About once a month or every three weeks I have a client complaining of right-sided abdominal pain, lethargy, joint pain, and indigestion. At some point they mention they’ve been adding essential oils in their drinking water because their neighbor said it would make water taste better or help them lose weight (or cure ebola). I try to restrain my initial alarm and calmly explain that essential oils and water don’t mix, literally, and that they’re really good at being mucus membrane irritants.
In some cases my client gets a liver panel and yeah, the liver isn’t happy with this intense routine and the doctor advises him or her to discontinue use immediately. Sometimes the damage is permanent – vocal chords aren’t what they used to be, or there’s damage to the esophagus or stomach. The liver is usually pretty capable of self-healing and once the poison is removed from the daily routine the liver enzymes balance back out again and the abdominal pain disappears and energy levels perk back up again. The mystery joint pain and other weird symptoms ease and disappear too.
For reasons I can only deduce as marketing gimmicks, a couple of companies have been putting nutrition fact labels on their essential oils. As if, a product roughly 100 times concentrate would casually be used as a nutrition supplement. A product that has no vitamin or mineral content, a product that has zero nutrition content, a product that would be a drug when used orally. The FDA sent strongly worded letters to two such companies, here and here, that were marketing essential oils as dietary supplements while using drug claims.
The French use essential oils in enteric-coated pills to treat mild to moderate depression, and irritable bowel syndrome. If you lived in France your psychiatrist or doctor could prescribe an aromatic medicine for you and you’d fill the prescription down at the pharmacy. An M.D. I refer clients to prescribes oral essential oils for parasitical infections such as amoebas, and Lyme, or for other infections such as antibiotic-resistant staph (MRSA). So yes, sometimes essential oils are used orally as medications, but under close observation since they can easily turn into a poison with the wrong route of absorption, the wrong dosage, and insufficient information of how the body metabolizes them.
Can you overdose on an essential oil? Absolutely. And sometimes that dose is very small, less than a teaspoon for some.
Why then does the same product that your mechanic uses to remove oil spills in the garage have Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status for food flavoring? Great question! Regulatory limitations give the food and beverage industry guidelines to stay within safe intake levels for the average, healthy adult. Essential oils and some constituents (linalool and cinnamaldehyde for example) are added to products using recipe structures that measure in parts per million. What does that look like? Well, if we’re measuring a million drops of liquid we’re looking at just shy of 13 and quarter gallons. So 1 drop of essential oil in 13+ gallons of pasta sauce or cola concentrate would be 1 part per million (PPM). That same 1 drop in an 8 ounce glass of water is roughly 211 times more concentrated than the drop that went into the pasta sauce or cola drink.
If you’re simply tired of drinking boring water you can add fruit, herbs, and fruit juices to jazz it up and help you reach your daily water intake goals! Want specific benefits from your water? Choose fruits and vegetables for their vitamin and mineral contents, like the juicy strawberry – high in vitamin C, manganese, and potassium, makes it a good fit for an after workout water addition. Or tart cherries, packed with melatonin might help you get a deeper, most restful night’s sleep. Or fresh basil for its vitamin K and magnesium. Jamie Oliver has a good recipe template to make a pitcher of flavored water without artificial sugars and flavorings. Got a favorite flavored water recipe to share? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!
Lemon Essential Oil Pharmacokinetics & Pharmacodynamics:
Limonene is a monoterpene and volatile hydrocarbon which occurs naturally in some trees and bushes. It is the predominant monoterpene in citrus oil and widely used as a flavor and fragrance additive for food and household cleaning products and solvents. PHARMACOKINETICS: Limonene via oral routes is completely absorbed, and up to 70% can be absorbed by inhalation. It can also be absorbed dermally. It is distributed throughout the body and fat tissue. It undergoes hepatic metabolism and cleared by renal excretion. WITH POISONING/EXPOSURE: MILD TO MODERATE TOXICITY: Mild to moderate toxicity typically consists of mild dermal irritation and skin sensitization. Ingestion of limonene may produce burning pain in the throat, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. SEVERE TOXICITY: Severe toxicity is typically due to large ingestion or aspiration. Severe toxicity is usually due to other ingredients in the products containing limonene. Aspiration can lead to pneumonitis and pulmonary edema. Large ingestions may produce hematuria, albuminuria, fever, dyspnea, tachycardia, and central nervous system effects including excitement, delirium, ataxia, and stupor.
– NIH Toxicology Network Database, Lemon Oil record CASRN: 8008-56-8
Great read! Thank you!! As an RN and user of essential oils, I worry about (and advise against) folks ingesting these potent little drops from nature. I shudder to think about how many children are taking these in as well!! All for the love of money?
I share your concerns for the health risks posed to children with these unorthodox uses of essential oils, Jan. Thanks for stopping by and reading!
I have been taking 1 drop of Lemon in water once a day to prevent kidney stones. It seems to be working. The company claims it is safe to injest. Is this still a no no?
Sounds like you’ve been had, Melissa. Citric acid is used in the prevention of kidney stones and naturally occurs in the fresh squeezed juice of lemons and limes. Citric acid does not exist in the expressed or steam distilled essential oil though. Furthermore, the delivery system is flawed as the essential oil has not been dispersed and given a transport. Instead what you have is a gastrointestinal irritant that doesn’t reach your target in the body, and doesn’t have the chemical capacity to do anything about the stones. I’d encourage you to switch to lemon juice in a glass of water or talk to your clinician about evidence-based dietary supplement alternatives.
Thank you so much for the information! I have switched to juice for digestion. I already have Crohns & short gut, so I definitely don’t need a gastrointestinal irritant!!
I saw a Facebook post of someone’s kids going through their essential oil collection that said “Sometimes you have to taste all the essential oils…” WHAT??!!! OMG they were letting their kids eat drops of essential oil from every bottle as if it was some kind of flavoured syrup.
It took all my self-control not to step into lecture mode and made me furious with those MLM companies that pretend like this is totally acceptable!
What about the rule of thumb if you can’t eat it don’t put it on your skin? Just curious…
It’s an interesting rule-of-thumb, but many of the natural products we use on our bodies would make us sick if ingested at the concentration comparable to essential oils.
you can eat them, just not the way they tell you you can. a lot of them need diluted 1 drop oil to 1oz carrier oil. That is the dilution for stronger oils such as oregano, clove, cinnamon…the more hot ones. Even then it may be too strong as they mentioned. oils should only be taken internally for mrsa or parasites. There is just no need to take them internally other wise.
Can I take any EO’s orally to help with cancer?
Essential oils can interfere with existing treatments like chemotherapy, cause clotting issues, and put more strain on internal organs as they are metabolized. Most aromatherapists will have some training in the area of oncology and can advise and formulate a treatment plan with inhaled and topical applications. Most aromatic medicine practitioners will have some training in the area of oncology and can advise and formulate a treatment plan with internal use applications.
I don’t swallow any essential oils, only Frankincense every now and then, since I know people boil it down and eat it in the raw. Do you think it is bad to do that, or is it just certain oils that should not be orally taken?
Herbal preparations of Frankincense certainly have their place in certain wellness plans. I’d talk to an herbalist about dosing and treatment plans.
Thank you for sharing your wisdom. As a doula and an essential oils user, I love the benefits of essential oils on the skin and in massage oils but I have always warned my clients and my friends against ingesting them. I am excited that I can share your knowledge with them.
Glad you can use this as a tool to share with friends and clients, Enza! There’s a time and place for aromatic medicine but very few are aware of the risks of using essential oils improperly – especially at-risk populations such as preconception, pregnancy, postpartum, children, and the frail. Thanks for stopping by and reading!
Great post, Amy!! Thank you.
Great article. Very clear! Can I share on the IJPHA blog?
Do you mean part of the text with a link back to the post? That’s cool by me! If something else just shoot me an email. Thanks!
This article is very well written. Thank you for taking the time to get this information out to the public. Marketing is about getting the product to a targeted consumer for the purposes of making money. The consumer needs to make themselves aware of the truth in the product and/or proper usage. This is something I talk about with my students at the Cedar Mountain Herb School.
Thanks for stopping by and reading, Suzanne!
