Can I take essential oils internally?
I have heard that doctors in UK/FRANCE- (maybe other countries) do
this, so why not in the US?
it is only a very small minority of prescriptions made out by MD’s
in Europe which would necessarily involve the internal use of essential
oils. Secondly, other methods of application may be preferable to
internal use – depending on the condition presented. Internal
dosing would be inappropriate, say, for a muscle strain, but an
aromatherapist might certainly incorporate one into a massage of
the affected area.
Internal use of essential oils might be medically appropriate for
severe gastro-intestinal or respiratory infections, for otitis media
(acute inner ear infection), or for other internal problems. If
prescribed by an MD, the oils that are used may need to conform
to pharmaceutical standards of quality (like conventional medicines)
– and so hopefully be free of adulterants, heavy metals, pesticides,
dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls and other undesirable substances.
In a perfect world, you would expect a qualified medical practitioner
to be conversant with the full toxicological safety information
for the essential oils, and to administer the appropriate doses
under clinical supervision as required, to remedy the problem presented.
Some oils are associated with toxicity
problems (e.g. a risk of accumulative effects), and so internal
use is not entirely hazard or risk-free. It is also important to
keep a more worldly view of these matters. For example Western aromatherapists
are warned not to use Wormseed oil (from Chenopodium ambrosioides)
because of its acute toxicity and skin sensitizing properties; the
oil is banned IFRA (International Fragrance Research Association
Code of Practice) and not permitted for use in the UK under the
Medicines Order 1977. Yet in spite of the acute risks associated
with its use, Wormseed oil plays an important role in health matters
other nations, as a biocide in veterinary and ethnic medicine (as
a helminthic agent: to expel worm infestations), especially those
which cannot afford expensive pharmaceutical drugs.
Can I use essential oils on my baby...no
age given, so clarity on use w/infants/baby, children and elderly
Since our bodies are
designed to continually try to maintain homoeostasis (i.e. the status
quo), absorbed essential oil components can be removed from the
body quite quickly in a number of ways, for example – by being
exhaled during breathing, being metabolized and excreted in urine
& feces etc. Babies and small children have less well-developed
detoxification mechanisms than adults, and the bodies of elderly
people may not work as efficiently. So we might regard both these
categories as being more prone or more fragile than healthy adults
– and therefore they might be more sensitive to essential
oils, which should be used with caution. Because of considerations
of relative size (adults to infants), and therefore potentially
higher doses per kilo body weight with infants we must reduce the
applied dose. If we were to use a 2% solution (EO in carrier oil)
on adults, we must use MUCH less on a small child, or none at all.
Older children enjoy baths with a couple drops of skin safe oils,
and may enjoy massage as well. The elderly can also benefit by gentle
applications, but again use caution and a knowledge of safe use.
Some oils have been known to cause respiratory problems if used
too close to baby’s nostrils (peppermint, eucalyptus oils).
However, safe oils such as Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), and
Neroli (Citrus aurantium var. amara) etc. could be used in minute
amounts for bath or massage - e.g. 1 drop in bath, or 1-2 drops/per
ounce carrier). Diffusion into the home environment is usually fine
on both ages, but do not diffuse the same oil for long periods of
What do I do if I get an essential oil
in my eye or spill it on my furniture?
All Aromatherapy premises where essential oils are handled should
be equipped with an emergency eye-wash station.
2. The cap on the sterile saline
solution dispenser from the eye-wash station should be broken, and
the eye should be irrigated with sterile isotonic saline solution
as directed in the instructions for 15 minutes. If irritation persists,
seek medical advice immediately.
3. Observe any special safety instructions
on the MSDS for the essential oil causing the accident to the
eye. Accidents to persons wearing contact lenses may be especially
troublesome where the oil can get trapped between the lens and the
cornea - the eye may need to be forced open for initial irrigation
with isotonic saline, and the victim may then be able to remove
the lens him/herself, enabling further irrigation.
4. If there is no eye-wash station
in the vicinity of the accident, use sterile mains water from a
running cold tap and open the eye “under water” into
water contained in clean cupped hands, or other improvised way of
flushing the affected eye.
On furniture, oils will remove the
finish because of their terpinic nature, so remove quickly with
tissue. If any falls on plastic, finished wood or painted surfaces,
unfortunately it won’t take long to ruin the surface.
Can I put an essential oil in my humidifier/vaporizer?
Of course essential oils work
well in water - and most vaporizer-humidifiers, to provide a moist,
aromatically fragranced air-stream. Depending on your model you
could put a few drops in the water, or on cotton in medicine well
- the steam will pick up the oils and add to the environment. Clean
after each use – caution: Essential oils can damage plastic
Can I gargle with essential oils?
