The Truth About Essential Oils and Cancer Free Book

What do you think? Is ingesting essential oils safe? It should be no surprise that scientific research and traditional aromatherapy agree on their answers.

I’m not sure how it exactly happened, but somehow misguided people started to instill fear into essential oils users that these precious compounds are unsafe for internal use. I say “misguided” in the deepest respect, as I understand that we all have differing opinions, and I know that I’m going to get a lot of “love mail” for this post – hate mail sounds too ugly, doesn’t it? 😉

With that said, the more I learn about them, ingesting essential oils in therapeutic is not a common practice for me and my family. I still enjoy a drop of peppermint and cinnamon in my morning latte, or a drop of lemon in sparkling water with some liquid stevia as my special soda pop, but that’s about it unless I’m battling some specific health condition. It has taken me a year of research & study and literally hundreds (if not thousands) of hours to get to this “revelation.”

The key is dosage. One or two drops of lime essential oil in your guacamole that will be shared with 4 or 5 other people is not your concern. This is referred to as “culinary dose.” The concern is when people are taking consuming  4, 5, or 6+ drops at a time. This is known as a “therapeutic dose.” More on this below…

What Aromatherapists Really Say About Ingesting Essential Oils

I regularly get questions from people asking me about ingesting essential oils and I now understand why there’s so much confusion. One myth breeds more myths. Innocent uncertainty breeds more uncertainty. And the vicious cycle continues.

The fact remains that there are no scientific, evidence-based, anatomical, physiological or logical reasons to say that all essentials oils are unsafe for human consumption. Paradoxically, aromatherapists are still at odds with each other on this point, which confuses the casual essential oil user all the more. With that said, rest assured that large professional organizations like National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) support safe, internal use.

In the words of NAHA, “Essential oils may be applied on the skin (dermal application), inhaled, diffused or taken internally. Each of these methods have safety issues which need to be considered.” (1) And this makes complete sense to me. Like anything we can easily overdo it, and we must remember a little goes a long way with regard to essential oils – especially internal use! We can also find several local and online schools that will certify you as an aromatherapist and learn how to practice safe, internal use.

The Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy is one organization in particular that I have strongly aligned myself with as it is the oldest aromatherapy school continually run by a practicing aromatherapist. Their founder, Sylla Sheppard-Hanger, has over 40 years of client-based experience, and has been teaching classes in aromatherapy since 1985. The bottom line is that when an organization like this includes ingesting essential oils guidelines in their curriculum – with hundreds of case studies to support their recommendations – people should stop for a second a listen, don’t you agree?

And let’s not forget what the universally acclaimed text, Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health Care Professionals, repeatedly refers to “maximum oral dose” in relation to ingesting essential oils safely and effectively.

The thing that really throws me through a loop regarding people who speak out against ingesting essential oils is that they are in direct opposition of the dozens of human studies in the scientific literature and completely disregard the Food and Drug Administration. Yes, you read that correctly! According to the FDA, ingesting essential oils is safe for human consumption as flavor ingredients. For the exhaustive FDA-approved list of Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) oils see below.

Note: not all oils that are safe for ingestion are included in the FDA-approved GRAS list. I recommend that we use this list as a base point to start the conversation about what is and what is not safe because it all boils down to dosage.

Master the Art of Using Essential Oils at Home! To help you reach your health goals with essential oils, please be sure to take the time to learn the fundamentals of aromatherapy. To help you do this, we have created a 10-Part Video Masterclass that we want to give you an opportunity to watch for FREE. This is our gift to you for being part of our Natural Living Family All you need to do is reserve your spot by clicking HERE. We'll see you there!

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Ingesting Essential Oils: Do’s and Don’ts

Before I dive into some of the ways that ingesting essential oils can be done safely, there some “housekeeping” items we need to discuss. Here are some do’s and don’ts.

Daily Do’s:

  1. Inhale essential oils in an essential oil diffuser, inhaler, spritzer and other fun ways.
  2. Add essential oils in your daily body care regimen.
  3. Be careful – and learn the basics. My Aromatherapy 101 article will help.
  4. Enjoy the good things in life! There’s nothing like one drop of lemon or orange oil mixed with Solubol in a 32 ounce glass liter of sparkling water with some liquid stevia as a special soda pop treat.
  5. Have fun & be empowered! Using essential oils and other natural therapies is a life-changing experience for most people and remember to enjoy the journey as you learn all about them!

