Ultimate Guide to Using Aromatherapy for Children

essential oil bottles

We want the best for our children.

We want an active role in their health.

We also want safe, affordable, and effective ways to care for our young ones.

And this is where Aromatherapy comes in. Through aromatherapy you can actively support your child's health and well being, which can be safely and effectively used with safety guidelines, knowledge, and intuition in place. 

Navigating the sea of information on the internet about essential oils can give any mother a headache. My advice is trust in the experts. Make sure your information is coming from trusted and reliable sources such as NAHA and AIA Certified Aromatherapists and educational leaders in the Aromatherapy field. If you ever have doubts, ask a Certified Aromatherapist or health professional first.

Contraindications: Safety First

 mother and child

My number one safety rule with children in the house is to keep essential oils locked away. Always have orifice reducers on all essential oils bottles to reduce the risk of ingesting large amounts.

"Most accidents with essential oils involve young children, and
are preventable. In the quantities in which they are most commonly
sold (5–15 mL), essential oils can be highly toxic or lethal
if drunk by a young child, and there have been a number of
recorded fatal cases over the past 70 years."

Essential Oil Safety by Robert Tisserand (Page 12).

Essential oils with a high content of menthol or 1,8-cineole
should not be applied to the faces of infants or children.

Essential Oil Safety by Robert Tisserand (Page 117)

This includes common essential oils such as Eucalyptus, Peppermint, Cardamon, Niaoili, Rosemary ct. Cineole, and Sage. Caution is especially advised with Eucalyptus oil (See below).

Eucalyptus and turpentine oils have caused seizures in a
minority of children after substantial exposure from
inhalation or oral ingestion. These may be idiosyncratic
reactions with no dose–response relationship.

Essential Oil Safety by Robert Tisserand (Page 153)

Essential Oils Never to be used on Children:

Anise, Pimpinella anisum and Illicium verum

Birch (Sweet), Betula lenta

Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare

Myrtle, Backhousia anisata

Wintergreen, Gaultheria fragrantissima

*Please note this is not an extensive list, but covers the most common oils.

Dilution

Below is a table taken from Essential Oil Safety by Robert Tisserand (page 47), which outlines guidelines for dilution rates for topical application.

 Age-related recommended and maximum concentrations
of essential oils for massage

 Essential oil concentration
Age Recommended (%) Maximum (%)
Premature 0 0
Up to 3 Months 0.1% 0.2%
3-24 Months 0.25% 0.5%
2-6 Years 1.0% 2.0%
6-15 Years 1.5% 3.0%
15+ Years 2.5% 5.0%

These concentrations are not research-based, and should be taken as helpful
suggestions rather than absolute rules. The particular oils used and the health status of the individual are also important factors.

For babies and toddlers, I suggest using hydrolats only, which will be discussed below. Suzanne Catty writes in her book, Hydrosols: The Next Aromatherapy " Hydrosols are a much better option for babies and toddlers than essential oils, in virtually all instances. They are safer, easier to use, nonirritating and gentle, and able to speak to the vibrational state that children are easily able to perceive" (Page 179). In this instance, the term hydrosols and hydrolats are used interchangeably. 

toddler

3 Essential Steps to Using Aromatherapy for Children:

1. Always Patch Test

It is important will all products containing essential oils to perform a patch test to insure skin reactions do not occur. This is especially important with children. Apply a small amount of the blend onto the inside arm, wait at least fifteen minutes to see if any reactions occur.

2. Consider All Factors

When working with children, it is always important to understand their individuality and not use just their age as a determining factor for essential oil dilutions. Take in all factors, such as: weight, age, maturity, and overall health. 

Then consider the essential oils you want to use. Some oils are unsafe for children. It is important to know which oils you can use and how to use them for the safety of your child. We will go over safe essential oils for kids in a section below, but keep in mind that each essential oil has its own safety profile you must consider when blending for aromatherapy. 

3. Start Small

Always start with the smallest percentage of essential oils. Children's bodies are compact and require only the smallest nudge in the right direction to re-balance to equilibrium.  I would suggest using Hydrolats* first, and then graduating to diluting essential oils as the child grows.

*Hydrolats: "In France, the words hydrolat is used to describe the condensed steam which has passed through the plant material...a hydrolat is a product of distillation" from Understanding Hydrolats: The Specific Hydrosols for Aromatherapy by Len and Shirley Price (page 33).

It is important to source hydrolats from reputable sources, as many products from suppliers are not true hydrolats. Many are actually considered 'prepared waters' which are wrongfully named hydrosols by the supplier. These products are not the same. For therapeutic uses, hydrolats should not contain alcohols or preservatives.

 Safe Ingredients for Children:

 Hydrolats Safety Use Suggestions
Lavender Can use topically, in a bath, or as a spray. Dilute if using on a baby or toddler.

Relaxing

Insomnia/ Sleeping Patterns

 

German & Roman Chamomile Can use topically, in a bath, or as a spray. Dilute if using on a baby or toddler.

Compress/Spray for Diaper Rash

Relaxing

Insomnia/Sleeping Patterns

Teething, diluted & orally administered with cotton swab

Rose Geranium For children under 2, use Lavender or Chamomile instead. Topical, bath, spray.

Compress for diaper rash, eczema, cradle cap

Spray for scraps and cuts

Calming Bath

Essential Oils Safety Usage Suggestions
  • Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia
  • Roman Chamomile, Chamaemelum nobile
  • Sweet Orange, Citrus sinensis
  • Sandalwood, Santalum album
  • Cedarwood, Juniperus virginiana
  • Frankincense, Boswellia carteri
  • Tea Tree, Melaleuca alternifolia
  • Patchouli, Pogostemon cablin
  • Geranium, Pelargonium graveolens
  • Helichrysum, Helichrysum italicum
  • Vetiver, Vetiveria zizanoides
  • Clary Sage, Salvia sclarea
  • Sweet Marjoram,

    Origanum majorana

Always Dilute. See guidelines above. Never use for ingestion.

Topical and through inhalation. Each child in different, and blends are personal to each child. Seek the advice of a Certified Aromatherapist for guidance.

Carrier Oils Safety Usage Suggestions

Borage, Safflower, Coconut, Evening Primrose, Jojoba, Grape Seed

"It is recommended that for babies and children with any form of dermatitis or inflamed skin condition, nut and seed carrier oils are avoided" Aromadermatology by Janetta Bensouliah and Philippa Buck (Page 155)

Safe alternatives for babies are listed to the left.

To dilute essential oils for topical use for massage and other uses.
Calendula Infused Oil No known contraindications. May cause an allergic reaction to those who are sensitive to the Asteraceae/Compositae family. Inflammation, poorly healing skin

 

The list above is not exhaustive and should be used as a starting point in aromatherapy for children. Always speak to a healthcare professional if you are unsure.


Further Reading:

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Aromatherapy for the Healthy Child

by Valerie Worwood

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