One or two drops of essential oil completely dispersed
in a glass of water is useful for sore throats, respiratory problems
and other oral problems. To be prudent, stick with oils such as fresh
(unoxidized) Tea Tree oil, Caraway or Fennel oil or and avoid
irritant or orally toxic oils (such as oil of Wintergreen).
Why should I only use a few drops verses
a lot of drops of essential oils? Isn’t more always better?
Please remember essential oils
are VERY concentrated products, and many can show some degree of
toxicity at low doses. Amazingly enough, research has often
indicated that diluted applications often are more effective, or
as effective than stronger ones. So we say in Aromatherapy “Less
is More”- only 15 drops in one ounce of carrier is sufficient
for face and body (2.5%) to give a therapeutic effect and be safe
with most oils. Trained aromatherapists may choose to use a stronger
solution on a small or local area (e.g. sore joint). Most often
dilution is preferred to lessen risks of adverse skin reactions.
Sensitization to essential oils is by no means uncommon, and
frequent use of essential oils is often associated with more frequent
hand washing - and this by itself may lead to dermatitis or other
skin problems if care if not taken.
What is a carrier oil?
Carrier oil, base oil, and diluents are vegetal
(- usually mechanically pressed from seeds, nuts of plants, trees
etc.), and are represented by fixed oils such as almond, coconut,
jojoba and sunflower etc. We use these to facilitate the massage
process itself but also to dilute the oils so that full body coverage
is obtained, and to lessen chance of irritation/sensitization. In
addition the hydrophobic nature of carrier oils acts as a moisture
barrier, locking in moisture in skin, and keeping the essential
oils on skin surface longer.
What if I am allergic to nuts, could I
use carrier oil made from nuts, like sweet almond or peanut?
NO you absolutely cannot. There are plenty of safer
carrier oils from non-nut sources such as non-GM canola oil, sunflower
oil, safflower oil etc.
Can I put essential oils in my washer/dryer/
on my clothes?
way is to add to dryer cloths, or to a separate wash cloth. Putting
oils on clothes may stain so not recommended. Can also be added
to rinse water, couple of drops- most will evaporate in the dryer.
Scented cloths can be added to drawers/closets, just tuck them in.
How do I know if an essential oil is
an essential oil?
aromatherapy companies have labels that define the status of the
contents exactly. They should be 100% derived from the named botanical
source by steam distillation (or by mechanical pressing if citrus
oils). If the label is not clear in this respect, don’t buy
it! It should say “pure essential oil’ as opposed to
blend or massage oil (pre-diluted already).
Also some ‘so-called essential oils’ are not authentic:
china rain, forest, black rose, lily-of-the-valley etc. and are
fragrance oils composed of synthetic aroma chemicals.
How will I know if an essential oil is
You don’t, unless
you can perform a full range analytical testing. The highest specs
for essential oils now currently stipulate physio-chemical tests
including Thin-Layer Chromatography (TLC), Infra-Red (IR) analysis,
Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometer (GC/MS) tests etc. Even these
as normally carried out may not reveal the presence of added vegetable
or mineral oils, polyethylene glycols etc. Here is trust of supplier
comes in. If you are buying from a reputable aromatherapy supplier,
you will be more likely to get pure oils. Some AT suppliers test
their oils (most don’t have the facilities or expertise),
but those that do may be able to provide a Certificate of Analysis.
See that this is signed by someone qualified to do this under the
appropriate legislation for your country (as sometimes people act
improperly/illegally/unethically/unprofessionally). Suppliers may
also be able to supply a Certificate of Authenticity or Certificate
of Naturalness (EU), and a Certificate showing the oil is prepared
What information should I ask for when
purchasing essential oils?
on what you need to know……are you buying for diffusion
or massage, a pseudo-medicinal purpose, or as a mood lifter? First
of all always order by botanical name, not common name, as the botanical
is one of the defining principles for oils. The country of origin
may also be important since the composition of the named oil can
vary according to geographical source. The chemotype and time of
harvest may also need to be stated. Otherwise, you could ask if
the company carries out QC (quality control) testing, whether they
conform to HACCP schemes (identifying control points which might
control any hazards), can they provide a Certificates of Analysis
for current (individual) batches of goods, whether they can they
back up their purity claims, how long have they been in business?
Outrageous testimonials from users or suppliers should be red flags
along with multi-level marketing techniques. Otherwise it’s
live and learn!
How long do essential oils last? How
are they stored?
If stored in
fully topped up, tightly sealed, light impervious containers in
a cool place (5 to 20 degrees Centigrade), preferably under nitrogen,
then from 6 months to 2 years. Oxygen degrades oils - causing some
to lose beneficial properties and causing some constituents to become
irritants or sensitizers (especially citrus & conifer oils),
so keep bottles tightly closed and out of direct light. It may be
advisable to rebottle to smaller bottles as oil is used to minimize
the headspace (thereby minimizing contact with oxygen).
What is sensitization?
