The Case for Ingestion – Is Ingesting Essential Oils Safe?

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One of the most often talked about topics in aromatherapy is ingestion. Without naming brands, there is a plethora of unsafe advice floating around the internet and at meetings for some of the MLM brands of essential oils. Today we're going to talk about the safety of essential oil ingestion and some of the reasons why safety in aromatherapy is just as important as safety when working with any chemical, natural or synthetic.

Just because it's “natural” doesn't make it automatically safe

If you were out in the wild, would you eat those red little berries that all the birds seem to be avoiding? How about the pretty belladonna flowers that have long been used in poison, dating back to the ancient Romans and even found on arrows, dating further before that. There are plenty of natural sources of poison, that aren't safe for haphazard use simply because they are natural. According to chemistry, everything on this planet is made up of chemicals, it's the toxic and synthetics ones that I try to avoid. It is important to note, that no matter the brand of essential oil, ALL 100% pure essential oils are an extremely concentrated combination of multiple chemical constituents.  While these chemical constituents  can do great things to help us with all sorts of issues, they can also have adverse effects if not used with the proper safety and caution in mind.

Ingestion is best done with the guidance of a certified aromatherapist

There is a difference between an essential oil distributor and a certified aromatherapist. A certified aromatherapist will have taken, at minimum, a 200+ hr. class that involves the chemistry of essential oils, anatomy and physiology, and even medical contraindications with medications and medical conditions you might have. They even have to study more of A&P than massage therapists do, because more of the body's systems are involved when using them. There is certainly a place in aromatherapy for ingestion, but just like any powerful synthetic pharmaceuticals, essential oils should be ingested with caution and for only very short periods of time, under the guidance of a certified aromatherapist. Continuously taking multiple essential oils internally on a daily basis, can be very damaging to the liver, kidneys, stomach, and intestines. Long-term use of any powerful drug does, though. Our organs can not process copious amounts of these chemical constituents and they can build up in our system and cause failure over time. Tisserand & Young (Essential Oil Safety, 2013) write:

Medical practitioners who favor the oral route are frequently treating infectious diseases that require heavy dosing…therefore only practitioners who are qualified to diagnose, trained to weigh risks against benefits, and have knowledge of essential oil pharmacology should prescribe essential oils for oral administration.”

The Case for Ingestion Is Ingesting Essential Oils Safe? -

Oil and water do not mix

Though there are MANY blogs and essential oil distributors purporting the magical healing effects of adding a couple drops of essential oils straight to your water, to drink, this practice is actually VERY UNSAFE. Being that essential oils are in fact an oil, as their name states, they do not mix into water, rather they sit on top. When you drink this water, the essential oil is then going into your mouth, down your esophagus, and into  stomach all while undiluted. This practice can cause severe burns, blisters, and lesions in your mouth, esophagus, stomach lining, and more. Take lemon essential oil, for example, one of the most commonly ingested essential oils in water; lemon oil by itself has such great solvency capabilities that it's used commercially in many wood cleaners and paint strippers. I have removed paint from plastic bottles using neat lemon essential oil on a cotton ball, and it worked marvelously.  Due to the solvent nature of lemon essential oil, when not prepared properly, the number of potential risks associated with digestive tract irritation increases. In addition to the list of associated side effects from internal ingestion of lemon oil, ingestion may also produce burning pain in the throat, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. One study even showed that oral administration of lemon oil to 32 patients with tumors produced nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, with no observable effect on the patients' preexisting tumors.

No matter the method of use, all essential oils need to be diluted properly

Not only does dilution help for a slower entry into the blood stream, it also helps prevent irritation (such as blisters, boils, rashes, and chemical burns), as well as sensitization (when you develop an allergic reaction to a specific essential oil from multiple applications of it undiluted to the body in any way. After sensitization to one oil, you are much more likely to develop sensitization to several oils, especially the ones with the same chemical constituents). According to Jane Buckle, PhD, RN (Clinical Aromatherapy – Essential Oils in Healthcare, 2015), the safest methods that are used clinically for oral ingestion are:

Gelatin Capsules – Size 00 capsules are filled with 20% essential oil(s) diluted in vegetable oil and poured into the capsules. Each capsule holds approximately 0.75 mL.

