Essential oils to avoid in pregnancy

I have been spending a fair amount of time on Pinterest where I see a lot of pins on essential oils and pregnancy. I know that I had seen some concerns that there are  are essential oils to avoid in pregnancy which is what I would like to discuss today. By the way, if you are on Pinterest join our health community  where physicians share interesting topics for discussion.

What do the studies show?

Essential oil use in pregnant women has not been vigorously studied by the FDA. Whether it is safe to use essential oils in pregnancy is an area of controversy. We know that the baby is developing in the first trimester so if there is any concerns about product safety these products should be avoided.

I looked at the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy recommendations. There was concern for essential oils crossing the placenta which is likely the case. That being said , “there are no records of abnormal fetuses or aborted fetuses due to the ‘normal’ use of essential oils, either by inhalation or topical application.” 

I found this on the NAHA site as well, “Ron Guba points out that toxicity during pregnancy is almost exclusively due to pregnant women taking large, toxic doses of essential oils, notably pennyroyal (rich in the ketone, pulegone, which is metabolized to the highly toxic furan epoxide, menthofuron) and parsley seed (rich in the dimethyl ether, apiol) in an attempt to abort the fetus. ”

According to Tisserand and Balacs, the following essential oils should not be used during pregnancy:

  • wormwood
  • rue
  • oak moss
  • Lavandula stoechas
  • camphor
  • parsley seed
  • sage
  • hyssop

According to Young Living

A few oils that should be avoided during pregnancy include:

  • Sage
  • Idaho Tansy or Hyssop
  • Fennel
  • Wintergreen

essential oil to avoid in pregnancyI also found mention that these essential oils should be avoided during pregnancy

  • Blends and supplements that contain these oils
  • Basil- Ocimum basilicum
  • Black Seed – Nigella sativa
  • Carrot Seed – Daucus carota
  • Cinnamon Bark – Cinnamomum zeylanicum
  • Clove Bud – Syzygium aromaticum
  • Fennel (bitter & sweet) – Foeniculum vulgare
  • Hyssop (pinocamphone ct.) – Hyssopus officinalis ct. pinocamphone
  • Myrrh – Commiphora myrrha
  • Oregano – Origanum vulgare
  • Ravintsara (camphor ct.) – Cinnamomum camphora ct.
  • Rosemary – Rosmarinus officinalis ct. 1,8 cineole
  • Sage – Salvia officinalis
  • Thyme – Thymus vulgaris
  • Wintergreen – Gaultheria fragrantissima
  • Lemon – Citrus x limon
  • Lemongrass – Cymbopogon citratus
  • Litsea cubeba (May Chang) – Litsea cubeba
  • Melissa – Melissa officinalis

What are some factors that influence essential oils?

The quality of the oil. Remember essential oils are not FDA regulated, it is up to the manufacturer to determine their safety. According to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy,

“Adulterated essential oils increase the likelihood of an adverse response and hence the need for pure, authentic, and genuine essential oils is of the utmost importance.”

going green md

Skin sensitivities -essential oils to avoid in pregnancy

Essential oils rich in aldehydes such as citronellal and  citral as well as phenols which include cinnamic aldehyde and eugenol may cause skin reactions. This is concerning as pregnancy can bring on heightened senses, this can include skin sensitivity and a heightened sense of smell. You may be more sensitive to smells that can lead to headache as well.

Tisserand and Balacs thought that these oils were safe during pregnancy if properly diluted. Usually properly diluted means under 1%. I tend to use scales because I thin measurements and or drops are not as accurate.

  • benzoin
  • bergamot
  • black pepper
  • chamomile (German & Roman)
  • clary sage, cypress
  • eucalyptus
  • frankincense
  • geranium
  • ginger
  • grapefruit
  • juniper
  • lavender
  • lemon
  • mandarin
  • majoram (sweet)
  • neroli
  • petitgrain
  • rose
  • sandalwood
  • orange (sweet)
  • tea tree
  • ylang ylang

Diffusing essential oils during pregnancy

Using a weighted scale add .5 gram of essential oil to 99.5 grams of distilled water. You can increase the essential oil amount up to 1 gram. Do not go higher than this and you may be better off just 1-2 drops to start off with. You can always add more if needed.

Diffuse in 30-60 minute intervals with break periods for safe and effective use.

Summary of essential oils to avoid in pregnancy

As essential oil use during pregnancy is controversial and has not been studied by the FDA. Itis best to avoid essential oils in the first trimester if not your whole pregnancy. If you have never used essential oils and are pregnant, please consult with your health-care provider prior to use.

Do you have any suggestions on essential oils to avoid in pregnancy?


National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy- Safety information

Bensouilah J, and Buck P. Aromadermatology. Abindon, UK: Radcliffe Publishing Ltd.

Burfield, T. (2000). Safety of Essential Oils. International Journal of Aromatherapy, Vol 10.1/2

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