As a NY State licensed massage therapist, I have a younger co-worker who ingests them on regular basis. Unfortunately hes a rep for a big essential oil company who practices that muli level marketing and encourages this practice. Thanks for this bit of information!!!
Good luck, Judy!
If these said companies have the nutritional dietary labels on some of their oils and it’s not safe how are they able to do it legally? And for the companies who have been putting the the labels on for awhile now, wouldn’t we have known cases of people who chose to ingest the oils being sick from doing so? Thank You for your time.
Here in the USA it is up to the company to come into legal compliance with the FDA’s nutrition labeling laws. The letters to the companies require them to come into compliance or face fines and federal imprisonment.
As for poisoning cases, I hear of a dozen or so a month and, as indicated in my blog post, have one or two cases a month that walk into my clinic. A search of the last decade of poison control center reports indicates the numbers of poisonings that are called into poison control are climbing. We also see records of fatal incidents and severe poisonings reported in medical journals. The general consensus amongst my colleagues in the profession is that we will begin to have a greater picture of poisoning damage coming forth in autopsy reports as unorthodox ingestion rates continue to climb at alarming rates. We know what the chemistry is capable of doing to internal organs but it would be most helpful to see this information collated and published in the coming years for consumers and medical personnel to access. What do a hundred livers look like after continuous overdoses of oral essential oils? This may run similarly to tobacco research – early on very few people had real access to understanding the long-term repercussions of smoking and we’re in that stage with casual consumption of essential oils now.
Thank You for your response… Do you agree that it’s safe to diffuse and apply topically?
The modality is very safe when guidelines and standards are practiced – it is when essential oils are used in unorthodox manners such as in a glass of water, or undiluted on the skin, or diffused for hours at a time, that we see unwanted outcomes and poisonings.
Thank you for the wonderful info. I too have always been leery of ingesting the oils. I am curious about the diffusing – what amount of time is the max we should be using? and does the size of the room make a difference?
You might be fascinated to know that calcium cations essentially “turn down the volume” on smell in the process of olfaction – this usually looks like 20 minutes. So, you can smell your Citrus bergamia in the diffuser for about 20 minutes and then the nose essentially ignores that smell. Respiratory irritation is enhanced by other irritants such as the formaldehyde in your living room off-gassing from your new couch. Diffusion should also take into consideration the toxicity of certain essential oils – for example the carcinogenic status of estragole should greatly influence how much “air time” it gets and why. In short, 20-30 minutes for passive diffusion in a large room, maybe less in a smaller room, and maybe not at all if the essential oil is not recommended for your pregnancy, high blood pressure pills, the cat, or your toddler.
Is is safe to place a few drops of peppermint oil mixed with sesame oil on my belly each night? I have found this to be a miracle with constipation but now am worried it’s too potent.
Dermal safety limits put a cap at 5 drops in a teaspoon of vegetable oil (sesame, coconut, grapeseed, et cetera) for dermal applications. Without a health history I have no way of knowing if this is an appropriate essential oil for your constitution and wellness goals.
I am curious if “unorthodox ingestion rates continue to climb at alarming rates,” why is this not being aired on the news. I would think this would be making headlines so we could all be forewarned! And what do you consider an “overdose” of oral essential oils? Thanks!
Great question, Tonya! I have no idea why news outlets aren’t taking this more seriously! I don’t know what kind of poisoning numbers we’d have to have before this shows up on the nightly news, I think one poisoning incident should be enough to take this seriously.
A lethal dose for a 3 year old might be a single ml for one essential oil while another essential oil might take upwards of 50 mls or more before it shuts down vital organs or initiates brain death. So, an overdose is dependent on the essential oil – it might be the daily use of an essential oil for several days, it might be an accidental ingestion, it might be a combination of two or more toxic essential oils. An overdose does not have to be fatal but poisoning symptoms include: nausea, vomiting, ataxia, confusion, convulsions, double vision, collapse, ketones in urine, deteriorating liver function, low blood glucose, coma, seizure(s), vertigo, epigastric pain, unconsciousness, brain hemorrhage, cyanosis, and shock (Patel, Wiggins 1980; Buckle 2003).
The companies are not being asked to remove the GRAS labeling. That is not why the FDA is scrutinizing them. It is because of “drug claims.” And not because the companies themselves are doing it, but because those who represent the company as independent consultants are doing it, against the company’s policies. So, the companies are trying to manage that, which is difficult when you are talking about millions of reps. These companies are not allowed to say, “this oil can help reduce allergies” for example, or even “helps with treating a common cold.” They can only say things like “this oil can help support healthy respiration” or with symptoms of seasonal discomfort”, or “support a healthy immune system.” etc. The issue was not about internal usage.
HR – one of the issues the FDA is having is that essential oils are being marketed as both topical and oral products by these companies and the FDA does not permit a product to be marketed as both. If it is marketed as a topical product then it needs to fall under the scope of a cosmetic or soap and neither of those can make claims that it “supports a healthy immune system.” If it is marketed for internal use then it needs to fall under the scope of a dietary supplement or a drug. GRAS labeling would apply to essential oils marketed as food and beverage flavorings and usage guidelines would fall under the FDA’s guidelines for that. Is it confusing? Absolutely! But this isn’t a new set of rules. Many companies have been out of compliance for years, whether they knew it or not. How on earth these giant corporations are going to come into compliance will be something to watch – sales representatives still aren’t getting the full picture of what they can and can’t say about essential oils and would do well to safe guarding themselves with a call to a good attorney who understands these specific laws and guidelines.
Few, if any, MLM companies have “millions of reps”. I’m part of a non-essential oil MLM company that has been in business more than 10 years and the number of active reps hasn’t climbed above 200,000 worldwide.
The EO MLM company has an obligation to correct the behaviour and marketing tactics of its consultants. If the consultants do not comply, they should be terminated and lose the privilege of associating themselves with the brand. A responsible company would ensure this takes place, eliminating consultants who make sweeping health claims or put the health and wellness of others at risk.
I use Oil of Oregano all the time, it’s super effective and a great anti-viral.
Haven’t had any adverse affects to date.
I guess some folks are just confused about how aromatherapy fits into a wellness plan because an aromatherapist would never recommend using one essential oil all of the time. You might try looking into classes being taught by a qualified aromatherapist in your area, Bernadette.
Something to also keep in mind is that a lack of symptoms does not mean your unorthodox usage is without risks. You may very well be fine for a length of time but sensitization is permanent and poisoning can take a while to recover from. Good luck!
I use Oregonal, an oil of oregano (vs. essential oil) product of Dr. Cass Ingram’s, when I feel like I’m coming down with something. I place it under the tongue, hold for 30 seconds, then swallow. It may be the placebo effect, but works every time. No adverse effects, thus far.
I’m assuming there are different schools on ‘oil of oregano’ and ‘oregano essential oil.’
I have a client that had to have gum surgery after a few years of using that product during cold and flu season. :-/
FYI, I have read that extended use of Oregano oil, even topically, can cause liver toxicity. You should only use it for about 2 weeks at a time and then take a 2 week break to give your body a rest. I’m not an expert, though, by any means.
I concur. Every single text I’ve read on essential oils history and usage (I am trying to be an Educatedconsuner
What Amy said is crucial. But as well, do you mean oregano essential oil or literally the product oil of oregano? There is a difference between the two.
Bernadette – often times Oil of Oregano is actually an infused product rather than a distilled essential oil – double check what you are ingesting – is it DISTILLED Origanum vulgare? I would check your label and the vendor’s site.
great post – thank you Amy
Very interesting article. I wholeheartedly agree EO’s are powerful and highly concentrated and so should be used with knowledge and understanding. I am uncomfortable with internal use but am researching it. One popular brand suggests that the quality of their oils makes ingesting safer than lesser less tested products with fillers, etc. I think caution could be emphasized more with regard to their labeling and directions however. Have you seen the adverse effects with patients ingesting oils from many different companies? And from the brand I am referring to? Wonder if dosing is the main concern?
On the other hand not sure what the advantage to internal would be since it seems proven that transdermal and inhalation application enters the body anyway. Thanks!