Honey – Essential oils can be blended with honey water. Mix 1-2 drops essential oil into 1 tsp. honey, add warm water, and drink.

Enteric-Coated Gelatin Capsules – Enteric-coated gelatin capsules do not release the essential oil until they are in the small intestine.

Who could it really hurt anyway? It can't be that bad…

If you are thinking to yourself, “I have totally ingested my essential oils for awhile now and I have seen no ill effects. What say you?” I can totally understand that. I myself, in my pre-aromatherapy certification education days, found the idea to add essential oils to my water and tried it out myself. Many of the cases in the Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy's 2014 Essential Oil Injury Report, came from repeated undiluted use of essential oils. The upside is most of the cases presented healed over time after use was discontinued. Some of AIA's Top Ten Worst Injuries from Essential Oils in 2014, include several cases of ingestion:

Undiluted on mouth sores: “Between 25-35 drops of essential oil on canker sores in mouth on tongue after being told it was safe. This resulted in a trip to ER because of racing heart, panicking, gagging, dry heaving, extremely hot, fever, dizzy and sick and high blood pressure. “I thought I was going to die.”

Undiluted Oral Ingestion: Due to ingesting a “lot of” oils – multiple drops, multiple times a day – of lemon and grapefruit in water, this person now has been diagnosed with stomach problems, chronic digestive upset, and is looking at possible gallbladder removal.

Undiluted Oral Ingestion of “Morphine Bomb”: “protocol was to use 4 drops each of  frankincense, copaiba, and balsam fir. They advertised it could be used via inhalation, on skin or ingested. I trusted this combination would [alleviate] my pain due to their claims. Within a few hours of ingesting the oils, I began having racing heart, shortness of breath, pressure in my chest that radiated to my back, up my left jaw, and down my left arm. The symptoms continued and I eventually experienced cold sweats and nausea. The symptoms did not go away. I went to Hospital, they gave me an EKG, blood work and a CAT Scan. They determined I was having a heart attack. I remained hospitalized for 3 days and underwent a heart catheterization.”

When used safely, internal use of essential oils show great efficacy

I don't want to scare you away from essential oils with other people's mistakes because we have a great use for them in the future of medicine and antibiotics. When they are used properly and with safety in mind, just like you would with any other highly concentrated pharmaceutical, essential oils have been showing fabulous results in the medical community and in studies/trials that are being done today. Some of the many effective uses that have been noted in the medical and scientific community are:

  • In a US study, pediatric Doctors used enteric-coated capsules containing diluted peppermint oil to treat IBS. 50 children participated in a randomized, double-blind, controlled 2-week study. The peppermint group showed a greater reduction in symptoms compared to the placebo group and no side effects were reported.
  • In an Iranian medical study, doctors explored the oral use of peppermint and spearmint for chemo-induced nausea. In this four-arm study (peppermint, spearmint, control, and placebo) there were 50 patients in each group. The essential oil groups received capsules containing either two drops of spearmint or peppermint, oil, and filled with sugar, every four hours. The capsules were given to the patients, 30 minutes before their chemotherapy treatment and then 4 and 8 hours later. For both the peppermint and the spearmint groups, there was a significant reduction in nausea while the control and placebo groups showed no difference.
  • A French doctor named Dr. Paul Belaiche, Professor of Phytotherapy at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Paris Nord, published a number of trials using tea-tree oil in 1985. Belaiche conducted a randomized, double-blind study to examine how effective Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea tree essential oil) was for 26 patients with chronic cystitis. The experimental group was given tea tree essential oil diluted in an enteric-coated gelatin capsule, while the control group was given a placebo that contained the odor of tea tree. After 6 months of study, 60% of the experimental group were completely cured while no one in the control group showed any improvement. No side effects were noticed and liver function tests were normal.

