Essential Oil Safety For Kids

The popularity of essential oils has significantly risen in the last 10 to 15 years. While it’s awesome that the amazing benefits of the oils are being used to heal all sorts of ailments, proper education of the oils seems to have been lost in translation. It used to be that the people advising about and selling the oils were in majority, certified aromatherapists. These days, many people selling them have not been provided with the knowledge that they should be to be recommending particular oils, especially in regards to pregnant women and children.

I became aware of oils from a certified aromatherapist about 16 years ago. I am in no way an expert, like she is, which is why I had her write a guest post here last year, called The Ins and Outs of Essential Oils by Someone who Knows. In the article, she touches upon children and some of the oils that should not be used on them, specifically peppermint and certain varieties of eucalyptus. In addition, it was through her classes that I learned that though Ylang Ylang is great for PMS, and for bringing on a period, it should be avoided by pregnant women as it is a uterine stimulant and could cause miscarriages.

Just yesterday I read, in awe, comments in a response to a question that a woman posted on Facebook about her daughter having a febrile seizure. A handful of commenters recommended putting peppermint oil on the child, when in reality, peppermint oil is linked to causing seizures in children. (I will include links specifically about peppermint oil towards the end of this post).

Essential oils are potent, obviously, that’s why they are so great at healing so many afflictions, be it emotional, physical or mental. Because of this, it’s important that people know how to use these oils safely. And for the record, it’s not about one brand being better or safer than another (as people sometimes claim). 

oils for post

Here’s what you need to know about specific oils, as posted by Lea Harris, certified Aromatherapist, on her blog, Learning About EOs.com One Drop at a Time. I find her website to be a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the proper use of oils.

This material comes from the  esteemed aromatherapy textbook, Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals. It was compiled by Lea Harris.  This is a partial list. You can view the entire list of essential oils here: Essential Oils and Children.

  • *Cajuput Melaleuca cajuputi, Melaleuca leucadendron – avoid using on children under 6
  • Chaste Tree Vitex agnus castus – avoid using (all routes) on prepubertal children
  • Clove Bud, Clove Leaf, Clove Stem Syzygium aromaticum, Eugenia caryophyllata, Eugenia aromatica – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • *Eucalyptus Eucalyptus camaldulensis, Eucalyptus globulus, Eucalyptus maidenii, Eucalyptus plenissima, Eucalyptus kochii, Eucalyptus polybractea, Eucalyptus radiata, Eucalyptus Autraliana, Eucalyptus phellandra, Eucalyptus smithii – avoid using on children under 10
  • Lemon Leaf/Lemon Petitgrain Citrus x limon, Citrus limonum – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • Lemongrass Cymbopogon flexuosus, Andropogon flexuosus, Cymbopogon citratus, Andropogon citratus – avoid topical use on children under 2
  • *Marjoram (Spanish) Thymus mastichina – avoid using on children under 6
  • Oregano Origanum onites, Origanum smyrnaeum, Origanum vulgare, Origanum compactum, Origanum hirtum, Thymbra capitata, Thymus capitatus, Coridothymus capitatus, Satureeja capitata – avoid dermal use on children under 2
  • Peppermint Mentha x Piperita – avoid using (all routes) on children under 6
  • *Rosemary (1,8-cineole chemotype) Rosmarinus officinalis  – avoid using on children under 6
  • Wintergreen Gaultheria fragrantissima, Gaultheria procumbens – avoid due to methyl salicylate content
  • Ylang-Ylang Cananga odorata – avoid topical use on children under 2. (not for use when pregnant)

* indicates essential oils that are high in 1,8-cineole and can potentially cause respiration to slow in children. If you are looking for age-appropriate anti-congestion suggestions, read this post: Anti-Germ and Anti-Congestion blend recipes.

More about Peppermint Oil and Children: 

 From the NAHA Safety Note for Peppermint Essential Oil:

– Avoid use on children under 30 months of age. The nasal mucosa is an autonomic reflexogen organ, which has a distance action to the heart, lungs and circulation and may lead to sudden apnoea and glottal constriction.

– Direct application of peppermint oil to the nasal area or chest to infants should be avoided because of the risk of apnea, laryngeal and bronchial spasms, acute respiratory distress with cyanosis and respiratory arrest. (The Longwood Herbal Task Force)

– Do not apply undiluted peppermint essential oils to the feet, particularly on infants and children under the age of 12.

– Inhalation of larges doses of menthol may lead to dizziness, confusion, muscle weakness, nausea and double vision. (Natural Standard Research Collaboration, Peppermint oil. Evidence based monograph 2005; Medlineplus)

Recommended Reading:

Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals (This is a textbook, so it is expensive. It is a good buy for those in the field.)

