Recently, I was having dinner with some homeschool mom friends when the topic of essential oils came up. Ben is 15, so this is not an issue for us, but the conversation turned to using essential oils with and around young children. When I made a comment about the fact that not all oils (including one a couple of my friends were using) were not considered safe for younger children, I was met with surprise (and a little bit of resistance). This doesn’t surprise me because when I was first introduced to essential oils, I was given a lot of information about how great they were, without much information about how safe they were. Or not. And Ben was younger then, so I should have been told a few things. The information I received made it seem as though essential oils were as benign as taking a swig of honey for a sore throat.
I know many of you use essential oils with your children, but please know that not all essential oils are safe for kids. For example, did you know that Eucalyptus is not recommended for children under age 10 because it can cause respiratory depression? This was the oil that raised eyebrows at my dinner with friends. Ironically, Eucalyptus is commonly used for head and chest congestion (conditions that already compromise children’s respiratory systems), and is one of the ingredients in the thieves -type oil that many of you are using and diffusing right now to counter cold and flu season. You shouldn’t be using it with and around your little kids though.
Other oils that are not considered safe for young children include Peppermint, Rosemary, and Cinnamon Bark (more ingredients found in thieves-type oils). Essential oils high in menthol and/or 1,8-cineole is the reason for caution in Peppermint, Eucalyptus and Rosemary. These ingredients (the same ones that cause the “cooling” sensation you feel on your skin when using them) can slow respiration, or stop it altogether. For the same reason, these oils should not be used around the face. Peppermint should not be used with with kids six and younger. And like Eucalyptus, Rosemary is not recommended for kids under 10. Cinnamon Bark is not recommended for topical (transdermal) use at all because it can be so irritating to the skin. For preparations used topically, you can substitute Cinnamon Leaf for the Cinnamon Bark.
Many of you are going to tell me that you have used thieves-type oils and eucalyptus with and around your young children with no problems. And while it is true that some children don’t experience these scary effects, some have. Oh, and Cinnamon Bark (also in thieves-type blends) can cause blood thinning.. This is why some children have nosebleeds when breathing diffused thieves-type oils.
Who really wants to take a chance on the well-being of your child when there are almost always substitutions that can be made in order to make essential oil blends safe for the entire family?
General Guidelines for Using Essential Oils Safely with Children
First of all, please know I’m only listing the most commonly used essential oils. There are so many oils out there, I can’t possibly research them all. If you want the most explicit information for using essential oils safely with children, buy the book Essential Oil Safety by Robert Tisserand. It is expensive, but if you have it you won’t need another book on the subject. Anyone seriously using essential oils with their family needs this book.
The most important thing to remember is that when used topically (on the skin, also known as transdermally), essential oils must be diluted with a carrier oil. I mostly use jojoba oil. Also, for the most part, there are really few instances in which essential oils need to be used in children under the age of 6. If you do choose to use them in younger children, be very careful and follow the guidelines for use in children carefully.
These essential oils are safe for use with babies 3+ months of age
The maximum recommended amount of essential oils used on babies 3+ months topically, should not exceed 1-2 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil (.25%).
- Roman Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis, Matricaria rectutita)
- Lavender – (Lavendula angustifolia)
- Blue Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
- Dill (Anthum graveolens)
These essential oils are safe for use with babies 6+ months of age
The maximum recommended amount of essential oils used on babies 6+ months topically, should not exceed 3 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil (.5%) and 1-2 drops (.25%) is ideal.
- Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) Bergamot essential oil is a phototoxic oil and can cause phototoxic reactions on your skin, if used before going out in the sunshine. Diffusion and wash-off products are safe from this though.
- Cedarwood, Atlas/Virgina (Cedrus atlantica, Cedrus deodora, Juniperus virginiana) Be sure to dilute this well with a carrier oil, as it can cause skin irritation for many.
- Cinnamon bark (Cinnamomum verum) This is only safe for diffusion. Use Cinnamon leaf instead of bark for topical application.
- Cinnamon leaf (Cinnamomum verum)
- Citronella (Cymbopogon nardus) Use a smaller amount of this topically as it can cause skin irritation if not properly diluted.