The Case for Ingestion Is Ingesting Essential Oils Safe? -


To ingest or not to ingest, that is the question

My professional opinion is that without the guidance from a certified medical practitioner who is also trained in aromatherapy or a certified aromatherapist that has been trained in internal ingestion (MANY are not, even in Europe internal ingestion is not covered by insurance companies because it's considered a medical practice),  ingestion of essential oils should be avoided. While there are definitely times for internal ingestion in aromatherapy, many of the ailments that we experience do not need such a heavy dose internally and are better suited to be combated through inhalation of essential oils (diffusers, personal inhalers, etc.) or topical application of essential oils (salves, massage oils, baths, etc.). It is best to save the internal use of essential oils for the big guns, when nothing else is working and you have a professional to guide you in your dosage and how to safely use them.

Want to know more about essential oil safety?

I have been working on a safety series for the last year. These are the other posts you might have missed on essential oil safety:

Introduction to Essential Oil Safety

Safe Essential Oil Use With Babies & Children

Essential Oil Safety For Pregnant & Nursing Women

Herbal Academy Affordable Courses Online

All information on The Hippy Homemaker is meant for educational and informational purposes only. The statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products and/or information are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease. Readers are advised to do their own research and make decisions in partnership with their health care provider. If you are pregnant, nursing, have a medical condition or are taking any medication, please consult your physician.

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  • Karen

    I use doTERRA oils but I totally agree with you. It is not something to be taken lightly as you say and we need to be aware of how to use them properly otherwise damage can be done.

  • Samantha Parker

    You literally could have written my story here. I’m so grateful I took the time to educate myself and still am learning. I have found a company I am very pleased with and have found to be extremely ethical. They have the heart of teacher not sales person 🙂

    • over it!

      What company?

  • Melissa

    I’m interested in using some eos in cooking. Are there certain brands that are safer than others? I know theyou should be therapeutic grade, but beyond that, what should I look for? I understand a little goes a long way, I just want to enhance some recipes. Thank you!

    • I look for certified organic essential oils like Mountain Rose Herbs ( has! Organic is always my first choice when it comes to food additives!

  • martina

    hello i mistakedly ingested a mix of oils in a lemon bottle and it was not lemon, not sure what was in there. i made myself throw up because it burned and tasted aweful. is there anything i should worry about?

    • oh no! I didn’t see this message two weeks ago! I hope that you are doing well now! Please let me know if not!!!! In the future, I would drink a charcoal drink like my charcoal lemonade, using activated charcoal, to help absorb any toxin that you might have ingested too much of. They use it in the ER with poisoning victims!

  • Theresa Kerr

    What is the ratio of effects with a diffuser/massaging oil in VS ingestion? Are effects seen faster via ingestion vs the other methods or is there no difference?

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  • For insurance purposes, those bottles have to say that on them unless they pay a premium price to keep them off the bottle. As long as you are not swallowing the essential oils in your toothpaste you are fine!

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  • Nikki S.

    Resulting from a dermatitis flare up, someone gave me the advice of drinking 1-2 drops of lemon essential oil in 16oz water one time per day. Stupid not to research, I know…I did this for two days and when I woke up today my stomach is distended and cramps. I’ve suffered from GERD in the past and I’m sure the oil as damaged my stomach lining. Obviously, I have stopped ingesting the oil, but does anyone have any further advice?

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  • it is not suggested to ingest your essential oils without the guidance of a clinical aromatherapist trained in ingestion!

  • Anne

    Thoughts on cooking with EOs? Oregano in sauce, lemon is lemon bars? And also using under the tongue?

    • while using to flavor food and tea leaves can be safe (because of evaporation of most of the oil in the process…just like cooking with alcohol for flavor but not alcohol is left behind) it wouldn’t be suggested to use under the tongue!

