top of page

Essential Oil Reactions: How to Avoid Them

With the increasing popularity of essential oils, the reactions are increasing exponentially. If you have been following me for some time, or even just started, you know I am all about safety. SAFETY FIRST, ALWAYS!

Too many times I have heard the phrase in some form or another, "essential oils are natural, they cannot hurt you". Well, I am here to tell you, that isn't true. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Essential oils are highly concentrated, highly volatile aromatic compounds that are extremely powerful. They can do harm when not used correctly.

Now, with that said, I never want to scare you, or deter you from using these truly wonderful substances. They have helped my family and clients immensely, but we need to always make sure we are using them safely.

What is Considered an Essential Oil Reaction?

  • Redness at the application site

  • Burning at the application site

  • Rash - bumpy, scaly, dry, etc.

  • Itching at the application site

  • All of the above at a place other than at the application site (sensitization)

  • Headache

  • Sneezing (other than from a cold)

  • Stuffed up nose (congestion)

  • Breathing issues

  • Nausea

  • Lethargy

  • Dizziness, lightheaded

  • Racing Heart

  • Feelings of being unwell, or it makes the situation worse

​If any of these things mentioned above has happened to you, you could be having a reaction to an essential oil. If such things happen, please report it to the injury database HERE. Another place you can report it to is your local Poison Control. Even if you weren't injured per se, a reaction needs to be reported so we can track what is happening with these oils. It helps us as professionals monitor what actions need to be taken and where we are lacking. Education is my main focus right now to keep these reactions and possibly injuries from happening so often.

What Can You do if You Have a Reaction?

Depending on the severity of the reaction, please use common sense and seek medical attention should you feel you need it. I am not a licensed physician, these suggestions are very basic and should never be used in severe cases where medical attention is required.

If you are having breathing issues, please seek medical attention immediately. Having said that, the most common type of reaction is dermal, or skin. That is why it is warranted to do a patch test if you are unsure. You can do that by using the diluted essential oil on the inner arm and covering it with a band-aid for 24 hours. Note any of the symptoms above. If any are present, it is possible that essential oil is going to cause bigger issues should you continue to use it.

If you are having a reaction, please discontinue use of all essential oils. As long as the skin is not blistering or open, I have used straight carrier oil like coconut oil or olive oil applied to the sensitive area. Then I washed the area with soap and water, then applied more coconut oil. Last year when I was burned by a store bought blend, this is what I did. I had a 2nd degree burn on my back so it wasn't horrible but it surely didn't feel good. Time is what is what was needed. You can read more about that HERE.

If you are feeling light headed, dizzy, lethargic, etc. please seek fresh air away from the essential oil. Sometimes that is what is needed. If not, apply a carrier oil and soap/water to dilute it on the skin so less essential oil enters the body. Some people are having a true allergic reaction, Benadryl has been known to help, but please seek medical attention.

How Can You Avoid a Reaction?

  • Educate yourself on essential oils BEFORE you use them. Knowledge is power!

  • Dilute, dilute, dilute!

  • Learn about contraindications and age restrictions

  • Research health conditions - some eos will exacerbate some illnesses

  • Follow the 30 minutes on and 60 off rule for diffusing

  • If you are allergic to a particular plant, you may need to avoid the use of specific oils

  • Follow max dermal limits for each oil

  • If using them in a bath, make sure they are truly diluted and dispersed

  • Don't ingest without proper guidance

  • Stop following recipes on the internet

  • Hire an aromatherapist

How Can Your Report a Reaction? (1)

There are multiple websites, where you can file an injury report. Each one is separate, please file a report on both.

Tisserand Institute's Adverse Reaction Database:…/adverse-reaction-database/

Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy:

External adverse reactions like blisters, rashes, burns, etc. can be documented with pictures of said injury. It is a great idea to take pictures daily or with any changes to have a chronological account for future reference.

Internal adverse reactions that cannot be seen are harder to log. Make note of what oil(s) or blend(s) used and the related symptoms. Please include amount (number of drops) and how it was used (administration route - oral, vaginal, or rectal).

Log all relevant information:

  • How was the oil used (topically, diffusion, internal, bath, etc.) Length of time you experienced the reaction.

  • All oils used.

  • Was the oil diluted?

  • What was the dilution ratio?

  • Did the reaction happen after one use or did it happen over many uses?

  • Was the reaction immediate or did it occur days later?

  • Did the reaction occur at the site of application or did it occur someplace else?

​Some other information that might be useful in reporting reactions:

[if !supportLists]

[if !supportLists]

[if !supportLists]

  • Age of the oil. Was it a new bottle or a bottle of citrus oil that was several years old?

  • Did you seek medical treatment for the reaction and if you did, what was the treatment.

  • If the injury was a result of advice given by a company or a person, be sure to include that information.

If you have any questions, please send them to, I will answer them the best I can. Please be safe out there!

Love and light,


Caution: The material on this page is not meant to take the place of diagnosis and treatment by a qualified medical practitioner. Since the actual use of this product by others is beyond our control, no expressed or implied guarantee as to the effects of their use can be given nor liability taken. Use at your own discretion. Any application of the recommendations is at the user’s risk. Sweet Willow Spirit, LLC disclaims any liability arising directly or indirectly from the use of this information and assumes no responsibility for any actions taken. This should not be used in place of traditional therapies but solely as a complementary means for bringing well-being. The FDA has not evaluated the statements on this website. No claims are made as to any medicinal value of this oil.

(1) Greene, Grant. Feb 27, 2018. How to Report an Essential Oil Injury or Adverse Reaction.

Featured Posts
Recent Posts