Essential Oils have become a hot topic lately, with grandiose claims of treating cancer, to cautionary tales of side effects and people developing rashes and severe headaches from their use! So, what to do? Can lavender really help you relax and promote sleep? Can essential oils boost your immune system? Our advice is to gain knowledge and use them sparingly.
Essential Oils Class with Danielle Rysavy
I took Danielle’s class on a Zoom call with a few other expecting moms. I was about 22 weeks pregnant and wanted to learn more about essential oils to help with anxiety and possibly ease pain and backaches. Danielle does sell the oils through DoTerra, and though she did present some different options to buy them at the end, I was glad that it did not feel like a sales pitch and there wasn’t any pressure or follow-ups to purchase (we even got a couple free samples!).
The class is a thorough introduction to essential oils and as a Mamma herself, Danielle goes through a list of things that may be ailing you in pregnancy and postpartum (even some essential oils which may support you in birth, as well). She covers how to use the oils in aromatherapy, topically and internally by ingestion (Beach Cities Midwifery recommends to never ingest even the highest quality essential oils. They are not regulated by the FDA and very little research has been done in this area. Many oils are potentially harmful if ingested, especially during pregnancy). There are holistic and homeopathic “medicines” which can be used safely in pregnancy, please speak to your Midwife about options. Danielle also reiterates to use a lesser amount even topically or in aromatherapy while pregnant and breast-feeding. We also agree essential oils can be lovely in an epsom salt bath, but never use them in your birthing tub!
So, Can They Really Cure Cancer?
The short answer is no, of course not. After the class, I followed up with some of my own research on the quality and claims of essential oils. Many of these claims are simply a marketing ploy to get you to spend a lot of money on this multi-billion-dollar industry. Many others are anecdotal claims with almost no research back them up. There have also been numerous lawsuits and accounts of essential oils causing serious harm, if used frequently and improperly (mainly if ingested or applied topically). – But hang on! – Essential oils DO have some scientifically proven benefits. Studies on the use of lavender in aromatherapy, inhalation and massage show promising results for anxiety and stress, producing a calming effect without sedation or side effects. Tea tree oil has been used topically for decades in wound healing and is commonly used today for acne, athlete’s foot and insect bites. There is some evidence that peppermint oil helps relieve IBS symptoms and may relieve headaches when applied topically. In the end there simply is not enough research, but there is some evidence of real benefits, and if the scent helps you and relieves stress – go for it! Just remember to be cautious and do a little research.
What’s Right For You
Personally, I decided to try a few different oils in a simple and inexpensive “passive diffuser” – just add a few drops to the ceramic piece. You can also place a few drops in a bowl of sea salt – no need to buy any expensive equipment and it’s portable, too! I love taking an occasional Epsom salt bath with lavender, ylang ylang or chamomile and using a few drops of lavender in a diffuser at night, or a calming blend diluted for topical use. There are plenty of readily available roll-ons which are already safely diluted for you, so you can take out the guesswork – just make sure to find a reputable, quality brand…
On Quality of Oils
It can get quite confusing since there are plenty out there to choose from with large variations in price and little regulation on any of them! (This is thanks to multi-billion dollar lobbying efforts by the “wellness industry” back in the 1980’s, leaving companies free to really put any additives they want into their products – yikes!) Danielle also adds that 80% of essential oils are adulterated with cheap additives – think the 5-pack at CVS for $10. Generally, pure essential oils will be much more costly but also last longer and have big advantages in quality. True essential oils will also vary widely in cost based on the abundance and the part of the plant used.
Since There is No Organization Which Oversees The Quality of Essential Oils, How Can You Really Know?
Brands have developed terms such as “Therapeutic Grade” or other certifications which are purely marketing terms, that are also sometimes trademarked. Any of these terms are basically meaningless, therefore, it is best to look for a company which guarantees their oils through independent third-party testing, most importantly GC/MS (Gas Chromatograph/ Mass Spectrometer) testing. It is also helpful to simply test the oils yourself by smell and begin to notice the obvious difference between synthetics and pure oils.
