Realistic Essential Oil Safety
First up – I just want to state that I will tolerate any negative comments towards this subject. Yes, I realize there are many unwanted animals in this world, and yes, I realize that many of you might have passionate opinions on if animals should be bred or not. However, I am of the firm opinion that all animals deserve proper and holistic care. And, so no matter what your stance is – I truly don’t care. All animals deserve to have the education and benefit of what essential oils can bring to their lives and health – without discrimination.
It is also important to recognize that there are many animals who will become pregnant or will be bred, without any human planning or breeding in the equation. Wild animals breed. Those participating in wildlife rehab will also deal with pregnancy, lactation, and neonates. And, many rescues will take on pregnant females of all species.
So, if you are one to have a completely closed-mind – or are mean and unpleasant to be around if the discussion of breeding animals comes up – animalEO is likely just not for you. But, if you can open your mind, and agree to learn for education sake…then WELCOME!
Which Essential Oils are “Safe”?
I am commonly asked if essential oils can be used for breeding animals, during pregnancy, and during lactation. I have found that not only can oils be used during these times, but are indeed helpful instead of harmful. We have used essential oils in many reproductive situations. Birds and eggs have been exposed to water-based diffusion of many types of oils, laying hens have ingested essential oils consistently in their drinking water, and drops of essential oils have been placed into the nest boxes of chickens. Pregnant and nursing cats (as well as babies) have received the KittyBoost, used Litteroma, and have also been exposed to water-based diffusion of almost every essential oil, and at quite high concentrations (sometimes higher than we recommend). The oils have always been well accepted and never appear to influence milk flavor, nursing drive, or cause harm to the fetus or neonate in any manner when essential oils are used in the proper methods and with the proper ratios and dilutions – as are found in animalEO blends.
Certainly, we need to use common sense and avoid the use of hot or potentially irritating oils directly in the areas of the nipples or sensitive areas. However, properly diluted blends such as AromaBoost RTU and KittyBoost – which contain “hot oils” – have been administered to a variety of animals such as nursing dogs, and the puppies just seem to reap the benefits of having a “diffuser mom” or by coming into contact with the residual oils on the mother’s fur and skin.
Horses, Cows, Goats, Dogs, Cats, Rats, and many other animals have received regular essential oil applications and even oral essential oils throughout their entire reproductive period. I have never been concerned about the proper use of essential oils for mother, father, or offspring.
In the case of rabbits and other exotics, water-based diffusion has been used widely and very successfully. Tiny newborn rabbit babies were noted to be far healthier when the owner started to disinfect her hands with a drop or two of neat essential oils prior to handling the still wet babies. Although the essential oil was completely dry and absorbed into her hands, the residual benefits were absorbed by the baby rabbits. Even such a light exposure to essential oils can be extremely powerful and beneficial.
Let’s Discuss the Research.
There is always concern if certain products can be used during pregnancy. Certainly, essential oil use should be carefully considered and discussed with your veterinarian if you have any concerns. What I have personally noted in my work with pregnant or reproductively active animals – is that the proper essential oil use has been safe, effective, and even beneficial to conception, pregnancy, and birth. There are cautionary statements on almost every essential oil, and for almost every situation known – whether it is based in full truth or not. We often prefer to err on the side of being overly cautious, than to ever hurt a living being – especially a baby. For the most current safety information on essential oils – I do suggest the book by Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young – Essential Oil Safety, Second Edition. This book compiles data regarding each essential oil, and presents known safety information about them. It is a respected reference, and in general – I am very happy with the realistic comments made by the authors at the end of the presented information.
Let’s review an oil which is listed in the “should be avoided by any route throughout pregnancy and lactation” table in the Tisserand Essential Oil Safety book. There are many in this table including these more commonly used oils of Anise, Carrot Seed, Cassia, Chaste Tree (Vitex), Cinnamon Bark, Blue Cypress, Dill Seed, Fennel, Hyssop, Lavender (Spanish), Myrrh, Aniseed Myrtle, Oregano, and Rue.
Rue is “nicely controversial” at times – so we will discuss it here. So many essential oils get a “bad rap”. It is almost becoming humorous to me, when I hear of an essential oil that is clearly in the “super safe” category – being described as dangerous and to be avoided. No matter what the oil – if you want to find somebody who will tell you it is bad for something – rest assured, you can find it! The problem is that hearsay is clearly becoming the truth of the rumor, instead of good hard evidence.
