Using essential oils is a fun and empowering way to naturally and holistically heal, soothe, and energize yourself and your family. Essential oils are so helpful for remedying a multitude of ailments and, thankfully, it doesn’t just apply to adults. Children can really benefit from the power of essential oils, too! There are a few things to keep in mind in order to use essential oils safely with kids. Because of the potency of essential oils and the delicacy of a child’s system, it is important that parents and caregivers educate themselves on essential oils and kids and how to use them.
The use of essential oils and plant-based therapies is not a new phenomenon. Our ancestors have used the healing power of plants since even before our earliest recorded histories. The range of benefits of essential oils is truly wondrous, covering the entire spectrum of body, mind, and spirit. This blog will focus on essential oils and kids, but if you’d like to know more about essential oils in general and their uses and benefits—or perhaps want a quick refresher— check out our “Essential Oils 101: A Beginner’s Guide” blog, packed with fantastic information!
How Essential Oils Affect Children Differently than Adults
To understand why essential oils affect children differently than adults, it is important to understand how potent essential oils are and that there is a major difference in how kids’ bodies handle chemicals— even natural ones— differently than adults.
Essential oils are incredibly potent. Here are a few examples to help put it into perspective:
- A single drop of rose essential oil is equivalent to 30-50 roses.
- It takes about 75 lemons to make one 15ml bottle of lemon essential oil.
- Over 250 pounds of peppermint leaves are needed to craft 1 pound of peppermint essential oil.
- One drop of essential oil is equivalent to approximately 40 cups of herbal tea.
Essential oils are far more potent than the individual plants they are derived from. Because of this, the effect that a single drop can have on our system is exponentially greater than the plant will have by itself. This is crucial to take into consideration when dealing with people with sensitive systems, including children.
Children under 10 are generally more susceptible to chemical substances not just because they are smaller, but because their metabolisms are less effective than adults. Children’s bodies are not able to metabolize chemicals as quickly and efficiently as adults. Children are also more susceptible to respiratory issues than adults, and their skin is very delicate. All of these factors affect how their bodies react differently to essential oils. Fortunately, there ARE ways to use essential oils safely with children! As long as you know the ins-and-outs of using essential oils with kids, you can rest assured that your children can safely experience the healing power of essential oils.
Essential Oils and Kids: Safety
Before we get into essential oils and kids, let’s go over a few of the biggest safety considerations. Since a child’s system is so delicate and not fully developed, there are a number of things that should be noted right away.
- We recommend a 1% dilution. (We’ll go over dilutions in the next section.)
- Watch for any reactions when using essential oils with your child. If there is irritation at the site, wash the area for 10-15 minutes with soap and water. Use a barrier cream or coconut oil after the water bath. If reactions are severe be sure and get immediate medical help.
- Children under 5: For young children and babies, we love diffusing kid-friendly essential oils at very low dilutions. If looking for a topical application, consider using hydrosols instead of essential oils. (Keep reading to find out more about hydrosols later in this blog!)
- Children under 10: Some oils contain chemical components that can cause breathing complications, such as chemotype 1,8-cineole. Essential oils that are high in 1,8-cineole include eucalyptus, saro, ravintsara, and the 1,8-cineole chemotypes of rosemary and niaouli.
- Avoid “hot” oils, such as cinnamon, tulsi, and clove. We also recommend avoiding wintergreen, birch, hyssop, cornmint, and cajeput. In young children (under 5), avoid peppermint near their face, as menthol can potentially cause breathing issues.
- We do not recommend ingesting essential oils, especially for children. If oils are accidentally swallowed do not induce vomiting and call your poison control center. Keep bottles of essential oil out of reach of children.
- Phototoxicity: Whether at recess or sports games and practices, children often spend a lot of time out in the sun. Some essential oils can cause sensitivity to sunlight, which can cause irritation and even serious burns. If you know your child may be out in the sun, don’t apply phototoxic oils, such as bergamot, on the skin unless below the dilution where phototoxicity is a risk.
Essential Oil Dilution Tips for Kids
When using essential oils with children we recommend using a 1% dilution, or less. Even at this dilution, you can still get the same therapeutic benefits from the essential oils while ensuring they have a more gentle effect on the system.
