undesired effects of essential oils

There is a big discussion about eventual danger/toxicity of essential oil actually. As a health shop owner, author and lecturer on aromatherapy I have already heard a lot of rubbish on this question.

Just some weeks ago someone asked me about the danger of some essential oils. Another "Teacher" told that person that essential oils were extremely dangerous, children could die from Eucalyptus and anyway, the European community would soon forbid the free trade of essential oils...

Let me reply by saying this: I use essential oils since the end of the seventies when I lived in the Provence, France. I use them very intensively now since almost 15 years in my shop and through the lectures and courses I give. I must have initiated more than thousand people here in my country to aromatherapy. I have three little boys (6-9 and 11 years old), I give them essential oils if neccesary, even orally on some honey.

I have never heard of extreme reactions, death or severely hurd people trough the use of essential oils! When reading or hearing some authors you would believe that thousands of uninformed people suffered or died from inproper or exagerated use of essential oils. As for my country, I'm sure I would have heard it. Anyway, I hear since years in my health shop about the fear of many companies that many herb products would be banned from our shops, because of their possible danger. It appears to be the result of lobbywork from Pharmaceutical Industries, seeing their drugs being replaced more and more by herbs... For those people, nothing would be more beneficial as a real case (for instance the death of somebody through the use of essential oils), they would jump on it, the newspapers and the television would talk about it and ask for measures from the government...

Well, nothing off this happened the last decade! Only the case of a docter making a coctail of chemical drugs (as amphetamines) and adding so called "Chinese herbs", in order to sell it as a "natural product" came in the news after some people died or had very serious kidney problems. Although these "coctails" were only sold in regular pharmacys on presciption, never in health shops, questions arose in the media about those health shops selling dangerous "Chinese herbs"!

Yes, I wittnesed misuse of essential oils, people advising to use Thyme essential oil (thymus vulgaris ct thymol) straight into the nose for sinusitis..., people having earache using lemon (Citrus limon, peel) straight into the ears... They suffered pain from this misuse but only for a certain time. I don't mean by saying this that some essential oils could not be dangerous, but we need real scientific knowledge on this matter, no rumours!

I recently discovered the work of Martin Watt. Here are some facts he uses (I presume mostly about the U.K.):

Poisoning by conventional drugs

  • NON STEROIDAL ANTI_INFLAMMATORY DRUGS such as; Mefenamic acid, Indomthacin, Ibuprofen, Naproxen are believed to cause 4000 deaths yearly from intestinal erosion and bleeding.

  • PARACETAMOL: There are 20.000 accidental and deliberate overdoses yearly, and Paracetamol is the commonest drug used for self overdosing. On average 200 people die every year and significant numbers of survivors are left with irreparable liver damage. The lethal dose to the liver is 20 g. although cases have been reported at lower doses.

  • COSTS TO THE HEALTH SERVICE: It has been reported to cost 2000 Pound a day for treatment in specialist liver intensive care units. It costs 50.000 to 100.000 Pound for a liver transplant and the hospitalisation costs of overdose victims is enormous.

  • There has been a safe form of Paracetamol available for many years with its own BUILD IN ANTIDOTE, but it has not achieved wide circulation. When the manufacturer applied to the D.H.S.S for a license to sell to the health service, the answer was "it is not considered clinically necessary to use the new form". There are proposals that this SAFE Paracetamol should be compulsory in retail outlets, yet no government action has been taken.

  • 20.000 girls are treated for general drugs overdose

  • HARD DRUGS kill 400 yearly

  • ALKOHOL kills 30000 yearly

  • 400 people die DAILY in the U.K. from smoking related illness according to the Imperial Cancer Research Fund study unit Oxford.

  • LUNG CANCER kills 40.000 yearly, many are smoking related.

  • Dental anaesthesia kills 3-4 children yearly. Many dentists have no training on the use of anesthesia, once they obtain their degree they are free to use anesthesia with no restrictions and many do not have proper resuscitation equipment should anything go wrong.

  • INDUSTRIAL DISEASES kill thousands. Silica exposure rates have been increased as employers say they can't meet lower exposure level criteria.

  • SPORTS INJURIES number 17.000 yearly, many are caused by faulty equipment.

  • ASTHMA: Has killed tens of thousands of people over the last ten years, and affects millions of children and adults. Many of these deaths are now being attributed to atmospheric pollution, yet tight controls on fume emissions are just being instituted.

    Essential oils

    To date no significant statistics have been published by the National Poisons Unit. Surveys of worldwide literature relating to human toxicity over many years have only uncoverd a handful of deaths resulting from the INGESTION off essential oils. There are a number of cases of minor stomach upsets from exess consumption and a few cases where severe illness has resulted including liver function disorders, but in some cases where recovery has occured, liver and other organ functions have returned to normal.

    From an article from Martin Watt.

    Source of information:

    Plant aromatics, a Data and Reference Manual on essential oils and Aromatic Plant Extacts,

    Researched and Published by

    Martin Watt, Cert PHyt. Medical Herbalist(UK)

    The Aromatherapy Practioner Reference Manual

    A Complete Reference Book of Aromatic Plant Extracts, Clinical Index & Taxonomical Index,

    Index of Biological Activities of Phytochemicals

    by Sylla Sheppard-Hanger, contributing editors Galina Lisin, Martin Watt & David Moyler


    USA: Phone & Fax: (813)265-2222

    Canada: Phone (905)271-8813 Fax (905)608-0601

    England: Phone & Fax 01277-822563

    To be continued............


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