If you’re taking medication and want to embrace essential oils, please understand that sometimes there are essential oils and medication contraindications. If you are taking medication and would like to incorporate essential oils into your lifestyle, please consult with a doctor and/or pharmacist well versed in essential oil use and do plenty of your own research as well.
********* This post is NOT at all meant to be used for diagnosis, treatment, or cure of any ailment. This is designed as a reference for information only on how some essential oils *may* react with certain medications. That doesn’t mean they will or will not, which is why it is best to consult with a licensed medical professional who understands essential oils and medication… your pharmacist would be a great starting point. This list may not be fully complete. It is solely based on my own personal research as an herbalist and wellness consultant on the topic and based on the most commonly asked questions I personally have answered for my clients and members.
”Essential oils are known to be active: they gain access to cells by virtue of being fat soluble and are metabolized by the body. As active agents they may react with other drugs present in the body, although there has been no evidence so far that would imply any significant adverse reaction, and essential oils have been used together with allopathic drugs successfully in hospitals.” Price continues: “Until laboratory investigations into possible reactions between essential oils and other drugs have been carried out, it is possible only to surmise what may happen.”Excerpt from: Aromatherapy for Health Professionals, 4e by Shirley and Len Price
Anything that is applied to your skin or swallowed is metabolized by your body. How that substance reacts within your body determines the nutrition your cells receive. Ideally, this will enable your cells to thrive, but is important to understand some substances can react with others in unexpected and unintentional ways.
Everything we eat, drink, and rub on our skin has the possibility of reacting differently to each other within our bodies, which is precisely why it’s important to be aware of how medicine and essential oils can react with each other. Medication is primarily taken orally and is processed through our digestive system, including our liver. This determines how quickly we metabolize the medication and how often that medication should be taken.
When incorporating essential oils into the mix, it is difficult to predict how essential oils will interact with different medications primarily because there isn’t much of anything for studies that explain the how/what/where/when/why of the whole situation. While some oils may enhance medication effects, others could contraindicate them. Some essential oil constituents increase metabolism, which will mess with how quickly your medication is metabolized too. Some oils can slow down metabolism. Either way, altering the amount of time your body metabolizes can change your medication needs. This is why it is critically important to discuss contraindications with a pharmacist or medical doctor who understands and has experience with essential oils (not all doctors do).
Most Commonly Asked Question: Is Grapefruit Essential Oil safe to use when taking medication?
Because grapefruit essential oil and medication concerns are the most frequently asked questions I receive, I thought I’d give it its own little section here.
It is well known across the medical community that the fruit/juice of grapefruit blocks an enzyme found in your intestine’s wall that prevents many different medications from being absorbed. Because of this, many people avoid grapefruit essential oil. Keep in mind that grapefruit essential oil is made from the grapefruit’s rind, not from the fruit. The rind is not known for blocking the enzyme in question.
A video by my favorite pharmacist, Lindsey Elmore that discusses Grapefruit and Medication:
Personally, I still recommend talking with a pharmacist and following your gut instinct.
If you’re not comfortable using grapefruit essential oil, please don’t ever feel that you *have* to use it. There are other oils that can help in the same way as grapefruit that aren’t made with any part of a grapefruit. Please watch the above video that explains it in detail by a pharmacist with extensive research in essential oils.
A list of medication types with essential oils to avoid:
Below is a list of different medication types we’ve been asked about during our individual and group coaching sessions with our members, and which oils, Young Living oil blends, and Young Living supplements are wise to stay away from.
Oils high in 1,8 cineole can interfere with anesthesia metabolism. Because of this, it is widely recommended to not use rosemary, eucalyptus, ravintsara, and bay laurel essential oils in any way prior to having anesthesia administered. Yes, this includes both aromatic and topical use. Rhiannon Harris (a clinical aromatherapist) recommends not using them at all within a week prior to surgery to make sure you prevent any unforeseen complications.
Anticoagulants, Beta Blockers, Blood Thinners (Asprin, Coumadin, Heparin, Warfarin…etc)
A few essential oils may thin your blood, which means you won't want to use them while taking anticoagulants, beta-blockers, or blood thinners. Essential oils known for thinning your blood include oils that contain high levels of methyl salicylate or eugenol.
The constituent Eugenol, which is found in clove, thyme, and oregano, should not be taken internally. You should also avoid using birch and wintergreen oils topically and orally as well.
