Report: Gullible parents are poisoning their children with ‘essential oils’

Along with the rise in people using “essential oils” as an alternative remedy for what ails them, incidences of children being exposed to toxins in these oils has risen as well.

A Tennessee poison center reports that between 2011 and 2015, 4 out of 5 harmful exposures to these oils involved children.

“The rule of thumb in toxicology is ‘the dose makes the poison,’ so all essential oils are potentially harmful,” said Dr. Justin Loden, a certified specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Tennessee Poison Center.

“In children, poisoning typically occurs when they try to swallow the oil, but choke so that a little of it goes into the lungs, which causes pneumonia; it only takes less than half a teaspoonful to do that. This hazard applies to every essential oil,” Loden added.

But most disturbingly, children have been poisoned by these oils due to the ignorance of their parents, such as excessive or inappropriate application to their skin or having the oils disseminated throughout the air by use of a vaporizer.

Yes, people put this crap in a vaporizer which transfers it right into their children’s lungs.

From the blog Scary Mommy:

Another thing to note is that anyone can sell these oils. When you buy your essential oils from a friend on Facebook, it’s probably safe to assume that friend is not a registered homeopathic nurse. Blogs filled with anecdotes about how the oils have positively [affected] the health of children do not take the place of actual research, which the FDA has not performed on many of these oils because they are considered “fragrances” or “cosmetics.”


If something is being pushed as “medicinal” it should be packaged like medicine: with childproof tops. There should also be warnings in place so parents understand how harmful they can be. You cannot simply tout these oils as “natural” and not harmful simply because they are derived from plants.

The claim of essential oils being “natural” and “organic” is what draws gullible New Agers and alternative medicine buffs like moths to the flame. But as Eric Hall pointed out in a 2014 piece for Skeptoid, “natural” is a manipulative term.

These are fake (alternative/homeopathic/natural/naturopathic/etc) medicine buzz words. Just because it is natural doesn’t make it safe all the time and in every case. And natural is another weird word. Usually in fake medicine circles as “coming from a plant,” it has no real meaning since the chemicals in the oils are still processed to make them “100% certified therapeutic grade.” So is that natural?

Bottom line: If you’re someone who thinks rubbing essential oils on your skin or even ingesting them is good for your health, that’s fine. Just keep the stuff out of your children’s reach.

Featured image via Flickr

Sky Palma

Before launching DeadState back in 2012, Sky Palma has been blogging about politics, social issues and religion for over a decade. He lives in Los Angeles and also enjoys Brazilian jiu jitsu, chess, music and art.

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