Safe Internal Use of Essential Oil Supplements

December 13th 2018

By Amy Pereira BS, CHNC, RYT-200

Although essential oils are often used to clean homes and workplaces and to freshen the air around us, their use is surely not limited to these purposes.  Essential oils are frequently applied topically for first aid, skin/body care and overall health benefits.  They are also commonly inhaled (by way of diffuser, nasal stick, steam bath, palm diffusion or directly from open bottles) to reap the benefits that essential oils and their phytochemicals can impart to the many systems of the body. Perhaps, though, their most increasingly popular, yet somewhat controversial, use is ingestion.

Americans may already consume a greater variety of essential oils than they realize, as over 150 essential oils, oleoresins and extractives are listed on the US Food and Drug Administration’s Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS) publication.  Although this document does not outline quantities or maximum upper limits, it does establish which essential oils and related substances are considered safe for human consumption. For instance, essential oil of lemon is rich in the naturally-occurring antioxidant and phytochemical, limonene and is frequently added to foods and flavorings for both its citrus essence and ability to help protect food from spoilage. Essential oil of rosemary is another one that is commonly used in a wide variety of grocery goods for both its flavor and ability to delay rancidity.

In addition to ingesting essential oils through pre-packaged and prepared foods, many individuals have begun to incorporate essential oils into their diet in numerous other ways.  While it may be acceptable to regularly consume essential oils, in the form of prepared food items, this does not mean that we may add drops to foods at home and ingest with reckless abandon!  One, single drop of essential oil represents a massive amount of plant material in the form of concentrated phytochemistry and can contain anywhere from roughly one dozen to a couple hundred naturally-occurring chemical constituents.

It’s estimated that one drop of peppermint essential oil is equivalent to approximately two dozen cups of peppermint herb tea.  Although peppermint is on the GRAS list and in more foods and beverages than one may imagine, ingestion of the essential oil is not necessarily a wise choice for all.  For those with Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), ingestion of peppermint essential oil may be unwise, as its potentially relaxing effect upon the gastroesophageal sphincter may increase the reflux of gastric acids and stomach contents into the esophagus and pharynx/throat.  These points above should clearly demonstrate that, while there is no need for fear, there absolutely is the need for mindful, educated, informed use.

Enter Scientific Aromatherapy- harnessing the power of the scientifically-researched plant chemistry for human health. Despite increases in Americans’ awareness and utilization of essential oils, our European counterparts view essential oil use somewhat differently and consider it a more widely-accepted, mainstream form of healthcare, complete with a greater set of established protocols for internal and external use. In the EU, it’s typical for individuals to obtain essential oils (and prescriptions for their use) in pharmacies, from practitioners who are trained on the chemical constituents’ effects upon the human body, potential medication interactions and more– not unlike how US pharmacists and practitioners are trained on pharmaceutical medications and their physiological effects. Despite differences in our medical systems, North Americans are becoming increasingly aware of the principles of European Scientific Aromatherapy and are steadily expanding their use of these precious, concentrated plant products.

Although some essential oils may never, under any circumstances, be ingested, others have been safely ingested for millennia and are considered a safe, effective part of contemporary healthcare regimens. Still, it is important note that, even though you may already be using a drop of citrus essential in your water or even though someone may have shared their positive experience with a drop of ginger or peppermint in their tea to support digestion or “settle” the stomach, essential oils do not readily mix with water or water-based liquids (tea, juice, kombucha etc.).  Since essential oils are generally less dense than water and hydrophobic, most will float like oil in a non-emulsified vinaigrette salad dressing. Although you may vigorously shake your beverage, the essential oil droplets quickly find their way back together and to the top and may then directly be absorbed into the sensitive tissue of the mouth and throat. While this may not necessarily always pose a problem, the approach of adding essential oils to liquids may be highly problematic if they are high in certain natural-occurring, but potentially irritating, phytochemicals.

Knowing this, many experts suggest to always dilute an essential oil into an edible plant oil (like olive, sunflower, macadamia etc.) or honey and to mix well prior to ingestion- if, again, the essential oil is safe for ingestion. It is also suggested to always discuss essential oil ingestion with your healthcare professional, who can help you make educated decisions, based upon your health history, current health status, medications, age, and biochemical factors that make you uniquely you! Properly diluting an essential oil into honey or oil (or choosing pre-diluted capsules) helps ensure that the essential oil remains evenly dispersed in the carrier and helps minimize risk of irritation/sensitization of the mucous membranes of the mouth, throat, and digestive tract. Proper dilution also helps to reduce any potential of experiencing a typically temporary, but nevertheless concerning, loss of taste sensation that’s been known to occur due to placing essential oils, like Oregano or Thyme, into liquids and drinking.

Another point that is vital to consider is essential oil quality. Whether obtained by steam distillation, cold pressing or other methods, it takes a massive amount of plant material to create a small amount of essential oil. If the plant material is not organically-grown, then it can come from genetically-modified seeds and be laden with synthetic chemicals and pesticide residues. Use of any products that are not labeled as organic may result in increased exposure to unnatural chemicals and increase the toxic burden to our bodies. Although descriptive words like natural, pure, therapeutic, and certified therapeutic grade frequently appear on labels, there are no legal guidelines around their use, so their presence is generally nothing more than marketing language or a catchy trademarked or registered word(s) that a company can pay to exclusively use (with a guarantee that no other company can legally use it too). Unlike descriptive adjectives or trademarked marketing terms, the presence of USDA and ECOCERT Organic certifications on labels guarantee that the product contains no genetically modified organisms and no unacceptable chemical pesticides, and that it was grown, produced and tested according numerous other stringent guidelines that are must be adhered to in order for a product to be called “USDA Organic” and “ECOCERT organic”.

It may be reassuring to know that several certified organic essential oil supplements have been formulated, according to the principles of Scientific Aromatherapy, and designed specifically for safe internal use.  Pranarom Scientific Aromatherapy was founded, in 1991, by European pharmacist, Dominique Baudoux, and embodies the essence of safety and efficacy. USDA and ECOCERT Organic products like Pranarom’s Pranacaps harness the power of essential oils and their phytochemistry, in safely-diluted, easy to swallow capsules. USDA and ECOCERT Organic Aromaforce Throat Pastilles, Throat Spray and Essential Bronchial Syrup are also created with safety and efficacy at the forefront and deliver immune and respiratory system support in a variety of delivery methods. You’ll find specific safety guidelines and directions listed on each product, however some of these offerings may even be used by those 3 years of age and older. These items and this information should, hopefully, speak to the fact that Scientific Aromatherapy can be a safe and effective way to support almost everybody, in one way or many others!

For further information on the subject, please refer to the following publications:

Tisserand, R., & Young, R. (2014). Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health Care Professionals. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier.

Baudoux, D., & Breda, M. (2017). The Guidebook to Chemotyped Essential Oils Minneapolis, MN.

These publications above, in addition to the knowledge of your doctor, aromatherapist and other health care professionals, can help you to proceed in a safe and effective manner with regard to dilution percentages, upper limits, possible contraindications and numerous other external and internal use guidelines.

For more information on Pranarom Scientific Aromatherapy and Pranarom’s organic offerings, please visit






FDA Dept of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Electronic Code of Federal Regulations- Essential oils, oleoresins (solvent-free), and natural extractives (including distillates). Retrieved December 5, 2018, from