  • You can get a personal inhaler to use for yourself! I would suggest adding my Don’t Worry Be Happy Blend to the personal inhaler for anxiety and stress!

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  • Gail

    Where do you buy your oils? It seems when I buy oils, they seem to be well documented as to their processing etc, but when they arrive they ALL say do not ingest or topical use only. I want oils that I can trust and ingest if necessary.

  • the stipulated clause for that is if you are a medical professional (Natural doctors, doctors, nurses, from accredited colleges of course) who is trained in clinical aromatherapy, you can then prescribe them internally. Everyone else is not allowed to prescribe them internally!

  • carrier oils and essential oils are actually totally different! carrier oils are fatty oils that are used to moisturize skin, add to your salads, and more. Walnut oil, coconut oil, almond oil, hemp seed oil, raspberry seed oil, and more are all carriers and are totally safe to ingest.

    • Babylon Tree

      yes , any oil can be a carrier oil, its down to your preferences.

  • Melissa Wilson

    OMGosh! I’m so glad I came across this! I went to skincare school, and we were taught to not ingest essential oils because you aren’t sure what you’re putting into your body, and mixing with your other medications! When I tell my friend this, they look at me like i’m crazy! I tell them to PLEASE check with their doctor before mixing, and they just tell me that the person who sold them the essential oils said it was “OK!” Ugh, I get so frustrated!

  • As long as you don’t start seeing any adverse reactions (you likely would in the first couple hours), you should be fine if you quit taking it internally now! Drink a good probiotic daily and you should likely be fine!

  • I saw where people use the EO like lemon, peppermint,and grapefruit for weightloss. They mixed equal parts in a glass dropper bottle and then added the mix to a veggie capsule to take once daily, would it be better to do the same mixture but mix into honey and warm water?

    • the honey would likely be safer though if they are mixing it with a carrier oil before putting it in the veggie caps, that will also help, that way when that capsule dissolves it’s not straight eo!

  • Andrea Wescoat

    I’m hoping someone can help me. Please dont think I’m crazy. I’ve been ill for several years and in the quest to “be healthy” I take up to 20 vitamins and suppliments and day and I use essential oils. I’ve been in jesting lemon, grapefruit and slim and sassy by Doterra. This is the horrific part….for 4 months I have been putting 5 drops a day of Health Shield on my tounge, Health Shield is like a Thieves oil. I have been so very sick all week. Ive been to the hospital twice, took my oil bottles and ingredient lists and basically they said stop taking it, go home and see how you feel. I FEEL LIKE IM DYING! AND NO ONE WILL LISTEN TO ME! My insides are burning from my stomach all the way through my intestines. Im bloated like I’m 9 months pregnant. I am constipated. It hurts to breathe and cough. I even called poisoin control and all the said was call your family doc. Anyone with answerd please message me at ty so much

    • Anita Ellis

      hope you r better andrea. I would go to Dr. Schulze’s website and order the intestinal formula, you will eliminate like crazy and feel much better. I was extremely ill for 2 years and found out thru an endoscopy procedure that I had H-Pylori and it was tearing up my gut. It took a while of taking an acid reflux med which cleared up my problem. I am fine now Dr. Schulze’s products helped my gut. It’s all in the gut!!!!!

  • bobby

    Whats the difference between injesting and inhaling the oils. Im scared to do either now.

    • don’t be scared! ingestion is through your mouth, ears, nose, vaginal, and anal. Inhalation is far safer than taking essential oils internally!

  • joii

    i have been drinking lemon essential oils for a bout 4 weeks now, i put a couple of drops in my 20 watter bottle.evrey day i drink about 3 of those bottles a day….is it safe, i am hearing to many diffeent answers thank you

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  • Missy Mitchell

    I wish people selling the essential oils would be trained on the potential dangers for certain people, too. The rep selling the oils had no idea about the dangers of my health situation or another woman’s situation (with certain oils). Not that she should know every single situation, but ours were pretty common. 🙁

  • Bonnie L. Sweet-Howell

    Has anybody used Fabulose Frannie’s oils or know anything about them?