I hope your research includes a thorough look at pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics as it relates specifically to essential oil chemistry, Rihanna.
There’s a lot of marketing speak that talks about adulterated essential oils from several multi level marketing companies but those companies do not release information about the testing of their own products so who knows what’s in the bottle they put their label on? Approximately 95% of the poisonings and unwanted outcomes I see are from the usage of MLM essential oil products with unorthodox methods.
What exactly does MLM stand for??
MLM = Multi Level Marketing
What resources would you recommend when researching this? I, too, use essential oils and am wary of ingesting them other than rarely. I am new to your site and appreciate this post. I will be reading more here. Thanks!
I would recommend starting with an aromatic chemistry course. This will give you a foundation to understanding an essential oil’s pharmacological applications, their pharmacokinetic actions in the body, and dosing parameters.
Great post – I will share too!
Thanks Amy I will indeed look into what you mentioned!!
Appreciate your response!
What about in homemade toothpaste I make using Peppermint E.O. I do not swallow it but I know it still gets into my system.
Inhalation and topical application will still transport the essential oil molecules into the blood stream, Jennifer. I encourage my students to look at aromatherapy recipes and ask:
1.) Who is the author and does he/she have a background in formulating aromatherapy products?
2.) Does the recipe line up with recommended dilutions and usage? Or does it recommend unorthodox usage?
3.) Is the dilution appropriate for the audience and frequency of use?
This is a brilliant article which I intend to share far and wide – as a Clinical Aromatologist I too have been hugley alarmed at the increased trend of ingesting e/oils willy nilly which have been recommended by untrained people who ‘read books’ and sell (especially these two) doTerra and Young & Living e/oils – I can not believe the recommendations on these products. I have had two pregnant clients shock me by telling them friends or their masseuse has encouraged them to add drops to water or just under the tongue! More shocking I have discovered a midwife in America (not trained in e/oil use) recommending it and has included this in her book!!! Just appalling. Thank you – I’ve been gathering articles like this.
Applause Amy, thank you for this. As an ethical retailer I receive msgs like this on a daily basis: “I wanted to ask your advice as a completely uneducated person (about essential oils) using a round of EO’s internally‚ for an infection. I am otherwise a very healthy, twenty year old male who weighs approximately 150 pounds. The condition does not matter (this treatment is markedly effective); the pertinent information is that I was taking one and one half drops of oregano oil three times daily, for one week so far; I then switched to taking about one drop of clove oil three times daily for the last several days.
I am intending on finishing out a week with the clove oil, and then switching back. I am wondering if a) taking clove oil internally is a really bad idea, and how much is the maximum reasonable‚ dosage for use for, let’s say, two weeks, b) if there is any cross-toxicity between these oils, and whether I could safely take the full dose of both oils at the same time, and c) I understand that both oils are GRAS, but what are the realistic risks of self-medicated like this, and what other herbs should I avoid (I also have been taking goldenseal, neem and osha root occasionally)? I do not take any prescription medication, smoke, or drink.Ã‚Â I intend on pursuing this for no more than several weeks. I already feel tremendously much better!”
I have NO idea why he chose me to ask for advice other than that our website has information warning AGAINST this type of internal use… He’s not my client, not using my oils, but wants me to give him approval or warnings.
or the woman who wrote about purchasing our ORGANIC lemon oil… and was appalled to find that we said “not for internal use” on our labels. “You mean your oils are just aromatherapy quality?” If a person could go thru a monitor and THROTTLE a correspondent I would have. Don’t they realize that JUST AROMATHERAPY requires the highest quality available? okay…rant limit exceeded. a great blog, Amy, mind if I share it?
I like to take a few slices of cucumber and put it in my glass of water. Very refreshing.
I ingested doTerra oils and ended up in the ER with serious small intestine issues. The doctors don’t know how to fix it. What can I do? I took oregano and seems to have stripped out my system, and now I am dealing with IBS-like symptoms all the time.
That sounds like a nightmare, April! I’m so sorry to read this — have you reported your injury to this grassroots effort of making anonymous reports available to the general public to create awareness? http://www.atlanticinstitute.com/injury-reporting/
I’d look for a specialist in gastro-intestinal issues and be sure they can understand the chemical constituents you ingested. And probably be talking to several holistic practitioners to start the healing process of the digestive system. Best wishes for you!
Thanks, I will be sure to file a complaint. I contacted the company but got nowhere. They don’t know how to fix it either.
HI There. I’m so sorry you have had some damage to your digestive system from essential oil use. You may find that a gut-healing diet such as GAPS is helpful. Many people have excellent results with it for restoring their gut integrity and balance of the gut flora. I wish you all the best.
I’m sorry you’re having trouble!! How much did you take and for how long, April?
3 drops a day for 5 days
What dosage were you using? and how frequent?
With or without food
Thank you for this post. My family was introduced to essential oils about two years ago, and while I do believe we’ve had some great effects from their use, I also have to acknowledge that I’ve become increasingly frustrated by the contradictory and confusing information that is out there (even in different materials by the same author!). I myself had moderate gastro-intestinal issues that landed me in the ER and have good reason to believe they were caused by ingesting oregano (along with several other EOs) in a capsule. Fortunately it did not cause ongoing issues for me, but it scared me enough that I’m VERY hesitant to use or recommend the use of essential oils internally. I appreciate the fact that you acknowledge that they CAN sometimes be used internally, but should be done in a supervised way and with reference to correct dosage information. Also, having just been in the situation of being pregnant and sick with a yeast infection and then strep throat, I can attest to the reality that it is agonizing to not know where to turn or who to trust with regard to the use of EOs. This is the first post I’ve read of yours, so maybe you provide pointers elsewhere, but could you tell me, from your perspective, what kind of credentials folks should be looking for when seeking advice about the use of EOs?
Yes, there’s a lot of misinformation and information that has been retold by so many people that it is very far from the original truth. I always recommend speaking to someone that meets the minimum education requirements as a qualified aromatherapist (200 hours of aromatherapy-only education). If you’ve not had a chance to work an aromatherapist yet, here’s my article on what it is we do in this field: https://www.thebarefootdragonfly.com/what-does-an-aromatherapist-do/. Consults are of a holistic nature, which is in keeping with authentic aromatherapy (aka essential oil therapy). Hope this helps you get started!
I see you mention in a very generic way about certain companies. If you are sure of your research and can prove what you blog about why not mention the companies by name? Just using the term essential oil as a blanket reference without using names is a cop out. Were these cases you looked into using therapeutic grade oils or was it something someone got off the shelf at Walmart or Sprouts? Just wondering why no companies were being mentioned.
Dave – The “therapeutic grade” marketing term is an invention, no such grading system exists: http://www.aromaweb.com/articles/therapeuticgradeessentialoils.asp. I would say 98% of the injuries and poisonings reported directly to me come from products sold by Utah-based direct sales companies. Since neither of those companies release GC/MS reports we have no way of knowing the quality of a specific batch and whether or not the products ingested are pure essential oils or have been adulterated.
So in reality your stating Young Living since they are Utah based. It’s more plausible if you spell out truth please. Ty
There are several companies headquartered in Utah with a multi level marketing platform that market essential oils. So, no, I’m not referring to one specific company.
That’s not a specific answer, you’re doding a true answer just to cover yourself. Others have asked you which companies, name them, if you speak out in anti comments then come full circle to be respectful to people’s questions.
What do I need to “cover” myself for? And why do company names matter here? This isn’t a witch hunt to find the world’s worst offenders of essential oil disinformation campaigns. These are clinical observations in my private practice. I have a number of colleagues in a variety of professional occupations in the health and wellness fields reporting similar encounters with their clientele.
Brands that my clients have reported adverse effects after following advice from an untrained sales rep or the company’s own marketing to drink their products:
– Young Living (Utah)
– Doterra (Utah)
– Spark Naturals (Utah)
– Ameo (Utah)
– Simply Aroma (Alabama)
You can read publicly available injury reports here: http://aromatherapyunited.org/injury-reports/, and here: http://leetea.hubpages.com/hub/Essential-Oil-Safety-Documented-Side-Effects-Injuries-and-Deaths-from-Essential-Oil-Ingestion.
