I see it asked all the time: Are essential oils safe to ingest? There is an awful lot of controversy throughout the internet on whether or not it is safe ingesting essential oils. Many people say no, while many others give testimonials on how they’ve never had any issues and feel better than ever when they do. Then there are many who are coming out to warn others about internal injuries.
Should we ingest essential oils?
Asking if something is safe is different from asking if its something you shoulddo. Should you? Only you can answer that. As I’ve mentioned earlier in my safety series, essential oils are a very personal experience. Each oil will affect different people differently and is largely dependent on your individual biology. They are also highly concentrated, and deserve to be treated with respect.
Is ingesting essential oils safe?
Possibly, yes, and no.
Although the FDA regards essential oils as GRAS (generally regarded as safe) for ingestion, many certified aromatherapists advocate against ingesting oils.
Arguably there are many substances the FDA refers to as GRAS that we shouldn’t be within 10 feet of… so I tend to take FDA guidelines with a grain of salt, so to speak.
Essential oils are legally considered supplements. Supplement safety and effectiveness are not regulated by the FDA. This does not mean it is ok to pop open a bottle and start drinking it!! This also does not mean all essential oils are created equally. You should first know where your oils come from and how to choose which ones to use before getting started. There is a lot to be said about knowing where your food comes from… essential oils are no different.
It is true, you can receive just as many health benefits from oils using them by diffusing or applying topically, arguably more since inhaling and rubbing them (diluted) on your skin reaches the blood stream faster and without digestive intervention. Ingesting isn’t needed. The biggest problem I have with ingesting (although I have on rare occasions to accomplish a specific goal), is that there is very little research done, especially in regards to how oils effect our digestive tracts. Before you choose to ingest oils, I hope you do your research and make an educated decision based on what is best for your family.
Many people ingest essential oils regularly and feel better for doing so. Some people also ingest oils and over time develop medical complications they assumed wouldn’t happen because oils are “natural.”
I often cringe when people blindly give advice such as dropping lemon, peppermint, grapefruit, …etc… into their water to drink. These are not oils you would want to put directly on your skin without proper dilution, so putting them in water to drink would be way outside my comfort zone and is not something I would suggest to anyone. Remember, oil and water don’t mix.
I’m not saying those who do are wrong, though I would ask them to continue reading through research literature and not do it every day for years without caution. When using topically, water will cause the oil to spread and drive it further into the skin. This makes “hot” oils such as peppermint feel even “hotter.” Because of this, I cringe seeing people drink oils in water.
If you’re looking for a great way to make your water taste better and achieve the health benefits of lemons, add a lemon slice to your water. Dropping lemon oil (or any other type of essential oil) into water can damage your esophagus and strip your mucus membranes. If you’re comfortable and set on ingesting oils, please dilute them properly.
Please dilute oils to take internally is very similar to diluting when applying topically…
How to properly dilute essential oils to consume:
- Put a drop or two into a capsule, and fill the rest of the capsule up with a seed-based carrier oil (such as avocado, coconut, sweet almond, olive, grape seed…etc…).
- Dilute a drop of essential oil in a teaspoon of honey prior to adding to tea or water
- Drip a drop or two on to a slice of bread. This way, you won’t be harming your esophagus.
Adding essential oils to drinks
I see them all over Pinterest, and often have friends and customers ask me if its ok because of it. A
gain, if you’re comfortable with ingesting and have determined its right for your family, I still advocate for you to dilute them appropriately first. Lavender lemonade sounds delicious. You could have the same results adding lavender flowers to your lemonade, but if you choose to use the essential oil, dilute it in honey before mixing the honey into the rest of the drink.
One thing I DO NOT advocate is adding essential oils to your water. I have a surprisingly large amount of friends who do so and swear by it. I also am a science nerd who knows how well oil and water mix.DO NOT dilute essential oils in water... oil and water don't mix. Instead, opt for something like honey to add your oils to first, and then stir in your water or drink.
Looking at applying oils topically: when you add them on your skin and feel a burning sensation you know you need to dilute. With that process, if you dilute with water it will drive the oils in faster and make them feel “hotter.” When you use a carrier oil, it dilutes the oil and spreads them out over a larger area and relieves that skin irritation. When I think of ingesting oils in water, I think of the same thing. If you’re going to add oils to water, please add them first to some sea salt, honey, or something that will dissolve them before adding water.
Many oils (like lemon and peppermint) are known for stripping mucous membranes. That’s not something I’m comfortable with doing to my esophagus and there has been reports of esophageal damage because of adding oils to water. Of course, those reports do not disclose how much oil was used, so the results are bias and subjective. This is where your personal comfort level and doing your due diligence to research how you plan to use oils is paramount.
