Essential oils for children: good or bad idea?

- Categories : Baby Sleep

Essential oils are known for their many benefits. Their uniquely powerful properties can cure skin problems, colds, bronchitis, and even relieve head or stomach aches. Yet their uses for babies are very limited. Some active substances can be very dangerous for toddlers! Let's review together the dangers and best practices when it comes to essential oils and babies!

What preventative measures should be taken when it comes to essential oils and babies?

The following information comes from Danièle FESTY's book, entitled I do not know how to use essential oils, (children's special).

Before going into detail, some preventative measures that ought to be taken:

Essential oils are forbidden for infants and children under three months – except, of course, with a doctor's authorization. At that age, they are too young to be exposed to these highly active substances! Still, it isn't rare to encounter vanilla-scented incubators in hospitals, due to vanilla's benefits for the breathing cycle.

For young children under 7, consuming essential oils orally is forbidden, regardless of the amount or type of essential oil being used. Prefer skin-based or aerial application (with an air diffuser), or put a few drops in a bath, for example.

Some essential oils are toxic for children. These include terpenes (such as juniper, turpentine, or lemon) and ketones (such as sage, camphor tree, etc.). The European Pharmacopoeia prohibits the use of these essential oils, which are reserved only for specialists (Article D.4211-13, Public Health Code). The exact list of essential oils to keep away can be found a little further down the article.

It is important to think of essential oils as real medication. Although a single bottle may seem harmless, it contains some very active substances. But you mustn't be afraid of them! While some oils (such as terpenes and ketones) are indeed dangerous, the majority of them are safe. Their usage must, therefore, be monitored, and you can't put all essential oils in the same bag!

The benefits of essential oils for your baby

Yet essential oils have great results on hurt spots and little everyday illnesses, particularly when it comes to young children! Their benefits are manifold: they kill bacteria, are antiseptic, disinfect and help to heal, and can stimulate or soothe. To get a bit of a clearer idea of things, we recommend consulting the excellent book by Danièle Festy, a pharmacist specializing in the use of essential oils, entitled: I do not know how to use essential oils, the child edition. To find out a bit more, here is a list of the essential oils that she mentions in her work, along with their benefits for children!

- For respiratory illnesses: tea tree, ravintsara, eucalyptus radiata, saro, Ho wood

- For oral conditions: Roman Chamomile, Laurel

- For brain disorders: Provence cypress, medicinal lavender, mandarin orange

- For eruptive infantile diseases: geranium rosat, ravintsara, lemon eucalyptus

- For skin conditions: tea tree, Roman chamomile, lavender, Ho wood, geranium rosat

- For parasitic conditions: lavandin super, tea tree

- For pains: lemon eucalyptus, Roman chamomile, wintergreen

- For gastrointestinal disorders: ginger, lemon, tarragon, linalool thyme, Roman chamomile

WARNING: It is important to avoid using Ketones (peppermint, verbenone rosemary, cedar, sage, cryptone eucalyptus) and Phenols (clove, thymol thyme, winter savory, compact oregano, and cinnamon (leaves)).

A few examples of baby-friendly essential oils:

Mandarin essential oil

With its delicate fragrance, mandarin essential oil has soothing properties. It is a natural remedy to alleviate anxiety, stress and nervousness. You can also use mandarin essential oil to improve your child’s digestion and relieve stomach ache. Simply mix 10 drops of mandarin essential oil and 5 drops of ravintsara essential oil and diffuse in your child’s room before bedtime.

True lavender essential oil

A home essential, lavender essential oil regulates the nervous system, soothes and relaxes. Place a drop of lavender oil on your child’s pillow before starting the bedtime routine, for peaceful, calmer nights!

Camomile essential oil

Used as a herbal tea by our grandmothers, camomile is well known for its powerful calming effects. In essential oil form, it soothes nervous tension. Dilute a drop in your child’s bath water to help them relax. Another option is to mix a drop of camomile essential oil with jojoba, sesame or calendula oil and use it to give your child a massage.

Petit grain bigarade essential oil

Derived from the fruit of the Seville orange tree, also known as bitter orange, petit grain bigarade essential oil is known for soothing and sedative properties. It calms children with a tendency to get overexcited! Use it in a diffuser or simply add a drop of oil to a tissue or handkerchief for your child to inhale. Beyond the age of 3, certain essential oils can be used to soothe your child. Other useful products include niaouli essential oil, which re-energises and decongests, or tea tree essential oil to stimulate the immune system: great weapons to tackle winter. If you are unsure, ask your pharmacist or doctor for advice.

How to use essential oils :

It is important that the doses be adapted to your child's body's needs. If you decide to use essential oils we recommend that you buy a book on the subject and/or consult an aromatherapy specialist. As far as applying it goes, you can:

- diffuse the essential oil through the room

- spray a bit onto your child's pillow or on a tissue/handkerchief

- opt for skin application either directly on the hurt spot or through a massage (on the stomach for belly-aches, on the throat, thorax, and spine for breathing issues, or on the solar plexus and soles of the feet to help them relax).

- put a few drops in the bath for an instantly soothing effect

- apply it orally – only for children aged over 7 years – with a cotton swab or by putting a few drops on their fingers.

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