Welcome to the Tisserand Institute Safety Pages.
Essential oils can be safely used to enhance wellbeing and as part of a healthy lifestyle. They are used by millions of people every day, most of them without incident. However, essential oils are powerful substances and can be harmful if not used with due care and diligence. The essential oil in a bottle is 50-100 times more concentrated than in the plant, and safety issues apply to essential oils that may not apply to the whole plant or herbal extract. The rise in popularity of essential oils together with, very often, insufficient information on safety precautions in using them, coincides with an increased prevalence of adverse reactions, and it is likely that these are linked.
“Safety has been a passion of mine for more than 30 years. I felt a responsibility to disseminate safety information, and in 1985 I self-published a small book: The Essential Oil Safety Data Manual. It was mostly based on the IFRA monographs. In 1995, I co-authored Essential Oil Safety, a much more in-depth work that went far beyond the IFRA monographs. In 2014 the vastly expanded second edition of this book was published, which took Rodney Young and myself 12 years to write. For more on why I believe safety is important, click here.“ R. Tisserand
One challenge facing aromatherapy is the gradual increase of adverse events – adverse skin reactions or poisoning – that has accompanied the increase in popularity of essential oils. This, along with often baseless claims for treating serious disease, gives aromatherapy a bad reputation, and is a short-cut to increased regulation of essential oils, something that is already happening in Europe. The sad truth is that most of these adverse events would be avoided if safety guidelines were (a) widely disseminated and (b) followed.
Which is why the Tisserand Institute has these Safety Pages, to help you use essential oils in an efficient and safe manner.
What you’ll find here…
Here you will find general safety guidelines for essential oils, including dilution limits according to various modes of application and age ranges, and recommendations on how to prevent most adverse reactions.
The Tisserand Institute’s Adverse Reaction Database, or ARD, is a collection of self-reported adverse reactions to essential oils. Each report has been verified by personal contact and is accompanied by images where possible.
The ARD was created to underline the potential dangers that do exist when essential oils are used inappropriately. It should be emphasized that most people never have an adverse reaction to essential oils. However, inappropriate use does increase risk.
You can browse the reports, search by individual oils or types of reaction, or add a report if you yourself have experienced an adverse reaction.
The following are various resources of additional information relevant to essential oil safety. These include safety-related blogposts here on the Tisserand Institute website, links to safety guidelines elsewhere, and other online resources.
New survey reveals the dangers of not diluting essential oils – a summary of findings of a survey the TI conducted on the use of cinnamon bark and cassia essential oils
Essential oils and the “detox” theory – a blog post by Kristina Bauer
Proof of safety – a downloadable PDF of Robert Tisserand’s presentation on safety
Essential Oil Safety, 2e – the only comprehensive text on the safety of essential oils, the first review of essential oil/drug interactions, and it provides detailed essential oil constituent data not found in any other text. Much of the existing text has been re-written, and 80% of the text is completely new. There are 400 comprehensive essential oil profiles and almost 4000 references. There are new chapters on the respiratory system, the cardiovascular system, the urinary system, the digestive system and the nervous system.