Are Essential Oils Safe to Use During Pregnancy?


Essential oils seem to be all the rage. Trying to live the “clean living” life, I immediately became drawn to these substances and their uses. I have used them with success to combat ants in my cupboard, incorporating them into my shampoos and cleaning products, as well as using them for the many ailments that come along with just simply living life. But the question I get asked a lot is Are they safe to use when pregnant ? Are there oils that are unsafe to use at all when pregnant? Let me tell you what I have discovered. Understand that pregnancy always brings about changes to your body. You sense of smell becomes more acute. You skin also changes and many times become more sensitive. During your pregnancy, you must make sure that you dilute heavily with a carrier oil, don’t ever apply the essential oil neat (on skin directly). Most aromatherapist recommend a dilution ratio of 1%. You will avoid irritating your skin as well as nausea because your sense of smell is now working in overdrive. The great thing about essential oils for use during pregnancy is that they offer a wealth of benefits. They can help with:

  • Nausea

  • Relaxation and stress relief

  • Tense and aching muscles

  • Uplifting spirits

  • Nourish skin

If you are diffusing rather than applying topically, it is recommended to use 3-5 drops of whatever essential oil you are using to 100 ml of water. Add the mixture to your diffuser and use in 30-60 minute intervals. There are many essential oils that have been determined safe for use during pregnancy. However, there are just as many that have been deemed unsafe for pregnancy as well. Many essential oils are safe for pregnancy and mothers who nurse when properly used. I always recommend that pregnant or nursing mothers talk with their medical provider before using anything during this period. I’ll start with the ones NOT to use during pregnancy. Avoid these listed below:

  • Aniseed (Pimpinella anisum)

  • Anise, Star (Illicium verum)

  • Araucaria (Neocallitropsis pancheri)

  • Artemisia (Artemisia vestita)

  • Atractylis (Atractylylodes lancea )

  • Lemon Basil (Ocimum x citriodorum) Can be used at a low dilution, no more than once a day

  • Birch (Betula lenta)

  • Black Seed (Nigella sativa)

  • Buchu (Agathosma betulina, Agathosma crenulata)

  • Calamint (Calamintha nepeta)

  • Camphor (Cinnamomum camphora)

  • Carrot Seed (Daucus carota)

  • Cassia (Cinnamomum cassia)

  • Chaste Tree (Vitex ugnus castus)

  • Cinnamon Bark (Cinnamomum verum)

  • Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea) Can cause contraction so avoid during pregnancy. Many doulas and midwives use this in the birthing room because of this quality.

  • Cypress, blue (Callitris intratopica)

  • Dill Seed (Anethum graveolens)

  • Dill Seed, Indian (Anethus sowa)

  • Eucalyptus, ALL (Eucalyptus camaldulensis, Eucalyptus globulus, Eucalyptus maidenii, Eucalyptus plenissima, Eucalyptus kochii, Eucalyptus polybractea, Eucalyptus radiata, Eucalyptus autraliana, Eucalyptus phellandra, Eucalyptus smithi)

  • Fennel, bitter and sweet (Foeniculum vulgare)

  • Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)

  • Frankincense (Boswellia papyrifer) Can be used at a low dilution, no more than once a day

  • Genipi (Artemisia genepi)

  • Hibawood (Thujopsis dolobratta)

  • Ho Leaf (Cinnamomum camphora)

  • Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)

  • Lanyuna (Artemisia afra)

  • Lavender, French/Spanish (Lavandula stoechas)

  • Lemon Balm, Australian (Eucalyptus staigeriana) Can be used at a low dilution, no more than once a day

  • Lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus) Avoid use during pregnancy, OK to use while nursing

  • May Chang (Litsea cubeba) Avoid use during pregnancy, OK to use while nursing

  • Mugwort (Artemisia arborescens, Artemisia vulgaris)

  • Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha)

  • Myrtle (Backhousia anisata)

  • Myrtle, Honey (Melaleuca teretifolia) Avoid use during pregnancy, OK to use while nursing

  • Myrtle, Lemon (Backhousia citriodora) Avoid use during pregnancy, OK to use while nursing

  • Nutmeg (Mysristica fragrans)

  • Oregano (Origanum onites, Origanum smyrnaeum, Origanum vulgare, etc.)

