Essential oils are controversial. That’s because everyone has slightly different ideas on how to use them. Or about what brands to buy.
I never fail to be surprised at just how much disagreement these amazing plant extracts generate.
My combox is always filled with opinions on essential oils. Sometimes the debate gets heated.
Actually, I prefer to just enjoy essential oils, rather than to argue about them. But I realize that essential oils generate strong opinions. (If you’ve never used essential oils, I can tell you they’re absolutely incredible. If you use them already, you know what I mean.)
Perhaps the most contentious debates centers on ingesting essential oils. Social media is filled with posts about this topic. One of my readers recently asked me to do a blog post about the pros and cons of ingesting. So here it is.
Can You Ingest Any Essential Oils?
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Typically, I tell my readers not to ingest essential oils. I urge them to ignore social media posts telling them otherwise.
That’s because professional aromatherapists don’t recommend blindly ingesting essential oils. Some aromatherapists tell you not to do it at all, under any circumstances.
Others say it’s okay to ingest, with a strong caveat. One professional group – the Alliance of International Aromatherapists – recommends doing this only under strict medical supervision. Also, the practitioner should be well-versed in using essential oils internally, according to the AIA.
I’m not a professional aromatherapist. (Just an avid user of essential oils.) So I have no business telling anyone to randomly swallow essential oils. Neither does anyone else who lacks the required training. It’s foolish (and potentially dangerous) to tell strangers to ingest. Keep reading and I’ll explain why this is such terrible advice.
Why You Shouldn’t Ingest Essential Oils
When I first started using essential oils, I used them wrong. I used them way too liberally. I put them directly on my skin, without mixing them with a carrier oil. If you’re not familiar with carrier oils, here’s a primer on why you need them.
I loved essential oils. So much so that I put them in my tea. I did this without knowing how strong they are. Since then, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve heard varying estimates about the potency of essential oils. I’ve read that one drop of peppermint essential oil is the equivalent of drinking anywhere from 15 to 70 cups of herbal peppermint tea.
Why It’s a Bad Idea to Ingest Essential Oils
Now I have a better idea of their strength. So I’d never consider using essential oils for food flavoring. By the way, peppermint candies contain a small amount of essential oils. But it’s tiny. Other foods do too. But the amounts are much less than what you’d get if you sprinkled a drop of two of essential oil on something you were about to eat.
Also, as one aromatherapist from Plant Therapy points out, the amounts of essential oils in certain foods is tiny. Plus, the essential oils are mixed in with our food. This is different than putting several drops of essential oils in a capsule, and swallowing them.
Which Grand of Essential Oils are Safe for Internal Use?
There’s a common misconception. It’s a dangerous one. So I’d like to do my part to clear it up.
Some of the bad information making the rounds goes like this. Certain essential oil brands are 100 percent pure. So it’s okay to ingest them.
However, the issue with ingesting is not due to purity, or lack thereof. Essential oils are too strong to safely swallow, unless you’re working with a professional.
Is It Ever Okay to Ingest Essential Oils?
There may be medical conditions that respond well to certain essential oils that are ingested. But much more research is needed. So it’s definitely not a do-it-yourself endeavor.
This remains the case regardless of whether you plan to ingest a high-priced multilevel marketing brand of essential oil. Or a more fairly priced brand that’s not sold through a network of distributors. (MLM distributors earn a commission. So do the people above them in the network. So that’s potentially several layers of commission you’re paying on each bottle.)
Essential Oils That are Toxic To Ingest
Another problem is that some essential oils are toxic in large quantities. So it’s never a good idea to ingest them.
I’m absolutely horrified when I see people telling others to put several drops of a popular germ-fighting essential oil in a capsules, and take them as needed.
This particular germ-fighting blend I’m thinking of contains eucalyptus oil. Don’t get me wrong. I love eucalyptus essential oil. It has an intoxicating smell. And it’s potentially useful when you’re fighting the cold, or have the flu. This is an oil that can be used for topical application. Or you can put it in a cold-air diffuser.
Is Eucalyptus Essential Oil Toxic?
I always have eucalyptus essential oil in the house. But that doesn’t mean it belongs in my mouth.
Used correctly, eucalyptus oil is safe. However, it can be toxic if ingested. Just one teaspoon of eucalyptus oil is enough to kill a child, according to a blog post written by Plant Therapy aromatherapist Retha Nesmith, Certified Aromatherapist. (Actually, eucalyptus oil shouldn’t even be used on children under the age of 10.)
Retha noted that this has nothing to do with the purity of an essential oil. It has to do with its constiuents, and its strength. (For the record, Plant Therapy oils are 100 percent pure.)
For adults, small doses of eucalyptus oil used externally are fine. The fact that eucalpytus oil is toxic in high doses doesn’t mean it should never be used. In fact, Retha points out that various toxins are also found in fruits and vegetables, which we regularly consume. But because the amounts are so small, we suffer no ill effects.
Is It a Good Idea to Ingest Essential Oils?
I don’t ingest essential oils myself. I also warn my readers never to do this on advice they may see in a social media post. There are just two many variables.
One is that everyone is different, and their case is unique. How do the posters know a reader is not pregnant? How do they know a reader is not taking medication? Certain medications will not mix well with essential oils. How can they possibly guage individual sensitivity?
Earlier I mentioned that I once put a lot of essential oils on my skin. Nothing happened, at least from what I could discern. But maybe something would, if I continued doing this over a longer period of time. Would the next person be so lucky? What if they developed a sensitivity? Or a more extreme allergic reaction? This means they couldn’t use a particular oil again.
The Case Against Ingesting Essential Oils
Yet another thing to take into consideration is that we have different constitutions. Some people can push the limits. Others can’t. They may react even at lower than normal doses. The Plant Therapy blog post makes note of the fact that you need to always err on the side of caution. The Plant Therapy article delves into the pros and cons of ingesting essential oils in much greater detail than I do here. So click on this link to read it yourself.
Also, there are times when it’s just not a good idea to use essential oils at all. Here’s another blog post that explains why.
Just so you’re aware, if you don’t already know this, carrier oils are very important. You need to use a carrier oil if you plan to put essential oils directly on your skin. Fractionated coconut oil, grapeseed oil and avocado oil are good carrier oils. You also need just a little bit of essential oil in a carrier oil. A common recommendation is 3 drops of essential oil to 1 teaspoon of carrier oil.
Everything you see here is my personal opinion, and is not intended to be presented as medical advice. These statements have not been approved by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Women who are pregnant or nursing should not use essential oils unless directed to do so by a healthcare professional.