Most often when people think of essential oils and aromatherapy the first things that come to mind are spas and yoga classes or retreats. Did you know that you can also use these highly beneficial oils for your babies and children? In fact, they may even make parenting a little easier.
The benefits of using essential oils are numerous, from relieving stress and sore muscles to removing bad smells and purifying the air when diffused. You can also use them topically to beautify the skin and to relieve various skin conditions. So, how do they help our little ones?
Benefits of Aromatherapy for Kids
Essential oils are a must have for growing babies and kids. These are actually something you will want to keep in your first aid kit at all times to use on everyone in your household. With these great smelling oils, you can handle all manner of childhood complaints such as –
- Healing cradle cap
- Mending bumps and bruises
- healing cuts and scrapes
- soothing diaper rash or an upset tummy
- creating a calming and relaxing atmosphere for nap and bedtime
- preventing and relieving colds and flu
- killing germs and bacteria
- Uplifting and energizing their mood
- For taming temper tantrums
When you diffuse the oils into the air your child is breathing they can receive the benefits of them while playing or resting. The child will breathe in the aromatic molecules and absorb very tiny amounts through their skin which can really help with conditions such as coughs and colds, tiredness, insomnia, motion/travel sickness and much more. And you as the parent will be reaping all of these benefits at the same time. Now I call that a win-win!
Applying them topically is just as if not more beneficial. You can help keep their skin soft, supple, and rash free using gentle essential oils or for healing boo-boos. Giving your infant a light 2-5 minute massage with essentials is not only a great way for you to bond with them it can also really help with colic and fussiness.
Here is an excellent video that demonstrates how to massage your baby –
Choosing The Best Oils
There has been quite a bit of controversy and conflicting information about using essential oils on children and babies. While it is true that they very concentrated and if improperly used can lead to irritation or allergic reactions the key is to use only the most gentle oils and to dilute them.
As you know better than anyone the health and safety of your child come first and foremost. So, you obviously want to buy the best quality oils available as well. Opt for oils that are organic and steam distilled whenever possible. Avoid cheap solvent distilled oils that contain toxins and pesticides as these can be damaging to your child’s health and to yours.
The same goes for the carrier or base oils used in any massage oils, diaper creams, etc that you will be applying to their skin. Look for cold-pressed and organic. An excellent resource on how to pick and properly use essential oils is the book Essential Oil Safety by renowned essential oil expert Robert Tisserand and co-author Rodney Young. It contains 400 comprehensive essential oil profiles and almost 4000 references.
Oils That Can Be Diffused or Applied Topically For Kids Age 2 and Under
This is by no means a complete list of every oil that you can use. I have included the most common and easy to find oils for your convenience. As I mentioned above dilution is key.
The recommended dilution ratio for this age group is .25% or 1 drop per 4 teaspoons of carrier oil. You may want to consider hydrosols or floral waters to essential oils when applying them topically for children under two.
However, there are many oils that can be applied topically when diluted and applied properly. I personally would not apply essential oils topically to a child under three months old I would definitely stick with the floral waters in this case.
Carrier Oils for Children 2 and Under
Grapeseed Oil – light, non-greasy and very mild. An easily absorbed healing oil used in many skin care products.
Jojoba Oil – gentle, non-greasy and healing. This is actually a liquid wax that is very close to our skins natural sebum.
Apricot Kernel Oil – a favorite in natural baby products. Very gentle and emollient without being greasy. It helps moisturize and protect delicate skin.
If you are planning to make your own massage oil you can choose one of the base oils above or use a combination of all three by mixing equal parts of each.
Feel free to play around with the ratios though. If DIY is not your thing a really excellent baby oil blend is the Chamomile & Calendula Calming Baby Oil from Badger Balm.
Soothing and Calming Essential Oils
When it is time to relax and unwind at night or if your little ones are getting a bit too rambunctious during the day diffusing calming essential oils can be very helpful.
Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) – Has a delicate bright, clean, uplifting citrus scent. This is the oil used in Earl Grey tea and is one of my personal favorites not just for its flavor and scent but for its numerous healing properties. Bergamot is phototoxic unless you purchase one that is filtered to be bergapten-free. If not using bergapten-free, a maximum dilution of 0.4% (about 5 drops in 4 tablespoons of carrier oil when used topically) is recommended to avoid phototoxicity.
- soothing to the skin and balancing
- natural antibiotic
- antibacterial and antifungal
- reduces pain and inflammation
- relaxant and sedative
- aids digestion
- eliminates bad odors
- reduces fever
- kills germs and parasites
- relieves cramping
- speeds healing
- improves circulation
- respiratory issues such as a cough and cold
Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) – Light, sweet, herbal. This is another ingredient commonly used in products for babies and children and for good reason. The dried flowers make a wonderful herbal tea as well.
- strong anti-inflammatory
- Anti-fungal, antibacterial, antiseptic, antioxidant
- excellent healing abilities for minor wounds and skin conditions
- helps fight and block irritants
- helps balance moisture levels in the skin
- soothes and heals burns
- calming and relaxing
Catnip (Nepeta cataria) – Light, herbal green, slightly minty scent. Not just for cats. This is another great oil that we humans can use too.