  • Parsley, Leaf/Seed (Petroslinum sativum)

  • Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium)

  • Plectranthus (Plectranthus fruticosus)

  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

  • Rue (Ruta graveolens)

  • Sage, Dalmatian (Salvia officinalis)

  • Sage, Spanish (Salvia lavandulaefolia)

  • Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)

  • Tea Tree, Lemon (Leptospermum petersonii)Avoid use during pregnancy, OK to use while nursing

  • Thuja (Thuja occidentalis)

  • Thyme, Lemon (Thymus x citriodoru) Can be used at a low dilution, no more than once a day

  • Verbena, Lemon (Aloysia triphylla) Can be used at a low dilution, no more than once a day

  • Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata)

  • Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

  • Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium)

  • Yarrow (Achillea millefolium, Achillea nobilis) Great for use during postpartum. Helps with bleeding.

  • Zeodary (Curcuma sedoaria)

Before I go on to the list that is safe, it is recommended not to use any essential oil during the first trimester. Many essential oils are known to cross over into the placenta. Baby is forming during the first trimester, so it’s just best to avoid their use all together. There are essential oils to use sparingly during this time. The recommended dilution ratio is .5%-1%, which translates to 1 drop of essential oil to 1 tbl. of carrier oil. I use almond oil, olive oil, or fractionated coconut as my carrier oil. Essential oils to use sparingly are:

  • Litsea cubeba (May Chang) (Litsea cubeba)

  • Melissa (Melissa officinalis)

Now for a list of what is safe to use during the 2nd and 3rdtrimester:

  • Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) Has a calming effect and soothes irritated skin. Can increase photosensitivity, resulting in greater damage from sun exposure.

  • Roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis) Best known for sedative and soothing properties.

  • Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) Great for anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Can also be used to reduce pain and inflammation.

  • Ginger (Zingiber officinale) Commonly used for nausea, inflammation, and respiratory problems.

  • Grapefruit (Citrus paradisi) Used for reducing stress, reduces inflammation and increases circulation. Aids in digestion. Also great for adding to hair products.

  • Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) Calms, relaxes, and helps with sleep.

  • Lemon (Citrus limon) Commonly used to ease stress, depression, and fatigue. Helps with sleep. Stimulates the immune system, alleviates pain, and helps with varicose veins.

  • Lemongrass Cymbopogon flexuosus) Helps with stress, anxiety, and alleviates pain. Aids in skin repair and great to add to shampoos and conditioners. Also great in helping tense muscles.

  • Lime (Citrus x aurantifolia) Rich in Vitamin C, making it a great immune booster. It’s also a great antiseptic.

  • Mandarin (Citrus reticulata) Helps to reduce acne and brighten the skin. Alleviates oily skin. Good for insomnia. Helps reduce scarring.

  • Neroli (Citrus aurantium) Great for depression and lifting of spirits. Has a strong sedative effect which makes it great for insomnia, stress, and anxiety.

  • Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin) Reduces inflammation and infection. Minimizes scars. Commonly used for depression and anxiety.

  • Petitgrain (Citrus aurantium) Known for its sedative properties. Great for insomnia, stress, and anxiety.

  • Rose Otto (Rosa x damascena Mill) Reduces stress and anxiety and good for skin.

  • Rosewood (Aniba rosaeodora) Known for its analgesic and antiseptic properties. Relieves depression. Helps boost memory.

  • Sandalwood (Santalum album) Promotes restful sleep and uplifts mood. Also antiviral and antiseptic. Great for skin problems.

  • Sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) Known for its pain relieving and calming properties. Reduces inflammation. Helps with depression, insomnia, and anxiety. Also great for getting rid of ants 🙂

  • Tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) Known for its antiseptic properties. Use as a hand sanitizer. Fights acne and gets rid of nail fungus and athlete’s foot. Aids in wound healing. Soothes skin inflammation. Controls dandruff.

  • Ylang ylang (Cananga odorata) Helps fight diabetes. Reduces stress and anxiety. Antioxidant. Reduces inflammation. Also thickens hair.

Are you suffering from morning sickness. Have I got a recipe for you! For use in a diffuser only. Remember, don’t use any essential oils topically during the first trimester.

  • 1 drop black pepper essential oil

  • 1 drop ginger essential oil

  • 1 drop grapefruit essential oil

  • 1 drop lavender essential oil

Remember to add this to 100 ml of water. Enjoy!



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