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From the Jan/Feb 2006 Raindrop Messenger Newsletter
Sensitivities to Essential Oils
by David Stewart, PhD, DNM
There are a couple of ways one can be sensitive to essential oils, but an
allergic reaction is not one of them. Allergies are erroneous immune
responses to proteins, peptides, and amino acids - all nitrogen compounds,
none of which are found in essential oils.
You can have an allergic reaction to a vegetable oil such as olive, corn,
peanut, walnut, almond, etc., since these are cold pressed and can contain
small amounts of proteins. For example, occasionally a person can develop an
allergy to an oil blend such as Valor, which is sold by Young Living. The
allergy is not due to the essential oils of spruce, frankincense, rosewood,
and blue tansy in the blend. It is due to the almond oil in the blend. So
read your labels. What may appear to be an allergic reaction to a blend of
essential oils may be due to a carrier oil contained in the blend.
You can also have an allergic reaction to citrus oils which are cold pressed
from the rind. However, while we refer to citrus oils such as orange, lemon,
lime, and grapefruit as "essential oils," strictly speaking they are not. By
definition, a true essential oil must be steam distilled, not expressed.
There are also oils extracted by solvents such as onycha, jasmine, and
neroli. Strictly speaking, they too are not true essential oils. Technically,
they should be called absolutes, not essential oils. One can have a true
allergic reaction to these because, like the citrus oils, they have not passed
through a distillation process and can contain traces of proteins, peptides, or
Because of the nature of distillation by heat, steam, and water, that true
essential oils must undergo, they do not contain the necessary compounds to
trigger allergies because these compounds do not pass through the distillation
Hence, sensitivities to essential oils, in the sense of allergic reactions,
are not possible. Allergic sensitivities are due to the body developing
antibodies in response to certain nitrogenous molecules. No one has ever
found antibodies in humans from essential oils. So if one has a reaction
to an essential oil, it is something else. Not an allergy.
There are oils that are naturally hot, such as oregano, thyme, mountain
savory, cinnamon, cassia, and a few others. This is because of their
phenolic compound content which cleanses our cells and paves the way to
healing. Such oils can be taken internally via capsules or applied to the
skin directly with caution or diluted with a fatty oil.
If burning or irritation occurs to the skin from such oils, prompt
application of a vegetable oil layered over the essential oil will take care
of the problem in short order.
The same thing applies if you get an essential oil in your eyes or if you
swallow a hot oil, like oregano, and it burns your mouth and throat. Don't
use water, use a vegetable oil for immediate relief. Pour it directly in the
eyes or take it orally if your mouth or throat are affected.
As for sensitivities to essential oils that produces a skin ash or other
allergic-like symptoms such as headaches or nausea, this is always a detox
reaction. While allergic reactions get worse and worse with each exposure to
the offending substance (allergen), detox reactions eventually get less and
less severe with each exposure to an essential oil until it disappears
completely once the toxins are cleared from the system.
When one has a detox reaction from an essential oil (which is a good thing),
they need to back off from using oils for a while and increase their water
intake and, perhaps, get into a cleansing routine for a month or so, going
light on the use of essential oils for a while. What is happening in this
kind of sensitivity is that the oils are detoxing too rapidly for the colon
and kidneys to handle so the toxins come out through the skin as the third
avenue for excretion. It is better to keep the rate of detox down to levels
that are flushed out through the kidneys and colon, if possible.
In rare cases, a person can react to a perfectly pure therapeutic grade
essential oil as if it were an allergen or a toxin, but in reality the
response is neither an allergy nor a detox. It is something else.
Another kind of sensitivity to essential oils has to do with emotions. In
cases of extreme unresolved grief, which can be due to the loss of a loved
one or other circumstances, one can become sensitive to anything, even the
most harmless of things. In extreme cases, people can become universal
responders, reacting to almost everything in what appears to be an allergic
reaction. This malady is sometimes referred to as "Extreme Chemical
Sensitivity" (ECS) or "Environmental Illness" (EI).
In such cases, some people have been known to react in an allergy-like fashion
to even the purest of essential oils, such as those sold by Young Living. But
healing from such an illness does not come by treating it as an allergy,
because it is not an allergy in the classical sense. It is a spiritual-
emotional disease and must be dealt with at that level.
The spiritual and symbolic message in this sort of reaction is that the
individual is so depressed, unhappy, and unwilling to accept life as it has
been given to them that they are rejecting all of creation and, thus, react
negatively to everything. There is a scriptural reference to this in
Proverbs 17:22, "A broken spirit dries the bones."
The basis of our immune system is in the marrow of the bones where the T-cells
and other white corpuscles are formed. Allergies and other environmental or
chemical sensitivities are due to malfunctions of the immune system at the
level of the white corpuscles (leucocytes). Hence, this Bible verse is
actually referring to a negative autoimmune response originating in the bones
caused by an individual's rejection of the world around them stemming from
extreme grief or a broken spirit.
The solution to this spiritually rooted illness is to recognize the source of
the grief, accept it, and deal with it. When that is done, the sensitivities
disappear, usually within a few days and sometimes overnight. Applying
selected essential oils for emotional purposes can assist in revealing and
releasing the buried feelings that underlie such a malady.
There is one other source of sensitivity that may be blamed on essential
oils and that has to do with perfume and food grade oils. True therapeutic
grade essential oils are grown organically, harvested in proper ways and
times, distilled gently at minimum temperatures and pressures, and
bottled without any ingredients removed or added. All of the essential oils
sold by Young Living are therapeutic grade oils. However, the vast majority
of aromatic oils sold in retail stores and other places are perfume or food
A true therapeutic grade essential oil contains hundreds of compounds,
all of which are necessary in a proper balance for them to possess healing
power. Since only a few of these compounds contribute significantly to aroma
and/or taste, when essential oils are used for fragrances or flavors, the
only compounds that matter to commercial users are the ones that have
smell or taste. In some cases, this involves only 2 or 3 compounds in an oil,
and the manufacturers and users don't care if these compounds are natural or
synthetic so long as the smell and taste are there and the cost is cheap.
Hence, fragrance and food grade oils are always incomplete in their
composition, containing only part of the chemical profile of a complete
therapeutic grade oil. Furthermore, they are usually adulterated with
synthetic compounds or diluted with petrochemicals to increase their volume
One can have reactions to such oils, but these are not reactions to true
essential oils. Such reactions are due to the adulterants in the oil. They
are not caused by the natural essential oil components of the oil.
For More Information
So there you have it. As to what you should do in a given situation where
sensitivities are encountered, you will have to decide. If you want a more
detailed discussion on essential oils, reactions to them, and allergies, my
book, THE CHEMISTRY OF ESSENTIAL OILS MADE SIMPLE, has a
lengthy discussion of the subject. It is available from Essential Science
Publishing, Abundant Health, and other sources. Hope this helps