If you want to save this to read later, Pin it to Pinterest here. Here's the thing, friends don't let friends drink their essential oils. It's true. Don't drink your essential oils. It's a frequently recommended practice, by well-meaning and misinformed essential oil enthusiasts and reps and unfortunately, it's just not a good idea.One of the first certifications I took when I began working in the holistic wellness world was becoming a Certified Clinical Master of Aromatherapy, I trained in both the "Americanized" and "French" versions, and while there are some reasons (under the care or plan of a practitioner) that you can ingest EO, in your water just isn't a safe one. (Take my free Essential Oils 101 Class here)
Here are a few reasons why drinking your essential oils is a dangerous practice:
Essential oils are hydrophobic - meaning it doesn't mix with water, no matter how much you shake it up. Hydrophobic in chemistry means that the molecules are nonpolar (usually), and the atoms that make the molecule don't produce a static electric field. In order to attract and mix with water, you need polar molecules, that have opposite regions of electrical energy attract and bind to water molecules. Essential oils lack opposite electrical charges on the molecules, so water can't form hydrogen bonds with the molecules causing the Essential Oil (nonpolar molecules clump together).
Essential oils are potent - one drop of essential oil can be the same potency as 30 cups of herbal tea! Would you drink 30 cups of chamomile tea in order to achieve sleep? Nah, probably not. But don't worry, their potency is also what makes them powerful and cost-effective healing tools when used safely.
Your gut microbiome - essential oils are antimicrobial meaning the kill bacteria and viruses. Much like antibiotics, they don't differentiate between the good bacteria and the bad bacteria in your gut or on your skin. Ingesting essential oils routinely can contribute to leaky gut, which leads us down a whole new path of chronic issues.
Drinking your essential oils damages your mucosa - Yep, that delicate lining inside your mouth, throat, esophagus, stomach lining, and digestive tract all gets damaged when you consume undiluted (remember, it's not diluted because it's hydrophobic) essential oils. (1) In fact, its one of the most common causes of reported adverse events with essential oils. It can actually burn your mucosa, like a chemical burn (2). Did you know if you spill undiluted lemon oil on your granite counters or furniture, it will take the sealant right off it?
Undiluted oils can cause liver toxicity - Yep, although it would likely be temporary, because the liver is pretty dang good at fixing itself, taking this concentrated amount can be damaging to the liver. It will cause a lot of work for the endothelial cells which regulate your liver's homeostasis. I suggest Liver Function Tests before ingesting essential oils for a long period of time. You may wish to go down the supplemental route to help your liver rather than using essential oils and risk damaging your liver further. Before going on this journey, please check with your primary health care physician first to make sure you can do this.
It's just wasteful - these are expensive products and are valuable plant products as well. When you add essential oils to water, most of the oil stays in the glass (that's why you still taste/smell it on the refill). What does make it into your body is either damaging you (mucous membranes, teeth, and liver toxicity) or it is damaged by the stomach acid.
Why do people recommend it?
One word, MONEY. First, think of who is telling you to ingest and use your oils undiluted...is it your Clinical Aromatherapist or your layperson sales rep selling oils at parties and online. Yes, I believe that most are well-meaning, but the representatives are out to sell more oils and it's not very profitable to let your 10ml bottle of lemon essential oil last for a year or longer.
I also believe that people don't know where to find reputable clinical information and sometimes doing your own due diligence takes too much time or we just don't have the science background to understand it. If you have specific questions, hop into my Wellness Circle and I will answer them.
How can I safely use my lemon essential oil now that I'm not drinking it?
Easy! There are lots of really great uses for this oil topically, aromatically, and even for cleaning purposes.
Diffusing lemon essential oil is amazing at lifting negative emotions and uplifting the mood. There are different types of diffusers available I can help you pick out one to suit your needs if you're unsure of which type to use.
Topically, it's great for draining things specifically the sinus and lymph system so if you have swollen lymph nodes (like you get when you have a cold) dilute a drop or 2 of lemon in a vegetable-based carrier and apply it to the lymph nodes and down their path of drainage. You can see that here in this demo video (demo starts at 8:33):
Use caution because lemon essential oil, in particular, can make you photosensitive (sunburn easily).
Lemon essential oil is great for cleaning, it's a great solvent for removing sticky stuffs, also good for polishing stainless steel sinks. You can also add it to your homemade bathroom cleaner as well (although use caution on granite depending on the dilution). Something about the scent of lemon makes me think clean!
Should I ever ingest Lemon (or any other essential oil)?
It's my professional opinion that you should not ingest it unless you are under the care of a qualified Clinical Aromatherapist. There ARE some reasons to ingest for short periods of time, but there are a lot of factors that come into play including Liver Function Tests.
Now I am also aware that not everyone will spend the time and money to get said advice so here are some tips if you decide to try this. I will only give one example because most frequently I see this offered as a detox (here are some safer detox methods):
- Only use therapeutic essential oils from reputable companies for ingestion. There are no ifs, ands, or buts here. And my apologies to Doterra and Young Living reps out there, both of your oils meet that standard, as well as a few others like Mountain Rose Herbs, and Plant Therapy. For lemon oil in particular - I don't recommend Young Living OR Doterra because they don't have organic versions of this high pesticide sprayed crop. (I understand that statement may rub some the wrong way, however from a clinical standpoint it is what it is. You can comment but please keep them respectful and evidence-based.)
- Place 1 drop of oil in a veggie capsule and add carrier oil. It is critical to get this past the mucosa.
- Only do this 1 time per day for no more than 5 days. And no more frequently than a few times per year.
- Ask for help. It's important if you are having issues that you feel ingestion is the only answer, that you seek help from a Clinical Aromatherapist.
More essential oil safety questions:
If it's not water-soluble, how can I safely use it in an aromatic bath? You sure can, it's important to mix it with a surfactant first. A surfactant is a substance that helps two substances that don't normally mix, to work as a team. You can use soap for this, preferably some Castille soap (like Dr. Bronner's) or some fragrance-free shampoo.
Is there a safe essential oil dilution method? Yes, click here to download my dilution and safety charts.
Is there anyone that essential oils should not be used for? In short, pregnant women, children under 2, cats, dogs (there are a few applications and a few oils that can be used on dogs), and reptiles. This is topically, internally, or aromatically. In addition to not using them on babies under 2, you should also have a look at the safe essential oils for kids in this downloadable PDF.
(1) Posadzki P., Alotaibi A., & Ernst E. (2012). Adverse effects of aromatherapy: a systematic review of case reports and case series. International Journal of Risk and Safety in Medicine. 24(3):147-61.
(2) Tamir, S., Davidovich, Z., Attal, P., & Elishar, R. (2005). Peppermint Oil Chemical Burn. Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery. 133(5):801-2