First of all it is not referring to those with
“sensitive skin”, sensitive “temperaments”,
or sensitive people in general. Separate from irritation, sensitization
is a potentially serious immune system response to foreign molecules
which can provoke a response (we call them haptens), such as pollen,
dust or certain essential oil components like terpene hydroperoxides
and sesquiterpene lactones. Reactions can range from a small rash
to acute respiratory distress and (in extreme cases) death by anaphylactic
shock in certain highly susceptible individuals. Some oils (such
as Costus oil: Saussurea lappa) are KNOWN sensitizers and are not
to be used on the skin –period - due to risking injury to
themselves and others. Others (pine oils, citrus oils, linalool-containing
oils) may develop sensitizing components on aging. If anyone knowingly
uses sensitizing oils for Aromatherapy skin blends, one is practicing
unethically and risks injury to themselves and others, not to mention
lawsuits for injury. If one unknowingly uses them, this is worse,
as there is no excuse for ignorance. Some information on oxidation
of oils & sensitizations available at
and as a appendix to this document.
What is a chemotype of an essential oil?
Various techniques can be used to distinguish,
characterize and classify plants, including morphological systems.
In this way we can order plants into families, genera, species,
subspecies etc. etc. But what if the plants appear morphologically
identical in every way, and yet yield different products of secondary
metabolism (i.e. essential oils). This particular distinction between
plants below subspecies level is called a chemotype, or chemical
race. For example let’s take two chemotypes of Rosemary oil
(there are others!). We are all probably familiar with Corsican
Rosemary oil laevo-verbenone type (Rosemarinus officnalis ct. verbenone),
which has an elevated level of verbenone, as distinct from “Tunisian”
Rosemary oil cineol type, which has an elevated level of cineol
and a low level of camphor.
Can you also explain the process of maceration(the process
of producing Essential Oils)?
I dont know if you mean this in the herbalist sense of maceration
(for example steeping whole, chopped or bruised herbs, roots in dilute
alcohol, water or other solvent to produce an extract), or the methods
used in early perfumery in the South of France. I'll assume its the
latter, whereby fragrant blooms were immersed two to four times their
weight of hot fat at 60 to 70 degrees Centigrade and stirred in big
open pans for a set amount of time (to 90 minutes). The principle
of the process is that temperature and mechanical movement bursts
the scent glands releasing the flower oils. The method gives better
results than enfleurage for some flowers such as cassie, mimosa, hyacinth
& carnation. The exhausted flowers were filtered off or centrifugation
was employed to recover the fat fat. This process was repeated up
to ten times until the fat was saturated with flower essence. The
fat was extracted with alcohol washes to give lavage de pommade. Chilling,
filtering and removal of alcohol yield the absolute de pommade.
Why do plants have essences?
Several reasons. One is to attract insect visitors for night/day
pollination. Secondly for wound healing by resinification of the
oils e.g. in certain shrubs & trees following wind damage etc.
Thirdly to deter predatory herbivores. Fourthly to act as biocides
for fungal and bacterial diseases e.g. against leaf wilts, rust
diseases, to protect seeds etc. Fifthly for chemical signalling
e.g. in predatory attack, plants/trees can warn each other and switch
metabolisms to produce insect deterring chemicals. Sixthly as a
measure to reduce evaporation.
What is FCF Bergamot?
FCF (furano-coumarin free). At the present time I understand that
new data may be presented shortly on regarding the toxicity of furano-coumarins.
All I can say at present is that bergamot oil is often, if not invariably,
adulterated, and/or comes from mixed origins (Ivory Coast bergamot
oil often being passed off or added to Calabrian produced oils, especially
in times of shortage). I personally prefer the richness and depth
of the non-FCF oil, which also keeps better. The FCF oil can be prepared
from the normal oil by distillation - although there are also various
chemical ways of doing this, and methods based on chemo-physical principles,
such as selective absorption which relies on the trapping of the larger
furanocoumarin molecules within a the matrix of an inert substance.
A distillation process producing FCF bergamot would produce a natural
oil. I will leave the producers to argue the case for the other processes...
of oils is currently a hot topic with the SCCP report on Tea Tree
Oil (late Autumn 2004) allegedly identifying particular safety issues
with tea tree oil (more on this later). Meanwhile here is a short
introduction to the issue. Notes
on the Oxidation of Oils in Aromatherapy.
Safety Data was compiled by:
Sylla Sheppard Hanger Safety Committee Chair
Tony Burfield Safety Committee Advisor
For more information on aromatherapy safety please visit: About Aromatherapy Page
Essential Safety Report Form
Disclaimer: The information
on this website is not intended to diagnose or take the place of
professional healthcare. Please consult your health care practitioner
if you are pregnant or have been diagnosed with any serious healthcare
problems. Before using essential oils and aromatherapy products
please consult with a professional aromatherapist. Keep all aromatherapy
products out of reach of children and pets.