Thursday, October 10, 2013

High Citral Oils vs Pregnancy?

Who knew?  Certainly not us!
I had always known that some of the very high Citral oils were powerful irritants.  And we have always warned people against using Lemon Verbena essential oil.  It was on the “IFRA-banned” list as a sensitizer.   But we had never made the connection between that specific oil and the general class of “high citral” essential oils. And nowhere had we read warning against using high citral oils during pregnancy or lactation.

At the recent “Clinical Safety in Aromatherapy” conference, Robert Tisserand talked at length about the risks of Citral, not only as a sensitizer, but also (and this was a shocker!) to pregnant women.  It appears that there is a chance that Citral can effect tooth and bone development in the fetus.   I have NEVER seen any warnings against use of Citral or Citral containing essential oils during pregnancy.

What IS Citral? 

Citral is a blend of two naturally occurring phytochemicals (Isomers), Geranial and Neral.  By itself, Citral is a powerful irritant and sensitizer.  Blending with oils high in d-Limonene *may* cancel out the irritant/sensitizer effects of the Citral, but it seems that can’t be guaranteed.  It often helps, but not always.  (Pink Grapefruit is a perfect example of a high d-limonene oil that could quench the irritating or sensitizing effects of Citral, but there is no guarantee. Some studies show the “quenching” affect, others indicate it doesn’t exist. When research results are mixed, it is at the very least important that we be aware of the risks.)  
Based on this we have added some warnings to certain oils on our website.  The list of high Citral oils includes:
  • Lemongrass
  • Lemon Myrtle
  • Lemon Tea Tree
  • Lemon Verbena
  • Litsea Cubeba
  • Melissa
  • (also on the list, but not oils we offer, are Lemon Leaf [lemon petitgrain] and Honey Myrtle.)
Obviously, they are the NON-citrus lemony scented oils.
There is no indication that inhalation of the high citral oils can cause any problems, either on the skin or with pregnancy.  However oral use (ingestion) of any of them should be avoided during pregnancy or lactation. 
We are not sure what the safe level for topical use would be to avoid risk to the fetus, but according to Robert Tisserand, the 0.7% dilution recommended by IFRA should give a sufficient margin of safety for pregnant clients. THAT was new to me. We are going to have to very carefully calculate the percentages of the high citral oils in all of our products, and have put appropriate safety warnings on our online descriptions and on the labels of products containing Citral rich oils in a percentage higher than the recommended limit.

One such product is our popular "SkeeterBeater" Gel and Body Oil.  We have added an "avoid use during pregnancy" and "do not use on broken skin" warnings to the product descriptions and to the website.

For the most complete and up to date information on the safe and appropriate use of these powerful healing oils, please see Essential Oil Safety, 2nd edition, by Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young. 

1 comment:

Donna Maria @ Indie Business said...

I love lemongrass oil! Haven't been preggers in a while, but that's my favorite oil. Thanks for the caution!