They are prepared from the plants by distillation, pressing or extraction with organic solvents. Most are fluid at room temperature and are not "oily" (do not put grease stains on clothes).
Each essential oil is a mixture of many different hydrocarbons, but often there are 2-3 compounds that dominate and determine the properties of the oil.
Essential oils are sold in pure form, often on relatively small bottles. But they can also be mixed with base oils for massage, added cosmetics, be effective components in repellents, solvents and cleaners, and used as a flavoring in food and drink.
Undiluted essential oils are irritating and systemic. The risk of systemic toxicity depends on the amount and properties of the oil in question. Serious system effects include CNS effects and cramps. Aspiration can cause chemical pneumonia. Products that contain essential oils are less dangerous than oils in pure form, but the variation between the products is large. Feel free to contact the Gift Information for assessment of such products.
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Symptoms and clinical signs
Monitoring and treatment
Essential oils are irritating and to varying degrees systemic. All essential oils are irritating to mucous membranes and eyes, and many also to the skin if they are undiluted or slightly diluted. Aspiration can cause chemical pneumonia.
The risk of systemic toxicity depends on:
Type of oil
Concentration (pure oil or blend product)
Amount ingested, or contact time when exposed to skin or eyes
The most toxic essential oils can cause severe systemic toxicity even in small quantities, few milliliters may be enough. Among these are camphor oil, eucalyptus oil and einer tar oil.
Contact the Poison Information for more information on specific oils, or toxicity assessment for specific exposures. Many products (massage oils, cosmetics, etc.) have a very low concentration of essential oil, and other ingredients will then be crucial for the toxicity.