Doterra will in fact provide this information if you ask for it!! Just FYI.
Would love to see that, Elizabeth! I’ve never seen a GCMS report originate from them.
They will actually not release these reports to the consumer. Only to commercial companies who want to sell their products. I have personally requested it and was refused.
She posted letters from the FDA that directly reference two companies. I do not think this blog is a “cop out”. In my opinion, it is smart to post only the facts that you have and not make accusations without direct back up.
The slim and sassy says add 8 drops to 16 oz. Water. So this is not ok?
It’s not something I would recommend, Janet. But, if you’re comfortable monitoring internal organs for toxicity and have done your research on which essential oils are carcinogenic, it is your body and ultimately your choice. My advice is to be well-informed, and if you feel you’ve got the full picture of the positive and negative effects of an intervention then you can make an informed decision about your health.
What an excellent well written article, even the answers in the comments. I will be sharing. Thanks.
Very interesting article. I’m very interested in your statements as I also use and love oils. I am trying to find studies, something concrete I can use. Do you have any to point me toward that talk about the mucosal lining or damage to organs, vocal cords etc…..I know it has been your experience but was it only the oils or was there something else going on with the patient in conjuction? I am trying to learn and be responsible when my friends ask what I am doing/using. I do not regularly ingest oils but when I am ill, I do and it knocks it right out.
Thank you for any info you can provide so I can further my research and learning!!
I would start by researching the actions of the constituents of the essential oils, Nicole. Many essential oil constituents are known mucus membrane irritants and that research is readily available. Good luck with your studies!
Great post, Amy. I recently attended a doTerra “indoctrination” meeting where they shared lemon oil shots and showed everyone the “nutritional information” on the side of the bottle – thus declaring it was safe for ingestion – otherwise they “couldn’t put the nutrition label on it”. Sigh!
How many people have been reported in the US from ingesting essential oils?
I’m not sure I understand your question, Misty. The readily available data, to the general public, is through the Poison Control Centers database of poisoning reports, if that’s what you’re looking for.
This is from aromaticscience who does not promote the companies you are talking about above. How do you respond to this? http://aromaticscience.com/education/#/education/05/06/01
I’m happy to read unaffiliated research websites that do not hold in the profit sharing of the sales of essential oils and are grounded in aromatic science.
This is a scientific website where you can find scientific research that is being done on essential oils! They are not selling essential oils!!
That website was announced as being paid for, and owned by, doterra. That’s not unaffiliated scientific information on essential oils.
Where is that announcement? Also, what about FDA’s list of essential oils safe for internal use? http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=182.20
Try searching “doterra + aromaticscience.com” for announcements.
Re: GRAS status, did you read section 409? GRAS status for essential oils is regulated in the food and flavoring industries for parts per million. Here’s a good place to get started on understand GRAS and measurements for these industries and what guidelines have to be followed: http://books.google.com/books?id=R5AhRgbW8UIC&lpg=PP1&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false. Good luck with your research!
I’d like to know how long it might take one to be poisoned? I’ve used internally personally and given orally to my children for 5 years with no ill affects that we can see and no sick care visits to the doc. So the evidence is lacking for our family to deem as unsafe.
I’d imagine it would greatly depend on the person, Jim, and the chemical constituents being consumed. Some forms of cancer can take years to develop. Would be worth discussing this with your physician for a better “big picture” of what to look for, including in pediatric cases.
WOW! So just came across this blog and mouth is on the floor! That first sentence describes me! I was introduced to oils by one of the companies mentioned above about 6 months ago. Well I jumped on board , although I was cautious and did my research (or thought I did). WEll anyway in the beginning I thought I was having several detox reactions and pulled back. That got better but then it started going downhill. More than once I had UTI symptoms and would treat with oregano etc (capsules).In early november I felt another UTI coming on but this time it was accompanied with flank pain. So I went to doc but all was clear even blood work.????? I continued to feel bad and have pain off and on and then I got sick with something over Thanksgiving and was down for a week or so. It started with cough and congestion which turned into green congestion , well I pulled out my oils like I have in the past, made me some cute capsules and there ya go the green was gone. But then the fatigue/flu like symptoms hit. But there was not really any other symptoms except fatigue and I would just all of sudden had to go lay down. I recovered from that but my cough never really went away and then my side started hurting again but it was not only flank but in the front near or right under gall bladder.Meanwhile I still had and still have (going on 2 months) this annoying little dry cough which I believe to be linked to indigestion, as well as fatigue even with full nights rest. So long story short I have been praying and seeking. I found a functional medicine doc that did ultrasounds of abdomen as well as a functional med blood panel. The ultra came back good and I am still waiting on bloodwork. My husband and I noticed all this stuff began when I began using oils:(( Also I have been thinking a lot about how oils are metabolized etc and a friend called this morning about this very subject and then this article. Thinking it is all coming together. Thank you for your article. I am interested your classes. I know oils have their place and do not want to discard them from my all natural tool belt but definitely see there is a lot more to learn! I live in Houston area so Austiin is kind of a stretch. Would you know anyone in this area that offers same as you? Thanks again
I don’t know a CCAP in Houston, but Valerie Cooksley co-owns a school there and may be able to point you to community style classes and a qualified aromatherapist: http://www.aroma-rn.com/instructors/valerie-cooksley.
Is diffusing 6 drops of lavender at night safe? Also if you dilute with a carrier oil is topical ok?
I recommend following dilution and inhalation guidelines from Buckle, Tisserand, NAHA and the IFPA.
I’ve been using a few drops of Lavender oil in my laundry with vinegar as a fabric softener for years. Would that be unhealthy for us? Lately I’ve been having skin issues and I wonder if it’s connected. Also, how safe would a natural perfume be with essential oils inside? Face creams with tea-tree oil?
Patch-testing is a tool I use routinely in my practice, Kathy. Talk to your aromatherapist about how to conduct one and what you’re looking for at each of the 12 hour intervals.
Do you have any idea if using a few drops in a drink of a “flavor” such as this one…
…has any potential of harm? The only ingredients are organic sunflower oil and organic lemon oil. That’s not the same as essential lemon oil, is it?
That’s a cooking flavor, like vanilla extract, and would not be recommended for flavoring water. Organic lemon juice is available at most health food stores and can be used, in moderation, to flavor water.
Thank you so much for your research. This has really opened my eyes as ove just started drinking orange,lime,lemon,grapefruit and slique again. I’ll be honest I have noticed some pain in my right side after drinking the oils but didn’t read into it. What should I do other than stop drinking the oils? Also, how about putting them in a capsule? Thoughts?
Capsules do not reduce the risk of organ toxicity and carcinogenicity but would reduce the risk of irritation in the mouth and upper throat. Do you have the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics to prepare a drug dose of essential oils? Essential oils by mouth work in the same manner as drugs and by no means look like the holistic model of care many people are originally interested in essential oils for.
i take slim and sassy as a EO in my water , I was told it’s safe. I also breastfeed a infant . Is this not safe? I have been told it is
Were you told it is safe by someone with a background in aromatic chemistry or by someone selling you a product with no formal training in chemistry whatsoever?
When I look it up I find NO information online on negative for breastfeeding but reducing milk. My Dr kind of just said if the company says its ok then it is. I am not sure what to do. It is not a straight EO it is a blend of a few. I also take a TBSP of coconut oil with it. I am not sure how much passes to my milk
Access to a lot of information on the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of essential oils is not readily available online to the average user. You want to speak with someone who has specific training in aromatic chemistry so you can find out exactly what the body is doing with this combination of essential oils: what chemicals they turn into during metabolism, which organs are taxed the most, and what the risks are for your child’s developing organs when this passes into the breastmilk. Only then will you be comfortable making an informed decision after you have carefully weighed the pros and cons of this intervention.
