There’s nothing worse than seeing your child under the weather. Colds, coughs, sore throats and tummy aches – we want to soothe the symptoms and make them feel better as quickly as possible. When needed, I will always reach for the kids ibuprofen or paracetamol. But if you’re anything like me and the coughing continues throughout the night, you’ll also look for natural healing medicines as part of the remedy.
I’ve recently been introduced to essential oils. Using essential oils can have a number of benefits, such as helping our body to fight illnesses, prevent ailments and aiding in a healthy, happy home. Here’s a little introduction to these ancient natural remedies:
Essential Oils – What are they?
Essential oils are pure extracts from the seeds, flowers, leaves, roots, barks, peels and other parts of plants. As pure plant extracts they are extremely powerful; 50-70% more powerful than herbs alone. 1 drop of peppermint oil is the equivalent to 28 cups of peppermint tea! As with anything we can buy, essential oils vary in their quality. Expect to pay a little bit more for a high quality oil. Research and find a brand you trust.
Are they safe for children?
Yes! As long as they are respected and used correctly, essential oils are safe to use in the home. However, if you’ve never used them before, seek advice from a health practitioner first. Natural, essential oils are a powerful tool in healing but there are certain oils that babies, children, pregnant and women breastfeeding should avoid altogether. Essential oils can sometimes cause a reaction to those with a medical condition and can interfere with certain medications. It is ALWAYS a good idea to check first.
The potency of essential oils means they should never be applied to the skin neat – especially the delicate skin of babies and children. A carrier oil, such as fractionated coconut oil, is used to dilute the essential oil in dilution ratios according to age. When introducing oils for the first time, do a patch test on the skin to ensure no adverse reaction.
Some oils are classified as hot oils. This means they can cause a burning sensation on the skin if undiluted. Thyme, Clove, Oregano, Lemongrass, and Cinnamon are all hot oils. If used topically, it’s imperative to use just one drop of these oils heavily diluted. These oils aren’t suitable for particularly sensitive areas of the body such as the chest. Instead rub gently on the bottom of the feet. Citrus oils are also photosensitive, particularly for your child’s delicate skin. If using these oils, keeping out of direct sunlight for 12 hours is advised.
Keep essential oils out of eyes, ears, noses, pits and ‘bits’. If an oil does cause irritation to the skin, use a carrier oil to dilute it. Keep applying until sensitivity has stopped then wash off with soap and water. Never use only water to stop an irritation as oil and water repel.
How can we use them?
Once you have advice from an expert and you feel confident with how to use essential oils safely, there are two ways your child can experience the benefits:
Aromatically: Use of a diffuser is an effective way to release the essential oil aroma. On inhalation, essential oils enter our olfactory system, reaching or lymbic part of the brain which controls our emotions, mood, stress and blood pressure. For an uplifting start to the morning, diffuse Wild Orange or to relax and unwind before bed, use Lavender. As well as having the power to affect our mood, diffusing the right essential oils can kill germs in the air and can help ease breathing. 30-45 minutes is ample time for diffusion. Follow safety instructions when using a diffuser. Never let it run all night or use in an unventilated room.
Topically: Applied topically to the skin by diluting in a carrier oil such as fractionated coconut oil. If used this way, the essential oils are absorbed into the bloodstream quickly. Applying to the bottom of your child’s feet is a safe and effective way for it to work through the whole of the body. It’s also a lovely way to relax your child when they’re not on form.
What oil to use when?
With the help of an essential oils wellness advocate, I’ve put together a list of essential oils for common kids ailments, prevention of illnesses and mood changers. You can diffuse or apply topically; use one oil or blend them – keeping to the correct dilution ratio of essential oils to carrier oil.
Colds, coughs and respiratory complaints: Lemon, Cardamom, Lavender, Thyme*. (Gently rub up and down the spine.)
Tummy aches and discomfort: Ginger, Fennel. (Gently rub clockwise on the tummy.)
Anxiety: Basil, Lavender, Bergamot, Vetiver.
Ear ache: Basil, Tea Tree. (Gently rub behind the ear.)
Mosquito bites: Lavender, Tea Tree. (Apply to bites to stop itching.)
Head lice prevention: Tea Tree, Lemon. (Gently dab behind the ear. Or add 1 drop of pure essential oil to your child’s shampoo.)
To maintain a healthy immune system: Wild Orange, Rosemary, Tea Tree, Frankincense, Clove*, Cinnamon*, Oregano.*
Focus and awakening: Lemon, Wild Orange, Rosemary.
To aid sleep: Lavender, Roman Chamomile, Vetiver, Cedarwood.
*Hot oils – safe to diffuse but do not apply topically unless heavily diluted.
Children and the elderly: the TOTAL number of drops of essential oil to 10ml of carrier oil is 1-3 drops.
Adults: the TOTAL number of drops of essential oil to 10ml of carrier oil is 6-9 drops.
Remember to respect the power of these natural oils and to observe the effects that you and your child experience. Our biochemistries are all very different and what works for one person, may not for another.
If you would like more information about essential oils contact:
Written by Gemma Sherlock
About the author
After many years of moving around, Gemma, her husband and 2 children settled in Mallorca.
Why Nourish the Kids? Words, language and especially writing have always been a focus and priority for Gemma. She likes to express herself thoughtfully and with clarity whether writing or speaking and enjoys discussing and researching new ideas and topics, particularly when it comes to health and well-being.
Likes: Circuit training, pilates, cooking from Ottolenghi books, pukka tea, hummus, reflexology, the audible app, Spanish lessons at MTA and thoughtfulness.