Im sad to write this post but I feel a responsibility to raise awareness about what I now understand about my relationship to essential oils as I have been an advocate for their use in holistic healing work.
As a massage therapist I was taught to think of essential oils as a vital part of my healing practice to help with shifting stagnant energy within a person or to amplify the healing aura of my work space. Out of concern for people with skin sensitivity I have tended not to used them as much in my actual body work but have often sought these oils out for my personal meditation practice as a way to shift my mood or energy when I needed it. I would also pour them lavishly in my baths and buy aromatic soaps and creams.
But no more.
Over the last three years I have begun a slow study of herbalism and have come to really appreciate and respect the power of plants. Recently it has come to my attention that putting essential oils on your body is not the best thing for your system.
It takes alot of plant material to create one small bottle of essential oil. This has environmental consequences in terms of over harvesting and it means that the oil that is created is a very potent substance.
I was listening to a talk by my favorite herbal teacher, Susun Weed, where she told of how some massage therapists she knew began having trouble with their immune systems. They traced this back to a use of essential oils in their bodywork practices.
What happens is that essential oils are anti-bacterial and anti-fungal and the body responds to them like they are antibiotics. The daily exposure to these substances was wearing out these massage therapists immune systems. Also some oils like lavender and tea tree can inspire an excess of estrogen which can have further destructive effects on people for whom that is a health concern.
I’ll end with some more words of warning from Susun Weed:
“Use Caution: Test your sensitivity before using essential oils. Put a drop of the oil on the sensitive skin inside your elbow. If your skin gets red or mottled, itches or burns in the next 12 hours, be very cautious with essential oils and certainly don’t use them on your breasts. My cat’s neck fur fell out after I anointed her chin with three drops of essential oil to (successfully) rid her of fleas!”