Very interesting information! I started using essential oils about six months ago. I get the majority of my EO from Young Living. I had read about adding 1-2 drops of lemon EO to 16 oz of water. Just before Thanksgiving I came down with severe bronchitis and sinusitis. Went to the Dr. twice in about 4 weeks and had 2 rounds of antibiotics. Cough is still hanging on. I diffuse EO and use topically those that are reportedly great for upper respiratory and lung issues with pretty successful results. Thinking that lemon EO in my water might help my immune system I started drinking one 16 oz glass of water a day with 2 drops of lemon EO. After about 4-5 days my throat was red, inflamed and had blister-like bumps on it. Very painful. The light bulb went on in my head and I began to think the lemon EO was the problem. I stopped using the lemon EO in my water (drank a lot of chamomile tea with honey) and within 2 days my throat was all better. I just had to test my theory to see if my throat getting better was a coincidence. So silly me, I put lemon EO in my water again and after only 2 days the throat irritation started coming back. Needless to say, I won’t be using lemon EO in my water anymore! I’ll just stick to diffusing and diluted topical use.
I posted here yesterday and is not here. Please let me know why it was not acceptable. Thanks☺
All comments are moderated here, Linda. If your comment was inflammatory, advertising a brand, seeking medical advice, or had multiple links in it it was likely deleted. It is also possible that it did not post if there was a server update or your email address was entered incorrectly.
Your article is very interesting…
I recently began using TriEase (Seasonal Blend soft gels that contain lemon, lavender and peppermint). Is this safe?
Lanie, that would be a question to ask the doctor who prescribed this treatment plan for you. He/she can explain further how the dosing and short duration are designed to prevent toxicity, carcinogenicity, teratogenicity, as well as which routes these essential oils will travel within the body. While under his/her care for this treatment plan be sure you are being monitored and have a thorough understanding of how you should be participating in this treatment plan and what kind of feedback he/she is looking for. If he/she is well qualified in aromatic medicine you should have had all of this information ahead of time and been able to participate in deciding if this intervention is the best fit for you. You can still raise questions on the safety of this intervention though and choose a different course of action if you feel it is no longer best suited for you. But again, all of this should be discussed with your provider.
WOW! I am so confused! I bought several oils with the desire to help myself and my husband with some health and emotional issues. I as flabergasted at the lack of responsible education that comes with the investment of these oils! I want to throw them all in the garbage and call it a day!!!
I am very concerned about diffusing, rolling oils on our feet and chest. I break out in a rash in fornt of my thyroid anytime I apply anywhere but the bottom of my feet.
I am using some to help my husband with COPD and I am scared now as to what damage I may be doing.
I have grapefruit oil in my water and I am about to empty that down the drain!
OY VEY! Did I just blow all the money I spent on these oils?
How do I find out the responsible way to use these???
Thank you so much for this blog!
I’m a big fan of consulting with a professional aromatherapist that has the background in aromatic chemistry to help you find ways that aromatherapy (the therapeutic use of essential oils and hydrosols) can fit into your wellness plan. Education shouldn’t come from a company that sells you a product – it should come from an independent source that is not going to financially benefit from your purchases. Look to the Alliance of International Aromatherapists and the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy to find a referral in your area.
Thank you so very, very much for this article! As a massage therapist, I have used highly diluted of EOs for many years. Then, someone invited me to a DoTerra “class” where the “teacher” stuck her hands in our faces to smell the oils. A fussy baby got a dose of clove oil…I was shocked! Didn’t she know that could be dangerous? Obviously not. The products were 100% pure! Well, how about rubbing 100% pure poison ivy oil? Safer than diluted? I had read a few older texts about EOs…ingestion was NOT recommended, but when I asked a “Representative” about it, well, they said, that was written in Britain. The oils weren’t “100% Certified Therapeutic”! It was like Alice in Wonderland! Misinformation all over. My sister took many of these oils and ended up with a severe skin condition that’s lasted over a year. Now, I’m suspecting it is connected with her taking the oils orally. Amy, thank you very much for your professional advice. EOs are valuable tools, but, must be used with knowledge and caution!
Thank you for this article! SO many people are brainwashed by those 2 companies, I have friends and family who sell both. I have tried to share with them information much like this, but they don’t buy it, they want more proof that there are dangers or they think that that the risks are minimal. They 100% stand by what their company says. They truly believe their oils are the ONLY pure oils out there. And they think information like this is fear mongering.
I went to a doTerra meeting and then got into oils that way. I did in the beginning use some internally, however, started doing research and decided that is not a way to go. I have bought books, read many articules, talk with my doctors who have no idea about EO’s, and your articule again proved to me that its a must to do your research. These MLM are companies that want to make money and there oils are 3x the price of others I have bought. Now I diffuse and use topically, however, my question is: Do all oils need to be diluted before you apply them topically? I have used them “neat” and have had no problems. Now some oils must be diluted but I thought that lemon, peppermint, lavender and others are ok to apply without diluation. Amy, can you tell me, should all oils be diluted before application on skin? Thank you
Dilution gives us multiple benefits:
– a fatty carrier oil helps with skin absorption (otherwise they just evaporate)
– it reduces your risk of irritation and sensitization
– it shows we’re good stewards over the massive amount of raw plant material necessary to produce an essential oil
There’s no research I’ve seen that indicates undiluted usage of ANY essential oil is risk-free. There’s a lot of books and blogs that parrot the old notion that certain essential oils can be applied safely to the skin undiluted but with research over the past decade we have a better understanding of risk and dosing.
Love this article.
I also LOVE my doTERRA products. I am a Wellness Advocate with the company but I am also in school for Complementary Alternative Medicine with a major in Aromatherapy. I attend The American College of Healthcare Sciences. I started using doTERRA and was instantly turned off by the bad usage advice. I have tried since I started working for the company to spread information on safety throughout my team, including those above me. I was met with A LOT of dissatisfaction. My ‘upline’ was contacted by ‘the higher ups’ on our team and told that I basically spread fear and negativity and I need to stop. The information I was spreading was on the benefits and importance of dilution and how internal use, especially oils dropped in water, is not recommended.
While my ‘upline’ was getting negative remarks about me and some of my posts were getting not so nice comments, I was constantly being contacted and thanked for the information I was providing as it was helping people feel more empowered with these other sources. They felt much more confident in what they were doing.
FINALLY I am happy to say that a large group of people in our team, which we have just over 1,000 people, are finally starting to get it and I am getting less and less complaints. I know that doTERRA and Young Living are the big names right now for essential oils and I am striving to make people aware of the safety issues regarding oils through a MLM. This is the biggest marketing alley for oils right now and, because of it, I think that is where the safety conversation needs to go to.
Instead of spreading hate for the MLMs, not at all saying you do but A LOT of people do, we should be reaching out to work with them in spreading safety and educating those with less education on the topic. It makes me worried that, if misinformation keeps spreading, the FDA will have to really step in.
I will be sharing your article with my group. I am sure they will all love it!
Thanks again for it!
Thank you Amanda, I’ve been using EO for many years in my practice, my office partner started using doterra, I joined it so we could keep stock at our office. I was scared when I learned about their usage recommendations, I went against my better judgement and used lavander, wild orange and breathe directly. Harsh lesson to learn after knowing better, because 3 clients had a reaction on the spot it was applied on! I like your attitude towards the matter and believe we need to join in and educate. Awesome suggestion!
Hi Amanda and Amy!
I LOVE this article, and I love Amanda’s response. I too am a WA with doTERRA. I love the oils. However, when I first began to learn about their usage advice, I was horrified that they advocate using them internally. Now, in their defense, they only advise that some of their oils be ingested, not all, and those that are particularly toxic (like wintergreen) come with child safety seals. I always share about toxicity when I talk with someone about the oils (esp. photo-toxicity and for pets/small children/babies), and encourage them to visit websites like learningabouteos.com before making the decision to use any oil internally. I really appreciate with work of certified aromatherapists to share the truth about essential oil safety with the average person. I am going to pursue aromatherapy in the near future, so I can really help people improve their health without taking unnecessary risks, either with my own family or theirs! Life is too precious and too short to willfully and blindly gamble with our health. I would love to use the Barefoot Dragonfly as another reference website when I’m talking about oils with someone, because there is good information here. Information that will keep people safe. Thank-you!
This makes me very happy to read this, Grace! Aromatherapists and sales persons can, and legally should, have a symbiotic relationship. The roles are not in conflict with each other – sales and education are legally separate in the USA – and I am very happy to see this new pattern of collaborative work between the two professions in the same field. Woop woop! Here’s to many more folks finding their way to safe and appropriate use of essential oils as a wellness tool!
