Your child is congested. You want to help. You think about using a vapor rub, but you want something natural, so you reach for the Eucalyptus essential oil…
Before you apply a high 1,8-cineole oil to your child, please read this post. I want to explain why this is not recommended, and offer you some safe alternatives.
Why you want to avoid using Eucalyptus, Rosemary, or Peppermint essential oils on your children
Eucalyptus and the cineole chemotype of Rosemary are on the list of essential oils to avoid using on children under age 10. Peppermint is not recommended for children under age 6. You can find that list here: Essential Oils and Children.
First, let’s discuss why Eucalyptus and Rosemary are not recommended, and then we’ll talk about Peppermint.
According to Essential Oil Safety, essential oils high [more than 40%] in 1,8-cineole can cause central nervous system and breathing problems in young children and should not be “applied to or near the faces of” or “otherwise inhaled by” children under 10 years of age.
Eucalyptus and Rosemary (the “cineole” chemotype in particular) contain high amounts of the constituent 1,8-cineole. The exact amount depends on the species and/or chemotype of Eucalyptus or Rosemary.
For example, here is the upper range of 1,8-cineole content for various species of Eucalyptus and Rosemary:
- Eucalyptus camaldulensis (cineole chemotype) – 83%
- Eucalyptus globulus – 84%
- Eucalyptus maidenii – 77%
- Eucalyptus plenissima – 95%
- Eucalyptus polybractea 92%
- Eucalyptus radiata 65%
- Eucalyptus smithii 78%
- Rosemary officinalis (cineole chemotype) – 58%
There are other species of Eucalyptus and Rosemary which may not contain as much 1,8-cineole, but they have other issues which cause them to be problematic when using them with children. It’s best to avoid all Eucalyptus and Rosemary for children under age 10.
Peppermint is also to be avoided due to the menthol content. Like 1,8-cineole, menthol can “stimulate cold receptors in the lungs, and this triggers a reflex in young children which slows breathing significantly, sometimes dangerously.” (source)
This abstract states a 4-year-old girl had several adverse effects leading to a grand mal seizure after eucalyptus oil was used topically to treat head lice.
What you can use for your child’s congestion instead of Eucalyptus
For children over age 2, Pine, Spruce, Fir, and Cypress are good alternatives to Eucalyptus and Peppermint that can be used for congestion (avoid Ponderosa Pine or Huon Pine).
For children under age 2, I really do prefer to avoid essential oils and stick to hydrosols or herbs instead for this age group. Peppermint tea, consumed, or just smelled, can help the wee ones with congestion.
You can find my anti-congestion recipes for ages 6 months and up here: Age-Appropriate Anti-Congestion recipes and suggestions for babies and children.
Where to Buy Essential Oils & Learn More About How to Use Them Safely
The author of this post, Lea Harris, is a certified clinical aromatherapist who offers thoughtful, well-researched, and unbiased information about essential oils on her site Learning About Essential Oils. She is not affiliated with any essential oil brand or company, and she’s generously agreed to create this series of posts for us Food Renegades to help educate us about essential oil safety.
You may purchase essential oils locally, or you can buy them online.
Thanks, Lea, for sharing this post with us!