Aromatherapy, a Lifetime Guide to Healing with Essential Oils

The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy

Essential Oils Collage

I believe that there are many PURE brands of essential oils out there. Companies that claim to have the only PURE oils are not telling the truth. Poofy Organics oils are therapeutic grade, distilled via steam or cold pressed. There are no carriers in their oils. While I endorse and love Poofy’s oils, I recognize that their are other great brands.

*Photo Credit: The top image belongs to  comment-economiser.fr, with some rights reserved. Text has been added and photo cropped. 

About Raising Natural Kids

A mother of three looking to raise awareness about the everyday issues that parents face, focusing on raising children holistically.
This entry was posted in Essential Oils and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

59 Responses to Essential Oil Safety For Kids

  1. Sarah says:

    I have just made a couple of mosquito repellent sprays using essential oils for my sister and her family who live in Minnesota. There is eucalyptus and peppermint and Cajeput in the spray but it’s diluted with witch hazel and water. do you think this amount of essential oil in a dilution is too strong for children?

  2. Julie says:

    i just read the post i am currently 24 weeks pregnant and have been using the aveeno stress relief cream throughout my pregnancy and i believe it have ylang ylang in it? should i be worried?

  3. Kerry says:

    Thank you for posting this. I had asked a question on the FAQ page about not using eucalyptus on children under 10nor Niaouli. Yet a book specifically for children that is recommended on the site says using these oils on children 1 years old and up is Ok. Why is there conflicting recommendations? I had bought the book and went off the list buying the specified oils for my baby. I’ve even used them the other day to help get rid of a cold. I’m confused as
    to why there is this discrepancy. Thanks

    • I think the discrepancies come with different trains of thought from around the world. I cannot tell you who is right and who is wrong, as I am not an expert in the field. I do know that the textbook this info comes from is a highly esteemed one in the aromatherapy world and the man who wrote it was a pioneer in his field in the USA.

    • Lea Harris says:

      Many people will need to update their safety info according to the 2nd edition of Essential Oil Safety by Robert Tisserand, just released in Nov. 2013.

      • Kerry says:

        So Lea, from what you are saying there may be a change of feeling toward using eucalyptus? The book I’m referring to was written in 2000. Which would make sense, similar to the updated information regarding lavender and boys. I think I’ll put an order in for the Fir oil that was recommended 🙂 Thank you so much Lea and Raising Natural Kids 🙂 You guys are the best!!!

      • Lea Harris says:

        I am saying that the 2013 edition of Essential Oil Safety shows evidence that Eucalyptus, no matter the species, is not the best option for kids under 10. 🙂

  4. Brandy S says:

    What about using them environmentally? I have both peppermint and clove oil mixed into my homemade kitchen spray… I am having outrageous ant problems and have been using this liberally on counters and floors. My kids are 2 and 4.

  5. Michelle Cunningham says:

    I’ve read diluted clove oil as a remedy for teething. So should I look for an alternative?

  6. Donna says:

    Can you diffuse oils with kids in home younger than the required age?

  7. Deanna says:

    Are these dangerous to use in a diffuser mixed with water?

  8. Megan P. says:

    I have been using a 1:30ratio for clove oil and 1:30 ratio for Roman chamomile with the 30 being the carrier oil (extra virgin olive oil). One drop clove, one drop Roman chamomile, 60 drops carrier oil. Do you know if that is diluted enough for teething? Also, why is clove considered unsafe for young children?

    • Lea Harris says:

      Dermal max for adults and kids over age 2 is .5% due to moderate risk of skin sensitization and mucous membrane irritation. It is not advised for kids under 2, since they are even younger (more delicate). I am not sure how far you would have to dilute it for sensitization and mucous membrane irritation to not be a risk. German Chamomile hydrosol is a better option 🙂

    • Sue says:

      Instead of using essential oil, which is very potent, just sew a little packet and put a few whole cloves in it. You can pin it to the baby’s shirt. The whole cloves are not as potent as the concentrated essential oil and breathing in the clove works just as well. People have been using whole cloves for centuries – not necessarily concentrated essential oil, for teething.

  9. Dawn says:

    One thing that made it easier for me to learn, if what you are reading is info put out by a specific brand, double check! I use many different companies. E.O.’s are like every other product out there, Heinz thinks their ketsup is the best. Many companies tend to side with the French usage, but e.o.’s are handled differently in Europe. It is always best to proceed with caution, not only for children, adults as well. People think that since it is a “natural” substance it is safe, so NOT true. You may want to explore hydrosols for children. Also, thanks for not covering this article in branding!