THANK YOU for writing this! I’ve been on my EO journey for almost a year now and have NEVERTHELESS felt comfortable with the idea of ingesting and have refused to buy from or support those two big MLM companies because of the way they push this practice. I’m trying to tell my friends about how dangerous this is. It’s so frustrating that these companies think “consultants” are qualified to give medical advise or prescribe ingestion of certain oils. Drives me mad. Thank you for writing this. I plan to share this with article on with my ingesting friends!
Doterra and Young Living buy from each other. Source: I’m a personal importer of essential oils. I know where they get their stuff, and I know even the “wellness consultants” are being charged at least 140% markup on a good amount of the oils.
Question! Can you use EOs in baking or alcoholic drinks? I have been using lavender oil for cookies and rosemary for eggs.
The markup is shocking considering the number of distillers available in the commercial production of essential oils and how many companies are buying from the same suppliers.
The FDA has established guidelines for GRAS essential oils intended to flavor beverages and foods. I talk about it in this more recent blog post: https://www.thebarefootdragonfly.com/essential-oils-and-gras-what-it-really-means/
I have been using doTerra (not internally) for a few months now. I was wondering if you could recommend some essential oils that are still pure but at a more reasonable price. I don’t want to be putting any extra chemicals on my body. As you stated above, many companies buy from the same source. I was just wondering a good way to find out which companies those are and the best price per quality.
As a small business owner myself I am keen to support small, women and family owned businesses when I am sourcing raw materials for treatment plans and formulations. What I look for in an essential oil company includes:
– longevity in the field
– relationships with their farmers and distillers
– attention to details such as shelf-life
– GC/MS reports
I hope this helps guide you in your quest, Kelly! There are a number of great businesses that have spent decades in sourcing, won’t source from overharvested crops, and are keen to provide documentation for each batch they source.
What about the nutritional drinks that are sold by these companies? Ningxia red is a drink sold by young living that contains wolfberry (Gogi berry) purée, several different juice concentrates, and some citrus oils. Is this unsafe as well?
You can always ask them if they are in GRAS compliance, Alissa! More on GRAS and essential oils here: https://www.thebarefootdragonfly.com/essential-oils-and-gras-what-it-really-means/
Thank you so much for this article. I have been using YL oils for about 6 months but I am so against ingesting them. I recently found two other brands that are NOT MLMs and I love them! I’ve learned so much about oils through my research and one thing that always gave me pause was the ingestion of oils. The reps from the bigger companies say that the oils eat up the bad stuff in our body (and showed me a strawberry test they did). I still don’t buy it, especially with all the scary stuff on the internet.
Than you for the article, Amy. Can you recommend a good reference book for appropriate Essential Oil usage?
I have book lists under the Learning Center section, Kristin.
When I get bored of plain water, I get one of my favorite herbal teas and put in in my water, cold. It adds just enough flavor to kick the boredom.
Sounds delicious, Kara!
I see you mention some EOs are carcinogenic. Can you give me some links or information about that? We use EOs when we need them, not everyday. That has me concerned about if I could still be overusing them though and I would like to read more on that specific topic. Thank you!
I offer consults by appointment Monday through Friday. You can shoot me an email or schedule through the online scheduler.
Thanks for the great article. I am interested in educating myself about the proper use of essential oils for personal use. Do you have any recommendations for a certification program? I have been researching it through the NAHA website. There are so many different programs and some are cost prohibitive. Thank you in advance.
I teach at Austin Community College, if you’re in the area you should check out the program!
Thanks Amy! I am not in your area or near anywhere that has a program. I will have to do a distance learning program.
Thank you for sharing this. I think EOs are able to work just fine without ingesting them. However one product is in pill form and suppose to help with digestive issues which I have had since before my introduction to EOs. However I have noticed recently voice is not what it was and it hurts when I just talk a short time. I will stop taking all oils internally after this article. I have Scleoderma and it could also be the cause, but I would rather not risk anymore with ingested EOs. Thank you and I will share this info with others.
I make my own deodorant using mlm essential oils. I put about 20 drops (assortment) in maybe 100ml of coconut oil/baking soda/arrowroot.
I would think this is still far safer than using a chemical laden over the counter brand? Even the “natural” deodorants that I’ve purchased at the health food store have essential oils in them, amongst many other things.
My homemade deodorant has worked far better than anything I have ever used.
Should I be concerned? And if so, should I have the same concern with regular deodorants that can be purchased.
If you’re concerned about a formula published by someone without aromatherapy training you can always run it by your aromatherapist. Just another great reason to have an aromatherapist on your wellness team! 🙂
Love infused waters. Get an infused water bottle at Walmart or make a pitcher of infused water using a pitcher with a good strainer on it. I love cinnamon stick and apples slices, lemon juice with frozen strawberries, lime juice with frozen raspberries, cucumbers and orange slices with some mint leaves (I actually grow some orange mint). Look on pinterest for many other ideas.
Sounds great, Kathy.
Hi! So I use peppermint essential oil topically for my sinuses regularly, and have out it in my tea before for serious sickness. Are you saying this is potentially harmful? And is this in regards to all oils? Or ones specifically marked “essential”? Because I do use Grapefruit seed mixed with my witch hazel as a topical toner for my acne but it’s very clearly marked not for internal use… Thoughts? Thanks for the article too, this is something I’d never thought of.
Peppermint essential oil has dermal, inhaled, and oral (aromatic medicine) dosing parameters. You should speak with your aromatherapist about safe guidelines for your wellness goals and constitution.
I have been ingesting peppermint oil (tiny amounts) for months now to help with my nausea and it helps with my anxiety as well. Does this mean I’ve done like…unfixable damage to my body? I’m nervous now. I put a tiny drop on my hand and lick it off and it helps quickly alleviate my nausea but now I’m nervous that I’m doing something dangerous. Do I need to see a doctor or anything?
You might take the example of this article to start up a conversation with your primary care physician, Molly. If I have a client concerned about potential, unseen, damage from unorthodox essential usage I encourage her to chat with her doctor. I’m not a doctor nor do I conduct tests to determine if any harm has been done to internal organs. My best advice is if you’re concerned to chat with your doctor.
So I am kinda confused….
I don’t as a habit put oils in my drinks… Only when I don’t feel well I will put a drop of Lemon in my water and I can see the oil residue. SO I use that glass all day drinking 4 to 6 glasses of water at the end of the day I wash it out/put in dishwasher. or if I am battling a cold I will make tea and put a few drops of Theives oil.
Also at stomach flu time I put a drop of wild orange EO in a jug of Apple juice for the kids to drink (watered down in their cups).
I guess my question is it safe to do all the above once in a while or just don’t? I understand what you are saying but your example was of a person/persons doing it daily.
Thank you for the above info!
This is not something I would ever recommend to my clients, Apryl. You’ve got a number of other options that fit into the parameters of safe and effective essential oil usage. First do no harm.
great post. As an herbalist I ask people not to use Essential oils as so many of them are toxic, they are putting them on their body without a carrier oil, they are ingesting them and so much more. For some purposes essential oils are find, but for most they, especially when used internally they can create liver issues.
Here’s a post I wrote on flavored waters http://bonniesherbals.com/blogs/bonnies-tips/16285399-is-your-water-boring
Just like in herbalism, it all comes down to individual wellness care. What’s the appropriate botanical ally for the individual? Is it a tisane, tincture, flower essence, essential oil, compress, decoction, a combined botanical effort? Essential oils are safe and effective when used appropriately and as part of a larger picture of wellness. Essential oils can absolutely be toxic but it is dose dependent. As with so many things, no? 🙂
Is this your article, Amy? I am confused because in one line you say, “As an M.D. I ….”
This is my article, Victoria. I wrote: “An M.D. I refer clients to…”
Do you have recommendations on aromatherapy programs that can be completed from home? I am interested in learning more but am married with 2 kids and have an unrelated career that I dont want to give up. I have recently started to become interested in the use of Essential Oils and want to make sure I am using them correctly for my family and I and other loved ones.
