What does risk versus benefit look like in aromatherapy?

Hindsight is a wonderful thing but foresight is better, especially when it comes to saving lives or some pain!” – William Blake

As an aromatherapist a large part of my job is to help clients navigate their risk vs. benefit ratio with essential oils and hydrosols. While a specific essential oil may be quite safe for one person it could spell a health disaster for another. So here’s a little peek at what goes on behind-the-scenes with a holistic consultation in my practice.

Drug and Condition Interactions

You can count on every essential oil and hydrosol having a drug and/or condition interaction. Sometimes this means the risk versus benefit ratio is tipped too far to be a viable option for the individual. Take essential oils with immunostimulant biophysical actions for example, certain types of autoimmune disorders might be exacerbated by this class of essential oils. My client with specific immune response that would be exacerbated by this class of essential oils would likely wish to avoid these and choose safer options that hold more benefits to their wellness plan.

What about drug interactions? If I’m working on a treatment plan for a client on medication to control her blood pressure I certainly don’t want to add an essential oil that would raise her BP. The same goes for clients going through chemotherapy or fertility drug therapies, we certainly don’t want to introduce a treatment plan that would interfere with an existing therapy plan!

Constitution and Population Considerations

Another big assessment in risk vs. benefit ratios considers the age and constitution of the individual sitting in front of me or on the other end of the phone. If you’ve been hanging around my blog for a while you’ll recognize the pattern that aromatherapy doesn’t have a universal one-size-fits-all approach, so you’ll not be surprised if I tell you a treatment plan for a 35 year-old won’t look a thing like a treatment plan for an 8 year-old and an 85 year-old.

Populations we always give special considerations in aromatherapy include:

  • – the Childbearing year – preconception, pregnancy, postpartum
  • – pediatrics – birth to eighteen years
  • – the elderly
  • – very ill – cancer, acute and chronic illness, chronic stress

Dosing and Treatment Plans

At times it is appropriate to use an essential oil that has risks for the individual if the risks are understood and prepared for. This usually means I’m very particular about the dose and length of time it is used to minimize the risks while maximizing the benefits. A short-term therapy plan that reduces pain may be worth the risk of body system interactions when a client carefully weighs other options for the management of acute pain. At other times we may have to stall a planned therapy until another therapy has been finished – such as postponing the use of an essential oil with anticoagulant properties until after surgery, or an immunostimulant being introduced after chemotherapy, or discontinuing a therapy prior to ovulation to avoid the threat of a miscarriage. Sometimes we have to get very creative! I’ve had clients turn to barrier method contraception to avoid an unwanted pregnancy when a treatment plan has the potential to interact with or nullify their hormonal contraception.

Putting the ‘We’ in Wellness

No man or woman is an island and aromatherapy isn’t an exception. When I sit down with a client we have two experts in the room: the client, and the practitioner. My client is the expert of her body, mind, and spirit. She knows more about herself than anyone else can ever know and that knowledge is more important to me than any other observation from an outsider. As the practitioner, I’m the expert that has spent thousands of hours studying, observing, and treating folks from a holistic perspective. My 19 years of experience and training comes in very handy as we map out ways to add aromatherapy into her life to support her wellness goals.

It’s such a privilege and honor to be brought on to a client’s wellness team! In eleven years of clinical practice I’ll tell ya’, it never gets old celebrating a good night’s sleep, remission anniversaries, light at the end of an anxiety or depression tunnel, 30 minutes without pain, the doctor deprescribing a medication, a pain-free period, an easier semester at school, a symptom-free allergy season, a baby filling arms that have been empty for so long, and so many other successes.

Being human in the 21st century isn’t remotely easy, no matter what Pinterest and HuffPo might say! Having an aromatherapist at your side helping you kick stress to the curb? Well, that’s just a phone call away, my friends!

By |2018-03-06T10:43:21+00:00June 8th, 2015|Aromatherapy, Education, Wellness, What We Offer|7 Comments

About the Author:

Amy holds her board certificate in Reflexology (ARCB), is a clinically-trained Aromatherapist (CCAP), and an Aromatic Medicine Practitioner. She launched her private practice, The Barefoot Dragonfly, in June 2004 with a special focus on women's health, pediatrics, and pain management. Amy sees clients and teaches a 200-hour aromatherapy certificate program and a 300-hour reflexology certificate program at her studio in Northwest Austin. She offers phone consults for private and commercial aromatherapy consultations.


  1. Eileen Mallard June 9, 2015 at 7:30 pm - Reply

    Another great article…thanks Amy

  2. Verity Larson September 24, 2015 at 7:56 pm - Reply

    How does one go about finding a Clinically-trained Aromatherapist? Thanks!

  3. Elizabeth September 30, 2015 at 5:59 pm - Reply

    I have purchased many essential oils from the multi level marketing company you commonly find online. I’ve read your warning articles on ingesting the oils and applying them to the feet. What do I do now with all my oils?

    • Amy Kreydin September 30, 2015 at 7:02 pm - Reply

      I have clients make a list of what they’ve got and bring it to their appointment so we can discuss specific usage for their wellness goals. It’s a great way to start developing a relationship with these plant allies!

  4. Chitral July 18, 2016 at 4:14 pm - Reply

    Thanks for article! I just bought an essential oil today.. But I’m a little skeptical on using it.. And now im a little more afraid…what are ur suggestions on using a few drops of essential oils mixed with extra virgin coconut oil for skin hydration and as sun protection? And what kind of oils can be left on the skin for the whole day…?

    • Amy Kreydin July 19, 2016 at 11:01 am - Reply

      Chitral – my best advice would be to leave the SPF sunscreen formulation to the chemists. If you really want to make your own be sure you’re using ingredients that will actually give an SPF value to them, no essential oil nor coconut oil can offer you that. Barrier sunscreen ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide require lab-grade equipment to properly formulate and they do fail in giving total UVA and UVB coverage. You’ve got some work ahead of you both on paper and in the lab!

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