Nature has a large selection of volatile plant fragrances, the so-called essential oils, which are characterized by a particularly intense and strong smell. In a pine forest, for example, the smallest amounts per cubic meter of air of the essential turpentine oil are sufficient to spread the characteristic, spicy fragrance. No wonder then that humans associate a healthy and healing effect with these flavorings, but rarely a risk.
The dose makes the poison
Although the essential oils, for example, are found to be soothing and symptom-relieving in the case of colds and flu-like infections, the dose also causes them poison. This is shown by severe poisoning cases in children, which are repeatedly caused by - mostly misused - essential oils. Essential oils are characterized by their toxic effects on the central nervous system, the kidneys and the respiratory tract. There are considerable differences in terms of their potency on humans. Very toxic are eg camphor, eucalyptus (cineole) and peppermint oil (menthol). Slightly less toxic are turpentine oil, orange / lemon peel, tea tree and clove oil. Relatively harmless are cosmetic products such as perfumes, creams, soaps, etc., where the proportion of essential oils is usually low and can be neglected in terms of poisoning. Caution is advised against products containing high levels of highly toxic essential oils. These are, for example, China oils, warming rubs or balms, circulation-promoting sports albums, special bath oils or cold baths, scented oils for improving room air or aromatherapy, and also various citrus-based thinners, eg for biolacs.
Heavy poisoning could be the result
If these products are inadvertently taken, serious poisoning can occur. In infants and toddlers, even a few drops of the essential oils accidentally released into the nasopharynx can trigger cramping of the larynx and lead to respiratory disorders. The experiences from the medical reports on poisoning and the German poison information centers show fortunately that these serious poisonings are very rare. In the majority of cases, as a result of the unintentional intake of essential oils "only" skin and reddening of the mouth, abdominal pain, possibly also nausea and vomiting. Very rarely, there are short-lasting symptoms such as tiredness, restlessness, tremors and movement disorders. Regardless of whether it is mild or severe poisoning, all warning signs should be taken seriously and a poison information center should be consulted.