Your most budget and time friendly option would be to get a consultation with a qualified aromatherapist, Eve! Look for someone who works with families and can create a tutorial packet of evidence-based guidelines for all of the major essential oils you’re working with in the home. This is one of my favorite client sessions when I sit down with a parent and cover the goals and needs of the entire household. You’ll benefit from a breadth of knowledge that you’d never find in an abbreviated “safety” course.
If EO’s are unsafe to ingest in water, why is it safe to use in a carrier oil on the skin? Wouldn’t it still be too concentrated?
Essential oils are diluted anywhere from 0.25%-5% depending on the chemistry, intended outcome, location, and constitution of the individual. Sometimes a higher dilution is appropriate and necessary, like in say, a case of MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) or acute pain over a small region of the body (ankle sprain). Getting dosing correct seems to be a problem for most untrained users as having access to appropriate guidelines are infrequent in this country. Would that we were in other countries that offer package inserts detailing dilution and safe and appropriate use! Maybe in my lifetime as an aromatherapist I’ll get to see that. A girl can dream! 🙂
Amy I appreciate this article and your attempts to safeguard consumers. One thing that I haven’t seen in your article or in the comments section is any reference to the fact that corporate interests shut down schools in this country that were not based in pharmaceutical medical intervention. If my memory is correct it was in 1927 that big pharma took over, mainly owned by the Rockefeller and Carnegie families at that time. Previous to that time many medical schools were rooted in homeopathy, naturopathy and herbalism. So, we would have had M.D.’s well trained in appropriate use and contraindications (as they do in Germany and France) and we would have healthier options alongside pharmaceuticals to choose from. At this point you have to work very hard in this country to find other options and if M.D.s recommend them they face prosecution, shut down, seizure of medical records, etc. I think it is important to understand why this country is facing so much dabbling since it is rooted in the fact that the options are not carefully integrated with fully trained medical practitioners except in the case of someone who works very diligently (as I assume you have) to get trained in alternative care. In the mid 90’s Dr. Herbert Benson held a mind body symposium inviting M.D.’s and alternative care practitioners to the same table and urging us to aim toward changing the label from alternative care to complimentary care to working together to insure that patients were protected from a lack of understanding on both sides of the issue, ie when meds are more toxic than alternatives and vice versa. For a while they had patient advocates at Mass General Hospital informing patients of all of their options and precautions, interactions etc. It might be worth our while to find out what happened to that program. I do not work with herbs or essential oils, but work with chronic pain via yoga and manual therapies (massage therapist currently trained by a PT) to try to network with practitioners of many various certifications because so many people are not getting the help they need through traditional means.
Good points, Dominique. The entire medical system has moved into symptom management versus preventative care. I see this model trickling down to essential oil usage to, a la “there’s an oil for that” and the drive to treat symptoms with essential oils instead of treating the root cause of the imbalance. It is a shame that essential oils are being so rampantly used like pharmaceuticals and I completely attribute the numbers of poisonings and unwanted outcomes to this aggressive, allopathic model. I look forward to the day when essential oils are utilized as part of a wellness model!
A safe to flavor water and get some of the benefits of oils would be to make a weak herbal tea and put it in the fridge. For instance, you can use lavender tea or peppermint tea to get some of the benefits of those oils. Fresh ginger and/or turmeric root can also be boiled to make herbal tea.
I put a drop of diluted Palo Santo (about 50% carrier and 50% EO) on my wrist every night before I go to bed. It helps me sleep. I love it!!! I thought it was a good, natural alternative. Is this dangerous for my organs or my health? If so, I will stop. Thank you for taking the time to answer! 🙂
Palo Santo has menthofuran in it which is hepatotoxic. So yes, it is dangerous to your liver at that amount and with long-term usage.
I will discontinue use of it. I wish I didn’t have to because it is the only thing I have found that helps me sleep well. Thank you so much for your quick reply. I appreciate it. 🙂
I would definitely recommend sitting down and having a chat with a qualified aromatherapist on this subject, Shannon. You’ve got other options, depending on your health history and specific sleep goals.
wow this has been an eye opener!—just getting started with eo’s and doing research–will definitely continue to follow ur website/blog–we have a new baby in the family and are very concerned with exposing her to toxins of course–i never would have even thought about the cat though! lol–thank u so much for the info!
You might enjoy reading this article too, Lesa: https://www.thebarefootdragonfly.com/can-i-use-essential-oils-on-my-baby/. Essential oils are generally not recommended for the first 24 months of baby’s life and then in thoughtful dosing thereafter.
Thank you so much for this article! As a newbie to E.O’s and RN, I was happy to introduce oils into my home and body to promote wellness. I came across your link after researching the use of E.O’s in drinking water, after noticing a reaction within the plastic cup (had not been instructed otherwise, nor informed of its corrosive properties). Responsible teaching from qualified professionals should definitely be mandated prior to selling/promoting such products to the masses. I’m disappointed because I truly enjoy the products purchased, but now have reservations in using them.
I’d like to inquire as to just how dangerous it is to consume essential oils (in water, vegetable capsules, dietary supplements, cooked and raw food items, candies, lip products, etc) on a daily basis. How many people have contracted a debilitating or fatal condition by the proper use of EO’s (aromatically, topically, ingesting)? Even more so, how many people have died from using EO’s properly? Hasn’t the use of essential oils (all three ways) been in existence for thousands of years and with great success? Just wondering.
Lezlie – I’d love to see some national statistics on these myself! I can only share what I’m seeing in my practice:
– daily basis in water – mild to severe mucous membrane irritation from the mouth to the rectum, hepatic involvement, drug interactions, histamine reactions.
– daily basis in capsules not formulated based on pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics – bloody stool, hepatic involvement, drug interactions, histamine reactions, moderate to severe mucous membrane irritation.
– daily basis in foods – this is where understanding GRAS comes in handy to get a sense of what’s the upper limit of safety when flavoring foods and beverages without risking health, more here: https://www.thebarefootdragonfly.com/essential-oils-and-gras-what-it-really-means/
– unorthodox usage worse-case scenarios I’ve had directly reported to me by the survivor, care taker (parent or guardian) or the care provider – seizures, miscarriage, myocardial infarction, CNS involvement, hepatic involvement, drug interactions, histamine reactions.
– how many people have died from using essential oils properly? To my knowledge, none. The only deaths I am aware of involved unorthodox usage at high doses.
– no, essential oils haven’t been in existence for thousands of years so they can’t have been used with any kind of success prior to their invention. Herbs? Yes, herbs have been around for tens of thousands of years with varying degrees of “success.”
I use one of those 2 major EOs. I am a Massage Therapist. I continually diffuse during massage as well as blend EOs with my massage lotion. Do you belive this is too much being inhaled/absorbed into my body? Ironically, I was diagnosed with an enlarged fatty liver this past summer…. out of the blue. Do you belive there is a correlation?
Angela – continuous inhaled exposure does pose a respiratory risk, and yes, that is an overdose. Massage therapists are especially susceptible to overdose and raise their risk of sensitization with day-in-day-out exposure levels like this. I have more colleagues than I have phalanges to count on that have sensitized themselves to one or more essential oils through routine exposure via dermal and inhaled contact. I wear gloves when I formulate and do not routinely run a diffuser in my clinic or in my home environment. In short, yes, you’re getting more than a therapeutic dose and should keep an eye out on your health. You might speak with your doctor about running tests before and after a period of abstinence from all aromatics to see if you have a change in hepatic functioning and any other areas you are showing symptoms of overdose in. I’d recommend chatting with an aromatherapist in your community about ways you can safeguard your health and reduce your exposure levels while still maintaining your practice.
I think part of the problem is that there is very little reliable information out there. A lot of your answers have been to talk to a physician or a person trained in aromatherapy. My doctor has no training in holistic medicine whatsoever, so I wouldn’t even bother. I live in a rural community with no trained aromatherapy professionals. Yet most trained people on the Internet refer you to go see someone. I understand you deserve to be compensated for your training, but I have no idea who I would even go see. Is it unsafe to put 2 drops of lemon essential oil in a water bottle daily? Is it unsafe to drink thieves tea when coming down with a cold? I just need straightforward answers because it seems like these things have worked for me in the past.
