One of the most often talked about topics in aromatherapy is the ingestion of essential oils, and whether or not it is safe.
Without naming brands, there is a plethora of unsafe advice floating around the internet and at meetings or parties for some of the MLM brands of essential oils.
I feel I owe it to everyone out there to explain exactly why it is unsafe to ingest essential oils.
Firstly, there is a definite difference between an essential oil distributor and a certified aromatologist or aromatherapist.
A certified aromatologist or aromatherapist will have taken extensive education over the course of at least a year that involves the chemistry of essential oils, anatomy and physiology, and even medical contraindications with medications and medical conditions you might have.
An essential oil distributor simply sells the essential oil. They do not have the educational background that they need to have to properly and safely educate you on how to use essential oils, nor are they qualified to answer questions about essential oils and what the chemical components are.
I am a Certified Clinical Aromatologist and I pride myself in my knowledge and education of Aromatherapy and Essential Oils. I provide truthful and accurate information to everyone. I am always happy to answer questions. I provide consultations. I make blends, among other things. I am a firm believer in essential oils — when used safely.
So, today’s let’s chat about the safety of essential oil ingestion and some of the reasons why safety in aromatherapy is just as important as safety when working with any chemical; natural or not.
It is important to note, that no matter the brand of essential oil, if an essential oil is pure and unadulterated, it is an extremely concentrated combination of multiple chemical constituents. Essential oils are volatile compounds, incredibly concentrated and they are definitely not the same as taking the herbal equivalent. Essential Oils have various levels of toxicity, if not used properly and under the direction of a certified professional.
To help you understand how concentrated essential oils are — it takes 256 pounds of peppermint leaves to make one pound of peppermint essential oil and it takes 150 pounds or more of lavender flowers to make one pound of lavender essential oil and it takes 10,000 rose petals to make 1 drop of rose essential oil — wow!
Let’s break it down further, one drop of peppermint essential oil is equivalent to 26–28 cups of peppermint tea — that’s one drop folks!
This isn’t to say essential oils should not be used, but they should be used carefully, with proper education by speaking to a certified professional and in safe amounts. If you wouldn’t ingest dozens of cups of an herbal tea, you should probably think twice before consuming the equivalent amount of essential oils.
While they can do great things to help us with many health and wellness concerns, they can also have adverse effects if not used with the properly and safely.
Taking essential oils internally can be very damaging to the liver, kidneys, stomach, and intestines, and in some cases can prove to be toxic.
Though there are several blogs, posts and essential oil distributors purporting the magical healing effects of adding a couple drops of essential oils straight to your water, to drink, this practice extremely unsafe. Being that essential oils are in fact an oil, as their name states, they do not mix into water, rather they sit on top. When you drink this water, the essential oil is then going into your mouth, down your esophagus, and into stomach all while undiluted.
This practice can cause severe burns, blisters, and lesions in your mouth, esophagus, stomach lining, and more. Let’s talk about lemon essential oil for a moment. This is one of the most commonly questions I get asked. “Can I add a few lemon essential oil drops to my water?”
The answer is a resounding NO. It is not the same thing as squeezing a lemon into some ice water on a hot summer’s day!
Ingestion of lemon essential oil may produce burning pain in the throat, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, to name a few. This is not only the case with lemon oil — it is with all essential oils taken this way.
Many people have said to me “I’ve ingested essential oils for a while, I’ve never had any side effects.”
While that may be true — that does not mean you will not have any side effects down the road. You are gambling with your health — ask yourself “why would I take that chance?”
Some of the symptoms associated with ingesting essential oils:
- Irritation and skin redness
- Coldness in hands and feet
- Cardiac arrest
- Respiratory depression
- And even coma and death
Numerous cases of ingesting essential oils have been documented. I’ve compiled a list of a few cases and what the effects of ingesting essential oils were.
Lemon and Grapefruit Essential Oil in water: “I have been diagnosed with stomach problems, chronic digestive upset and gallbladder removal due to the use of these oils in water.”
Frankincense, Copaiba Balsam and Balsam Fir taken internally for pain relief: “within a few hours I started to experience a racing heart, shortness of breath, pressure in my chest and down my left arm. I went to hospital where I was given an EKG, blood tests and a CAT scan. It was determined that I was having a heart attack. I underwent a heart catheterization.”
Peppermint consumption: A 40-year-old woman was brought to the emergency room after she ingested peppermint oil. She smelled of peppermint. She was barely breathing. She had an elevated heart rate, blood pressure was unrecordable and was comatose. Her urinary bladder was catheterized. After 24 hours, she started to respond to emergency treatment and luckily, survived.
It is no secret that some essential oils can kill you. But in the recent hype of direct marketing, we seem to have forgot, or chosen to ignore this important fact. It seems as though, somehow, common knowledge has been hidden from everyone for financial gain.
Over the years, tons of scientific articles and journals documenting actual cases of essential oil fatalities have been published. Some of these include:
- Pilapil VR: Toxic manifestation of cinnamon oil ingestion in a child. Clin Pediatr (Phil) 1989
- Webb NJ, Pitt WR: Eucalyptus oil poisoning in childhood: 41 cases in south-east Queensland. J Paediatr Child Health1993
- Jacobs MR, Hornfeldt CS: Melaleuca oil poisoning. J Toxicol Clin Toxicol1994
- Seawright A: Comment: tea tree oil poisoning. Med J Aust1993
- Kimball HW: Poisoning by pennyroyal. Atlanta Med Weekly1898
You should never ingest essential oils and when using topically, you must always dilute with a carrier oil. These two rules make using essential oils safe, so you can focus on its intended and wellness use.
The Canadian Federation of Aromatherapists strongly recommends against ingesting essential oils. You can visit their website at: https://www.cfacanada.com/ for more information or to see if your professional is a certified professional.
If you are buying an essential oil from a company that is promoting internal use, I would strongly think twice; either they are not properly education or certified in aromatherapy, or their essential oil may not be pure
I have heard time and time again, “when an essential oil is pure, it is safe to ingest.” The opposite is actually accurate — pure and unadulterated essential oils are highly concentrated and therefore, not safe to ingest (see above). Think about that statement for a moment. Pure = highly concentrated, impure = not highly concentrated. Please do not ingest any oils whether pure or impure — both are unsafe, in my opinion.
Best ways to use an Essential Oil?
Inhalation, diffusing, topically (once diluted with a proper carrier oil). These are the safest ways. Please use caution when using essential oils, and always ask the advice of a professional.
Marian Grande is a Certified Clinical Aromatologist with the Canadian Federation of Aromatherapists, in good standing.
© 2018, Serenity Aroma