One of the most controversial subjects when it comes to essential oils is whether or not they are safe to ingest. You will see many differing opinions and possibly even see heated arguments. But why is this topic so debatable? There are so many things to consider, so let’s discuss the facts.
Essential Oils are Very Potent
Depending on the particular oil, an essential oil is said to be anywhere from 30 to 100 times more potent than its plant counterpart! For example, a single drop of Peppermint oil is equal to 27 cups of Peppermint tea! When put into this perspective, you can begin to understand how concentrated these precious oils are. Would you drink 27 cups of tea in one sitting? I don’t think so.
- It takes 150 pounds of lavender plant matter to produce only 1 pound of Lavender essential oil.
- To get 15 ml of Lemon oil, it takes 50 lemons.
- The most expensive of all oils, you need 105 pounds of rose petals to produce only 5 ml of Rose essential oil!
Essential Oils are Made of Chemical Compounds
The chemical compounds that make these oils so therapeutic, could also be the reason these oils could harm you. Terpenes, ethers, ketones, and aldehyde are just some of the building blocks that make up essential oils. These chemicals are the reason why your oils are anti-bacterial, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, but these constituents are also present in some very dangerous substances. For example, terpenes are present in turpentine… a paint thinner! Is that safe to put in your body?
Many Essential Oils Present Health Concerns:
- Sage and Eucalyptus oils can cause seizures.
- Pennyroyal is lethal, especially to an unborn baby.
- Juniper can cause kidney malfunction.
- Wintergreen contains methyl salicylate (same as aspirin) and can be lethal in large doses, especially in children.
- High amounts of Nutmeg can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, and even coma.
- Tea Tree oil is poisonous and may result in an inability to walk, as well as coma.
Essential Oils are NOT Water Soluble
Have you ever tried to make a blend using just essential oils and water? Did you notice that they did not mix? That is because oil and water don’t mix… Essential oils are not water-soluble, they are lipophilic. This means that they are fat-loving and actually need fat to dissolve correctly. Now imagine you put a drop of oil in your water and drink it. First of all, it did not disperse in your water, so you are just drinking a full drop in one sip. Second, when you drink that oil, it is searching for fat to latch onto. Guess what… that is your internal organs! That one drop will attach itself to your mucous membranes and put all of its concentration into that one area.
Essential Oils can be Dermal Irritants
As discussed above, when an essential oil hits our skin without a fat, it will seek to adhere to the fat in our body. If that particular oil is a dermal irritant, this can cause severe irritation to the area. The undiluted use of any essential oil can potentially cause aggravation to the skin, but there are others that are considered “hot” oils that may actually damage the dermis and have a higher risk for skin sensitisation. Many of these are spice oils and include Cinnamon, Cassia, Oregano, Thyme, Parsley, Sage, Allspice, Bay Laurel and more.
In addition, prolonged use of certain oils at a higher concentration can actually cause an allergic immune response. Symptoms like redness, rashes, itchy skin, chest tightness, and even shortness of breath can occur from sensitisation. Not only is this a terrible reaction, but it gets worse every time you use that oil. Some of these oils include Lemongrass, Clove, Cinnamon, Tea Tree, Melissa, Peru Balsam, Catnip and more.
- Long term effects from ingesting essential oils reportedly include stomach irritation and ulcers, eroding of the oesophagal lining, sores in the mouth, allergic reactions, worn down teeth enamel, acid reflux, and even seizures!
Ingestion is NOT the Most Beneficial
Lastly, let’s look at the benefits of essential oils. The term ‘aromatherapy’ is actually derived from the inhalation of the essential oil. We know that in most situations, smelling the oil is the absolute best way to get the therapy from that plant. We also know that an essential oil does not contain the vitamins and minerals that the herb/plant it comes from does, so it does not have value in that way. Finally, we know that if the essential oil were to make it all the way down to the digestive tract and into the stomach, it can actually kill good bacteria in the gut. This could eventually cause other long term health problems. Additionally, when ingested, essential oils may counteract with medications you are taking.
In conclusion, with all of the risks that ingesting essential oils present, we say skip it and use your oils the safe way (inhalation and topical). If you choose to take them internally, we strongly recommend you speak with your doctor.