Internal Use of Essential Oils

Is It Safe to Consume Essential Oils Internally?

Each type of oil contains a mixture of natural chemical compounds unique to that species of plant and to the environment in which the plant is grown. For thousands of years, humans have ingested plants in the form of food as well as plant parts and extracts as herbal health products and teas from leaves and flowers, which contain essential oils.

One could argue that it should also be safe to ingest essential oils in small quantities, just as we have been doing when ingesting plants containing essential oils. Because they are produced naturally by plants, essential oils are found in naturally balanced mixtures. Then why is there an ongoing concern about the internal use of essential oils? Internal use can not only be very effective, but is also safe. Oils first have an effect on local tissues.

The local effect may be felt more strongly when applied internally compared to when applied to the skin because the nerves in the mucosa are closer to the surface, often more numerous, and can be more easily stimulated compared to the nerves in the skin. Although the skin is thick

er and seems to be less fragile than the mucous membranes, the reality is that similar to the skin the mucosa has many features that are protective, and therefore conducive to the use of essential oils.

Like skin, the mucosa has many layers designed to protect the body against disease and toxic exposures. And similar to skin, the mucosa has an ability to constantly restore itself and to regenerate after harmful exposures, such as trauma from teeth or heat from foods that can cause ulceration.

The mucosa heals an open sore very quickly, so it can resume its protective function. The mucosa also has thousands of mucous glands that secrete mucous to create a protective film over the tissues. The mucous is continually being produced and continually migrating as the cilia beat, limiting any local exposure.

When essential oils contact the mucosa, they are absorbed to some degree at the initial point of contact, but much of the oil will be continually diluted by the mucous. Rapid absorption and constant dilution allow the oils to have a dramatic yet temporary effect, which explains why any sensation you have in the mouth or throat from essential oils taken internally is temporary. Because the muc

osa is designed to be protective, essential oils can be safely used internally.

The premise of all of these discussions is that essential oils could be harmful when taken internally. However, studies suggest just the opposite. Essential oils may actually be protective to the mucosa. Many studies show that essential oils can have a positive effect when there is a problem with the stomach’s mucous membranes.* For example, limonene, found in citrus oils, was shown to help protect the stomach mucosa in a preclinical study.(3) This protective effect was shown without affecting normal stomach acid secretion, gastrin enzyme secretion, or antioxidant glutathione production.(3) Many other studies have also demonstrated similar effects.* (1–6)

Avoiding hot oils that may be irritating to the mucous membranes, using small single use amounts, or using less than the maximum daily amounts recommended, are all safe practices that can help us have confidence in using essential oils internally. If we are using the oils for a local effect, such as to soothe the mouth and throat, then the oils can be appropriately diluted. Internal use of essential oils may be the best method to help improve function of the gut and improve digestion, because the oils can get to the area of need.

Taking essential oils internally may be a very effective m

ethod to get the oils to be absorbed into the body to promote health and wellness, for an overall soothing effect on the body, and for a calming effect on mood. Using the appropriate amount of oils in Veggie Caps or prepackaged in the appropriate amounts in softgels can be an effective way to take essential oils internally so that they can be maximally absorbed by the gut for a whole body effect.

The French Model, which promotes taking essential oils internally, was originally advocated by three prominent aromatherapists: Jean Valnet, Paul Belaiche, and Henri Viaud. Internal use involves consuming essential oils in a vegetable capsule or softgel. They are absorbed into systemic circulation via the digestive tract. (1,2) Generally considered the most potent method of application, internal use of essential oils offers powerful effects to the body. (3-6)

