Essential oils can be useful for many aspects of student life (concentration, sleep and immunity) but, as with all natural remedies, they should be used carefully. Distribution of natural remedies is not heavily regulated and products are often sold without associated safety or quality information. Quality is also critical, as many essential oils on the market can be contaminated, adulterated, or fabricated and still sold as the real thing. Low quality or unnatural oils rarely have therapeutic value and contaminants can be potential toxins or allergens. A general understanding of these issues is important to the discipline of aromatherapy as it can help dispel misinformation about the use and effectiveness of essential oils.
Consulting a registered and certified aromatherapist is the best way to determine the safety and quality of an essential oil. If this is not possible, research should be conducted using a reliable source. The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy has a page dedicated to safety and lists oils that come with specific cautions. Even more research is necessary if you are pregnant, have any pre-existing medical conditions or are taking any prescription medications or homeopathic treatments. In Canada, aromatherapists recommend against ingesting essential oils as certain oils can cause adverse medical conditions (even death) if ingested in high enough quantities. Finally, as with any other medication, dosages and use of essential oils is different for children and adults.
The first step to ensure the quality of an essential oil is to purchase it from a reputable source. Every oil you purchase should list a common and scientific name, its country of origin, its distillation method, and the part of the plant used. If possible, communicate with the distributer — reliable sellers will be able to find the answer to any questions you have about their products. Another easy way to assess the quality of essential oils is by comparing prices. It is common for 5 mL of rose to cost $150, while the same amount of lavender costs $12. This price reflects the labour and amount of material used to distill rose oil (it can take thousands of pounds of petals to produce just one pound of oil). If a seller is providing expensive oils for low prices or if, for example, their lavender costs the same as their rose then this is a good sign that something is up.
Fortunately, there are options for purchasing high quality oils on the island. Amarna Holistic Centre and Nezza Naturals are great places for sales in Victoria, while Green Valley Aromatherapy (located in Courtenay) is a fantastic resource for online purchases.
Tea tree oil is a popular, inexpensive, multi-purpose oil, which is frequently used as an antibacterial, antiviral, and immuno-stimulant.
- Add a couple of drops to a rag for disinfecting kitchen and other work surfaces.
- It can also be inhaled – put a couple of drops onto a tissue and breathe deeply to clear stuffy nasal passages. But, it is toxic to humans when ingested orally, and should be kept completely away from cats.
Ask your veterinarian before administering any tea tree oil product to your pet, and as always, consult a licensed medical doctor before beginning any complementary medical treatments.