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Is It Safe To Use Essential Oils During Pregnancy?

Editor's Note: This article has been recently updated with latest information and research studies.

Essential oils can be some of the best remedies for many ailments during pregnancy. However, learning all the do’s and don’ts of how to handle health and fitness related issues during pregnancy can be daunting. Essential oils are no exception!

Here’s a few tips to get things started for you. Don’t forget to check out the list at the end of all the safe and unsafe oils!

1.DON’T Take Essential Oils Internally While Pregnant.

There is a lot of controversy in the essential oil world on if this is safe even when you’re not pregnant. However, one of the biggest things to remember about essential oils is they are the strongest most concentrated form of a plant that you can get.

It takes anywhere from hundreds to thousands of pounds, depending on the plant, to make one ounce of essential oil. That means that the healing* properties of those plants are magnified by that much in an essential oil.

Just because essential oils are from plants doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be treated like medicine, because that’s exactly what they are.

2. DO Use Herbs And Teas In Your Cooking And Every Day Life Instead

Even in culinary amounts, herbs have the same healing* properties, just in more mild and gentle ways. Even herbs that are on the “unsafe list” are ok in the occasional culinary amounts, unless your doctor has told you otherwise.

what is considered a culinary amount?

Any amount that you would find in your favorite recipes, such as a dash of nutmeg in the cream sauces and baked treats*, or a sprinkle of rosemary on your favorite meat dish.

3. DON’T Apply Oils Directly To The Skin

Pregnancy hormones change all sorts of things in the body, including how sensitive your skin can be. Not all women experience this problem, but better* safe than sorry.
Oils that are normally considered mild and gentle can be an irritant while pregnant.

4. DO Dilute Your Essential Oils In Lotions And Carrier Oils

Any carrier oil or unscented lotion will work for this. Cocoa and shea butter lotions and coconut oil, have long been a favorite in pregnant women for soothing itchiness and preventing stretch marks and are great for scenting with your favorite pregnancy safe essential oils.

How much should you dilute?

Do not exceed a 1% dilution while pregnant. This is the equivalent of about 6 drops of essential oil to 1 ounce of carrier oil or lotion.

5. DON’T Buy The Cheap Essential Oils

As with most things, you often get what you pay for. There is very little government regulation when it comes quality control* in natural products. Labeling can be confusing so be sure that you are indeed buying essential oil and not a fragrance oil.

Remember that bit about skin sensitivity? Having poor quality oil can cause big issues here too.

6. DO Buy Oils From A Reputable Brand

Some oils really are only $5 (like Lemon) and some over $100 (like Frankincense or Rose). That’s due to the amount of plant that is used to produce* an ounce of oil. The quality of the oil is key.

Here’s a few things to look for when choosing a brand to buy:

  • Organic essential oils because it takes so many pounds to create the oils you’re also getting that concentration of chemicals that were used on the plants as well.
  • Look for oils that are “Steam Distilled” or “Cold Pressed”
  • The bottle should say “100% essential oil”
  • Most quality brands will also have the plant’s Latin name on the bottle as well.

7. DON’T Use Essential Oils All Day Long

Again. Just because they are natural and on the “safe list” doesn’t mean that you can go wild with them. Even in non pregnant lifestyles, less* is more with essential oils.

8. DO Use Them As Needed

Use the oils on the “safe list” as you experience those symptoms you need help with.

  • Need some relaxation? – Diffuse a little lavender
  • Dragging? – Put some citrus oils in a carrier oil and smear it on (but don’t go out in the sun with those on!) Or add to your diffuser
  • Allergies? – Tea tree can help with that.
  • Nauseated? – Make a personal inhaler with ginger
  • Insomnia? – Make a linen spray with lavender, chamomile, and orange, mixed in witch hazel.

