Essential Oils – Boon or Bane

In the past year, retail sales of essential oils soared 38%, with consumers spending more than $1 billion on oils and accessories, according to market research firm SPINS. 

“There is definitely credible science behind certain benefits for certain essential oils,” says Cynthia Bailey, MD, a dermatologist in Sebastopol, CA. “But you have to choose wisely, and you cannot use them indiscriminately.”

As far back as 1,000 A.D., healers used mechanical presses or steam to extract essential oils from aromatic plants. Today, practitioners can rub oil-infused lotions on the skin, where the compounds are absorbed into the bloodstream. Or they can diffuse them into the air where, once inhaled, they bind to smell receptors and stimulate the central nervous system,

  Ill-informed at-home users tend to misuse them. One group of concerned aromatherapists began collecting injury reports online. Since the fall of  2013, it  has received 229, ranging from mild rashes and anaphylactic shock to internal chemical burns from using oils to treat vaginal yeast infections.

  Essential oils are very safe and effective if used properly for addressing routine health challenges. But there is so much misinformation out there right now,

  Contrary to what several essential oil companies recommend, the oils generally should not be swallowed. The body absorbs more this way, boosting the chance that they will interact with medications or cause an allergic or toxic reaction. Even continued exposure to small amounts (a few drops a day in a water bottle) can lead to fatigue and headaches. Taking in larger amounts of certain oils — like tea tree oil, wintergreen, and camphor — can lead to throat swelling, a racing heart, vomiting, and even seizures, says the Tennessee Poison Center, which saw the number of toxic essential oil exposures double from 2011 to 2015.

The oils, which are derived from plants and used in aromatic and homeopathic products, can cause harm when consumed. And children face a heightened risk from exposure, the experts said.

“The rule of thumb in toxicology is ‘the dose makes the poison,’ so all essential oils are potentially harmful,” said Dr. Justin Loden, a certified specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Tennessee Poison Center.

Some essential oils, like eucalyptus, contain compounds called phenol that can irritate the respiratory tract if inhaled, particularly for babies. And some have hormone-like properties that studies suggest could harm children and pregnant women.

  Allergic reactions are also common. Bailey has seen rashes on eyelids from essential oil droplets emitted by diffusers and around mouths from peppermint oil-infused mouthwash or lip balm.

Highly toxic essential oils include camphor, clove, lavender, eucalyptus, thyme, tea tree, and wintergreen oils, the researchers noted. Many essential oils can cause symptoms such as agitation, hallucinations and seizures. Symptoms may also include chemical burns, breathing problems, liver failure and brain swelling, among others.

To keep kids and pets safe, store essential oils properly — locked and out of reach. Follow instructions regarding their use, and seek help by calling Poison Control (1-800-222-1222 in the United States) in an emergency.

The above was excerpted from these articles. 

Essential Oils: Natural Doesn’t Mean Risk-Free

More Kids Accidentally Poisoned by Essential Oils 

Caveat Emptor

the principle that the buyer alone is responsible for checking the quality and suitability of goods before a purchase is made.

Newborn instructions


Mother and Child by Emanuel Phillips Fox, 1908.

There are a number of good books on infant and child care. The only problem is that they often say things differently. My new parents are often confused by the well-meaning advice that they receive both in print and from friends or family.

Often at the first visit either before delivery or at the first well exam, I spend thirty minutes demystifying their child.

The first two weeks at home are often hard. The Gerber baby did not come home with them. Feeding is hard and sleep is a scarce commodity.

Many moms choose to breast feed but many moms either choose not to nurse or cannot nurse. That is the decision of the mother. Nursing is a huge commitment and the parent must feel good about how they choose to feed their child.

Initial feeding whether at breast or bottle is on demand, however if the baby has not awakened in 4 hours, he should be wakened for feeding. Your baby may not feed well every feeding but at least he should feed well every other feeding. Good babies do not sleep well at night usually for the first 2 weeks at home. Babies are often very sleepy on day 3 and 4 but should be more wakeful by day 4 or 5. Your baby may be fussy the first 2 weeks. If he is feeding, passing urine and passing POOP, then I am not too concerned. Your baby may easily loose 8-10 oz those first 4 to 5 days. A normal term baby should be back to birth weight by 2 weeks of age. Breast feeding is not easy and the first 2 weeks are not the warm fuzzy experience that most parents expect. Be Patient! Once your milk comes in usually day 3 to 5, your baby will be more content and you will be happier as well. Keep in mind that each baby’s temperament and each mom is different.

Your newborn may only nurse well at the first breast and fall asleep on the second breast 10-30 min later he will wake and want to feed on the other breast, that is ok but tiring.

Formula fed infants will take 1-2 oz per feeding every 2-3 hours.

In most cases the baby is fussy that is due to your infant having not eaten before and it requires some changes with in his stomach. He is uncomfortable due to the passage of gas and poop. That will improve over the next 2 weeks. Frequent formula changes may not help and that may be unnecessary.

Each newborn is different and each birthing experience is different. Most of my parents do not have the extended local family network that their parents had. Surround yourself with supportive people. Ask your doctor or breast-feeding advisor for help and support.

There are so many books and articles out there that a lot of my parents do not know where to get reliable information.

Terry Brazelton MD has been a reference that I have used for over thirty years.  Here is a link to his newsletter that he has linked in the NAEYC website.

Getting started.



I am  interested in providing my patients and families a portal for information and common sense information.

Please be patient with me as I learn to post and link my favorite anecdotes and links.

I hope to be able to insert some hyperlinks to some of my favorite pediatric care web sites.

I have been doing general pediatrics for 30 years.  I have just recently affiliated with a larger group with the hope of greater flexibility of practice opportunities and with the desire to offer  more to my patients.