Essential oils are plant-derived volatile oils that have the aroma and other properties of that plant and may be extracted from:
The plants that our forebears used would have been grown locally and deemed ‘safe’ after generations of trial and error. Today most essential oil production is done on an industrial scale with plants bought in, often from across the globe, in large quantities.
In much the same way as grapes of the same varietal taste different if they are grown in France vs Australia, it’s the same for plants. This poses a challenge as the chemical compounds that give oils their scent and medicinal properties can vary greatly due to their interaction with the environment (soil type and climate, etc.) and the maturity of the plant when harvested. How the oils were extracted or processed can also vary the chemical compounds in the oils.
All these factors combine to make it difficult to develop an evidence-based approach about how, and how much of each oil is safe to use. Further, while some compounds in oils have been studied, for many others there is very little quality evidence for their efficacy or safety.
We can’t say with complete certainty that oils are 100% safe if you are TTC, but many studies have been conducted on these, and nothing concerning has been found:
There is some evidence, even if not of great quality, that some compounds in essential oils could be harmful during preconception or pregnancy because they have been found to cause uterine contractions (and some, in fact, were used in the past to induce abortion). Others are on the ‘avoid’ list just because their use hasn’t been studied extensively, so their safety can’t yet be determined:
Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind if you're trying to conceive:
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