- Fir needle (Abies sibirica)
- Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens)
- Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi)
- Helichrysum (Helichrysum angustifolium)
- Lemon (Citrus limon)
- Mandarin (Citrus reticulata)
- Neroli (Citrus aurantium)
- Sandalwood (Santalum spicatum)
- Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis)
- Tangerine (Citrus reticulata)
- Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)
These essential oils are safe for use with children 2+ years
The maximum recommended amount of essential oils used on babies 2+ years topically, should not exceed 6 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil (1%) and a dilution of 1-2 drops per ounce (.25%) is ideal.
- Basil, Lemon (Ociumum x citriodorum)
- Basil, Sweet (Ocimum basilicum)
- Black Pepper (Piper nigrum)
- Cassia (Cinnamomum cassia) This is safe ONLY for diffusion. Use Cinnamon leaf instead for topical application
- Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea)
- Clove Bud/Clove Leaf (Syzygium aromaticum, Eugenia aromatica, Eugenia caryophyllata)
- Copaiba Basalm (Copaifera officinalis)
- Frankincense (Boswellia carterii)
- Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
- Juniper Berry (Juniperus communis)
- Lemongrass (Andropogon citratus, Andropogon flexuosus, Cymbopogon citratus, Cymbopogon flexuosus) Use a smaller amount of this topically as it can cause skin irritation if not properly diluted.
- Lime (Cirtus x aurantifolia)
- Melissa/Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
- Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha)
- Oregano (Origanum onites, Origanum smyrnaeum, Origanum vulgare, Origanum compactum, Origanum hirtum, Thymbra capitata, Thymus capitatus, Coridothymus capitatus, Satureeja capitata)
- Sweet Marjoram (Marjorana hortensis)
- Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin)
- Spearmint (Mentha cardiaca, Mentha spicata)
- Thyme (Thymus vulgaris, Thymus Zygis) Use a smaller amount of this topically as it can cause skin irritation if not properly diluted.
- Turmeric (Cucuma longa)
- Lemon Verbena (Aloysia triphylla, Aloysia citriodora, Lippa citriodora, Lippa triphylla)
- Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanoides)
- Valarian (Valeriana officinalis)
- Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata) this can be diffused for children under 2 years
The Essential oils are safe for use with children 6+ years
The maximum recommended amount of essential oils used on children 6+ years topically, should not exceed 30 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil (5%) and a dilution of 5-6 drops per ounce (1%) is ideal.
- Anise/Aniseed (Pimpinella anisum) Use a smaller amount of this topically as it can cause skin irritation if not properly diluted.
- Anise, Star (Illicium verum) Use a smaller amount of this topically as it can cause skin irritation if not properly diluted.
- Cardamom (Elettaria cardamomum) Use a smaller amount of this topically as it can cause skin irritation if not properly diluted.
- Laurel Leaf/Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis)
- Marjoram (Thymus mastichina)
- Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans) Use a smaller amount of this topically as it can cause skin irritation if not properly diluted.
- Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) Use a smaller amount of this topically as it can cause skin irritation if not properly diluted.
- Ravintsara Cinnamomum camphora Use a smaller amount of this topically as it can cause skin irritation if not properly diluted.
- Sage (Salvia officinalis, Salvia fruiticosa, Salvia tribola, Salvia apiana)
These essential oils safe for use with children 10+ years
By this age most essential oils are safe to use. And you can now add these oils with cineol 1,8 and menthol:
- Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus camaldulensis, Eucalyptus globulus, Eucalyptus maidenii, Eucalyptus plenissima, Eucalyptus kochii, Eucalyptus polybractea, Eucalyptus radiata, Eucalyptus autraliana, Eucalyptus phellandra, Eucalyptus smithii)
- Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
- Thieves-type blends should be avoided in children under 10 –substitute with Immunity, which is safe for children.
Dilution for most essential oils even on children at this age should not exceed 30 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil (5%), and a dilution of 10-12 drops per ounce is ideal (2%).
Are you using essential oils with your children? Are you doing so in a safe manner?
Essential Oils eCourse
Are you new to the idea of using essential oils for the health and wellness of your family? You are invited to join my 10-day eCourse — Your Simple Guide to Using Essential Oils. This FREE course will be delivered straight to your inbox, one lesson at a time, to help you get started using essential oils safely!
Never use essential oils undiluted, in the eyes or mucus membranes. Do not ingest unless working with a qualified practitioner. Keep essential oils away from children. If applying an essential oil to your skin always perform a small patch test to an insensitive part of the body (after you have properly diluted the oil in an appropriate carrier oil).
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.