When used according to labeling recommendations and other professional guidelines, essential oils are not only very safe, but also offer profound benefits. The appropriate application of essential oil can be a powerful asset in the management of health in an all-natural way. An important part of essential oil application is understanding dosage, or the frequency and amount that something is used or consumed. An appropriate dose needs to be taken to induce the health benefit, but that dose also must remain below the known safe limit. Like everything we use or consume, there are both safe and inappropriate doses of essential oils. At recommended levels, essential oils are very safe; however, if this level is exceeded, essential oils can cause harmful effects, more generally referred to as toxicity.


The term “toxicology” is derived from the Greek word toxicos, meaning poisonous. The complex field of toxicology combines the biological, chemical, and physiological sciences to determine how different chemical substances affect living organisms, especially humans. Specifically, the study of toxicology examines mechanistic action, detection, symptomology, and treatment of substance overuse.

Derived from the same Greek root, the term “toxicity” describes the point at which a substance is harmful or deadly. Toxicity is influenced by many factors, including form of the substance (gas, liquid, ointment, etc.), application method (ingestion, topical use, inhalation, injection, etc.), length of exposure, number of exposures, age of the individual, size of the individual, health of the individual, etc.

Everything we consume is potentially toxic; the dose makes the poison. For instance, even water can become toxic if consumed in high enough quantities. When too much water is consumed, it disrupts cell electrolyte levels. This means that the fluid outside of the cell has a far lower concentration of electrolytes than the fluid inside the cell. To maintain balance, water floods into the cells, sometimes causing them to burst. Too much water can be especially harmful in the brain, where cranial swelling may cause overall dysfunction of the nervous system, brain damage, coma, or even death. However, just because water has a toxic dose does not mean it is not safe at lower doses. In fact, water is a vital nutrient—without it, we would die in just a few days! Examples of other essential nutrients and their recommended and toxic doses are shown below:


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