A Few Popular Brands
- DoTerra – This multi-level marketing company is now ubiquitous and boasts GC/MS testing reports and insight into their sourcing. However, all of this testing is done internally and the quality reports can only be accessed AFTER buying the product. Their website does state a full refund if you are not satisfied. Their prices are considerably higher than most other brands, and some options require you to buy a subscription or package deal through a rep. (You can reach out to Danielle Rysavy at firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Plant Therapy – The huge plus for this company is that they do third-party GC/MS testing and all results are fully disclosed on their website. Their prices are also among some of the most affordable and they offer a large variety of oils and blends, as well as organic oils and “Kidsafe” essential oils. They also offer a generous 90-day 100% money back guarantee.
- Aura Cacia – They are widely available at grocery stores and online have been around since 1976. This is not an MLM but rather a co-op structure, meaning they receive input based on all member’s ideas. They offer a wide variety of well-priced products including organics and roll-on blends, and also conduct GC/MS testing and sourcing, though all done internally. They also offer a 60-day refund policy, if not fully satisfied.
- Mountain Rose Herbs – If you want to support a company focused on sustainability, zero-waste and fair trade check out Mointain Rose Herbs. They also seek out organic and pesticide-free plants, through close supplier relations and offer third-party GC/MC and HPTLC testing. They have a wide variety of products and are well priced, though slightly higher than both Aura Cacia and Plant Therapy.
NEVER ingest essential oils, especially children or pregnant people. (Even the highest quality oils are potentially dangerous if ingested).
ALWAYS use a carrier oil for topical use (about 1% dilution in a carrier oil such as jojoba oil, coconut oil or avocado oil) and take extra precaution while pregnant.
ALWAYS use a carrier, such as Epsom salt or sea salt when using essential oils in the bath; AND
NEVER use essential oils in your birthing tub. They can irritate Baby’s skin and eyes.
Extra Precautions in Pregnancy
Many oils such as lavender, peppermint, frankincense, chamomile and sandalwood to name a few can be safely and effectively used during pregnancy and breastfeeding. A few points When using essential oils in pregnancy:
Limit your use during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester.
Check that the oil is safe to use during pregnancy and/or breastfeeding. (For example, through the charts provided below).
Use a dilution of 1-5% for skin applications.
Consider using a passive diffuser, rather than a personal inhaler, which is much stronger.
Keep in mind that essential oils, being organic compounds, will cross the placental barrier and have the potential to affect Baby.
About the Author
Penny Schroeder is Social Media Marketing Director for Beach Cities Midwifery and also a first-time pregnant mom. She is figuring out how to support herself in pregnancy and absorbing all the information she can while passing on the things that have helped her to the Beach Cities community.
Always talk to your midwife about using essential oils, homeopathic medicine or other holistic medicine during pregnancy, birth and postpartum. Your midwife can also provide additional options and find what works best for you.
- Click here for a list created by Certified Aromatherapists at Plant Therapy: Pregnancy and Nursing Safe Essential Oils
- Click here for their Pregnancy and Nursing Safe Chart by Concern.
- Essential Oil of Lavender in Anxiety Disorders: Ready for Prime Time? https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6007527/
- Aromatherapy: Do Essential Oils Really Work https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/aromatherapy-do-essential-oils-really-work
- How To Know if Your Essential Oils Are Top Quality? https://www.meghantelpner.com/blog/how-to-know-if-your-essential-oils-are-top-quality/
- Mountain Rose Policies https://mountainroseherbs.com/policies/faq/
- Top 10 Best Essential Oil Brands in 2020 https://www.essentialoilhaven.com/best-essential-oil-brands/
- Are Essential Oils Safe To Use During Pregnancy? https://blog.planttherapy.com/blog/2016/12/27/pregnancy-and-nursing-safety-part-1/
- Guidelines For Aromatherapists Working With Pregnant Clients https://naha.org/assets/uploads/PregnancyGuidelines-Oct11.pdf
- Podcast: “The Dream”, Little Everywhere & Witness Docs https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-dream/id1435743296