Essential oils have become hot in the last few years. They’re cropping up in all sorts of ways, with a myriad of uses described in blogs, on websites, etc. Sometimes, the countless suggested uses are enough to have one’s head spinning, and it always seems that each suggestion is a harmless way to use the oils.
However, that’s not always the case. Some oils aren’t good for certain times of life. Take pregnancy. If the wrong oils are used while pregnant, it can cause toxicity during gestation of the baby. Certain constituents within the oils can cause more harm than good. Below are a few examples:
- Camphor: while in the majority of cases, the babies were born safely, camphor seems to induce labor and toxicity buildup (within the mother, at the very least).
- Sabinyl acetate: considered very dangerous to use while pregnant, this component crosses the placenta and induces abortion.
- Salicylates: studies done with rats conclude that when given, these produce dose-dependent congenital abnormalities.
Although most of the studies mentioned in Essential Oil Safety are done on rats, there is some concern backed by evidence that certain oils pose risks–some of which are very serious–to unborn children. Below are two lists of contraindicated oils during pregnancy/lactation and those that should be used in limited quantities while pregnant and lactating.
Essential Oils to Avoid Throughout Pregnancy and Lactation
Anise Hyssop (pinocaphone CT)
Anise (star) Lanyana
Araucaria Lavender (Spanish)
Artemisia vestita Mugwort (common, camphor/thujone CT)
Atractylis Mugwort (great)
Birch (sweet) Myrrh
Black seed Myrtle (aniseed)
Buchu (diosphenol CT) Oregano
Buchu (pulegone CT) Parsley leaf
Calamint (lesser) Parsleyseed
Carrot seed Pennyroyal
Chaste tree Sage (Dalmatian)
Cinnamon bark Sage (Spanish)
Cypress (blue) Tansy
Dill seed (Indian) Thuja
Fennel (bitter) Western red ceder
Fennel (sweet) Wintergreen
Feverfew Wormwood (all chemotypes)
Benipi Wormwood (sea)
Hibawood Wormwood (white)
Ho leaf (camphor CT) Yarrow (green)
Essential Oils to Restrict During Pregnancy and Lactation
Basil (lemon) Myrtle (honey)
Boswellia papyrifera Myrtle (lemon)
Champaca (orange) absolute Nastertium absolute
Lemon balm (Australian) Tea tree (lemon-scented)
Lemongrass Thyme (lemon)
May chang Verbena (lemon)
I should like to note, in closing, that essential oils are much more powerful than their whole food/plant counterparts. For example, one drop of peppermint oil is roughly 28 cups of peppermint tea. Therefore, just because an oil like cinnamon is contraindicated while pregnant doesn’t mean that you cannot still enjoy a little bit of cinnamon powder in some applesauce.
Tisserand, Robert and Young, Rodney. Essential Oil Safety, Second Ed. New York, NY, 2014; p. 147-163.