Daily Do Not’s:

  1. Ingesting essential oils for “prevention.” This is wasteful and dangerous, and I was a victim of the take-a-drop-of-essential-oil under your tongue (or in your water) everyday myth until I irritated my esophagus and developed acid reflux! The more I learn about EOs, the less I consume them – only for specific health conditions, or my special soda. And, no, it doesn’t matter how “pure” or “therapeutic” they are. Daily consumption is NOT the most effective (and medicinal) way to use them, and it has taken me 3 years of trial & error (lots of error) and literally hundreds (if not thousands) of research hours to get to this “revelation.” So, please learn from my mistakes!
  2. Think that each health condition within a specific body system should be approached the same way. Meaning this: even though peppermint is great for IBS and nausea, it should not be used for GERD. The University of Maryland Medical Center specifically warns that peppermint tea and essential oil can relax the esophageal sphincter and pose risks for those with reflux.
  3. Believe that “there is an oil for that.” Essential oils have changed my life so much that I have devoted much of my personal and professional lives to sharing the message that they are truly God’s Medicine. Seriously, I’m the “oil” guy and I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to be featured on countless health summits, conferences and documentaries. Yet, let’s be real. Like anything, essential oils are limited by what they can and we should not fall into the trap that they are the end-all cure because misguided hope will disappoint.

Ok, now that we’ve cleaned house, let’s get to work…

What is the truth about ingesting essential oils?

Tips for Ingesting Essential Oils

I have written about ingesting essential oils extensively, and if you’re looking for a thorough video on how to use them safely and effectively, you can check a free screening of my Essential Oils for Abundant Living Masterclass. In the meantime, suffice it to say that essential oils are extremely potent plant-based compounds and should be used with care.

Also known as “volatile organic compounds,” essential oils are chemical compounds found in the bark, leaves, flowers, roots and rinds of plants, fruit, and trees. Interestingly, there are no vitamins or minerals in essential oils as they are made up of compounds that we learn about in organic chemistry class like terpene hydrocarbons (e.g. sesquiterpenes, which have been shown to cross the blood brain barrier) and oxygenated compounds (e.g aldehydes, ketones and esters, which all have unique effects on the human body).

The key to ingesting essential oils, and why we should consider them in our natural health regimens, is that they combat pathogens (harmful microorganisms), are a source of antioxidants (needed to prevent and cure disease), and have been shown to contain advanced healing properties in addition to cancer cell cytotoxicity amongst other things.

Culinary Doses (1-3 drops per dish)

The safest way to ingest essential oils is in culinary use. Cooking with essential oils is an extremely safe way to enjoy the health benefits as well as enhance the flavor of your food. Here are some ideas of how to get started.

  • Use 1-2 drops of cilantro or coriander with 1-2 drops of lime, for example, goes wonderfully with your homemade guacamole.
  • Try 1 drop of cumin in your curry next time. Or, 2 drops of black pepper in virtually anything savory!
  • You could use cinnamon essential oil in a cake batter, for example, but you’d only need one drop for the whole batch vs. a tsp or more of the bark powder.
  • Mix 1 drop in your morning latte. I particularly enjoy a drop of peppermint and cinnamon in my fat-burning matcha green tea latte.

Do remember, however, that oil and water do not mix, so simply adding a drop to your coffee will leave that drop undiluted. This is why you need to add an edible carrier oil like coconut oil first before and then mix into your latte!

Therapeutic Doses (Up to 5-6 drops per application)

When ingesting essential oils is necessitated for therapeutic purposes, much more than a culinary dose needed. “Therapeutic” amounts require up to 5-6 drops of essential oil per dose. To do this safely, taking them in a gel capsule is the preferred method. Alternatively, you can add 3-4 drops of essential oil with one tablespoon of an edible carrier oil like olive or grape seed or coconut oil and consume that way. This is what we do for our immune-boosting “flu” shots.