The SAFE List

  • Bergamot (Citrus bergamia)
  • Black Pepper (Piper nigrum)
  • Chamomile, German/Roman (Chamaemelum nobile, Matricaria recutita)
  • Copaiba (Copaifera langsdorfii, Copaifera officinalis)
  • Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
  • Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)
  • Fir Needle (Abies alba, Abies sachalinensis, Abies sibirica)
  • Frankincense (Boswellia carteri, Boswellia frereana, Boswellia neglecta, Boswellia rivae, Boswellia sacra, Boswellia serrata) – Be sure to check the latin name. one variety (Boswellia Papyrifer) is unsafe for pregnancy
  • Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens)
  • Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
  • Grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi)
  • Juniper berry (Juniperus communis)
  • Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
  • Lavender, Spike (Lavandula latifolia)
  • Lemon (Citrus x limon)
  • Lime (Citrus x aurantifolia)
  • Marjoram, Sweet (Marjorana hortensis)
  • Mandarin (Citrus reticulata)
  • Neroli (Citrus x aurantium)
  • Orange, Sweet (Citrus sinensis)
  • Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin)
  • Petitgrain (Citrus aurantium)
  • Pine, Scots  (Pinus sylvestris)
  • Rose, Otto (Rosa damascena) – only use during the third trimester
  • Rosewood (Aniba rosaeodora)
  • Sandalwood (Santalum spicatum)
  • Spearmint (Mentha spicata)
  • Spruce, Norway (Picea abies)
  • Tangerine (Citrus reticulata)
  • Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)
  • Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
  • Vanilla (Vanilla planifolia)
  • Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata)

*avoid sun exposure when wearing citrus oils such as: bergamot, lemon, lime, and grapefruit

The UNSAFE List

  • Aniseed (Pimpinella anisum)
  • Anise, Star (Illicium verum)
  • Araucaria (Neocallitropsis pancheri)
  • Artemisia (Artemisia vestita)
  • Atractylis (Atractylylodes lancea)
  • Lemon Basil (Ocimum x citriodorum)
  • Birch (Betula lenta)
  • Black Seed (Nigella sativa)
  • Buchu (Agathosma betulina, Agathosma crenulata)
  • Calamint (Calamintha nepeta)
  • Camphor (Cinnamomum camphora)
  • Carrot Seed (Daucus carota)
  • Cassia (Cinnamomum cassia)
  • Chaste Tree (Vitex ugnus castus)
  • Cinnamon Bark (Cinnamomum verum)
  • Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea)
  • Cypress, blue (Callitris intratopica)
  • Dill Seed (Anethum graveolens)
  • Dill Seed, Indian  (Anethus sowa)
  • Eucalyptus, ALL (Eucalyptus camaldulensis, Eucalyptus globulus, Eucalyptus maidenii, Eucalyptus plenissima, Eucalyptus kochii, Eucalyptus polybractea, Eucalyptus radiata, Eucalyptus autraliana, Eucalyptus phellandra, Eucalyptus smithi)
  • Fennel, bitter and sweet (Foeniculum vulgare)
  • Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)
  • Frankincense (Boswellia papyrifer)
  • Genipi (Artemisia genepi)
  • Hibawood (Thujopsis dolobratta)
  • Ho Leaf (Cinnamomum camphora)
  • Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)
  • Lanyuna (Artemisia afra)
  • Lavender, French/Spanish  (Lavandula stoechas)
  • Lemon Balm, Australian  (Eucalyptus staigeriana)
  • Lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus)
  • May Chang (Litsea cubeba)
  • Mugwort (Artemisia arborescens, Artemisia vulgaris)
  • Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha)
  • Myrtle Backhousia anisata)
  • Myrtle, Honey (Melaleuca teretifolia)
  • Myrtle, Lemon (Backhousia citriodora)
  • Nutmeg (Mysristica fragrans)
  • Oregano (Origanum onites, Origanum smyrnaeum, Origanum vulgare, etc.)
  • Parsley, Leaf/Seed (Petroslinum sativum)
  • Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)
  • Peppermint (Mentha Piperita)
  • Plectranthus (Plectranthus fruticosus)
  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
  • Rue (Ruta graveolens)
  • Sage, Dalmatian (Salvia officinalis)
  • Sage, Spanish (Salvia lavandulaefolia)
  • Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)
  • Tea Tree, Lemon (Leptospermum petersonii)
  • Thuja (Thuja occidentalis)
  • Thyme, Lemon (Thymus x citriodorus)
  • Verbena, Lemon (Aloysia triphylla) 
  • Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata)
  • Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)
  • Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium)
  • Yarrow (Achillea millefolium, Achillea nobilis)
  • Zeodary (Curcuma sedoaria)

Conclusion

Essential oils can be a wonderful way to cope with all those lovely pregnancy symptoms. Just make sure to double check with you doctor if you have any medical concerns along the way.

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