Is it Safe to Ingest Essential Oils

Is it Safe to Ingest Essential Oils

Most of our foods and drinks contain tiny amounts of essential oils.
As well as being present in herbs and spices, active compounds are found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, etc.

If it has a smell or a taste, you will find essential oil constituents.

Essential Oils and the Internal Debate

Is it safe to ingest essential oils?

Essential oils are widely used in the flavour and beverage industry, the most common being orange, lemon and mint. These are added to chewing gum, confectionary, baked goods, drinks, meats, soups and much more.
However the concentrations used are very low and are measured in parts per million (ppm). For example, 99 ppm of Peppermint oil is the recommended maximum for flavouring non-alcoholic beverages.

In perspective, 2 litres of water would only require 0.2ml essential oil – or ½ drop!
Over-dosing is a real risk.


GRAS (Generally regarded as safe)
GRAS is a United States (FDA) designation for dietary ingredients and is recognised in most countries.
Safe levels for food flavouring are evaluated and determined by experts based on scientific data, and are regularly revised.

Many Essential oils have GRAS status as a food additive.
However, each EO has its own defined safe level.

So is it safe to ingest essential oils?
Ask yourself how is your knowledge for each essential oil, and the individual safe level for ingestion of each oil?

Although essential oils are generally recognised as safe, this does not mean it’s okay to drink them casually, for example, in a glass of water.

Essential oils are concentrated and complex. (Ref:…tial-oils-easily/ ) Not only is the concentration used in flavouring very low, but the essential oils are actually dispersed within the food or beverage and do not come into contact with your digestive tract undiluted.

But this does happen when they are taken in a glass of water.

Lemon and orange essential oils are not just concentrated juice. The essential oil is extracted from the peel of the fruit.

What happens when I take essential oils?

Orally taken substances move from the mouth, down the throat and into the stomach where they are absorbed into the liver and processed for use throughout your body
In the liver the body treats essential oil constituents as xenobiotics (foreign molecules), and proceeds to metabolise them as soon as possible.
The enzymes used in this metabolism process can also affect the activity of other drugs/medicines you may be taking,  potentially resulting in an adverse or dangerous reaction.

After oral intake, traces of metabolised essential oil constituents have been found in breast milk.

Other Safety Issues

Irritation of mucous membranes: Irritation can happen in the mouth, oesophagus, stomach or intestine.
Hepatotoxicity: The liver can be affected directly by toxic constituents, or even by the metabolites it uses to process the essential oil.
Nephhrotoxicity: The kidneys are also susceptible to damage, but this usually only occurs after prolonged overuse.
Neurotoxicity: High concentrations of EO constituents in the brain can cause dizziness, disorientation, hallucinations, convulsions and loss of consciousness.


Therapeutic Use
Oral administration is used therapeutically for precise targeting of ailments of the digestive system, the urinary system, the lungs and the brain. This obviously has safety consequences that go beyond GRAS parameters, and correct concentration and dosages are carefully monitored by a professional.
This type of internal ingestion is usually via a gel capsule, or sometimes by medicinal syrup, minimising gut irritation.

So, is it safe to ingest essential oils?

Internal ingestion is a current trend, and I feel there is not enough correct information being sought before a choice is made.

Essential oils are natural. There is no disputing their beneficial and health promoting properties when used correctly!
But essential oils are approximately 100 times more concentrated than if the plant was used. They consist of potent, active constituents, and a knowledge of their complex properties is needed before using.

I would advise careful consideration before committing to ingesting and ensure you are aware of what your body will need to do to process them, along with the possible unseen side effects of casual dosing.


My information is based on over 30 years experience as an aromatherapist, and is supported by training and extensive reading.
My preferred author is Robert B Tisserand, an acknowledged expert in the current realm of aromatherapy.
I also use information gained from my numerous aromatherapy text and reference books.


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