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Are Essential Oils
with Ketones Safe?

by Michael Harings

A friend asked me the other day if essential oils with ketones are safe. She saw a web page that said they're not safe: "Ketones are the most potentially toxic compounds in essential oils. The effect they produce upon the body's systems are extremely powerful and too much ketone is what makes oils too dangerous to use in Aromatherapy." The author of this page goes on to mention spike lavender and peppermint among essential oils with ketones.

Essential oils are full of complex chemicals. They are created for different purposes by the plant, such as self-defense and propagation. Ketones are part of the terpene compounds, which is the largest class of chemical compounds found in essential oils--about 1000 monoterpenes and 3000 sesquiterpenes1.

Now some oils she mentions are dangerous, but I haven't seen anything written about methone (the ketone in peppermint) as being dangerous, except in reference to not giving children too big a dosage. The ketones to watch out for are found in Sage (Salvia Officinalis, not Clary Sage), Thuja, Mugwort Hyssop, and Pennyroyal2. Additionally, other nontoxic ketones are found in Jasmine, Fennel, Geranium and Helicrysum3.

Additionally, the author says nothing about peppermint having ketones on her page where she describes common essential oils she uses and enjoys. She obviously has much experience using them in a variety of ways.

Which makes me wonder: Who do you trust? There are so many pages on the web that simply copy other pages--so what's real? Anya McCoy has an insightful observation on this phenomena from website:

Bad, Bad Aromatherapy Books

There are only a few reviews here. Frankly, I got bored of writing the same thing over and over in reviewing them (or in posting other's reviews): no references, plagerized info, no research, 'made up' recipes, incorrect information, lack of safety data, etc.

The most succinct example of bogus writers putting false information out there I gathered in a personal phone conversation I had with Jami Lin, Feng Shui practitioner, author, teacher. We were associated for a while in promoting a Feng Shui lecture series in Miami. She gave me a copy of her book "The Essence of Feng Shui: Balancing Your Body, Home, and Life with Fragrance". I was shocked, as usual, by the lack of references, the cliched 'uses' of the oils, and the generally unprofessional tone of the book.

I called her up, and in a noncommital voice asked, "Jami, what are your references for the oil uses you promote, in other words, how did you arrive at the uses you promote?", and she blithely, laughingly answered:

"I made it all up."

So, we'll have to continue this consideration of what's real and what's made up!


  1. Clinical Aromatherapy, Essential Oils in Practice, 2nd edition, Jane Buckle, page 43.
  2. Medical Aromatherapy, Healing with Essential Oils, Kurt Schnaubelt, page 174.
  3. Clinical Aromatherapy, page 51.

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