So in the case of Rue oil – it has been reported to have effects on the uterus and pregnancies. However, most of the information is based on “research” that is so incredibly and massively strange – it would be like saying that Chevrolet Trucks cause pregnancy loss in dogs and so no dog should go near a Chevy while pregnant. What that statement doesn’t tell you, is that the Chevrolet Truck ran over the dog…causing the pregnancy loss. As ridiculous and disgusting as that scenario sounds – that is literally what most of the research is like. Even in the Tisserand book – this quote describes Rue essential oil and pregnancy – “Used in massive amounts on pregnant rabbits (12 mL/kg) and guinea pigs (50 mL/kg) rue oil, not surprisingly, was toxic to both mother and fetus, causing widespread tissue damage and some fatalities (Patoir et al 1938a, 1938b). These dose levels are equivalent to human ingestion of approximately 800 mL and 3.2 L. Two pregnant guinea pigs, each fed 12 drops of rue oil, aborted; rue oil was found in the fetal tissue, and was considered toxic to it (Anon 1974). This is still a very high dose, around 3 mL/kg, and equivalent to human ingestion of some 200 mL. In teratology studies on rats and mice, at doses of rue oil up to 820 and 970 mg/kg, respectively, no significant maternotoxic, embryotoxic or teratogenic effects were observed (cited in Committee for Veterinary Medicinal Products 1999).”
However, Rue oil will remain in the listing of contraindicated essential oils for pregnancy – because NO ONE wants to be the person who says Rue Essential Oil is “okay to use” during pregnancy; and maybe, just maybe – be on the wrong end of that answer. I also won’t be the person who says 100% yes, you can use these things during pregnancy, breeding, or lactation. I personally do not thing that there is ANYTHING that is 100% safe for pregnancy or “life” for that matter. Heck, just drinking city water is detrimental to health in my opinion. It may not be an immediate revelation, but how many of us know 100% if a fading kitten or a mother who needed a c-section for delivery of her pups – was not affected by the hairspray or perfume that the owner wears daily? With essential oils, there is so much concern – that is sometimes only based on horrendously irresponsible research – that I think we start to become freakishly neurotic with worry.
I have often stated myself in this way – “I am a response oriented veterinarian”… What the heck does that mean? Well, if I see something work, and work really well – I am REALLY happy with it! Like changing animals from city water to bottled spring water. Is there scientific proof that tap water is bad for you. Likely not anything that the government would let you see! It might even sound a bit crazy to some of my clients – but what harm is there in providing a different water source for a few months? Maybe a few bucks, and gas money to go to the store…but let’s try it out. More often than not – and certainly with a frequency that makes me recommend it for ALL of my clients – spring water drastically improved the health of my patients.
And so this is the case with essential oils. What I can tell you of the use of essential oils with pregnancy, breeding, lactation, and neonates – is that when used PROPERLY – essential oils appear to be incredibly helpful and not harmful. Through our veterinary clinic, and through the communications with thousands of people using essential oils EVERY DAY with animals – I have accumulated personal experience and knowledge that would be difficult to publish or share as a whole – but it is there.
Oregano is included on the list of oils that should not be used during pregnancy and lactation. But, as an ingredient in our KittyBoost and AromaBoost products, and as an oil that is often used the animal aromatherapy world – I can attest to the fact that thousands of animals have used Oregano essential oil during conception, pregnancy, throughout lactation, and even on neonates without concern. And, if someone “does something wrong” – I tend to be contacted with questions. In this way – I suppose it is an excellent learning opportunity for me. I get to see cases that have been “messed up” – and at least get to harvest the knowledge of that event. If someone mixes up their own homemade blend of essential oils, applies it to their cat for the last month, but then reads or is told online that they could “kill their cat with that”… it seems that I am the person to contact! (One of the reasons why I often can’t keep up with my email stream and my voicemail is usually full!) I do collect the information on which essential oils were used, at what concentrations, and how often – along with health information whenever available. Occasionally, I’ll even pay for additional lab work to be performed on the animal for my own curiosity. I can truthfully say, that when high quality essential oils are used in less than ideal ways, I am usually impressed at the actual range of safe dosages that can be used.
There is no real evidence of reduction of male fertility with essential oils and proper use. Two studies with enormously high amounts of essential oils ingested seemed to report reduction of sperm counts and fertility, but with such unrealistic dosages – it is more likely that the dose was more damaging than the essential oil used.
What if you use a blend with a “BAD” oil?
