Lavender oil

Definition

Lavender oil is an oil made from the flowers of lavender plants. Lavender poisoning occurs when someone swallows lavender oil. This can be by accident or on purpose.

This article is for information only. Do NOT use it to treat or manage an actual poison exposure. If you or someone you are with has an exposure, call your local emergency number (such as 911), or your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States.

Poisonous Ingredient

It is mainly the linalyl acetate and linalool in lavender oil that are poisonous.

Where Found

Lavender oil is used in certain perfumes. It is also used as a flavoring substance.

Other products may also contain lavender oil and may be used for different reasons.

Symptoms

Symptoms of lavender oil poisoning include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Burning pain in the throat
  • Burns to the eye (if you get it in your eye)
  • Confusion
  • Decreased level of consciousness
  • Diarrhea (watery, bloody)
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting
  • Rash

Home Care

Seek medical help right away. Do NOT make the person throw up unless poison control or a health care provider tells you to.

If the chemical was swallowed, give the person water or milk right away, if a provider tells you to do so. Do NOT give anything to drink if the person has symptoms that make it hard to swallow. These include vomiting, convulsions, or a decreased level of alertness.

Before Calling Emergency

Have this information ready:

  • Person's age, weight, and condition
  • Name of the product (and ingredients, if known)
  • Time it was swallowed
  • Amount swallowed

Poison Control

Your local poison center can be reached directly by calling the national toll-free Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) from anywhere in the United States. This national hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.

This is a free and confidential service. All local poison control centers in the United States use this national number. You should call if you have any questions about poisoning or poison prevention. It does NOT need to be an emergency. You can call for any reason, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

What to Expect at the Emergency Room

Bring the container with you to the hospital, if possible.

The provider will measure and monitor the person's vital signs, including temperature, pulse, breathing rate, and blood pressure. Symptoms will be treated.

The person may receive:

  • Activated charcoal
  • Blood and urine tests
  • Breathing support, including a tube through the mouth into the lungs and a breathing machine (ventilator)
  • Chest x-ray
  • EKG (electrocardiogram, or heart tracing)
  • Fluids through the vein (by IV)
  • Laxative
  • Medicines to treat symptoms
  • Tube through the mouth into the stomach to wash out the stomach (gastric lavage)

Outlook (Prognosis)

How well someone does depends on the amount of poison swallowed and how quickly treatment is received. The faster medical help is given, the better the chance for recovery.

Lavender oil is generally not poisonous when breathed in during aromatherapy or swallowed. The major effects are due to allergic reactions of the skin.

References

Graeme KA. Toxic plant ingestions. In: Auerbach PS, ed. Wilderness Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2012:chap 64.

Maypole J, Woolf, AD. Essential oils. In: Shannon MW, Borron SW, Burns MJ, eds. Haddad and Winchester's Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2007:chap 101.

Prashar A, Locke IC, Evans CS. Cytotoxicity of lavender oil and its major components to human skin cells. Cell Prolif. 2004;37:221-229.

Review date:
December 7, 2016
Reviewed by:
Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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