Getting reliable, non-marketing based information is akin to finding a needle in a haystack! Fortunately, most aromatherapy schools aren’t cramming students with marketing pseudoscience so my recommendation to speak with an aromatherapist is a budget-friendly, time-friendly resource. Otherwise you’re looking at going to school (about $1,500-3,000 USD) for 12+ months and most people don’t have that kind of time or money to study a profession they’re not interested in actually going into.
Why do I recommend speaking with a doctor? As an aromatherapist I’m an expert in my field of study and that doesn’t include the ability to run tests and diagnose essential oil injuries. I couldn’t run a liver panel test to save my life – but I could tell you why your doctor is seeing abnormalities from the test based on the chemistry of essential oils you’re drinking in that tea or glass of water.
I don’t offer consults in a public forum. I respect the individual’s right to protect their health information under the federal laws we know as HIPAA. I need to know a lot about an individual to make recommendations for their wellness plan and I wouldn’t dream of asking for that information in a comment thread. But I do understand the challenges of finding a practitioner in your region which is why I accept distance clients for phone consultations. I collect PHI (protected health information) via a secure electronic format and then speak with the person over the phone about their health history and wellness goals. Everyone should have access to an aromatherapist if they want one, and a number of us do take on distance clients.
What about some of the Orange EO’s…I’ve had someone say they put a drop in like 20oz of water a day….because its diluted, is it safe? I’ve been sitting on it for like 9 months now, mainly because i dont have a glass container i can mix it in lol
Since essential oils aren’t diluted by water due to their hydrophobic nature you’d need a dispersent like sorbitol or polysorbate. You might get it to disperse in a glass of full-fat cow’s milk but that sounds a stomach-curdling disaster to me.
In a 15 ml bottle is around 250 drops. It takes approx. 75 lemons to make 1 bottle. So, with 1 drop in your water you’re having the EO from 1/3 of a lemon. How is this toxic? If I eat the zest from 1 lemon wouldn’t that be worse?
A standard pipette should yield closer to 300 drops in a 15ml bottle. Lemon gives us about a 2% yield of volatiles so you may want to revise your math on 75 lemons to a 15ml bottle. The physicians I’m speaking with regarding toxicity are concerned about how the essential oil hits the liver and builds up over repeated usage. The lemon zest would give you more flavonoids and triterpenes to buffer constituents like limonene – which would make it safer and nutritious.
I have diffusers that run from 2-6 hours . Most all of them run for more than an hour. So does this mean I should never run my lavender oil during the night or let the diffuser run in my family room for a couple of hours?
See my comment from January 17, 2015: https://www.thebarefootdragonfly.com/why-essential-oils-are-not-water-flavoring-agents/#comment-870
Thanks so much for this informative article. I found your blog searching for eo’s that are toxic (to avoid) for consumption in cooking and see that they all are. I would be using oil to dilute the eo’s but now I understand that there are guidelines regarding the ppm. It is alarming that so many links and articles are being written encouraging using eo’s instead of herbs in cooking. I have seen cookbooks available and wander about the quantity of oils used in the recipes.
I am curious about the use of these oils in perfume and body lotions? I do use eo’s in fragrance oils, probably a 1-10 ratio. Now I am thinking that I should dilute even more and take a close look at the oils that I am using. I developed a sensitivity to chemical fragrances years ago and have been grateful to these natural aromas. If I purchase fragrances is there any assurance that the concentration of oils is within the proper guidelines?
I appreciate the time and effort that you are putting into this.
If you know of an aromatherapist in the Atlanta /Decatur area I would be grateful.
Roz Zollinger owns the Heal Center in North Atlanta and I highly recommend her for classes and consultations: http://healcenteratlanta.com/. I’m actually headed back there next month for parts 3 & 4 of Aromatic Medicine training co-sponsored by her school, and Gabriel Mojay’s school (Institute of Traditional Herbal Medicine and Aromatherapy).
Great article. As a Reiki Master I constantly get called by Essential Oil MLM companies (mostly Young Living and Doterra here in Canada) to add their products to my business. I have held on to the belief that unless you are a trained aromatherapist you have no business messing with essential oils. I’ve shared it on Facebook.
What about applying EOs to your feet? I heard it bypasses liver??
And we shouldn’t be diffusing in our bedrooms??
Have you had a chance to read my articles on using essential oils on the feet, Ash? It’s here: https://www.thebarefootdragonfly.com/essential-oils-and-the-feet/.
see you don’t comment or make reference to oil extracts – which are designed for ingestion. Most of these oils Purchased are synthetic & people don’t understand what they’re actually buying. Hence – buyer beware & learn to educate yourself with a true professional!! (My life in the medical field now for over 30 years)
Volatile plant compounds can be extracted via steam distillation (essential oil), cold-pressing/expression (essential oil), carbon dioxide (CO2 extract), solvent extraction (absolute), and using the enfleurage technique. Which extraction method are you referring to, Renee? None of these are “synthetic” extractions and all of them are valid methods to extract volatile plant compounds but that doesn’t mean any of them are designed for ingestion. There are companies that meet extraction standards required for use in the food and flavoring industry though and that has more to do with cGMP standards for sanitary conditions (current good manufacturing practices), stripping essential oils of terpenes through redistillation, and other manufacturing standards unique to the food and flavoring industry.
Thanks for vocalizing my concerns so much better than I can! I own a small soap company & use EOs in my them (in the correct % allowed by my governments health board). I posted a picture of a plastic beer cup I had used to weigh out the required amount of EO for a batch I was making but I was distracted and left the EO in the cup for a short amount of time and it had eaten it’s way right through. The visual had great impact; if it can eat through that just imagine what it can do to your intestines! Shame in the MLMs for misleading consumers
I also ingested DT Oregano oil for possible strep. It was my first introduction to EO. My throat almost completely closed up that night while asleep. I ended up at urgent care and took prednisone for the next 2 weeks. 🙁
I use EO topically but scarcely.
Truly scary what some people are doing…and it seems their ears are closed to anything contrary to what they have read, heard or have already experienced.
I agree that although they may seem fine now…that does not indicate they are not damaging their body in some way.
Yes, pharma meds are strong and carry a huge list of risks. But at least the risks are documented, adverse reactions are listed, and in most cases these meds are not intended to be used long term.
To say that EO have the power to boost your immunity when you have a respiratory infection or stomach virus, ear infection, or even cancer (heard it all) and yet there are no limits to how often it’s used or for how long…..just doesn’t make sense.
Thank you for sharing this and lending your expertise!!
I had placed lavender essential oils in a bedroom to help with sleep issues for my husband. He had a breathing machine that has been ruined from this. And he swears now all he taste and smells is lavender. Is there any way we can eliminate this from his body?
I don’t think I understand what happened here. If you need a consult it’s easy to schedule one here: https://www.thebarefootdragonfly.com/make-appointment/
[…] Inhalation is still the quickest method of absorption in therapeutic aromatherapy. Topical applications come in second and should be applied to the areas of concern – Lavender in an aloe gel to the finger for a mild kitchen burn, Roman Chamomile in a carrier oil to the calves for muscle pain, Tea Tree in arrowroot powder and baking soda for Athlete’s foot. Oral applications under the guidance of a qualified aromatherapist for intestinal parasites or an internal bacterial infection, but not as a daily supplement and never in a glass of water. […]
[…] of a medication and having to take it off the market does not mean that it is somehow okay to start ingesting essential oils to medicate yourself instead just because you think essential oils are “natural and good”. Two […]
[…] Waarom water geen emulgator is voor EO […]
[…] DO not drink EO in your water. Here’s a great article for more info: Why Essential Oils are Not Water Flavoring Agents 3. Dilute your essential oils. Here’s my chart for safe dilution: SAFE DILUTION […]
[…] Why essential oils are not water flavoring agents Essential 0ils and GRAS: What it really means What Every Mom Needs to Know About Essential Oils 10 Epic Essential Oil Myths and Dangerous Uses of 2014 What does risk versus benefit look like in aromatherapy? Aromatic Medicine: Internal dosing of essential oils […]