This is the case with Carrot Seed essential oil – which is included in the CardioBoost blend. Carrot Seed has been known to aid in balancing cholesterol levels, increase red blood cells, aid in weakness and exhaustion, purify the blood, detoxify the liver, and many other actions which directly benefit the cardiovascular system. However, a few studies from long ago (1981, 1985) – report that there were antigestational effects, or that the oil prevented implantation and blocked progesterone synthesis. Due to these reports – Carrot Seed often gets a big contraindication for use with pregnancy – even though the dosages of essential oils used in the studies were very high, and likely not an accurate representation of how any essential oil would be used in everyday life. For example – in one study 2.5-5 mL/kg of carrot seed oil was injected subcutaneously to female rats or mice – and then was shown to prevent implantation. Well, my goodness! I can’t imagine any of my rat family going through any sort of normal pregnancy if I injected them with ANY irritating substance close to implantation – and especially in that quantity! Stress alone has shown damaging effects to pregnancy and fertility rates of animals – so to me, injected them with large quantities of a highly irritating substance under their skin – does not necessarily relate to what the “normal use” of the essential oil might do.
However, there is likely no one on this green earth that wants to risk the use of a “potentially” harmful essential oil to a fetus. So, we all “fall in line” and recommend that the essential oil should be avoided during pregnancy. That being said – there is likely no reason that you would “have to” use Carrot Seed oil or CardioBoost during pregnancy. We can certainly select other beneficial oils, without any connected drama about pregnancy associated with them. BUT – and this is a huge BUT – an animal with a known heart condition really should not be pregnant anyway!
There are a few situations where I can see valid reasons why CardioBoost may be desired to be used for a pregnant or breeding animal. First, it may be a rescue dog who has “arrived pregnant” – and may also have a condition such as Heartworm that is also damaging the heart. In this situation, the use of CardioBoost may be desired to support the heart and cardiovascular system while the dog is pregnant. While I would personally have no concern in my own dog in using CardioBoost while they were pregnant – the decision would have to be made with your veterinarian and on a personal level, as to if you feel the benefits would outweigh any potential risks. Since the dilution and levels of Carrot Seed oil within CardioBoost are so small – I truly feel you would have more risk to the pregnancy with the heart disease, than with the essential oils within the blend. But – for all intents on full safety – if your animal is pregnant or going to become pregnant – it is probably best to just recommend that you use KittyBoost, CritterBoost, or AromaBoost RTU for your health support purposes than CardioBoost.
Another situation that may arise is the animal who used CardioBoost as a “preventive measure” – for general support of cardiovascular health – then was found to be pregnant after the use was already in place. If I were the veterinarian to a case such as this, I would simply suggest that we stop using the CardioBoost now that we know there is a pregnancy – and use KittyBoost in its place. I would not have any major concerns of potential harm, but I would just discontinue that particular exposure for the future. For those with animals who may be bred in the future, the use of CardioBoost as a support to cardiovascular health is likely of no concern at the concentrations in which the essential oils are being used. However, you may wish to err on the side of caution – and avoid the use of CardioBoost in any breeding animal, and particularly within a month or so of anticipated breeding. Again – the sad truth being that if your animal is so prone to heart disease in the first place – should you really be breeding it?
This is not to say that other essential oils within KittyBoost or AromaBoost have not been included in the list oils to be avoided during pregnancy or lactation. However, these recipes have been used with many pregnant and breeding animals over the years, with no ill effects noted. Oregano is one of those commonly used oils that is within this category according to the Tisserand book. And in actual practice, we just do not see any evidence that proper use of oregano has been anything other than helpful, along with many of the other oils listed.
All of the animalEO products would fall into the category of “These products have not been evaluated for use with pregnant or breeding animals” – as we have not done scientific studies to prove toxicity or safety of the individual products. And, quite honestly – this is unlikely to happen. There are many veterinary and natural products like this on the market. A popular joint supplement, made by a major veterinary corporation, that we have used for over 10 years (and in hundreds of breeding situations) also says on the label “Safe use in pregnant animals or animals intended for breeding has not been proven.” In the veterinary field, we understand that there are many items that we feel are beneficial to health, but have not been proven safe for pregnancy.
It would be accurate to say that almost all essential oils have not been evaluated as being totally safe for breeding, pregnant, or lactating animals. But in real life, we find that proper use has been carried out successfully – and without apparent ill effects. However, we encourage you to work with your veterinarian to determine if essential oil use is warranted for your situation.