Working safely with aromatherapy oils is paramount to the wellbeing of the client and therapist, and there are a number of measures that take place in order to reduce the risks involved. According to biochemist and experienced Aromatherapist Tony Burfield (2004) “Although many essential oils are potentially hazardous materials, if handled in the appropriate manner, the risks involved in their use can be very small. So therefore, most commercially offered essential oils are safe to use for the purpose intended in a domestic/ professional or clinical environment”.
If essential oils are not used for their intended purpose they can generate a number of negative discomforts to the client, therefore it is important to evaluate the risks before proceeding with treatment.
The first risk to assess is the quality of the essential oils being used – are they pure? How have they been extracted? These are questions a therapist needs to consider before application. In order to reduce the risk of using a harmful dilution, a therapist must research the supplier and check the authenticity of the oils before purchase.
It is then important to check the chemical composition of the oils – are they suitable for the client? Will they cause any negative reactions to the body? The risk can be reduced by having a full consultation with the patient beforehand, finding out whether they have any allergies or illnesses that could affect the outcome of the treatment.
Deciding the correct dosage can also be seen as a risk, most aromatherapy oils will be between 1 and 5 percent diluted, which typically means that the risk factor is low. However, if too much oil is applied it can cause a dermal reaction to the skin which could result in skin irritability. By conducting a full consultation, the therapist will be able to assess the client and determine how much oil to apply.
Looking at the age of the client is also important. Toddlers, young children and Elders are more skin sensitive than adults and therefore much more vulnerable to reactions caused by oils. Therefore it is important that the therapist reduces the concentration of the oil to lower the risk of side effects.
These are just a few factors to consider when planning a treatment and the majority of them can be risk assessed before the treatment even begins. By sourcing reliable oils and conducting a full client consultation beforehand, the therapist should be able to identify and avoid any risks.
Burfield, Tony, “Opinion Document to NAHA: A Brief Safety Guidance on Essential Oils” August October, 2004 Updated from a document written for IFA, September 2004 https://naha.org/explore-aromatherapy/safety/