How to Safely Handle and Store Essential Oils

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

How to Safely Handle and Store Essential Oils

We already know the fact that essential oils have a number of aromatic and therapeutic benefits. However, even though essential oils are natural, it’s very important to remember that they are also very potent. If they are not used properly, they can cause skin irritations, allergic reactions and internal toxicity. In fact, this 2017 report of Aromatherapy United shows a total of 55 voluntary reports of injury related to improper use of essential oils.

In order to prevent essential oil related injuries, the following guidelines must be observed when handling and storing essential oils.

Keep Essential Oils Away from Open Flames

Essential oils are flammable substances, so they should be kept away from potential fire hazards like an open flame (e.g. gas stove, candle, fireplace). This is also the reason why it’s not recommended to use essential oil burners that are powered by a candle. Also, do not smoke while handling your essential oils.

Always remember the golden rule: wherever there is a source of flame, there is a risk of fire when it gets in contact with essential oils. For added protection, have a fire extinguisher nearby when working with essential oils.

Keep Essential Oils Away from Young Children

The most common cause of essential oil toxicity in children is accidental ingestion, followed by chemical burn due to accidental spill of essential oils on their skin. That’s why it’s important to store your essential oils in a place where your kids can’t reach them. If you store your essential oils in the fridge, then make sure that your fridge has a child-lock feature.

Keep Essential Oils Away from Your Pets

Most essential oils are toxic to our furry friends. For instance, there are certain aromatic compounds in essential oils that can cause kidney and liver toxicity in cats and dogs.

Since our pets are curious beings and love to lick everything, make sure that they can’t reach your essential oils. Also, don’t forget to wash your hands after handling essential oils to prevent your pets from licking them from your hands.

When diffusing essential oils, it is best to keep your pets out of the room. Animals have very sensitive sense of smell. What smells great and beneficial to you might be too strong or harmful to your pets.

Always Wear Personal Protective Gears

Accidents can happen anytime. Imagine if you have accidentally spilled a bottle of undiluted essential oil on your hands while doing your DIY stuff and you don’t wear any protective gloves? You just risk yourself to getting chemical burn or skin sensitization.

That is why it is of utmost importance to always wear Personal Protective Gears (PPG) when handling essential oils. The protective gears include: chemical-resistant gloves, safety goggles, face mask, hair net, laboratory coat (or you can wear long-sleeve shirt and pants) and closed-toe shoes.

Wash Your Hands after Handling Essential Oils

Imagine this scenario: you just finished blending your essential oils and you forgot to wash your hands afterwards. In the middle of the day, you accidentally rub your eyes and the tiny residue of undiluted essential oils on your hands get in contact to your eyes, which of course can cause irritation.

Problems like that can be avoided by making it a habit to wash your hands every time you handle essential oils.

Store Essential Oils in Glass Bottles and Label Them Properly

Pure, undiluted essential oils can melt plastic containers over time, causing leaks which can waste your precious oils. So when buying essential oils in bulk sizes, you must decant them into smaller dark colored (amber or cobalt) glass bottles which are more chemical-resistant than plastic ones.

Store your EO bottles in cool, dark place (away from direct sunlight) because frequent change in temperature can easily degrade the quality of your essential oils. Also, remember to keep the bottle lid tightly closed, otherwise the essential oils (being volatile substances) will evaporate due to exposure to oxygen.

Make sure to properly label all of your EO bottles, most especially if you store them in the fridge or in the kitchen pantry. Nothing can be more terrifying than your family members ingesting essential oils thinking that they are food flavorings.

Cover Your Essential Oil Workstation

Some essential oils can cause damage to certain surfaces (e.g. wood, leather, plastic) and can even dissolve paints. That’s why it is a good practice to cover your EO workstation with paper or cloth towels to protect the surface from accidental spills that can ruin its finishing.

Check Essential Oil Safety Information Prior to Use

Before using any essential oil, always check first its safety information, more specifically, its contraindications. Some essential oils cannot be used if you have specific medical conditions (e.g. asthma) or is taking certain prescribed medications. For instance, rosemary essential oil should not be used if you have epilepsy or high blood pressure.

It’s also equally important to check the maximum dermal limit of the essential oil you’re using to avoid skin sensitization issue.

Tisserand and Young’s book Essential Oil Safety is an excellent and comprehensive reference to find out about the safety information of each essential oil.

Do Not Ingest Essential Oils Without Proper Guidance

Not all essential oils are safe to be taken internally. Only those essential oils with GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) status are regarded as safe for ingestion. This is the current list of essential oils with GRAS status.

However, it is not recommended to ingest essential oils without first consulting a certified aromatherapist who is knowledgeable in the proper internal dosage of essential oils.

Do Not Apply Undiluted Essential Oils on the Skin

The most common cause of dermal irritation or skin sensitization is undiluted application of essential oils. Always dilute your essential oils in carrier oil before applying them on the skin. Again, make sure to follow the maximum dermal limit when diluting essential oils for topical application. For example, cinnamon bark essential oil has a max. dermal limit of 0.07%.

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