Category Archives: Witch Doctory

Addressing Essential Oil Safety


I’ve been contemplating how to write this post for a while. I feel somewhat unqualified to address it because I don’t consider myself an expert on the topic of essential oils. However, as essential oils gain popularity and more and more people I know start using them, I feel like I need to speak up.

I love essential oils. I grew up with them. My mom started using them over 20 years ago and using them are part of my mentality.

As I’ve changed from a passive user (meaning that someone else has told me how to use them and what to use) to an active user, I’ve spent a lot of time researching them. I’ve learned a lot about the oils I grew up with and added new favorites. They are wonderful, powerful tools.

However, essential oils are not inert. They are powerful tools and need to be used with respect.

Lavender oil can increase prepubescent breast tissue. Peppermint oil can cause laryngeal spasms which can close a child’s airway. Clary sage can induce labor and cause miscarriage. Tea tree oil can cause nerve damage.

My purpose in sharing these oil dangers is not to scare anyone away from using oils, but to illustrate a point. Like all powerful tools, there are benefits and there are potential risks. The important thing is to be informed of these risks and how to minimize them.

There are essential oil companies on the market whose recommendation for use is unsafe.

Most oils should not be used “neat” (undiluted), taken internally, used at “normal” strength on children or “diluted” with water (come on, people… oil can’t be diluted with water; this is basic chemistry). If you react to them, it’s not your body detoxing. It’s you having a reaction to them and if you do not discontinue use, you should only continue with extreme caution.

Many of the essential oil sales reps are my friends and neighbors. I don’t blame them for not having proper information. It’s a corporate issue and it’s at least a little bit profit-driven.

If you use one drop of oil diluted in a teaspoon of carrier oil, you will use your oil more slowly than if you need six to ten drops of neat essential oil to cover the same area. The company is going to sell less.

I’m not saying to never use oils neat, to ingest them, to use them in a bath or on a child. We do all of those things at our house. But we research them, consider the risks and the benefits and make a decision based on those things.

Even still, we aren’t immune from negative reactions. Little Miss Monkey has a lavender allergy (I have a sensitivity) which made it difficult for her to breathe when we used it on her. That was VERY scary as a mom. I also recently discovered I have a thyme allergy. Thyme was/is a new oil to me and I had a very painful reaction to it. In both cases, we were using best practices and following safety guidelines. If we weren’t, both of our reactions could’ve been much, much worse.

If you are new to essential oils (or even if you’re a veteran user), I love the web site Learning About EOs and the Facebook page Using Essential Oils Safely.

I’ll begin the way I started – I love essential oils. They are wonderful, powerful tools. They have risks and it’s important to be aware of them. By doing so, we can use them for their incredible benefits in a safe way.




In which I practice witch-doctory and make cough syrup (pictorial)


We’ve had a little bit of illness in our house recently. Husband has had terrible allergies and Monkey had the sniffles (that I thought were teething related) which have now turned into a cough.

Unfortunately, when our little little ones are sick, there’s not much modern medicine can do for them. Cough medicine is not safe to give babies and frankly I would prefer to avoid it anyway.

If you know my extended family in real life, you know that we trend towards a bit alternative. This is especially true of my mom who I have lovingly called The Witch Doctor for years.

Well, on Sunday, I found myself following in her witch doctor footsteps, trying to concoct something to ease my little one year old’s cough (and help DH in the process).

So I got online and looked for recipes. To my disappointment, most of the recipes were pretty limited or pretty disgusting.

It’s great if you can fix a sore throat with honey and lemon or if as an adult you can gulp down an onion-and-garlic tonic, but that was not going to work for a toddler. I also wanted something that was going to really pack a punch. So using my limited but growing knowledge of alternative medicines and my extensive Google skills, I made something up.

The first ingredients I used were powered Mullein and Ginger. Mullein is an expectorant and ginger is an antitussive.

Ingredients 1

I added 1 tablespoon of ginger and 2¬†tablespoons of mullein to 1 1/2 cups of water. Next time, I’ll add less mullein as the mixture was quite thick and didn’t dissolve as well as I had hoped. I don’t know if mullein powder is water soluble anyway, but I’m convinced that I added too much powder. Next time I’ll probably do 1 tablespoon of mullein.

I headed the mixture on the stove and brought it to a low boil and simmered about 5 minutes to create an infusion.

In Process 1

Next, I strained the mixture. Again, I learned some things. The next time I do this, I’ll use cheesecloth instead of coffee filter, which didn’t handle the thickness of the mixture very well.

In Process 2

It was at this point Husband wandered into the kitchen and asked if he should call me the Witch Doctor or the Apothecary…

Once I squeezed as much liquid out as I could, I measured it and put it pack in the pan. I lost about half my liquid.

To the mullein-ginger infusion I added lemon and clove essential oils (10 drops of lemon, accidentally 11 of clove), which are both known for their antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal qualities.

Ingredients 2

I also added 1/4 cup coconut oil (which may be beneficial for treating asthma, bronchitis, colds, cough, earache, fever and flu), and 1/8 cup lemon juice (mostly for flavor, since the mullein/ginger mix was quite awful, and to make up for the lost liquid). I brought this up to a low boil over medium heat and simmered 5 minutes. Then I took the pan off the heat and let it cool to just warm enough to dissolve the honey and added 1/4 cup raw honey.

Ingredients 3

And then I bottled the mixture up.


As you can see, there’s already some separation happening, so the mixture has to be shaken before using. I’ll keep the bottles in the fridge for future use.

Also, next time I think I’ll skip the coconut oil as it solidifies in cool temperatures, which is kind of a pain to deal with right out of the fridge and I don’t think it really adds that much to the overall mixture.

It’s been interesting to taste it as it’s sat. When it was finished, it was very lemony-sickly-sweet. But by last night the flavors had developed a little more and the clove/mullein/ginger was more pronounced. It definitely tasted better in the evening.

It seemed to help the cough immediately, but I’m really anxious to see how it works long-term. Monkey was coughing again when she woke up this morning, so it wasn’t an instant cure. Stay tuned for an update!

— Please note that it is not safe to ingest essential oils “neat” or only mildly diluted. In this case, essential oils were a small part of the recipe. You should use EO carefully as they are powerful and can have long-term effects. —