Here are some examples of a 1% dilution:
- Topical = 5-6 total drops of essential oil per 1 ounce of carrier oil, lotion, or cream.
- Diffuser = 5-8 total drops of essential oil in a diffuser filled with water to the indicated fill line.
- Inhaler = 5-12 total drops of essential oil added to the cotton wick of a personal inhaler
In the world of essential oils, a little goes a long way. The rule of thumb
How to Use Essential Oils with Kids
Here are a few of our favorite ways to use essential oils with kids:
- In a Diffuser – Diffusing oils is often the safest choice, especially for younger children. If your child reacts negatively to the aroma of what you are diffusing, stop using that oil and try something else.
- In an Inhaler – Small personal inhalers are perfect for on-the-go use. Not only that, it is empowering for kids to be able to hold in their hand something that can help soothe and make them feel better!
- Topically (ages 5+) – Dilute essential oils using lotion, cream, or a carrier oil. Popular carriers include coconut oil, jojoba, shea butter, cocoa butter, avocado oil, almond oil, olive oil, etc. You can even use aloe vera gel or hydrosol to make sprays, castile soap for foaming hand or bath soaps, and the list goes on and on. Have fun with your kids getting creative!
Here are a few examples of how essential oils (and hydrosols!) can help children:
- Alleviates upset stomach
- Boosts the immune system
- Calms emotions
- Cleanses & reduces microbial activity
- Eases body aches & pains during a cold or flu
- Encourages focus
- Freshens & deodorizes rooms, gym bags, sneakers, daypacks, etc.
- Promotes sleep
- Reduces anxiety
- Relieves acne
- Repels Insects
- Supports the respiratory system during cold, flu, or allergies
- Soothes insect bites and stings
Soothes, cleans,and heals owies
Kid-Friendly Essential Oils
Now that you know how to use essential oils with children safely, here are some of our favorite oils to use when blending for our little ones:
- Bergamot Oil Citrus bergamia
- Black Spruce Oil Picea mariana
- Cedarwood Atlas Oil Cedrus atlantica
- Chamomile German Oil (Nepal) Matricaria recutita
- Chamomile Roman Oil Chamaemelum nobile
- Cypress Oil Cupressus sempervirens
- Douglas Fir Oil Pseudotsuga menziesii
- Fragonia Oil Agonis fragrans
- Frankincense Oil Boswellia carterii
- Helichrysum italicum Oil (Croatia) Helichrysum italicum
- Juniper Berry Oil Juniperus communis
- Lavender Oil Lavandula angustifolia
- Lemon Oil Citrus limon
- Lime Oil Citrus aurantifolia
- Mandarin (Red) Oil Citrus reticulata
- Orange Sweet Oil Citrus sinensis
- Rosalina Oil Melaleuca ericifolia
- Sandalwood Oil Santalum album
- Scotch Pine Oil Pinus sylvestris
- Tea Tree Oil Melaleuca alternifolia
- Ylang Ylang (Complete) Oil Cananga odorata var Genuina
- White Pine Oil Pinus strobus
Hydrosols – A Safe Alternative
Hydrosols are the aromatic water that condenses along with the essential oil when steam distilling plant material. This energetically vibrant water is gentle and effective. Most hydrosols can be applied directly to the skin without diluting. If you want to learn more, our blog, “What is a Hydrosol?” is an excellent place to start.
Hydrosols are becoming increasingly popular as gentler alternatives to essential oils for those with sensitive systems, including children. Our lavender hydrosol, calendula hydrosol, and German chamomile hydrosol make lovely choices for spraying directly on the bumps, bruises, and scrapes that kids have a habit of acquiring!
If you have specific questions, feel free to reach out to our incredible team at Aromatics International. We have certified aromatherapists on staff that can answer questions or concerns you may have.
Essential Oils and Kids: Recipes!
Check out our blog “Essential Oils for Back to School” for some kid-friendly essential oil recipes blended specifically to help encourage focus, reduce germs, promote a good night’s sleep, ease anxiety, boost the immune system, and more!