Are Essential Oils Safe To Ingest?
One of the most controversial topics in our industry concerns the ingestion of pure essential oils.
Despite their remarkable healing properties, it is generally agreed in Australia that pure essential oils should only be
prescribed for ingestion by healthcare professionals because of the potential hazards and health risks involved.
What experts say about ingestion:
The general consensus amongst world authorities and experts in the industry is that internal use of oils is to be carried out only by properly trained practitioners.Robert Tisserand, a leading expert of modern day aromatherapy voices his concern regarding ingestion, arguing that great caution should be exercised when taking essential oils by mouth because it is likely to lead to systemic toxicity problems. He and Tony Balacs agree that essential oils should only be prescribed orally for therapeutic purposes by medical doctors and medical herbalists. Shirley Price, practitioner and founder of an internationally renowned school of aromatherapy, believes ingestion of oils should be left in the hands of a competent aromatologist working under the direction of a doctor. Salvatore Battaglia, Australian aromatherapy lecturer and author, maintains that if oils are ingested incorrectly or in excessive amounts there is a possibility of irritating the stomach lining.
What we need to look out for:
Ingestion itself is not the major concern facing our industry. In fact, in France it is standard practice for doctors to “prescribe” essential oils orally when treating infectious diseases requiring heavy doses. The French medical practitioner often uses essential oils internally in much the same way as a doctor would prescribe the use of antibiotics. As with any prescription, the essential oils are carefully prepared to be safe for ingestion. Rather, what we need to be most aware of today is the random promotion and marketing of ingestion by sales representatives, family members and friends who are not qualified healthcare practitioners. By contrast, a qualified aromatherapist for instance, is trained in physiology, pharmacology and the chemistry of aromatherapy.
The impact of Ingesting on the body
We are all aware of the importance of a healthy liver and kidney function in removing waste from the body. We understand that if these vital organs are overloaded with toxins they will deteriorate over time. In the case of essential oils, the extraction process renders a very different biochemical composition. Not only does the essential oil become concentrated 100-fold, undiluted it can also damage mucous membranes. Eventually, if not administered with the correct dosage, it will tax the liver and kidney function.Lemon essential oil provides us with a useful example and the most accurate explanation regarding the issues surrounding ingestion. If you add one drop of lemon essential oil to a glass of water it is not at all like adding freshly squeezed lemon juice to the same glass of water. The drop of oil will float on the surface and no amount of mixing or stirring will fully dilute the molecules simply because essential oils are not water soluble. Therefore, when you drink the water, the oil will not be absorbed by the body but rather irritate mucous membrane as it travels to the stomach. That one drop of lemon is so much stronger than the fruit so cannot be considered as a viable substitute for freshly-squeezed lemon juice.
Inhalation and massage are the preferred application methods
Even within the context of clinical aromatherapy, the pioneers Gattefosse and Valnet advocated inhalation and massage as being their preferred methods of application. Both methods offer a rapid absorption of the aromatic particles as opposed to a slow rate when administered orally.Moreover, essential oils are highly concentrated aromatic liquids. When properly diluted in carrier oil or inhaled via a vaporiser and used with adequate knowledge, pure essential oils are safe, pleasurable and above all therapeutic. They can greatly enhance a healthy lifestyle.
Complementary therapies in Australia, though highly regarded do not take the place of qualified practitioners and nor are companies in the business of selling essential oils in any position to treat, cure and diagnose. Australian safety guidelines in the art and practice of aromatherapy do not recognise oral administration as a standard method of application. Beware of newly emerging overseas brands that do not adhere to the Australian therapeutic safety guidelines claiming their oils as being the finest in the world and therefore ingestible. Irrespective of the brand or the quality of the oils you are using, ingestion is not intended for home-use aromatherapy.Currently, there are many ready-made preparations available on the market intended for ingestion which are usually in the form of capsules, drops, ampoules, patches, roll-ons and gel caps. Providing they are Australian regulated with indications and dosage, expiry date and barcode, then you can use as directed.
The quality of pure essential oils
Quality is paramount if seeking therapeutic results in the art and practice of aromatherapy. Dr Penoel, medical practitioner of integrated aromatic medicine and world-stage lecturer, stresses that to experience the true potency of pure essential oils for healing, it is essential to make sure the aromatic extracts used are neither standardised nor otherwise adulterated. In Essence is proudly Australian Aromatherapy Company which has been providing pure essential oils since 1986. All our oils are tested and bottled here in Victoria to ensure you get the real benefits of using authentic, unadulterated oils. Our products are listed and regulated by Australia’s independent, governing authority, the Therapeutic Goods Administration. Additionally, we source our oils from a worldwide network of farmers and producers who deal with small-scale cultivation, organic growing practices and biodiversity principles to offer the highest medicinal quality essential oils.In Essence respects the power and efficacy of pure essential oils and therefore responsible, safe practice is paramount to whatever we promote. We have earned our reputation as leaders in aromatherapy in Australia not only because our oils are pure and natural medicinal oils, but also because we put the customer’s safety first.
Aromatherapy advocate, expert and educator @ Heritage Brands Pty Ltd
Associate member of IAAMA, International Aromatherapy & Aromatic Medicine Association, 2016; Bachelor of Arts and Dip. Education (English/History major) UNSW, Sydney, Australia; Aromatherapy 1, Australian College of Natural Medicine; Cert 1V in Training and Assessment, TAE40110, HBA Learning Centre, Victoria; 2014
Tisserand, R and Balacs,T. 2003 Essential Oil Safety, London. Churchill Livingstone.
Price, S. 2007. Aromatherapy for Health Professionals, 2nd Edition, Churchill Livingstone.
Battaglia, S. 1997 The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, The Perfect Potion( Aust) Pty Ltd.
Bowles, E. Joy. 2003 The Chemistry of Aromatherapeutic Oils, 3rd edition, Allen & Unwin.