Aromatherapy and children–Is it safe for my kid? What oils should I use? What works? And what doesn’t? These are questions that have been circling the Aromatherapy community for some time. Even experts debate what is suitable for children, and what dosage should be used. When using essential oils with children it is always important to do research; nothing beats well cited articles with credible sources. Aromatherapy is used to help the body to heal itself. There are many ways Aromatherapy can enhance the body and improve how it functions. Aromatherapy is safe for children when used in a safe and knowledgeable way. There are many ways essential oils can be used for kids, one just needs to follow the ground rules.
Carrier oils are key when using essential oils for children. Diluting the oil will ensure that the children don’t get overexposed to certain oils. There are many different oils that can be used as carriers; for example sweet almond and grapeseed oil.
Sweet Almond oil
If your child doesn’t have a nut allergy sweet almond oil is great oil for lotions, creams and massage. The oil works well for dry, normal and combination skin. Almond oil can help reduce itching, cracking, and inflammation.
This carrier is derived from grape seeds from spent grapes used in wine making. Grapeseed is a great basic carrier oil that can be used for all skin types. The oil is light, has no smell, and penetrates the skin quickly. The carrier is great for children because it doesn’t cause allergic reactions.
Essential oils and baths for your children
The benefits of Aromatherapy are wonderful and these benefits can be experienced by children. Essential oils have stimulating and healing properties that can greatly influence the lives of children of all ages. It is important to note that when using essential oils with toddlers and infants the oil needs to be diluted. As they are still growing, children’s systems haven’t fully developed, diluted oils will still give them therapeutic benefits without over stimulating their senses. It is important to note that these essential oils will be diluted before using them therapeutically. Always combine the essential oil with the milk prior to adding to the bath water. The milk helps to disperse the essential oils as the oils and water do not mix. Skipping this important step allows the essential oil to sit on top of the water where they will be quickly absorbed (undiluted) by the skin. Essential oils like to be in a lipid substance most like itself, as in your skin’s sebum (natural oil). Mixing the essential oils in milk allows for proper dilution and dispersion in water making it a safer application for babies and children. Milk can also be substituted with a teaspoon of honey or castile soup (olive based).
3 days to 3 months
Essential oils that would be beneficial for infants are Roman chamomile, lavender, and mandarin. Remember that the oils need to be diluted and should not applied neat. These oils can be used for a baby’s bath by mixing 1 drop of Roman chamomile, lavender, or mandarin into 1 teaspoon of milk or cream before adding it to the bath water. One drop of any of these three oils when mixed with milk (as an emulsifier/dispersing agent) then diluted in a tub of water is a very safe way to use the essential oils with a baby.
3 months to 5 years
As your child grows, so does the list of essential oils that can be used. In addition to the oils mentioned above, your toddler can also use bergamot, cedarwood, frankincense, geranium, ginger, lemon, rose, rosemary ct. verbenone (for children over the age of 2), sandalwood, tea tree, thyme ct. linalool and ylang ylang (for children over the age of 2). A bath blend for toddlers 3 months to 3 years is the same as it is for infants but there is a wider selection of essential oils that can be used. For children 3 to 7 years, the amount of essential oil can be increased 2 drops of essential oil from the approved list combined with milk and added to the bath water.
Using citrus oils in the bath diluted as indicated falls far below the 1 drop in 15 ml guideline to avoid phototoxicity, however if you are still concerned you can use distilled lemon instead of the expressed oil and bergamot FCF (furanocoumarin-free) as the phototoxic elements have been removed.
5 years to puberty
At this age all oils that are safe for adults can be used, but in smaller amounts. A bath blend for this age range (5 to 10 years) is 3-4 drops of an approved essential oil combined with 1 tsp of milk. For 10 years and up the amount of essential oils can be increased to 5-6 drops with 1 tsp of milk.
The KEY to using essential oils in the bath is in adding the essential oils to milk or castile soap first, then adding it to the bath water. This is an important step in properly diluting the essential oils and dispersing them. Simply dropping the essential oils in water does not dilute them as they do not mix. The oils will simply float on top until it comes in contact with the skin where it is absorbed (undiluted).
Safe formulations for children
Coughs and colds (3 months and older)
Essential Oils: Lavender, lemon or bergamot, and tea tree
Massage Treatment: In a non-reactive bowl combine 1 drop of each of the essential oils (lavender, lemon or bergamot, and tea tree) with 4 tsp of sweet almond oil. Use for a chest and back massage.
Overexcitement (3 months and older)
Essential Oils: Cedarwood, frankincense, sweet orange, rose, sandalwood, and ylang ylang*.
Bath Treatment: Combine 1 tsp of milk with age-appropriate number drops alone or in combination of essential oils (cedarwood, frankincense, sweet orange, rose, sandalwood, and ylang ylang*) then add to warm bath water.
When creating blends for children it is important to remember what oils are suitable as well as how much of each essential oil can be used for each age range.
Overall essential oils are safe for children to use when handled correctly. Always in moderation; a few days on and a couple of days off. Using essential oils with children can enhance their quality of life by positively affecting their behaviors, mood, and sleep quality.
*Ylang ylang not to be used with children under the age of two years old.
by Bryant Hernandez