Part 6: Sensitivity Reactions

Determining Your Own Sensitivity

Essential oils do not contain allergens. True allergic responses occur when the body has an inappropriate immune reaction after consumption or exposure to a normally harmless protein molecule. The most common food allergens are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, etc.), fish (salmon, cod, flounder, etc.), shellfish (lobster, crab, shrimp, etc.), soy, and wheat. Other common allergies include latex, pollen, pet dander, insect stings, and some fruits. Because Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade® essential oils are composed of only 100 percent volatile aromatic compounds, they do not contain any protein molecules and in turn, cannot cause true allergic reactions. However, everyone has different sensitivity thresholds and essential oils can cause sensitivity reactions in some people. Often times, these sensitivities produce symptoms similar to allergic reactions.

Signs and Symptoms of Essential Oil Sensitivity:

  • Pain, swelling, or tenderness of the skin
  • Itchiness
  • Hives, rash, or boils
  • Digestive upset
  • Difficulty breathing

Should you find you are sensitive to a particular essential oil, there are a few things you can do. First, because essential oil sensitivities are not true allergic reactions, other application methods can still be tolerated even if you exhibit a sensitivity to one particular application method. For instance, if you exhibit symptoms after using an oil topically, you could alternatively use the oil internally or aromatically. Another option is to dilute the oil in water or with a vegetable carrier oil, as a sensitivity is often dependent on the dose. You could also try using different essential oils with a similar chemical profile. One of the many benefits of essential oils is that they can share many of their properties in common, but may not induce the same sensitivity reaction. If you have experienced a sensitivity in the past, always use a small dose and dilute any oil you are trying for the first time.


Although sensitivity reactions are rare, it is prudent to conduct a simple skin test before beginning topical use of a new essential oil. Do this by mixing a small dose of essential oil (1–2 drops) with 3–6 drops of carrier oil and apply to an inconspicuous area of skin (such as the abdomen, thigh, inner arm, etc.). Allow the oil to fully absorb into your skin and then examine the area over the course of several hours. If any redness, pain, itchiness, swelling, or other adverse symptoms result, you may have a sensitivity to that oil. It would be best to avoid topical use of this oil in the future. Unlike with true allergic responses, which cause symptoms no matter the application method, having a topical sensitivity does not mean that you will be sensitive to all application methods. Internal and aromatic use can still be tried by those with topical sensitivities.

Select Your Continent

Select Your Region

Select Your Location

Select Your Language