How can essential oils be safely used?

Essential oils are powerful substances that can be harmful if not used with due care and diligence. Essential oils in a bottle are 50-100 times more concentrated than how they are found naturally in plants. The information provided here on how to safely use essential oils are general guidelines only and more specific safety information for the individual oils uses can be found on the Zurma website product descriptions.


1. Dilution for Topical use 

Essential oils should only be applied onto the skin after being sufficiently diluted in a nut or seed carrier oil. The latest research has found that undiluted essential oils should not be applied directly onto skin due to the potential by some people to experience an inflammatory skin reaction or develop an inflammatory reaction over a period of time. Below are general guidelines for the safe dilution of essential oils for adults and children as recommended by the Tisserand Institute:

Adult Use Dilution Range

Facial Cosmetics - 0.2% – 1.5%

Body Massage - 1.5% – 3%

Bath & Body Products - 1% – 4%

Specific Problems - 4% – 10%

Pain or Wounds - 5% – 20%

Children Ages Dilution Range

Up to 3 Months - 0.1% – 0.2%

3-24 Months - 0.25% – 1%

2-6 Years - 1% – 2%

6-15 Years - 1.5% – 3%

15 or Older - 2.5% – 5%


1.1 Essential Oil Dilution Rates in a Nut or Seed Oil
The information below gives a general indication of the number of drops of essential oil it takes to achieve a dilution per-centage of up to 5% in a nut or seed oil depending on the size of the bottle.

10ml bottle - 1 drop = 0.5% / 3 drops = 1% / 6 drops = 2% / 9 drops = 3% / 12 drops = 4% / 15 drops = 5%
20ml bottle - 3 drops = 0.5% / 6 drops = 1% / 12 drops = 2% / 12 drops = 2% / 18 drops = 3% / 24 drops = 4% / 30 drops = 5%
50ml bottle - 7 drops = 0.5% / 15 drops = 1% / 30 drops = 2% / 45 drops = 3% / 60 drops = 4% / 75 drops = 5%
100ml bottle- 14 drops = 0.5% / 30 drops = 1% / 60 drops = 2% / 90 drops = 3% / 120 drops = 4% / 150 drops = 5%

One of the common myths around essential oils is that any inflammatory skin reaction from applying them directly onto the skin is only a “detox” process. However, such a reaction is not likely to be a detoxification response as it simply indicates that the oil should not be applied undiluted onto the skin. It is safest to only apply essential oils on the skin after they have been sufficiently diluted.

Another common myth is that it is only impurities in an essential oil that can cause an inflammatory skin reaction. However, while impurities or adulterated oils could increase the risk of an adverse reaction the same types of adverse reactions can also happen with perfectly natural essential oils.

“The simple fact is, undiluted essentail oils and risk are directly linked, and this is a well-known phenomenon in dermatology and toxicology.” - Robert Tisserand.


2. Diffusion

Essential oils can be safely diffused into the air using the Zurma Ultrasonic diffusers or any other type of diffuser. It is healthiest to only diffuse essential oils for 30-60 minutes continually at a time with a 30-60 minute break in-between. This is not only safer, but it is also more effective as both our bodies and our nervous system habituate to essential oils after this period of time. It is also advisable to allow a source of fresh air into the room/s where diffusion is being carried out.


3. Steam Inhalation

Essential oils can be added into a bowl of steaming hot water and inhaled. However, it is advisable that this is for no longer than 15-20 minute periods at a time.


4. Baths

One of lifes great pleasures can be relaxing in a warm bath that has had essential oils added to it to aid the relaxation process. However, essential oils and water do not mix by themselves as the tiny droplets on the surface remain effectively undiluted. Lowering oneself onto these droplets of undiluted essential oil can result in a serious adverse reaction to ones genital areas which is best avoided, particularly with children.

The best way to use essential oils in a bath is to dilute them into an emulsifying agent first such as Zurma bath salts or Dr. Bronner’s Castille Soap. However, for anyone who might have sensitive skin, such as children or those with a skin disease, then it is probably best to avoid using essential oils in a bath.


5. Ears

The only safe way to use essential oils with ears is to put a drop or two of oil onto a cotton wad. This wad should only be partailly inserted into a ear so that it does not get close to touching the ear drum.


6. Eyes

Essential oils must not be used in the eyes even if they have been diluted as this will cause a chemical burn and may result in temporary blindness or worse.


7. Essential Oils should not be Ingested Orally

It is recommended that essential oils are not ingested at all unless it is done so under the guidance of a qualified medical practitioner. For example, Lemon essential oil has therapeutic values, but it is also great when used as a household disinfectant in a soapy solution of water as it helps dissolve grease and grime. As such, orally taking Lemon essential oil poses a severe risk of irritating or damaging the mouth or stomach lining. All the positive benefits of essential oils can be gained without needing to ingest them as outlined in points 1-5 above.


General Safe Use Recommendations

It needs to be kept in mind that a persons current state of health also needs to be taken into account before using an essential oil for the first time. If they are pregnant, have epilepsy, asthma or an existing skin condition then it would be advisable to consult with a trained medical professional or qualified aromatherapist before using pure essential oils. Also some essential oils can be particulary strong and more likely to elicit a negative reaction than others, for example, lemongrass, clove, thyme or cinnamon bark. It is recommended that the product description on the Zurma website or other reputable source of essential oil information is consulted before using an essential oil. The standard industry reference text that Zurma Botanical Oil Studio uses and recommends is:


Tisserand, R & Young, R. (2014). Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health Care Professionals. Churchhill Livingstone (Elsevier).