How to Make Gel Capsules

The safest (and most effective) way to ingest essential oils for therapeutic purposes is to take them in capsules. Taken from my book, The Healing Power of Essential Oils, simply follow these instructions.

BASIC CAPSULE FORMULA

(Makes 1 dose)
INGREDIENTS
  • 4 drops essential oils
  • Organic, unrefined coconut oil or olive oil
SUPPLIES
  1. Using a pipette, drop the essential oils into the narrower bottom half of the capsule.
  2. Use the pipette to fill the remaining space in the capsule with coconut or olive oil.
  3. Fit the wider top half of the capsule over the bottom half and secure snugly.
  4. Swallow a capsule immediately with water on an empty stomach. Take twice daily.
  5. Use up to 2 weeks at a time.
* Note: Do not premake and store for future use.

FDA Approved GRAS Essential Oils

It is important to realize that millions of people are ingesting essential oils all day without even realizing it. Where do you think your processed food get their flavor from! Virtually anything that is naturally flavored most likely contains essential oils. This is what the FDA says in the official document Code of Regulations, Title 21, Volume 6, Animal Food Labeling: Specific Animal Food Labeling Requirements.

Foods Containing “Artificial Flavors” and “Spices” do not Contain Oils

“(a)(1) The term artificial flavor or artificial flavoring means any substance, the function of which is to impart flavor, which is not derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof. (2) The term spice means any aromatic vegetable substance in the whole, broken, or ground form, except for those substances which have been traditionally regarded as foods, such as onions, garlic and celery; whose significant function in food is seasoning rather than nutritional; that is true to name; and from which no portion of any volatile oil or other flavoring principle has been removed.

  • Allspice, Anise, Basil, Bay leaves, Caraway seed, Cardamon, Celery seed, Chervil, Cinnamon, Cloves, Coriander, Cumin seed, Dill seed, Fennel seed, Fenugreek, Ginger, Horseradish, Mace, Marjoram, Mustard flour, Nutmeg, Oregano, Paprika, Parsley, Pepper, black; Pepper, white; Pepper, red; Rosemary, Saffron, Sage, Savory, Star aniseed, Tarragon, Thyme, Turmeric.
  • Paprika, turmeric, and saffron or other spices which are also colors, shall be declared as spice and coloring unless declared by their common or usual name.
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Foods Containing “Natural Flavors” do Contain Oils

The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional. Natural flavors, include the natural essence or extractives obtained from plants.” By letting common sense be our guide, I propose some tried and true tips on how to take essential oils internally.

  1. Start off by using oils that are GRAS (see below for the FDA-approved list of oils that are Generally Recognized As Safe for internal use).
  2. Be safe (more on that below).
  3. Don’t overdo it – limit to 2-3 drops at a time, and be sure to wait at least 4 hours before taking consecutive doses.
  4. Listen to your body, and…
  5. Discontinue use IMMEDIATELY if adverse reactions occur.

Trust me, people don’t break out in hives in a “detox” reaction when ingesting essential oils like I’ve read out there in cyberspace. Pain, irritation, swelling, inflammation, bloating, burning, reflux, and anything else that isn’t pleasant is NOT a good sign. This is your body’s way of warning you that something harmful is attacking it.

[Code of Federal Regulations]
[Title 21, Volume 3]
[Revised as of April 1, 2015]
[CITE: 21CFR182.20]
TITLE 21–FOOD AND DRUGS
CHAPTER I–FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
SUBCHAPTER B–FOOD FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION (CONTINUED)

PART 182 — SUBSTANCES GENERALLY RECOGNIZED AS SAFE Subpart A–General Provisions

Sec. 182.20 Essential oils, oleoresins (solvent-free), and natural extractives (including distillates).
Essential oils, oleoresins (solvent-free), and natural extractives (including distillates) that are generally recognized as safe for their intended use, within the meaning of section 409 of the Act, are as follows:

Common nameBotanical name of plant source
AlfalfaMedicago sativa L.
AllspicePimenta officinalis Lindl.
Almond, bitter (free from prussic acid)Prunus amygdalus Batsch, Prunus armeniaca L., or Prunus persica (L.) Batsch.
Ambrette (seed)Hibiscus moschatus Moench.
Angelica rootAngelica archangelica L.
Angelica seedDo.
Angelica stemDo.
Angostura (cusparia bark)Galipea officinalis Hancock.
AnisePimpinella anisum L.
AsafetidaFerula assa-foetida L. and related spp. of Ferula.
Balm (lemon balm)Melissa officinalis L.
Balsam of PeruMyroxylon pereirae Klotzsch.
BasilOcimum basilicum L.
Bay leavesLaurus nobilis L.
Bay (myrcia oil)Pimenta racemosa (Mill.) J. W. Moore.
Bergamot (bergamot orange)Citrus aurantium L. subsp. bergamia Wright et Arn.
Bitter almond (free from prussic acid)Prunus amygdalus Batsch, Prunus armeniaca L., or Prunus persica (L.) Batsch.
Bois de roseAniba rosaeodora Ducke.
CacaoTheobroma cacao L.
Camomile (chamomile) flowers, HungarianMatricaria chamomilla L.
Camomile (chamomile) flowers, Roman or EnglishAnthemis nobilis L.
CanangaCananga odorata Hook. f. and Thoms.
CapsicumCapsicum frutescens L. and Capsicum annuum L.
CarawayCarum carvi L.
Cardamom seed (cardamon)Elettaria cardamomum Maton.
Carob beanCeratonia siliqua L.
CarrotDaucus carota L.
Cascarilla barkCroton eluteria Benn.
Cassia bark, ChineseCinnamomum cassia Blume.
Cassia bark, Padang or BataviaCinnamomum burmanni Blume.
Cassia bark, SaigonCinnamomum loureirii Nees.
Celery seedApium graveolens L.
Cherry, wild, barkPrunus serotina Ehrh.
ChervilAnthriscus cerefolium (L.) Hoffm.
ChicoryCichorium intybus L.
Cinnamon bark, CeylonCinnamomum zeylanicum Nees.
Cinnamon bark, ChineseCinnamomum cassia Blume.
Cinnamon bark, SaigonCinnamomum loureirii Nees.
Cinnamon leaf, CeylonCinnamomum zeylanicum Nees.
Cinnamon leaf, ChineseCinnamomum cassia Blume.
Cinnamon leaf, SaigonCinnamomum loureirii Nees.
CitronellaCymbopogon nardus Rendle.
Citrus peelsCitrus spp.
Clary (clary sage)Salvia sclarea L.
CloverTrifolium spp.
Coca (decocainized)Erythroxylum coca Lam. and other spp. of Erythroxylum.
CoffeeCoffea spp.
Cola nutCola acuminata Schott and Endl., and other spp. of Cola.
CorianderCoriandrum sativum L.
Cumin (cummin)Cuminum cyminum L.
Curacao orange peel (orange, bitter peel)Citrus aurantium L.
Cusparia barkGalipea officinalis Hancock.
DandelionTaraxacum officinale Weber and T. laevigatum DC.
Dandelion rootDo.
Dog grass (quackgrass, triticum)Agropyron repens (L.) Beauv.
Elder flowersSambucus canadensis L. and S. nigra I.
Estragole (esdragol, esdragon, tarragon)Artemisia dracunculus L.
Estragon (tarragon)Do.
Fennel, sweetFoeniculum vulgare Mill.
FenugreekTrigonella foenum-graecum L.
Galanga (galangal)Alpinia officinarum Hance.
GeraniumPelargonium spp.
Geranium, East IndianCymbopogon martini Stapf.
Geranium, rosePelargonium graveolens L’Her.
GingerZingiber officinale Rosc.
GrapefruitCitrus paradisi Macf.
GuavaPsidium spp.
Hickory barkCarya spp.
Horehound (hoarhound)Marrubium vulgare L.
HopsHumulus lupulus L.
HorsemintMonarda punctata L.
HyssopHyssopus officinalis L.
ImmortelleHelichrysum augustifolium DC.
JasmineJasminum officinale L. and other spp. of Jasminum.
Juniper (berries)Juniperus communis L.
