If you are on social media, it would be difficult for you to have not heard about essential oils. Relatively unfamiliar to the masses a few years ago, they have exploded onto the scene in recent years, even in homes that don’t normally practice natural remedies. I personally have been using essential oils in my home for a couple of years now and have been very pleased at the results. I have tried a variety of brands, but now use Plant Therapy because they meet my requirements for oils that are high quality and affordable. I also adore their heart for education and safety.
As with any new thing that we implement, I believe it is important to properly educate ourselves so that we are using essential oils properly, effectively, and safely. I have been a bit concerned recently with certain practices that have been floating around the internet, especially in regards to usage on children. While in the research mode, it can be down right confusing to know what sources are reliable and what sources are not at all. I have found myself confused and unsure on best practices for using essential oils in my own home and I am pretty sure I am not alone.
To my surprise, I was given a HUGE opportunity to interview Robert Tisserand, one of THE leading experts in aromatherapy and essential oil safety, and ask him my burning questions regarding essential oils and best practices. While I’m a huge advocate for herbal remedies, natural wellness, and non-toxic living, I don’t pretend to be an expert on these kinds of things. I much prefer to get reliable information from real experts, which is why I’m thrilled to have Robert share his expertise with us today! What an honor! I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did. I learned so much.
Q&A with Robert Tisserand
How important is the organic label when choosing oils? Are there certain oils that you would recommend purchasing organic?
Certified organic essential oils are free from biocides (herbicides and pesticides, and who wants biocides in their essential oils? A few essential oils are biocide-free, but are not certified organic because of the high cost of certification. However, the point of certification is that you know for sure that the oil is organic – taking someone at their word doesn’t always cut it. It’s also worth knowing that biocides only hang around for so long, and if the plant is harvested several weeks or months after spraying, the biocide may be totally gone by that time. Even if it hasn’t gone, the levels of biocide in an essential oil are vanishingly small – a few parts per million. So logically speaking, there may not be much difference between organic and non-organic essential oils, and of course there are other important quality issues. Currently, there’s no solid evidence that the type of cultivation affects the oil’s composition in any meaningful way (though future research may show this for some plants). However, most of us don’t approach this logically, and the thought of even a few molecules of pesticide is worrying. And if a farmer has gone to the trouble and expense of having their crop certified organic, this does communicate something – a caring attitude, a love for and belief in nature. And we respond to that! Well, if we can afford the extra cost.
Note from Tara: Here is my favorite organic essential oil starter set.
What’s your opinion on ingesting oils? Is it ever appropriate for in home use?
If you are buying a ready-made preparation intended for ingestion – usually in the form of capsules – then that should be fine, so long as it’s used as directed and for a specific problem. Generally speaking, taking essential oils in water is not a sensible way to go. Because essential oils don’t dissolve in water, you get some undiluted oil droplets in your stomach. Because of this, there is a risk of stomach irritation, and it also means that the essential oils are only poorly absorbed (even distribution is very important for absorption). You can of course make you own capsules containing essential oils along with vegetable oil, and if you absolutely and totally know what you are doing, then go ahead. But if you don’t, then don’t. This has nothing to do with quality or brand of essential oil, it’s about safety, and dosage. With ingestion, various risks increase, including gastric irritation, interactions with conventional medications, and fetal damage in pregnancy. And long-term, depending on dose and frequency, there’s a risk of accumulation in the body, possibly leading to systemic toxicity. You may not notice anything, but some types of toxicity do not announce their presence in the early stages.
What are the best places to apply oils on kids? Is one location more effective than another?
It depends where the problem is. With very small children it makes less difference – their bodies are so small that application to the feet or the shoulders still leads to about the same amount of inhalation, unless of course you cover the feet in socks. But generally, apply the oils where logically needed. Applying to the feet is often mentioned for children. This is perfectly fine and is a relatively safe option, so long as you know that the feet don’t absorb oils any better than the rest of the body – if anything slightly less absorption will happen. Mostly, think back or stomach.
I know all oils should be diluted. What dilution is best for small children? How often can you reapply?
My recommended dilutions for children are:
Age Whole body Local use
Up to 3 months 0.1% 0.2%
3-24 months 0.25% 0.5%
2-6 years 1.0% 2.0%
How often you apply depends a bit on the problem and the age of the child, but a general guideline would be 3-4 times daily.
I frequently hear recommendations of using peppermint and eucalyptus oils on children for congestion. I have also read that these oils are not safe for kids. Are they appropriate for children? If not, why? Are there other oils that you recommend for congestion in children other than these?
These are two of the most effective essential oils for respiratory infection and congestion, but too much can be quite dangerous, especially for infants. (“Eucalyptus”, includes E. globulus and E. radiata.) Because of the 1,8-cineole in eucalyptus and the menthol in peppermint, these oils can slow breathing, and cause neurological problems, but there are safe and effective levels of use. For children of 3 and under, peppermint is best avoided altogether, and eucalyptus can be diffused, or used topically at up to 0.5%. For children aged 3-6 both oils can be diffused, and used topically at up to 0.5% (peppermint) and up to 1.0% (eucalyptus). Other oils that are useful but safer for children include pine, spruce and rosalina.
Note from Tara: I use many of these in Plant Therapy’s KidSafe line on my little ones. They were actually formulated by Robert Tisserand himself! Germ Destroyer and Sniffle Stopper are great safe oils for little ones instead of peppermint and eucalyptus.
Are some essential oils hormone disruptors for children?
A few essential oils (anise, star anise, fennel) are estrogenic, and these should be avoided altogether in children under 5, and in pregnancy, breastfeeding and estrogen-dependent cancers.
Is there any concern for daily use of essential oils on children? Should they be used when needed only or are they safe for preventative use as well? What about daily use of diffusion of oils around children?
Very low levels of diffusion, so the essential oil is barely noticeable, are fine anywhere, for any length of time. This would be just a few drops per 24 hours. More than that should only be used intermittently, and only when needed – either because the child is sick, or because someone else in the household is sick. Intermittent means 30-60 minutes on, then 30-60 minutes off. Programmable diffusers are perfect for this. Intermittent diffusion is much more effective, as well as being safer, than continuous diffusion. If a child gets repeated respiratory infections, one after the other, then the child may need help from a practitioner. Children have very strong immune systems, in fact a child’s immune system needs to be challenged to become strong and to remain strong. Daily protection using essential oils, over many weeks or months, may always not be a good thing. “Use when needed” is a good general guideline.
Note from Tara: Essential oil diffusers can be found here.
Wasn’t that awesome? I’m so happy to have some clear answers to essential oil concerns I had. I hope you walk away with more essential oil knowledge under your belt than before you read this. If you would like to browse Plant Therapy’s KidSafe oils that Robert Tisserand helped developed, you can view them here. I have five of the blends myself and love knowing that all of the oils are appropriate and safe for my kiddos.
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Plant Therapy. Opinions are my own and answers from Robert were from his own expertise. I’m proud to work with few companies that I believe in and love to share with my readers.