  10. Jennifer says:

    So dumb question. I have reactive airway disease, Many fragrances bother me, and I need to use a steroidal inhaler when this happens. So, can someone like me try essential pools? just the word ‘aromatherapy’ almost gives me a panic attack

  11. Michele Kemper says:

    Thank you so much for this resource. I am very confused and bothered by the use of the term therapeutic grade when describing essential oils after reading the following:

    Click to access Therapeutic%20Grade%20Essential%20Oils%20corrected.pdf

    I would love clarification or further information. I have 2 boys and prefer natural cures as opposed to drugs but I want to be safe and smart. Thanks.

  12. Brandi says:

    YIKES! I have been using a pre-blended peppermint oil roll on for my 5 year old and also a pre-blended/diluted oil by Young Living called Breathe Again which consists of several different Eucalyptus oils for my 3 year old. There is also an Oreganol oil blend that I have been using for my 3 year old which states it is safe for kids. I might need to do some more research. Thanks for the info!

  13. Love this! Thanks for laying out the oils to avoid so nicely! Shared this with my oil group on Facebook since I made today ‘oil safety day’! 😀

  14. Shawna says:

    I’m hoping you can answer a question for me regarding peppermint. My mother used peppermint on her babies, diluted and massaged onto bellies, and she taught me to do the same. Now that oils are HUGE and everywhere, I’ve been seeing all these things telling me peppermint is fatal/dangerous. Obviously, it is not in all cases, since all eight of us children survived along with my own three little ones. Is this a case of “you just don’t know if your kid will have a reaction until it happens,” like peanut butter or tetanus?

  15. Sarah says:

    I see it says to avoid lemongrass topically for children under 2, however, what about in breastfeeding? I’m interested in the cellular health DDR prime gelcaps from dōTerra that have lemongrass in them, along with other oils.

  16. GranolaMom says:

    So, if peppermint oil isn’t good for kids under 6,what about herbal peppermint tea? Should I avoid that as well?

  17. GranolaMom says:

    What about peppermint tea for toddlers? Is that not safe either?

    • Lety says:

      Peppermint tea/herb is perfectly ok. Essential oils are highly concentrated and their chemical constituents are different than that of the herb. One drop of peppermint essential oil is equivalent to about 75 cups of tea.

  18. Pingback: More essential oil info for people with children | Pupukea Road

  19. Mindy says:

    Here is an evidence based take on this from Dr. Daniel Leverenz, a very well respected ER doc. Most “research” is taken out of context. Eucalyptus can be perfectly safe on little ones. http://katieleverenz.com/eucalyptus-oil-evidence-based-podcast/

    • Heather says:

      A husband and wife team that have a vested interest in Doterra. Seems legit. And while I agree that the research is based mostly on actual ingestion of eucalyptus oil it can aggravate the air passageways of small children due to the size of their nasal passages. Many people using essential oils would not know this and may put even the diluted oil on the face or head of a small child- hence the warning is to avoid is logical and wise out of sheer precaution.

  20. Pingback: A New Love » Living the Leviner Life

  21. That was a really useful read for me, thanks!

  22. Zoe Princeton says:

    Hi! My name is Zoe. I’m 11 and I’ve made ten bath bombs with peppermint essential oils in it. This is the website I got it from. http://www.abeautifulmess.com/2015/03/homemade-bath-bombs.html
    I have used multiple LUSH bath bombs before, and had no reaction, but I haven’t used one with peppermint essential oil. The brand of my oil was Aura Cacia.

    • Hi Zoe – have you read the ingredients of the Lush bombs? They are actually made using multiple unsafe, artificial ingredients. Not everyone will have any noticeable reactions to certain oils, chemicals, etc. A lot depends on how much of what you are using. I would not recommend letting a small child in the bath with a peppermint bath bomb.

  23. jen says:

    Hi there! My 3 year old daughter has IBS. I’ve done a lot of online research for natural ways to help her deal with her chronic constipation and diarrhea. Diet changes alone aren’t helping enough. I’ve read in countless places that peppermint oil is effective in relaxing the smooth muscle of the intestine, and supposedly helps aid the digestive system. Today I bought the NOW brand of peppermint essential oil, and rubbed a couple drops on her tummy. Yikes!!! Should I not have done that? I know of several moms who use Young Living oils, and they’ve used it on their children (mixed with a carrier oil). I don’t know what to do. Help!!!!

  24. Melissa says:

    Thank you for posting this! As a mental health practitioner and user of oils I see far too often people making suggestions based on word of mouth or pseudo professionals (the person working the supplements aisle at whole foods or their mass market oil representative). These folks may be knowledgeable, maybe even have some training, but they most likely are not certified professionals. People have a tendency to think if it’s natural, it’s safe, when in reality supplements and oils used improperly can be very dangerous. Particularly if you have medical conditions like diabetes or thyroid disease. The dangerous part about psuedoprofessional is that when you are a novice, you don’t know what you don’t know. It is highly important to do thorough research, particularly away from those trying to make money off of you, and recognize when you are beyond your scope and consult with a professional. Be safe out there!

