Essential Oils Uses and Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome – Part 2

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Dorine Lam, RDN, MS, MPH

Read Part 1

Essential Oils Uses Safety

An example of essential oils uses and preparation

Essential oils uses, when applied properly are generally thought to be perfectly safe and very beneficial. But, since their appropriate uses are not widely known, people can harm themselves by using these very concentrated substances in the wrong manner. The following cautions apply:

  • Essential oils should not be used internally unless supervised by a healthcare professional or labeling recommendations state that it is safe for ingestion.
  • Essential oils should not be applied directly on the skin unless supervised by a healthcare professional. It should first be diluted with carrier oil.
  • Keep essential oils out of the hands and reach of children.
  • Cover eyes and mucous membranes when using.
  • Do not use citrus essential oils before going into the sun or any UV light.
  • Use pure essential oils only; always avoid using synthetic fragrances.
  • Essential oils should never be used on children of any age including infants, pregnant women, elderly people, or anyone with serious health issues unless under the supervision of a medical professional.
  • Avoid lengthy exposure without ample ventilation.
  • Keep essential oils and carrier oils stored properly in cool dark places to avoid having them become degraded and/or rancid.

Buyers Beware

There are many kinds of essential oils uses and products on the market. Quality and price varies tremendously. Here are some alerts to keep in mind when shopping for EOs.

  1. Purity – In the United States, the word pure is used loosely. There is no legal meaning to it and it is widely applied to all manner of things.
  2. Synthetic Fragrances – There are specific oils that do not exist in nature and only come as synthetic fragrances, or combined fragrances, which are referred to as bouqueted. These are a combination of essential oils, synthetics and absolutes and include gardenia, honeysuckle, frangipani, and linden.
  3. Chain of Supply – The fragrance industry involves many different levels of suppliers and buyers. The more levels there are, the more likely there is adulteration. False and misleading advertising is widespread in the world of aromatherapy. The best place to purchase oils is from a reputable source. In some oils pesticides are still present after the extracting process, and in some they are not.
  4. Extenders – Many oils contain extenders made up of natural or synthetic solvents. Higher priced oils are often extended using jojoba. Some oils contain extenders to make them easier to pour, such as benzoin; but the solvent used is often questionable.
  5. Bulking – Bulking is the practice of combining the oils from one or more species of plants post-distillation, or loading the same species of plants, but from separate harvests, together into the still. Inevitably dried out plant material from different years are bulked in with fresh plant material. Bulking is done in order to sell the product cheaper and/or to make it fit a standard set by the fragrance or the flavoring industries.

Essential Oils and Dermatological Alerts

Generally, all essential oils should be diluted before they are applied to the skin, as they are highly concentrated. Use fatty oil, or dilute in water when using on a compress.

Purity is a concern when suffering from Adrenal Fatigue and can affect essential oils usesThe two circumstances under which this rule does not apply are as follows:

  1. When using attars as natural perfumes. Since floral essences are actually distilled into basic sandalwood oil, the sandalwood oil ends up acting as a carrier oil, which effectively dilutes the potency and concentration of the pure essential oil.
  2. When using mild essential oils that have a sound history of safety, they can be applied to the skin reasonably and as recommended. A great example of this would be lavender but lavender too can cause problems for certain people.

Skin reactions are becoming a more frequent problem as more synthetic aroma chemicals are being used as adulterants throughout the essential oil industry. It is recommended that one should never put more than just one or two drops of undiluted essential oil on the skin. A patch test ahead of time is always recommended.

For people who have sensitive skin, they should always test out a small spot with diluted oil before they apply it over a larger area. For non-medical purposes, essential oils should not be used on highly sensitive skin, or if the person is allergic, has severe dermatitis or inflammation. Essential oils that are pure are certainly not as dangerous as the chemicals in synthetic aromas.

Skin reactions depend of the kind of oil being used, the concentration or potency of the oil, and the skin condition. It is recommended that any history of adverse skin reaction to oils be considered before any essential oils uses, either for respiratory or dermal applications. Old oils or ones that have already oxidized are more likely to cause skin reactions, most likely rashes.

Fatty carrier oils should always be refrigerated to prevent them becoming rancid. The shelf life of essential oils is usually one to three years. Some oils actually improve with age, like patchouli, sandalwood and vetiver. The citrus oils are likely to degrade and should always be used within a year.