The same suggestions for people taking anticoagulants should apply to people who have clotting or bleeding issues or hemophilia and people who are about to undergo or recently underwent major surgery, childbirth, peptic ulcer… etc…
Antidepressants (SSRI/MAOI) –
Everything I’ve read suggests staying away from using clove and nutmeg both in topical and oral applications because of possible blood pressure changes, tremors, or possible confusion.
Oils containing the constituents Farensene and Alpha-Bisabolol inhibit the metabolizing enzyme CYP2D6 which can enhance the effects of the antidepressants. These essential oils include: German chamomile, blue tansy, and yarrow
Birth Control Contraceptives –
There is limited research available on using essential oils and birth control, but the studies that do exist indicate having no effects on contraceptives.
According to Robert Tisserand (an expert in aromatherapy science), it is unlikely that aromatherapy has any unwanted effect on oral contraception or hormone replacement therapy, and notes that any research hinting at contraindicating effects is nonexistent.
Diabetic Medication –
The constituent Citral, which is found in Lemongrass and Lemon Myrtle should be avoided orally.
Anise, Star Anise, Cassia, Cinnamon, Dill, Fennel, Geranium, Lemongrass, may Chang, Melissa, Myrtle, Lemon Myrtle, Myrrh, Oregano, Savory, and Tumeric essential oils all have the ability to influence blood sugar levels.
Calcium Channel Blockers (such as high blood pressure medicines… specifically felodipine)
Peppermint may enhance the effects of calcium channel blocker medication when taken orally.
It is wise to avoid Anise when taking diuretics because it has antidiuretic qualities to it.
Ephedrine (in many diet drugs)
It would be wise to avoid the constituent Eugenol, which is found in clove and nutmeg, because of possible cardiovascular changes.
Sedatives (barbiturates, benzodiazepines, anesthetics…etc) –
Essential oils high in 1,8 cineole, such as rosemary, eucalyptus, ravintsara, and bay laurel, should be avoided because they instigate faster metabolism rates for these medications. ** These oils may impact metabolism when applied topically or taken internally.
Thyroid medications –
Everything I’ve read on essential oils and the thyroid suggests they make great pairs. I’d suggest heading over to YouTube and checking out Dr Haggerton’s thyroid video recording.
The only thing I would suggest is avoiding ingesting oils that can trigger increasing metabolism. Definitely talk with your pharmacist or D.O. too, just in case.
Transdermal medications (skin patches) –
There are no specific oils to avoid when you’re using skin patches, though I wouldn’t recommend placing citrus on or around where you plan to place a patch within the next day or so.
You should avoid placing any essential oils or oil-infused products on or around the general area of where the patch is located because they *might* alter the dose you receive by speeding up or slowing down the delivery of the medication.
Non-transdermal skin patches
Nontransdermal skin patches, much like Lifewave, do not have any contraindications with medication or essential oils, so you're fine with continuing to use essential oils while using them.
Harris, Rhiannon. “Drug-Essential Oil Interactions: Risks and Reassurances,” Presentation to Alliance of International Aromatherapists, (17 Dec. 2008), Denver, CO.
Price, Len; Price Shirley (2011-11-11), Aromatherapy for Health Professionals, Elsevier Health Sciences UK, pg 71
Stewart, David Ph.D., D.N.M, The Chemistry of Essential Oils Made Simple, Care publications, 2005, pages 395-396.
Tissarand, Robert; Young, Rodney, Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health Care Professionals, Elevier Health Sciences UK 2nd Edition 2014, pages 57-59.
This is not a complete compilation… just what we have researched so far.
As an herbalist, I am classically trained in aromatherapy, however I am not your aromatherapist or herbalist without a signed contract and extensive interveiw process. I am not a medical professional (more importantly… I’m not YOUR medical professional). EssentialOils.Life authors and contributors are simply sharing information we find to be useful and helpful and using this post to help document a frequently asked question. I AM a herbalist and military-trained information research analyst who is providing a free reference based on common questions I have researched for my members and clients. If you need help figuring out your individual medical needs in regards to using essential oils, please research and consult with a local aromatherapist, herbalist, or naturopath. If you'd like wellness coaching directly from Nicole or another EssentialOils.Life author, please contact us with a detailed message and we will help to the best of our abilities.