Risks to consuming essential oils
There have been many reports of people dying and becoming extremely sick after drinking an ounce of essential oil. Please… don’t drink a bottle of oil. 5ml 10ml 15ml 30ml… they are meant to be dripped out of, not consumed as a whole. This means for those of us with small kids… keep the oils out of reach!
The chemical composition of essential oils contain highly concentrated constituents, which may be toxic when consumed in quantities other than a few highly diluted drops. In addition to adverse reactions like allergies, and unwanted effects on nursing/pregnancy, young children and the elderly, some essential oils contain constituents that when ingested may cause seizures, respiratory failure, and kidney failure regardless of age or circumstance.
- Roman Chamomile Oil (Arthemis nobilis) can cause gastrointestinal upset, allergic reactions, bronchospasm, and can stimulate the uterus.
- Cinnamon Oil (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) can lead to hypersensitivity, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dizziness, and oral lesions.
- Clove Oil (Syzygium aromaticum) can cause oral irritation, allergic reactions, nausea, vomiting, respiratory symptoms, and seizures.
- Eucalyptus Oil (Eucalyptus globulus) includes 1,8 cineole (eucalyptol) and hydrocyanic acid, responsible for vomiting, abdominal pain, respiratory depression, dizziness, headaches, ataxia, obtundation, coma, and seizures.
- Pennyroyal Oil (Mentha pulegium) contains pulegone, responsible for nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and even kidney failure.
- Peppermint Oil (Mentha species) may lead to hypersensitivity, ataxia (a lack of voluntary muscle coordination), and myalgia (muscle pain).
- Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) can cause ataxia, stupor, and sores.
This information can be found in Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose, 4th ed. (2007) in “TABLE 101-1 — Selected Essential Oils and Their Toxicities.”
I don’t tell you this to freak you out… but to help provide you with a healthy respect for essential oils and how to use them in a safe manner.
Pre-made supplement drinks featuring essential oils
NingXia Red, NingXia Zyng, and NingXia Nitro are also good (pre-made) essential oil infused drinks offered through Young Living. The NingXia line of drinks provide an antioxidant boost with some essential oils mixed in appropriately.
I was surprised at how much more clearly I was thinking and more energetic I felt after taking an ounce a day for a week. It’s not something, however, I take every day, and I do not take more than an ounce a day. I know people who take more, but after trying two ounces in one day I felt like I was stressing my body. I do tend to be more physically sensitive and use oils more conservatively. Your body is different from mine, and I’m sure you will notice different results.
These drinks are the only way I ingest essential oils regularly.
Cooking with essential oils
Yes!! You CAN cook with essential oils.
Have you ever looked at the labels on the extracts in your kitchen? I was curious and started looking at mine. The lemon extract in my kitchen cupboard is comprised lemon essential oil and alcohol.
What quality? I have no idea, but if I had to guess based on how much I paid for that extract, I would assume probably “food grade essential oil,” which isn’t something you necessarily want in your body.
I ran out of lemon extract the other day and used a few drops of Young Living’s lemon vitality essential oil (pre-diluting it in my recipe’s called for cooking oil) instead of the extract and LOVED how it turned out – my favorite place to add lemon vitality essential oil is in blueberry pancakes or muffins. Bright and flavorful.
You can even substitute some cooking herbs for their oil counterparts (like in my friend’s spaghetti sauce recipe), though will need much less of the oil for the same effect. Young Living actually has a whole line of essential oils under the Vitality label that are specific for using to ingest and cook with.
Just a tip when cooking using essential oils. Oils are not herbs. They do not get stronger the longer you cook. If you choose to substitute oils for herbs (which I do a lot when traveling and moving), add the oils at the last moment possible when your pan is on low heat. When we heat oils too high, they can become damaged and don’t provide any therapeutic benefits.
What about using as a mouth-rinse?
I was just reading a study on PubMed, titled An investigation of the effect of an essential oilmouthrinse on induced bacteraemia: a pilot study. I found their results intriguing! Basically, the study found rinsing one’s mouth with essential oils reduced bacteria levels in the bloodstream in those having mild-to-moderate gingivitis.
I personally love adding a drop of Thieves blend or lemon essential oil into my coconut oil for oil pulling, but as mentioned above, I do not support dropping oils directly into water without first binding them to some sort of salt or carrier oil (coconut oil is a perfect example of a carrier oil).
Keep in mind, there are oils you absolutely shouldn’t consume!
For example, Wintergreen is unsafe to ingest. It can cause ringing in the ears, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, stomach pain, and confusion. It can be poisonous for children (deadly if ingesting 4-10ml), which is why there is typically a child-safe cap on the oil vials.
Before you ingest, PLEASE DO YOUR RESEARCH. Don’t blindly follow what others do, even “experts” blogging online.
More in my Safety Series:
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