  • Dawn Reber

    Thank you so much for this article. I had major surgery a few years ago and turned to the “morphine bomb” as a safer alternative to T3’s! I’m horrified to know that I could have damaged my body further by following the advice of someone who purchased a kit! I will be digging further into your site for safer ways to use essential oils.

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  • I would start using theives in the diffuser, in homemade hand sanitizers/hand soap, roll-ons, body sprays etc. during times of illness, but essential oils are so concentrated, it can be very taxing on a child’s kidney and liver to take any of them internally! I would avoid the internal use with them and utilize elderberry syrup and herbal teas, colloidal silver, and fire cider (I love putting it in all my food! Super great salad dressing!) for internal usage, while running the diffusers and using it topically! You can make your own shower steamers and add drops to it too, if you have congestion, I love to do that! If you go through my aromatherapy section you will find some great ideas for using your Thieves!

  • Rocthehaus

    I see a DIY Lavender Lemonade with Lavender Essential oil added be passed around on Facebook and I wanted to make it for a upcoming baby shower a few of us are hosting. So is it not safe to add this Lavender Essential Oil to the recipe as stated ? Recipe is : 1 cup raw honey, 12 cups of pure water, 1 drop of Lavender Essential oil, 6 lemons peeled and Juiced , and lavender sprigs for garnish if desired. TYIN

    • no! I would definitely not do this for a baby shower! Pregnant women shouldn’t ever ingest essential oils! You can however steep your water in lavender tea and then add lemon juice and honey!

  • Lisa

    Great information! I love essential oils for use in a diffuser and in cleaners and such but I agree on ingesting them.

  • Excellent information, I truly appreciate this article and the recommendation to avoid ingestion of oils unless under the care of an appropriately trained professional!

  • Hi, I’m new with this, so I apologize if I may have missed the answer, but when diluting EOs in a veggie cap, how do you know how much EO and carrier oil to put?

    • they are referring to Dr. Bronner’s CASTILE soap which is alkaline and when mixed with an acid will desaponify, Sal Suds is totally different because it’s a detergent, it’s acidic and mixes great with vinegar! This is the reason I came up with this recipe to begin with, because of all of the castile soap recipes mixing vinegar into it!

  • Emily

    Please help clarify something for me. Are you saying that I need to add something like FCO to my veggie caps? Not just put straight oils in there? Thank you!

    • yes, the oils should be still diluted so when released into your stomach or intestines, they will not cause irritation!

  • Becky Miller

    Thank you for this! So many people don’t do the research to see if certain practices are safe. It always alarms me when I come across someone who insists it’s okay to put a few drops of oil in their mug of hot water, or right on the tongue! I love that you stress safety and caution. It’s one of the many reasons I send anyone who asks me about EO’s to your site. And I’m soooooooo looking forward to the EO’s and animals info. I hope you’ll cover cats and diffusers/sprays. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge!

  • Jill

    Hallelujah! I totally agree. I couldn’t have said it better myself!! This is exactly what I have been saying for quite some time! I have been so concerned about this problem, that I asked my teacher, a couple of years ago, about ingestion, and why a company would recommend such a hazardous practice. She told me that essential oils are supposed to be used very sparingly, but that these larger companies want their consumers to go through the oils quickly. That is why they educate their distributors to apply oils neat, (including raindrop therapy), and to ingest. You will go through a whole lot more oils using these methods than you ever will diluting them! After she told me that, it made a whole lot more sense!

    Thanks for the post. Love, Love, Love!

  • Heather HippyHomesteader

    once again, very very good information that I NEVER learned when I was part of a MLM company!

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  • I’m also surprised how these trendy essential oil companies don’t really say a lot on how their oils can be toxic to dogs and cats.

    • YES! I will be covering essential oils and animals VERY soon after I do my post on essential oil safety for pregnant and nursing mothers!