The list below is the official IFA/IAAMA Contra indication list.

As a member of IAAMA I am duty bound to give you the their list of contra indications; but as an avid researcher into all things aromatic I do not believe that this list is accurate, as you will find in other areas of my notes (some of which were originally written almost 30 years ago) there is much debate over many things that I as a student took as being beyond dispute but now as a practitioner and lecturer question. I have decided to leave some of the old information in the notes and have added up to date comments on what is now known.

 Please be aware that this list was compiled many years ago and is widely disputed now – lemon, peppermint basil, etc. are to be found in many commercially prepared foods, none of which have a warning for expectant women.  There is much contention over contra indications and many of the contra indications given to essential oils were simply taken from herbalism, this is now disputed as we are dealing with quite different chemical compositions and we do not ingest; see further notes on the next page.

OILS WHICH SHOULD NOT BE USED IN PREGNANCY
aniseed arnica basil camphor cedarwood
cinnamon clary sage clove cypress fennel
hyssop jasmine juniper lemon marjoram
mugwart myrrh nutmeg origanum pennyroyal
peppermint sage thyme wintergreen

 

OILS WHICH SHOULD BE AVOIDED BY EPILEPTICS
fennel hyssop sage rosemary wormwood

 

OILS WHICH CAN BE USED ON CHILDREN UNDER 2 YEARS
lavender roman chamomile german chamomile tangerine sweet myrtle
tea tree fragonia

 

OILS WHICH ARE PHOTOSENSATIVE TO THE SKIN (CAUSE SUNBURN)
angelica bergamot cumin grapefruit lemon
lime manderine bitter orange tagetes verbena
Not bergamot FCF which has had the Furocoumarins removed.   Furocoumarins are the chemical responsible for the photosensitivity of bergamot oil and other cold pressed oils

 

OILS WHICH SHOULD NOT BE USED BY PEOPLE WITH HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
hyssop rosemary sage thyme

 

OILS WHICH SHOULD NOT BE USED AT ALL IN THERAPY
almond (bitter) boldo leaf calamus camphor (brown) camphor (yellow)
cassia cinnamon bark clove bud clove stem clove leaf
costus elecampane fennel (bitter) horseradish jaborandi leaf
mugwort (armoise) mustard origanum origanum (spanish) pennyroyal
pine (dwarf) rue savin southernwood sassafras
tansy thuja (ceadarleaf) thuja placata wintergreen wormseed
wormwood

 

Epilepsy – rosemary is stated as a contra indication for epileptics and you will find this as a contra indication in almost all of the aromatherapy books, lately people have been questioning this and asking for some kind of clinical proof / research – but there is none, there is some anecdotal evidence – which then raises the question could this have been partly due to suggestibility?. During the 17th century Rosemary was used internally for the treatment of epilepsy.

 Pregnancy, many oils are said to be potential abortifacients – but there is scant evidence to back this up. We are told to avoid oils that have an emmenagogic action i.e. they effect the menstrual cycle and so assumed that they could lead to the expulsion of the foetus. I am not suggesting that you totally ignore the contra indications list, but it is important that I do not continue to teach information that is not proven and to demystify some of the old wives tales that we have been taught to believe as gospel in the past.

Photosensitivity In some books it states that you must not go into the sun or use a sun tanning bed for 12 hours after having photosensitising oils applied to the skin, this has never been tested and we now feel that a minimum of 24 – 36 hours is best to be on the safe side. The reaction can cause anything from mild brown blotches through to severe burning of the skin. The condition can be very long lasting and any time the skin is exposed to ultra violet light the condition can recur. It is vital to remember that it is ultra violet light that causes the problem and this can occur even on relatively dull days. Therefore, it is not as many aromatherapy authors say caused only by bright sunlight. The main essential oil to avoid in this respect is expressed bergamot. The FCF (Furocoumarin free) variety is perfectly safe and should really be the only variety to apply to the skin, especially in countries like Australia.

This may be leaving you feeling a little confused, I have to admit it took a few years before I stopped asking if any students have high blood pressure or epilepsy before using rosemary in class or at a talk – and I am very cautious when using oils found on the do not use at all list, this is due to many years of conditioning. But having really looked into this I know that I cannot continue to give this information to students knowing that it is not based on any evidence and is strongly disputed by researchers whose opinions I respect. I am sure that in time the IAAMA will amend this list and that books will stop repeating this misinformation, it might take a while but I am sure that it will happen.