There are a few common forms that skin reactions take when essential oils are applied:


A few essential oils can cause a strong or severe skin irritation and for that reason these oils are very rarely used in the practice of aromatherapy. They include garlic, horseradish, mustard and onion.

Some oils used in massages can be moderately irritating and should be used with caution or avoided altogether, when there is skin sensitivity – cinnamon bark oil, clove, fennel and verbena


This is the same as an allergic skin reaction and usually shows up as a rash. There are not very many oils used in massage practice that produce allergic reactions when applied in a carrier oil. However if you consult PubMed you will find a number of citations reporting allergic skin reactions to different essential oils. These include asthma, contact dermatitis, and eczema. When this happens it usually involves someone who has been using numerous different essential oils and it’s likely that the oils were of poor quality.


Sun light can be damaging for the essential oils uses with Adrenal Fatigue

There are certain essential oils that dramatically increase sensitivity to sunlight or UV rays when applied on the surface of the skin. The danger increases when the oil is undiluted and applied to the skin. However, even when the concentration is low in a carrier oil, it can still cause problems if the person goes out into the sun or lies under a tanning lamp.

The phototoxic skin reaction will be much stronger immediately after the oil is applied to the skin, but gradually decreases over eight to twelve hours. If the oil is highly concentrated, it can take longer. The majority of oils that are phototoxic are photocarcinogenic as well. The citrus oils are the most common phototoxic oils, with bergamot oil being the most reactive. Some citruses, when expressed, are phototoxic but not when they’re distilled, like lemon and lime oils. Other phototoxic citrus oils are angelica, marigold (Tagetes patula), and verbena.

It is always best to follow the recommendations and use proper dilutions, do not go out into sunlight or have any exposure to UV rays after applying, and do not use citrus oils at all if you are planning on going out into the sun at some point after treatment.

General Essential Oils Uses Guidelines

  • Avoid or take special care when applying in areas of delicate skin.
  • Any overexposure to essential oils, particularly in small confined areas, can cause blood sugar imbalance, dizziness, euphoria, irritability, lightheadedness, headache, and nausea.
  • Light, air and heat degrade essential oils so they must be kept sealed tightly and stored in a cool, dark place.
  • Before you experiment with or use an oil, become very familiar with all its properties, recommendations as to dose, and take all precautions.
  • When in doubt about a particular oil, or a health condition, consult a qualified medical practitioner.

Essential Oils Uses: Blends vs. Single Oils

The stronger and healthier a person is, the less it matters. Those who have chronic illness or a weak constitution need to be more careful. Sufferers of advanced Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome, for example, fall into this category. The use of EO in such cases is focused on cleansing the ECM. As such, the oil(s) selected should have excellent skin penetration ability, easily blend into the ECM, and have low viscosity for easy movement through the ECM and easily metabolized by the liver so by-products are excreted out of the body promptly without stasis accumulation.

When considering essential oils uses, the situation determines whether a single oil or blend is best. Generally speaking, blends tend to be more effective given the synergistic effect of properly selected oil. Multiple blends can be used to have a broad effect as needed. For example, those with ECM congestion and Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome can consider EO with adrenal properties as well as foundational ECM properties.

Activated Charcoal and Essential Oils UsesA weak body often needs multiple modalities on a rotational basis because single tools usually cause metabolic toxin accumulation over time. Essential oils uses serve very well as part of the toolbox of multiple tools including marine phytoplankton, activated charcoal, clay, high resistance water etc.

It is very important to begin carefully when leveraging essential oils uses and start any EO program slowly in the presence of Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome. The more advanced the Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome, the more careful one should be. What is considered small amounts for most healthy people, say a few drops, can be too much for those in advanced Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome when the ECM is congested. Even the mere smell or coming into contact physically with EO can trigger an adrenal crash. EO does not work for everyone, but can be of immense value when used properly under correct guidance in advanced stages of Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome as part of a broader arsenal in cleansing the ECM.

Read Part 1

© Copyright 2015 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

Essential oils can be used to elevate health benefits. You can use it through aromatherapy, ingestion, or fragrance through a carrier oil that is used for massage.

An example of essential oils uses and preparation