Can I ingest essential oils?
The fundamental question for this blog, and our aromatherapists get asked it a lot. Technically, yes, you can ingest oils but the real question is should you? Allison, one of our certified aromatherapists, explains it like this...
"Everyone has different bodies, needs, circumstances, and other factors that need to be considered before ingesting oils. This is why we don’t recommend ingesting essential oils generally - even oils that are the highest quality.
Before ingesting any oil, each person needs to research for themselves - taking into account their own health needs, body, and circumstances, as well as what oils they should ingest (some oils react negatively with certain medication or drugs), how they should ingest them and for how long. You should take all these factors into consideration to decide if ingesting essential oils is safe AND beneficial for you."
Clear as mud, right? Well, in general, we don't suggest ingesting essential oils. Like Allison mentioned, our bodies and health needs are all very different. Some oils can be used safely and effectively to help accomplish a health goal or need, but it's a good idea to research that specific oil and how it may interact with your body and lifestyle.
Remember that essential oils are highly concentrated and the delicate mucous membranes lining in your mouth, esophagus and stomach are very sensitive! For a little perspective... in order to make a single pound of lemon essential oil, you need around 1,500 lemons! Likewise, if you want a pound of lavender essential oil, you need about 250 pounds of the lavender plant.
Using oils topically or inhaling (aromatherapy) are often safer means of exposing your body to an oil’s benefits - we'll get into those in just a bit ;)
Are there any oils that are safe to ingest?
The safest oils in general are citrus oils. Whether you are interested in cooking with them or direct ingestion citrus oils are generally considered "safer" than other essential oils because of their high percentage of monoterpenes.
Lemon and grapefruit have been used before in supplementing weight loss. Citrus oils include Lemon, Lime, Sweet Orange, Pink Grapefruit and Bergamot.
Again, it's important to research these oils and consult your holistic health practitioner or a certified aromatherapist before ingesting any oil. Ingesting organic, wildcrafted or organically grown oils is also a good idea. Citrus oils are harvested from the fruit’s peel which can come into direct contact with any pesticide or sprays a grower might use on their plants.
Is oil ingestion safe for kids?
Definitely not for children under the age of 6... and for kids over 6 it depends on the oil and condition you are seeking to treat. Again, research and consult your health practitioner or a certified aromatherapist before incorporating oil ingestion into your child's health regime.
Can I ingest oils if I’m pregnant?
Nope. Remember that oils are highly concentrated and regardless of what trimester you're in, what you intake while pregnant is directly absorbed by your baby. Many oils are considered unsafe during pregnancy for topical use and ingestion is an even more direct route to the baby. Check out our FAQ section on our menu tab for a list of oils to avoid while pregnant.
Is oil ingestion more effective than other methods?
Not necessarily! Allison points out that most people don’t need to ingest oils to get the benefits they’re looking for.
“Aromatherapy and topical application can accomplish the same goal you have in mind. Ingesting oils is a slower process for your body to absorb the oil and circulate its benefits. The main benefit you can achieve through ingestion over other methods is that you can more accurately control how much your body absorbs - without any lost through evaporation."
It's also important to note the possibility of toxicity when ingesting essential oils. Some essential oils like rosemary, cinnamon (which can interact with blood sugar levels) or ylang ylang (interacts with blood thinners) can interact with different medications. Another example is lavender - ingesting it can enhance the effect of barbiturates. So it's very important to research an oil in view of any medication you may be taking.
Why do people ingest oils?
Some people ingest oils because they are targeting their digestive system or gut. Or they believe that it is a more effective, and "powerful" route to get the full benefits from an oil (particularly when it comes to immune health). This links back to the previous question.
For example, inhaling an oil is effective and in most cases "faster" than ingestion for immune support. When you breathe in an oil’s aroma, the properties and benefits of that oil quickly pass through your lungs. Your blood stream can pick up the properties through your lungs' thin lining and carry it throughout your body and into your brain. Ingesting an oil has to work all the way through your digestive tract and gut before it is processed and absorbed by your body through the stomach lining.
Did we miss a question? Want more info about ingestion for your personal health goals? Email one of our certified aromatherapists at firstname.lastname@example.org! We welcome any questions and would love to share more info about this topic ;)