Bringing the Magic of Essential Oils to Your Children's Lives
Busy parents are always on the lookout for natural, effective alternatives to support their children’s health and happiness. Here’s a quick primer to help you safely and effectively use five valuable essential oils with children.
As the complexity of our lives increase, today's parents welcome a little easy-to-use natural support or their children's health and happiness. Aromatherapy, used around the world as a primary therapeutic modality for physiological and psychological well-being, offers moms and dads a simple tool to both bring calm to their children's lives and to help heal the little wounds of childhood. Here's a look at a few essential oils commonly used with young ones, and some ways to bring the magic of their healing properties into your life.
There are several easy methods to utilize natural essential oils with children. These include topical application via caring touch massage; direct application to wounds; inhalation from cloth (like clothing or a pillowcase); room sprays and diffusers; and the all-purpose aromatherapy bath. The key difference in using essential oils with children, compared to adults, is that children will need smaller amounts of oil for the same effect. There are a few oils that shouldn't be used with children; peppermint, most eucalyptus varieties, and red thyme, for example, are considered too strong. If in doubt about any oil consult a knowledgeable practitioner or reputable text.
The dosages and dilutions used for children are generally significantly lower than those used with adults. Dilutions for caring touch massage can start as low as 1 drop per ounce of carrier (hazelnut is excellent for most applications) for newborns, moving up approximately 1 drop per year, within a range of about 3 drops per ounce. For example, a massage blend for a four year old might contain anywhere from 3 to 6 drops of essential oil per ounce, depending on the oil and the child. Oils like Lavender, Roman Chamomile and Vanilla are exceptionally gentle – more could be used without worry. An oil like Rose, while wonderful for children, is fairly potent, and using a little less may be prudent. The child's weight and overall condition can also be considered; a child that is big for their age could use slightly higher amounts of essential oil, whereas a child that is week from illness could use a little less.
By now you might be wondering "which oils should I be using?" We'll start with vanilla...Everyone loves vanilla, right? It turns out that babies especially respond well to the comforting sweet aroma. A therapeutic grade vanilla can be a little more costly than most other oils, but the amount you need is only measured in a few drops. Vanilla, being so gentle, can be used in concentrations of up to 1% (that's 10 drops per ounce of carrier). Really all that's needed is a hint of the aroma for it to work wonders. I've received reports of children being instantly calmed by a gentle vanilla massage, then immediately asking for more!
Another highly regarded oil for relieving stressful moments is Roman Chamomile. Its sweet herbaceous aroma is also very gentle, being noted particularly useful to calm tantrums or soothe after nightmares. A drop or two of Chamomile can be massaged undiluted into the solar plexus for quick effect. For an aromatic bath, first blend the appropriate number of drops as noted above into one tablespoon of carrier oil. Pour this in the water once the tub is full to prevent the aroma from evaporating too quickly. Roman Chamomile is a wonderful ingredient for an aroma mist; just add 5-10 drops per cup of water in a spray bottle, shake well then mist the air.
Lavender essential oil is also highly regarded for its soothing qualities, along with a host of other healing actions. Lavender oil has been called ‘a medicine chest in a bottle', as it is anti-inflammatory (good for small burns – apply directly as needed), relieves pain and supports wound healing. Clinical studies have proven Lavender oil's effectiveness for improving sleep. For children, blend 2 to 1 with Roman Chamomile. Apply one drop of this blend to the pillow at nap or night time. Lavender works well in a bath, too. Additionally, Lavender can be mixed in equal parts with Tea Tree oil to add a soothing quality to Tea Tree's antiseptic action. Really, every parent should have a bottle of Lavender on hand.
When sour moods are in need of a lift, citrus oils supply the aromas of choice. Tangerine and Sweet Orange are especially liked, and Mandarin has a certain calming effect not found in any other oil. Citrus oils are often cold-pressed from the peels of the fruit; these can be mildly irritating to the skin. Stick to using these in room sprays or diffusers. Steam distilled citrus oils, often made from the leaves or flowers of the citrus trees (like Neroli, Petitgrain, or Mandarin Petitgrain – an especially nice oil for young ones) can safely be used in topical applications like massages and baths. All these oils are known as antidepressants, and might just lift your mood as well as your child's (not to terrible of a side effect!)
Finally, there's Tea Tree essential oil. Tea Tree is highly regarded as a natural antiseptic for cuts and scrapes. Tea Tree oil can still be a little strong for the younger ones if applied directly; blend with Lavender as noted above for these cases. A few drops of the Tea Tree and Lavender blend can be added to a warm bowl of water for an effective, soothing wash for cuts and scrapes. Also, a natural antiseptic spray can be mixed and used as needed. Use two ounce of pure water and one half ounce of rubbing alcohol. To this, add 8 drops each of Chamomile and Lavender, plus 12 drops Tea Tree; shake before each use. This Australian wonder oil has many further applications; every household should have a little stashed away.
This is just a quick overview on caring for children with essential oils. Once you get started, you're likely to find these and other oils are a safe, effective means to naturally support your child's health and happiness. As your knowledge and experience grows, you'll find there are aromatherapy remedies for many common childhood ailments. In much of the rest of the world, essential oils are considered potent medicines, deserving a place in everyone's medicine chest. There are many great books on aromatherapy, with loads of information and recipes to get you started. Just remember, when using essential oils with children start slowly, and with small amounts; their response to certain oils and concentrations will likely tell you about the oil's effectiveness. When used with care and respect, essential oils can become a much appreciated part of your natural health and wellness lifestyle.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The author is a degreed natural health professional with a private practice in Boulder, Colorado. She is the owner of the Ananda Apothecary, an online source for aromatherapy and essential oil information.