This is also the most controversial mode of application, leading to much debate throughout the essential oil community in recent years. The confusion surrounding internal use of essential oils is largely based on lack of awareness. However, years of past and ongoing research have found that internal usage is a safe and profoundly efficacious application method.
Essential oils are already a normal part of your diet and the human body is well equipped to safely metabolize them (7) (see “Essential Oil Metabolism”). When you sprinkle cinnamon on your oatmeal, sip a mug of peppermint tea, or add fresh oregano to your pasta sauce, you are actually consuming small amounts of the volatile compounds found naturally in the plant. Essential oils give plants their aroma and flavor. When concentrated, essential oils can be used as internal supplements for more potent and targeted support.
Today, many essential oils are found on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list (8), which affirms the safe use of essential oils as flavoring agents and preservatives. Every substance found on this list has a well-documented history of internal safety. Although essential oils have health applications that extend far beyond flavoring, this list sets a safety framework that can be applied to the internal use of essential oils.
Some people express concerns about damage to mucous membranes when taking oils internally. This fear is unfounded when looked at under scientific scrutiny. See Mucous Membranes and Essential Oils to learn more. Internal use of essential oils is perfectly safe and worry-free when used properly. See Recommended Ideal Amounts for information on appropriate amounts.
Some essential oils are not recommended for internal use, such as Arborvitae, Birch, Cedarwood, Cypress, Eucalyptus, White Fir, and Wintergreen. They are best used aromatically or topically.
An important aspect of using essential oils is regarding them on an individual basis, noting their specific chemistry, beneficial effects, safety considerations, and appropriate application methods.
Effective Ways to Use Oils Internally:
  • Put a few drops in a Veggie Cap and swallow whole
  • Take a softgel such as DigestZen®, doTERRA On Guard® +, or TriEase®
  1. Coelho-de-Souza AN, Lahlou S, Barreto JEF, et al. Essential oil of Croton zehntneri and its major constituent anethole display gastroprotective effect by increasing the surface mucous layer. Fundam Clin Pharmacol. 2013;27(3):288-298.
  2. Guesmi F, Ben Ali M, Barkaoui T, et al. Effects of Thymus hirtus sp. algeriensis Boiss. et Reut. (Lamiaceae) essential oil on healing gastric ulcers according to sex. Lipids Health Dis. 2014;13(1):138.
  3. Moraes TM, Kushima H, Moleiro FC, et al. Effects of limonene and essential oil from Citrus aurantium on gastric mucosa: role of prostaglandins and gastric mucus secretion. Chem Biol Interact. 2009;180(3):499-505.
  4. Moraes TM, Rozza AL, Kushima H, Pellizzon CH, Rocha LRM, Hiruma-Lima CA. Healing actions of essential oils from Citrus aurantium and d-limonene in the gastric mucosa: the roles of VEGF, PCNA, and COX-2 in cell proliferation. J Med Food. 2013;16(12):1162-1167.
  5. Santin JR, Lemos M, Klein-Júnior LC, et al. Gastroprotective activity of essential oil of the Syzygium aromaticum and its major component eugenol in different animal models. Naunyn Schmiedebergs Arch Pharmacol. 2011;383(2):149-158.
  6. Takayama C, de-Faria FM, de Almeida ACA, et al. Gastroprotective and ulcer healing effects of essential oil from Hyptis spicigera Lam. (Lamiaceae). J Ethnopharmacol. 2011;135(1):147-155.
  7. Zhao H, Xie Y, Yang Q, et al. Pharmacokinetic study of cinnamaldehyde in rats by GC-MS after oral and intravenous administration. J Pharm Biomed Anal. 2014;89:150-157.
  8. Chang W, Han L, Huang H, et al. Simultaneous determination of four volatile compounds in rat plasma after oral administration of Shexiang Baoxin Pill (SBP) by HS-SPDE-GC–MS/MS and its application to pharmacokinetic studies. J Chromatogr B. 2014;963:47-53.
  9. D’Alessio P a., Ostan R, Bisson JF, Schulzke JD, Ursini M V., Béné MC. Oral administration of d-Limonene controls inflammation in rat colitis and displays anti-inflammatory properties as diet supplementation in humans. Life Sci. 2013;92:1151-1156.
  10. Crowell PL. Symposium on Phytochemicals : Biochemistry and Physiology Prevention and Therapy of Cancer by Dietary Monoterpenes 1. Exp Biol. 1999:775-778.
  11. Liu JH, Chen GH, Yeh HZ, Huang CK, Poon SK. Enteric-coated peppermint-oil capsules in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: a prospective, randomized trial. J Gastroenterol. 1997;32:765-768.
  12. Talpur N, Echard B, Ingram C, Bagchi D, Preuss H. Effects of a novel formulation of essential oils on glucose-insulin metabolism in diabetic and hypertensive rats: a pilot study. Diabetes Obes Metab. 2005;7:193-199.
  13. Jager W. Metabolism of terpenoids in animal models and humans. In: Baser KHC, Buchbauer G, eds. Handbook of Essential Oils: Science, Technology, and Applications. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. Taylor & Francis Group; 2010:209-234.
  14. 182.20 Essential Oils, Oleoresins (Solvent-Free), and Natural Extractives (Including Distillates).United States of America: 42 FR 14640, Mar. 15, 1977, unless otherwise noted; 2015.

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