Once Upon a Time, Ingesting Essential Oils…

Once upon a time, I was told I could take essential oils by mouth to help my immune system. False! When I heard this, my stomach became tight and I held my breath – red flags were popping up all over the place — this went against all my training. I wondered where the clinical data was to show this would be a safe practice? I had to find out the scientific truth, so I trusted my instincts and turned to the Integrative Medicine Physician I collaborate with and sought out other qualified aromatherapists for answers. What I found is important to share.

Some pages on Facebook, certain websites, and a few aromatherapy books in the United States encourage ingestion of essential oils in water. These sites are intended for those who are uninformed, recreational, casual users of essential oils. This can be a very precarious action at best, and it can lead to serious complications or injury at worst. In my blog last week on Safe Bathing 101, I told you that essential oils and water do not mix. Essential oils are NOT water soluble — they float to the surface and cling to tissue, causing irritation. The same thing happens when you put drops of essential oils in your tea or a glass of water. The oils can cause irritation and harm to the skin and mucous membranes of your mouth, esophagus, and stomach.

As a certified nurse aromatherapist I do not advise that my clients ingest essential oils by mouth. The reasons are simple for me. The risks far outweigh any benefits.

The ONLY time you should ingest essential oils by mouth is under the care of a physician or qualified aromatherapist trained in essential oil therapy. Most attending physicians in the United States do not routinely prescribe essential oils by mouth. Taking essential oils by mouth based on “advice” from websites, manufacturers of essential oils, casual untrained practitioners, and anyone other than a licensed physician or qualified aromatherapist trained in their proper use can be risky.
Physicians and pharmacists in France trained in aromatherapy medicine use essential oil ingestion medicines in combination with tinctures of herbs. They use both modalities for very short periods of time with small doses and usually for treatment of irritable bowel syndrome, mild to moderate anxiety, and urinary tract infections, http://tisserandinstitute.org/grasse-french-aromatherapy/. These qualified medical aromatherapists know how to dose essential oils by mouth, usually advising 3 to 12 drops per day in enteric coated or vegetable gel filled capsules three times a day. They dose to decrease gastrointestinal irritation and potential liver damage, since the liver must break down essential oils before use by the body. They also know which oils are contraindicated with certain prescription medication. That is why it is imperative to consult with a qualified trained physician or aromatherapist before ingesting essential oils.

Just a bit of scientific data makes essential oils safer to use for you and your family. For example, there is much clinical research data on inhalation and topical application of essential oils for mild to moderate anxiety: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25558253. Integrative Medicine has been using essential oils by inhalation for pre-op and post-op surgical complementary treatments, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3953654/. However, data on ingestion of essential oils for treatment or prevention of certain illnesses is lacking. There are no clinical trials or research stating essential oils taken by mouth can be a prophylaxis to prevent flu or immune system, according to Robert Tisserand. Therefore, dear reader, it is best practice not to ingest essential oils unless directed to do so by a qualified physician or aromatherapist trained in essential oil usage.

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