February 03, 2015

MCS & Essential Oils

A question that I am frequently asked is whether or not people with Environmental Sensitivities (ES) can tolerate essential oils. I am certainly not an expert on essential oils, but this is my take on it based on my knowledge of my own experience and the limited research I have done on the experiences of others living with ES. People with ES vary greatly. Some folks have mild sensitivities while others have more a disabling form of ES that is manifested as Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). Even those with more disabling forms of MCS can vary too so it is always best to ask the person about their specific challenges.

The quality and grade of essential oils varies tremendously and a lot of the essential oils on the market are not pure. Plants are grown as monocrops which are often sprayed with pesticides unless they are certified organic. Oils are extracted using solvents and are suspended in petroleum based oils. Real essential oil is actually very expensive and hard(er) to source.

As people have started to learn about the health concerns of “fragrance”, they are turning to essential oils as a safer alternative. Unfortunately, as the demand for essential oils goes UP, the quality of the oils goes DOWN and the market is not well regulated from what I can tell. Also, essential oils have similar molecular structures as synthetic oils and unfortunately, for those who have experienced chemical injury – the brain can’t always tell the difference!

Personally, *I* can tolerate trace amounts of some very high quality, certified organic, therapeutic grade essential oils on people around me for very short periods of time, but not on myself. Other people cannot tolerate it at all, while others are sensitive (or even allergic) to certain resins or natural occurring terpenes in some oils.

For some people, essential oils are medicines that are used for therapeutic purposes. Medicines should not be administered to anyone other than the person requiring the intervention. Like other medicines, essential oil can be carried in a small medicine bottle and opened to inhale when necessary.

The most important thing to note is that essential oils do NOT contribute to a scent-free space. If you use them in your home or on your skin and body, the scent will be in your clothing, bags, books, shoes, coats and hair making you scented when you come into spaces that are meant to be scent/fragrance free.


When in doubt, leave it out!

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