- helps promote relaxation for a more restful sleep
- relieves stress and anxiety
- reduces pain and stomach discomfort
- helps speed recovery from colds and flu
- helps speed up wound healing
- relieves constipation, gas and bloating
- natural insect repellent (great in homemade bug spray)
Warning: pregnant women should avoid catnip, as it can prematurely induce labor. This oil is generally safe but again it should be avoided during pregnancy.
Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea) – this oil has an airy nutty green scent. It is widely used in anti-aging skin care formulations and in perfumes but is also great for our young ones.
- antidepressant – naturally boosts mood
- antispasmodic and helps reduce and relieve gas
- Relieves stress, helps calm, relax and promote a more restful sleep
Geranium (Pelargonium x asperum) – clean, fresh, slightly spicy, green floral scent.
- calming and uplifting
- astringent and toning
- prevents bacterial growth
- speeds healing of wounds, cuts, and scrapes
- reduces scarring, heals boils, rashes, etc.
- eliminates intestinal worms
- beneficial for treating dermatitis and other skin conditions
Lavender (Lavandula augustifolia) – With its well-known clean and relaxing scent, helpful for creating a nice chill atmosphere when diffused.
Used topically –
- helps heal rashes, bug bites, sunburns, cuts, and scrapes
Rose (Rose Otto) – Sweet, floral classic scent. This incredible oil is highly therapeutic for parents and children. This is one of the more expensive oils but is totally worth it in my opinion.
- boosts self-esteem, confidence, and mental strength
- Relieves anxiety
- helps reduce fever
- very anti-inflammatory
- treats wounds, scrapes, and rashes
- efficiently relieves spasms in the respiratory system and intestines
- eliminates bacteria
- helps relieve gas, bloating and other intestinal discomforts
Sandalwood/Australian (Santalum Spicatum) – sweet, spicy, woodsy, soft almost powdery scent.
- calming and relaxing
- memory booster
Ylang-ylang (Cananga odorata) – sweet intense floral scent. This one should be diffused only for kids 2 and under.
- Relaxing. Helpful when you’re in de-stress mode.
- antidepressant and sedative substance
Uplifting Essential Oils
Raising kids is an incredible experience but it can also be very taxing and exhausting at times. Diffusing energizing and uplifting oils during the day can really help you as a parent keep your energy levels up and help your kiddo or kiddos stay happy and healthy.
These oils can be applied topically as well, for a stimulating massage and first aid remedy. They are also excellent deodorizers and disinfectants that can be added to natural cleaning products.
Grapefruit/Pink (Citrus x paradisi) – Sweet, crisp, citrusy, and slightly floral.
- tonic substance
- naturally boosts the immune system
- eliminates and prevents infections
- particularly effective in treating infections of the colon, stomach, intestines, urinary system, excretory system, and kidneys
- inhibits microbial infections
- helps relieve depression, anxiety, and stress
A word of Caution: Grapefruit essential oil can increase photosensitivity which can cause skin irritation if exposed to strong sunlight after application. Other than this, there are no inherent risks of consuming this essential oil or for applying it topically, although it should probably be avoided during pregnancy. Maximum recommended topical use is 4% (4 drops per teaspoon of carrier oil)
Lemon (Citrus x Limon) – clean, fresh, bright citrus scent.
- Mood lifting
- supports immune function
- natural disinfectant
- relieves stress, anxiety, dizziness, nervousness, and nervous tension
- helps treat asthma
- helps regulate sleep
- good treatment of various stomach problems including indigestion, acidity, upset stomach, and cramps
Caution: Can cause photosensitivity. Maximum recommended topical use is 2% (12 drops in two tablespoons of carrier oil).
Lime (Citrus x aurantifolia) – bright, fresh, green citrus scent.
- uplifting and energizing
- also supports immune function
- bactericidal, disinfectant
- It can be used to treat food poisoning, diarrhea, typhoid, and cholera, all of which are caused by bacteria.
Warning: Like most citrus oils it can cause photosensitivity. Maximum recommended topical use is 0.7% (about 4 drops in two tablespoons of carrier oil).
Spearmint (Mentha spicata) – Similar to peppermint, but safer for use with small children. It has a slightly sweeter scent. The maximum recommended topical use is 1.7% (about 10 drops in two tablespoons of carrier oil). Not to be used during pregnancy.
- stimulating and energizing
- helps promote clear thinking and mental alertness
- helpful for digestion
- known to provide effective relief from spasmodic coughs, aches, pulling sensations and aches in the abdominal region and intestines.
- natural disinfectant and insecticide
- helps relieve stress and anxiety
- relieves fevers, excess flatulence, constipation, sinusitis
Essential Oils For Children 3 and Up
You can safely diffuse all of the oils mentioned above, but after age six it is considered appropriate to include diffusing and the application of stronger oils such as –
peppermint and eucalyptus at a dilution ratio of 1.5%. (1 drop per teaspoon of carrier oil). Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is also considered safe after age six. You can also diffuse cinnamon, pine, spruce, and ginger which is wonderful during the holidays.