aromatherapy for infants, toddlers & kids

Many parents are excited to employ aromatherapy with their kids hoping it will serve as a natural way to encourage wellness, address issues, and promote health. However, safe use is critical when entertaining solutions for children as aromatherapy in general, and essential oils in particular, are not without their risks for infants, toddlers, and kids.

I’m quite cautious–and quite conservative–in broadly recommending oils or blends that can be leveraged generally with children under the age of 12; I’m especially wary of blends, products, or individual oils that some parent’s hope to bring into daily use. 

These are the guidelines I use in advising my workshop participants and clients with respect to aromatherapy, essential oils, and kids:

First, parents should appreciate which essential oils are specifically contraindicated for children. No matter the child’s age or constitution, the list of essential oils contraindicated for kids should always be heeded–and every essential oil should be checked for unique contraindications that could be relevant to one’s child(ren).

The list of essential oils that may be contraindicated for children is both too long and too complicated to reasonably address here; as always, you should research the specific oil you are entertaining and look for every caution relevant to your intended end-user.

Frankly, not all experts agree about the use of essential oils with children. Perspectives run the gamut with respect to how early they can be used, which oils can be considered, in what dilutions, how often, and in what ways….

green rubber duckyThat can make it even harder to determine what direction to take in leveraging aromatherapy for your family.

Since I don’t have children, I haven’t been challenged with finding a firm, hard line for myself personally with respect to essential oils and kids.

My real experience comes in helping my clients identify ways in which they can specifically leverage aromatherapy to safely address their families’ unique concerns.

I do, nevertheless, have some broad guidelines I share with those workshop participants who are interested in using aromatherapy with their kids. Those guidelines are, of necessity, most conservative as I am loathe to have someone come away feeling empowered to get fast and loose with using essential oils with their children, particularly the youngest among them.

To keep things simple and safe for parents in my shorter workshops, I generally recommend avoid using essential oils with children under the age of two years old.

It’s conservative, but it prevents practitioners and parents in short, two-hour classes from getting ahead of themselves.

Broadly, I don’t recommend application on the skin, even in low dilutions. I also caution against giving kids under two consistent, daily exposure to essential oils.

Instead, I generally recommend gentle hydrolats, essential waters, and/or mild carrier oils to directly support a wee one’s wellness.

Hydrolats are far less concentrated (and therefore considered much gentler and safer) than essential oils but the offer many of the same therapeutic and energetic properties as their essential oil counterparts. Roman Chamomile and Lavender hydrolats are particularly wonderful for parents to have on hand. Gentle powders and balms can also be created using pure, natural ingredients–but without essential oils–to support a wee one in his/her earliest years.

I also discourage regular, prolonged diffusing with infants two and under; diffusing can quickly overwhelm an environment and air supply, particularly in a closed space or over a longer period of time. I suggest no more than 20 minutes of diffusing in a well-ventilated space (preferably other than the infant’s bedroom).

At most, I may suggest a drop or two of the gentlest essential oils, say Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) or Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), in an ounce of carrier can be used to address a specific, short-term issue, conduct occasional baby massages, . The infant’s face and eyes should always be avoided, however.

There are some ways in which I would feel safe leveraging essential oils with infants, but those uses require a context and dialogue beyond what I can reasonably address in broad strokes; my general guidelines are, of necessity, therefore more limiting.

Between the ages of two and six, I still discourage daily use of essential oils and daily skin application, but diffusion can come into scope more frequently.

I continue to encourage hydrolats, essential waters, and carriers for the majority of daily uses, though a very low dilution of kid-safe essential oils could be considered safe in items such as bubble baths, hand soaps, etc..

Between six and twelve years of age, a low (1%) dilution (equal to 5 or 6 drops total per ounce of carrier) can generally be considered safe on a more regular basis.

At this point, many more essential oils can be generally regarded as safe, but they should still be checked for unique contraindication relevant for your child(ren).

To be sure, there are many ways essential oils can be used safely with kids–I’d not say never. But I don’t want or need to provide sweeping endorsement for uses that may push the envelope of safety, especially not when gentler, safer remedies are available with equal efficacy.

There are a variety of recipes and blends that can be used safely and kept on hand to address the needs of wee ones. I recommend Nerys Purchon and Lora Cantele’s excellent book, The Complete Aromatherapy & Essential Oil Handbook for Everyday Wellness to discover individual recipes considered safe for kids.

I can also highly recommend Andrea Butje’s Heart of Aromatherapy for recipes, oil profiles, and insights, including a heap of empowerment for blending for kids.

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