Kola nutCola acuminata Schott and Endl., and other spp. of Cola.
Laurel berriesLaurus nobilis L.
Laurel leavesLaurus spp.
LavenderLavandula officinalis Chaix.
Lavender, spikeLavandula latifolia Vill.
LavandinHybrids between Lavandula officinalis Chaix and Lavandula latifolin Vill.
LemonCitrus limon (L.) Burm. f.
Lemon balm (see balm)
Lemon grassCymbopogon citratus DC. and Cymbopogon lexuosus Stapf.
Lemon peelCitrus limon (L.) Burm. f.
LimeCitrus aurantifolia Swingle.
Linden flowersTilia spp.
Locust beanCeratonia siliqua L,
LupulinHumulus lupulus L.
MaceMyristica fragrans Houtt.
MandarinCitrus reticulata Blanco.
Marjoram, sweetMajorana hortensis Moench.
MateIlex paraguariensis St. Hil.
Melissa (see balm)
MentholMentha spp.
Menthyl acetateDo.
Molasses (extract)Saccarum officinarum L.
MustardBrassica spp.
NaringinCitrus paradisi Macf.
Neroli, bigaradeCitrus aurantium L.
NutmegMyristica fragrans Houtt.
OnionAllium cepa L.
Orange, bitter, flowersCitrus aurantium L.
Orange, bitter, peelDo.
Orange leafCitrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck.
Orange, sweetDo.
Orange, sweet, flowersDo.
Orange, sweet, peelDo.
OriganumOriganum spp.
PalmarosaCymbopogon martini Stapf.
PaprikaCapsicum annuum L.
ParsleyPetroselinum crispum (Mill.) Mansf.
Pepper, blackPiper nigrum L.
Pepper, whiteDo.
PeppermintMentha piperita L.
Peruvian balsamMyroxylon pereirae Klotzsch.
PetitgrainCitrus aurantium L.
Petitgrain lemonCitrus limon (L.) Burm. f.
Petitgrain mandarin or tangerineCitrus reticulata Blanco.
PimentaPimenta officinalis Lindl.
Pimenta leafPimenta officinalis Lindl.
Pipsissewa leavesChimaphila umbellata Nutt.
PomegranatePunica granatum L.
Prickly ash barkXanthoxylum (or Zanthoxylum) Americanum Mill. or Xanthoxylum clava-herculis L.
Rose absoluteRosa alba L., Rosa centifolia L., Rosa damascena Mill., Rosa gallica L., and vars. of these spp.
Rose (otto of roses, attar of roses)Do.
Rose budsDo.
Rose flowersDo.
Rose fruit (hips)Do.
Rose geraniumPelargonium graveolens L’Her.
Rose leavesRosa spp.
RosemaryRosmarinus officinalis L.
SaffronCrocus sativus L.
SageSalvia officinalis L.
Sage, GreekSalvia triloba L.
Sage, SpanishSalvia lavandulaefolia Vahl.
St. John’s breadCeratonia siliqua L.
Savory, summerSatureia hortensis L.
Savory, winterSatureia montana L.
Schinus molleSchinus molle L.
Sloe berries (blackthorn berries)Prunus spinosa L.
SpearmintMentha spicata L.
Spike lavenderLavandula latifolia Vill.
TamarindTamarindus indica L.
TangerineCitrus reticulata Blanco.
TarragonArtemisia dracunculus L.
TeaThea sinensis L.
ThymeThymus vulgaris L. and Thymus zygis var. gracilis Boiss.
Thyme, whiteDo.
Thyme, wild or creepingThymus serpyllum L.
Triticum (see dog grass)
TuberosePolianthes tuberosa L.
TurmericCurcuma longa L.
VanillaVanilla planifolia Andr. or Vanilla tahitensis J. W. Moore.
Violet flowersViola odorata L.
Violet leavesDo.
Violet leaves absoluteDo.
Wild cherry barkPrunus serotina Ehrh.
Ylang-ylangCananga odorata Hook. f. and Thoms.
Zedoary barkCurcuma zedoaria Rosc.

[42 FR 14640, Mar. 15, 1977, as amended at 44 FR 3963, Jan. 19, 1979; 47 FR 29953, July 9, 1982; 48 FR 51613, Nov. 10, 1983; 50 FR 21043 and 21044, May 22, 1985]

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