put essential oils from them bottle directly on my skin
I could write a book explaining why this isn’t a good idea but, to put it simply, essential oils are concentrated and very potent. This may not cause immediate harm because our bodies are strong and resilient to all the harmful things we do to ourselves but, over time, you can set yourself up for hypersensitivity, allergic reactions, burns and irritation on your skin. Why risk it? Essential oils are always better diluted. This brings me to my next point.
I do NOT add 30 drops of essential oils to my rollers
Have you ever seen a YouTube tutorial or gone on Pinterest and seen essential oil roller recipes? They’ll say add 10 drops of mint and 6 drops of lavender and 8 drops of cinnamon to your 10 mL roller ball and top off with coconut oil. I don’t do this for two main reasons. First, imagine you have an infection and someone (not a doctor) tells you to grab a random antibiotic and to take 20 pills a day for a week, but not much information after that. You wouldn’t do it, would you? Think of essential oils as plant medicine because, truly, that is what they are. Like with any other medication, dosing matters! There are guidelines for safe dilution.
Secondly, I wish more people understood that essential oils come from our beautiful Earth, and they should be treasured and not wasted. Adding too many drops makes it unsafe for you and a complete waste of a precious resource. Please believe me when I say that using essential oils with proper dosing is both safe for you and respectful to our environment.
I’ll stop here for now, but this is only the beginning! I have learned many lessons along the way and will gladly share them with you! Next time you are using your essential oils, remember that you are holding a treasure that is powerful, natural and has amazing healing benefits. But just because it’s natural, it doesn’t mean it is safe. Stay curious and ask questions!
About the author: Camila Restrepo, CAHP®-AM, RPN, has found a passion for all things aromatherapy and is especially enthusiastic about supporting women on their self-empowerment journey. Camila comes from a nursing background and has had the honour of working very closely with people from all walks of life, including mothers and newborns, forensic psychiatry patients, palliative patients and the geriatric community. Camila is the founder of Essentsia Apothecary, a company proudly focussed on teaching people safe essential oil use and offering natural products to support their self-care journey. Committed to her lifelong learning, Camila is currently studying reflexology and reiki, and is advancing her nursing career into medical aesthetics.
Photo by Natalie Maro, Getty Images