Is Eucalyptus safe for children?

by Jade Shutes

Is Eucalyptus essential oil or other 1,8 cineole rich essential oils safe for children under the age of 10?

“All substances are poisons; there is none which is not a poison.
The right dose differentiates a poison from a remedy.”
– Paracelsus – 16th-century physician

jade-and-soren2Let me begin by stating the following: I am a mother of a 9 year old boy who has been raised solely on herbal and aromatic remedies since birth without incident. (I am not saying this to imply therefore it is not possible to have adverse events with children, because it is, but simply to imply that when used correctly, it is uncommon and incredibly rare.) I am an aromatherapist trained in the UK over 25+ years ago and I am an avid researcher. I have a growing concern over the extremes which exists within the aromatherapy community and the amount of misinformation both sides of these extremes put forth via the ever expanding web of social media. I am extremely cautious of accepting any given adverse event without properly understanding the individual, the circumstance, and perhaps most importantly, to me, the authenticity and quality of the essential oil utilized (including possible oxidation due to age of oil used). I don’t believe the passing around in social media of outrageous adverse events serves our community nor does the growing ‘hysteria’ help to shed light on important questions that should be asked when trying to figure out the true nature of an adverse event.

My personal goal is to cultivate a balanced approach to understanding essential oils, how to use them effectively, and safely, which I believe is an extension of ones knowledge of individual essential oils and human physiology. For me, safety is not something separate from my relationship with each individual essential oil or with my understanding of the uniqueness of each individual and human physiology rather it is one aspect I take into consideration when choosing which essential oils to utilize.

So now, let’s dive into the matter at hand: Is it safe to use Eucalyptus for my child?

What is being said out there…

Incorrect statements found on the internet when searching: Is it safe to use eucalyptus with my child? These are the top 3 posts that come up on google search:

  • Eucalyptus and the cineole chemotype of Rosemary are on the list of essential oils to avoid using on children under age 10. Peppermint is not recommended for children under age 6. (http://www.foodrenegade.com/eucalyptus-oil-for-congested-children-busted-essential-oil-myth-1/)
  • *Eucalyptus Eucalyptus camaldulensis, Eucalyptus globulus, Eucalyptus maidenii, Eucalyptus plenissima, Eucalyptus kochii, Eucalyptus polybractea, Eucalyptus radiata, Eucalyptus autraliana, Eucalyptus phellandra, Eucalyptus smithiiavoid using (all routes) on children under 10 (from: http://www.learningabouteos.com/index.php/2014/02/07/essential-oils-and-children/)
  • Peppermint is safe to use at 6+ years but ALL eucalyptus and rosemary essential oils should be avoided until 10+ years of age. (http://www.thehippyhomemaker.com/essential-oil-safety-babies-children/)

Other sites have perpetuated this myth which appears to have originated from one individual/site (and funnily enough, it is a site that claims to be a source for safety information) and then others have used the writing to pass around and expand the misunderstanding and misinterpretation of what Tisserand and Young (2014) have actually said. So let’s begin there….

Tisserand and Young

The book ‘Essential Oil Safety – 2nd Edition’ was written by two individuals: Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young (who so seldom gets the credit he most likely deserves). While I really love this book and completely appreciate the time and effort put into it, it seems that some forget to actually read it before launching into what “Tisserand said” (which technically should be “What Tisserand and Young (2014) state”). More often than not, the information perpetuated by the collective is incorrect and hence we end up with this kind of incorrect information circulating through social media.

So let’s have a look at what Tisserand and Young actually say about Eucalyptus essential oils and 1,8 cineole.

1,8 cineole

1,8 cineole does not appear to be as toxic as is often believed, although elevated oral doses certainly are toxic and children are susceptible to cineole toxicity. The instillation of 1,8 cineole into the noses of young children is clearly not a sensible procedure, but this should not be taken to mean that any preparation containing 1,8 cineole is highly dangerous to children per se.” (page 526)

And again, emphasizing instillation into the nose: “Instillation of 1,8 cineole into the nose of children up to four years of age results in non-fatal but serious toxicity, and may interfere with respiration.” (page 526)

Eucalyptus (cineole-rich) species

The contraindication for Eucalyptus cineole rich oils states: “Do not apply to or near the face of infants or children under ten (10) years of age.” (page 273)

PLEASE NOTE: The contraindication does NOT state, do not use 1,8 cineole rich eucalyptus oils with children under 10 but DOES state, “do not apply to or near the face”.

This is very different from saying ‘do not use at all’.

The main safety concerns expressed in Tisserand and Young’s book are:

  1. Do not instill eucalyptus or 1,8 cineole-rich essential oils into the nose of infants or young children.
  2. Do not apply 1,8 cineole or cineole-rich essential oils on the face of children under the age of 10.
  3. Note: Oral ingestion will be discussed in part II.
  4. ADDED NOTE: We will also talk about dermal application and appropriate doses as high doses that are applied to the skin of children and/or infants, can present problems as well.

What is instillation?
For those of you who are wondering what instillation means: this is when an atomizer, inhaler, or drops are used to introduce a substance directly into the nose.

According to Tisserand and Young (2014), The instillation of 1,8 cineole into the nose results in both oral ingestion and inhalation of this component.

“Non-fatal but serious toxicity in children has been reported in France, Belgium, and the UK with solutions containing either menthol, niaouli, Olbas oil, or 1,8 cineole that were instilled into the nose of children ranging from age 1 month to 3 years. Toxicity or poisoning results in various manifestations from irritated mucous membranes, tachycardia, dyspnea, nausea, vomiting, vertigo, muscular weakness, drowsiness and coma. (Tisserand and Young, 2014 citing: Melis et al 1989, Reynolds 1993, Wylie et al 1994, and Decocq et al 1996.)”

**Note: Technically, I should find all the papers myself and cite them directly but I am taking the easy path with this posting.

It would also be wise to understand that we are talking about Eucalyptus or 1,8 cineole as isolated ingredients, not within the framework of a blend or formulation. I believe this is important because rarely does an aromatherapist use a single essential oil and certainly never, an isolated component. Although for sure, instillation into the nose or placement on the face, may still be relevant depending on age of child, essential oil used, dilution, etc.. Let’s take a look at this in a moment. First, a review of papers sometimes cited on the internet as examples of the so-called dangers of eucalyptus or other 1,8 cineole rich essential oils.

Let’s also remember, it is 2015, a time when essential oils are being used by more individuals than ever before. I say this because I think it is interesting to note the dates on the papers. One other important note about research papers and abstracts: while studying at the Maryland University of Integrative Health, I learned that 30% of all research abstracts do not represent what is actually in the paper. We were trained to always find the original paper in its entirety before making a judgement as to the quality of information or the resulting abstract.

I have done my best to find or purchase the entire paper of each of the following research papers presented. When I was unable to find the paper, I make note of that too. To be continued……..

End of part 1

Please note: Part II was never written. If time opens up in the future I shall revisit this discussion. Warm regards, Jade


Reference

Tisserand, R. and Young, R. (2014). Essential Oil Safety. 2nd Edition. United Kingdom: Churchill Livingstone / Elsevier.

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