When not to use Aromatherapy and Essential Oils

Essential oils extracted from plants such as basil, lemon, eucalyptus, peppermint, sweet orange, camphor, caraway, etc., have been used for special massages, food, drink, cosmetic soaps, perfumes, detergents, industrial applications, candles etc, for centuries. Since the use of these oils is so widespread, world bodies like the World Health Organization (WHO) have started investigating the safety of these oils in common use, for there are many problems in aromatherapy that have been identified.   Aromatherapy is the use of these essential oils for specialized massages based on the emotional and physical needs of individual people.


Aromatherapists believe that the fragrance contained in the oils stimulate the brain and can calm or stimulate the mind and body depending on the type used.  Aromatherapy has been found to stimulate blood circulation, help in stress, mood swings and many such issues. Use and process followed for Aromatherapy, depends on the individual needs of clients, their medical conditions etc. Here we will see about the hazards and contra-indications of essential oils that aromatherapists and the public have to be aware of and precautions during aromatherapy usage that is a must.

Precautions to be followed when using Aromatherapy Massages

The following are some of the problems in aromatherapy that can be encountered:

Skin diseases and sensitivity : Important precautions during aromatherapy relate to skin sensitivity and skin disorders. Skin sensitivity is very common hence essential oils must never be used undiluted. Aromatherapists state that oils like tea tree and lavender can be used undiluted. However, there are cases of unsuspecting people using these oils on broken skin and suffering sensitivity for life. Essential oils such as Cinnamon leaf, clove leaf, lemon, ginger, thyme, etc. are known for sensation and irritation related side effects in few cases.

When using new oil, always do a sensitivity test on a small part of your skin (patch test) and check the results.  Peppermint oil when used directly without dilution can lead to allergic reactions. You must also be careful about cross sensitivity – this is where a person who is sensitive to one essential oil can also be sensitive to another.

Restricted massages maybe required in certain cases such as – prevalence of scar tissue, skin disorders such as eczema, bruising, varicose veins, cuts and wounds, fractures and sprains.

Pregnancy : when essential oils are used on the skin of women during pregnancy, it can affect the fetus by crossing the placental barrier and entering the baby’s body.   Oils such as wintergreen and birch must especially be avoided during pregnancy since they are easily absorbed by the skin and high levels of methyl salicylate are not good during pregnancy.  Some oils like juniper, sage and rosemary may cause uterine contractions and they must be avoided. 

Infectious diseases : People suffering from infectious diseases like colds, fever, tuberculosis, flu, measles, and scarlet fever must not be given aromatherapy since they are contagious.

Hemorrhages – both internal and external are dangerous for they can lead to spilling of blood during massages.when not to use aromatherapy

Serious medical conditions that require a referral from a doctor before massages include: heart and circulatory disorders, thrombosis, high and low blood pressure and diabetes

Epilepsy : Essential oils with a pungent smell like tea tree, eucalyptus, camphor and rosemary can trigger an epileptic attack.

Cancer : Seek medical advice when undergoing aromatherapy especially if you have any forms of lumps or swellings – as yet undiagnosed. While a gentle massage need not spread cancer cells, precaution is always good.

Asthma : Essential oils with strong smells can trigger airway spasms and hence they must be avoided by those with lung and respiratory conditions. 

Homeopathic treatment : Those on these treatments should check if the essential oils they plan to use will act as an antidote.

Migraine : Strong odors can exacerbate migraine symptoms.

Menstruation : Discomfort in the stomach during menstruation can be heightened by using essential oils.

Toxicity of Essential Oils

So, before aromatherapy is administered, several precautions during aromatherapy must be followed. Toxicity is especially a problem and the degree of toxicity depends on the amount and mode of administration of such oils. Intake of these oils orally is the most toxic and must be avoided unless taken under medical supervision. You can refer to the books on safety of using essential oils by experts such as Robert Tisserand and Tony Balacs and others for further useful information regarding precautions to follow and the essential oils that can cause toxicity. Some commonly known toxic essential oils include Aniseed, Arnica. Mugwort, Pennyroya, Sassafras, Savory, Thuja, Wintergreen, Wormwood. etc. This is

Safety precautions

Here are a few precautions that can be followed when treating and handling essential oils.

  • Work in open areas or areas with good ventillation
  • Store and mix oils in a separate room
  • Air the room and take small breaks between one treatment and the next
  • Do not use essential oils on eyes
  • Study the client carefully for all problems before choosing the oil. Refer to a GP if there are any medical conditions
  • Always dilute the oil and use in the right proportion
  • Do not use same oil frequently
  • Always perform a skin test on the client for sensitivity
  • Label all oils, keep proper inventory and use only oils you are familiar with

If you are using essential oils at home, study all the potential issues related to aromatherapy and research them thoroughly before your purchase. Always remember that only small quantities of essential oils need to be used at a time. So, if the recommendation is to use one drop, stick to this and do not use two drops. Some oils can be used only by professional aromatherapists like wormwood, horseradish, camphor etc.

It is preferable that children are not allowed to use these oils. Do not take it internally unless supervised by trained professionals. All essential oils are flammable so be cautious and follow all the necessary precautions during aromatherapy. 


Aromatherapy presents lots of amazing benefits for our nervous and other critical systems. Aromatherapy is a vast, yet unregulated field. People have to be cautious when going in for this therapy, as there are possibilities of side effects if proper precautions are not taken during aromatherapy. If you do plan to go in for this, make sure you use essential oils from reputable companies with labels stating the contents for they will sell pure oils. If you want to buy essential oils to use at home, find out how they need to be stored and used.  It is best to seek medical advice if you suffer from any of the medical conditions mentioned above.