A few days ago, my friends and I had a lively discussion on the benefits and the many ways of using essential oils in our homes. All was well until someone asked, “Is it alright to ingest essential oils?”
This was indeed a debatable topic and we decided to pool our knowledge and went fact-finding to check what experts and research have to say about ingesting essential oils.
What Is In A Tiny Bottle? Actually…A Lot!
Most of us love the tiny, cute bottles which contain the essential oils, but do you know how concentrated the oils are? For example, it is said that one drop of Roman Chamomile is equivalent to 35 cups of tea! Studies have shown that although the scents of the essential oil are helpful to ease our anxiety and give us a soothing and calming effect, consuming it might cause more harm than good.
Here at Soap Cart, we are not in favour of having people consume essential oils without proper professional advice although there are brands that advocate consuming essential oils to relieve certain ailments. As per essential oils safety guidelines, this is to avoid any contraindications in case one may be taking a new medication or in the event of any allergy or change in body conditions that most people might not be aware of.
As an example, even though the oil of wintergreen is used as a food flavouring in trace amounts, drinking it can be deadly. Swallowing oil of wintergreen is like swallowing a large number of adult aspirin.
While eucalyptus is used to soothe coughs, it can cause poisoning when swallowed, according to studies conducted as reported by The Medical Journal of Australia. The report states that the essential oils most frequently involved in poisonings were eucalyptus (2049, 46.4%), tea tree (749, 17.0%), lavender (271, 6.1%), clove (179, 4.1%), and peppermint oils (154, 3.5%).
There have even been documented cases of a fatal reaction to consuming even a tiny bit of lavandin oil (from the lavender family).
But It’s Only A Drop in Water!
Yes, that is basically what most of us will think, we are just adding a drop to a glass full of water…. BUT lest we forget, oil and water do not mix. Think about it; you are not drinking diluted essential oil, but it’s full-bodied concentrated oil! If you really want to ingest the essential oil, it might be better to add honey which will help to disperse the oil so that it is safer for the mucous membranes but then again, what if the essential oil reacts in a negative way to the honey or whatever solvent you use to dilute/disperse it with?
Be very clear that essential oil is not a form of supplement that can be taken on a daily basis. Traditionally, small amounts of essential oil were used as medicine to provide relief for certain ailments, but it was never meant for long-term consumption. As for dietary supplements sold in pharmacies where the essential oil is indicated as one of its ingredients, you will note that the percentage of the essential oil is minimum as it is only “part” of the ingredients and not the main component of the supplement. In addition, these are produced by pharmaceutical companies under the regulation of the US Food and Drug Administration and come under close monitoring. For your own health, note that self-prescribing pure essential oil as a daily supplement is definitely not encouraged!
Allergic and Toxic Susceptibility
An article by the National Capital Poison Center, a private, non-profit organization affiliated with The George Washington University Medical Center, concluded that allergic reactions might flare up to the point of creating a toxic effect, even if one may not naturally be allergic to anything, as some concentrated compounds in the EO may be too overpowering for our body system.
Katharine Koeppen, a registered aromatherapist, in an article written by Woman’s Day says that it’s best to avoid essential oils if you’re taking several medications. “For example, something as seemingly innocuous as peppermint essential oil has a surprisingly long list of drug interactions and medical contraindications,” she says.
The U.S Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has a list of essential oils that they recognize as safe for human consumption. However, the FDA doesn’t regulate essential oils, so the list, in general, may not be that useful.
If You Really, Really Insist On Ingesting Essential Oil…
Know that essential oils are most effective for their original use – their uplifting scents. And while it is possible to ingest certain essential oils, again, we want to reiterate that it is better to consult with a fully qualified and trained aromatherapy or medical professionals first before attempting to do so.
Perhaps you could even consider safer alternatives. Instead of ingesting the oil, use the natural way – try using vegetables, spices, or fruits that are naturally safe to eat and cook with!