  25. Paola says:

    I just finished reading the article. I have a 3 year old son that has been coughing and has a runny nose. I went to Pinterest for toddler cough young living and the peppermint along with lemon and lavender came up to dilute with a carrier oil as apply it to chest and feet. I applied it twice today. The second time, we were playing outside our home and I noticed he was sweating a LOT, I know it was hot but it was excessive. I asked if he was ok, and he said yes, I felt his pulse and it was normal. He wasn’t wheezing ( I have a stethoscope cause he has RAD) and he was playing normal with all the other kids. Should I be worried? Please help, I had no idea I couldn’t use it for children under 6 😦

  26. Erica says:

    Hi, I sprayed undiluted peppermint oil all over the house since we have a huge bug problem. The house smelled full of peppermint oil and even with all doors and windows open we still couldn’t get rid of the smell by the time we went to sleep. I know I made a mistake by not diluting the oil but we have a 3 year old and I’m wondering if I caused any harm to his body. Since I sprayed all over the floor when we got home the floor was still damp so my son got the oil on his feet as well as inhaling it. I would like to know how much damage was done to my son for inhaling the peppermint oil. Thank you

  27. Nina Trevino says:

    Thank you for the article!
    I have a 1.5 year old daughter that currently has Fifth Disease (skin rash), and they recommended a homemade calamine lotion that has:
    Bentonite clay
    Baking soda
    Salt
    Peppermint oil (5 drops)
    Chamomile 5 drops
    Lavender oil 5 drops
    Witch Hazel

    I don’t want to use the regular calamine lotion but I need something to relieve the itchiness. Would you recommend using the oils listed? Or not the peppermint?

  28. Miranda P says:

    Is there a difference in the fir needle abies balsamea and fir needle abies sibirica that you have listed? I can’t seem to find the kind the you listed but am having an easier time finding the Albies balsamea. If not, is there something you would substitute?

  29. Maggie S says:

    Hey there, thank you so much for presenting such a great article; I’ve erred on the side of caution after being liberal with oils for a short time (from info through others touting using these controversial oils on babies/children) and am so glad I stopped. This article is helpful in re-directing me and knowing what is safest for my kids and myself. I have a question though. I’ve stayed away from using these oils in my cold process soap making due to kids/babies/pregnancy but would like to know it it’s necessary? Do you know if the potentially negative properties of the oils are changed through the soap making process of saponification or do they stay the same and could thus be harmful (like ylang ylang oil in soap used by pregnant women?) Thank you!

  30. Alison says:

    I have a 5 year old little girl suffering from
    Panick attacks. She started having anxiety as young as 2. She will vomit in the car due to the anticipation. She is in kindergarten and she won’t eat lunch she is back to not even eating breakfast. We just started counseling only 1 session we been too. Her teacher mentioned yesterday that prior to getting on the bus to go on this field trip that she was crying hysterically. Once spoken to she was fine. In class she is real antsy but that is all nervous energy. She won’t eat in restaurants she will throw up. I have give. Her lavender at night and peaceful child blend as well as Intune through do terra. Any advice please. I need to help
    My anxious baby without meds.

  31. Deb lopez says:

    I put mint lavender. Almond oil an coconut cream as a lotion. Child his back is burrning tingling feeling . Have used same product on him several times. What do I do?

  32. Conni says:

    I recently got into an argument with a doTerra representative regarding peppermint oil. My daughter is less than six months, and a representative suggested rubbing peppermint oil over her tummy. She assured me that all the myths about peppermint oil and menthol (since it’s more than just peppermint oil that we as parents are told not to use it’s things like Vicks as well) were false and the oils can be used from birth.

    That scares the heck out of me. I was able to provide academic sources regarding concerns about infants and menthol / peppermint oil, and the implication made was that I and numerous doctors and aromatherapists were wrong and only doTerra was right.

    I sincerely hope that people do their research like I did and not just take the word of a representative. Even without researching it, I remembered from university discussions of menthol being hard on babies.

  33. Desiree Smolin says:

    Thanks for your post. I came to this post through Googling for peppermint essential oil and seizures. You say that peppermint oil can cause seizures, but don’t elaborate on where this information came from. Can you direct me to the specific place where you learned this? Thanks! (I have a child with seizures who needs relief from anti-epileptic drug nausea. Friends suggested peppermint oil as a remedy. I want to read about it before I try it.)

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