Why can I use some essential oils internally, while others I should not?
As you are discovering the world of essential oils, you may find that there are different standpoints on how to use essential oils safely. In this article, we want to equip you with important information to help empower you to know what you're buying. There is a lot of fear that develops from mis-information, and first and foremost we want you to feel comfortable and confident with using essential oils.
It is very important to understand that there is no strict regulation in regards to the quality and purity of essential oils on the market. With that said, it is important to know the sourcing of your essential oils. Read more on Essential Oils Quality Standards.
Regulations in Place by the Government
According to the FDA, essential oils can fall under a couple of categories: a cosmetic, and a dietary supplement.
When considering cosmetics, the legal background is this:
When considering dietary supplements, as many essential oils fall under the GRAS category, or "Generally Regarded As Safe" to consume internally, according to the FDA, a dietary supplement product label should answer the following questions:
- What is the name of the product?
- How much product is in the package?
- Who made/packed/distributed it?
- What ingredients are in it?
- What is the nutritional content?
The last two questions are answered by the Supplement Facts panel, which must identify ALL ingredients contained in the product and their amounts. However, some of the ingredients may be part of a mixture of ingredients, otherwise known as "proprietary blend", “blend” or “delivery system.” In this case only the total amount of the mixture of ingredients is required.(2)
The Three Models of Aromatherapy
Therapeutic treatment using essential oils follows three different models: English, French, and German.
The English model puts a small amount of an essential oil in a large amount of vegetable oil to massage the body for the purpose of relaxation and relieving stress. This is the most commonly-taught application of essential oils among trained aromatherapists. This train of thought comes from experts in the industry knowing that many of the essential oils sold on the market are not truly 100% pure. For example, it's said that the country of France exports 10-times more lavender oil than they actually produce. What does that mean for the consumer? Well, you don't truly know what you're getting in that bottle -- even if it says "100% Pure" on the label! Keep in mind that what you apply to your skin gets absorbed into your body and detoxed by your kidneys and liver.
The French model prescribes neat (undiluted) topical application of therapeutic-grades essential oils and/or the ingestion of pure essential oils. Typically, a few drops of an essential oil are added to agave nectar, honey, a small amount of vegetable oil, or put on a piece of bread. Many French practitioners have found that taking the oils internally yields excellent benefits. As we mentioned above, there are many essential oils that are classified as GRAS, however again, it's most important to know the source of the oils you are consuming.
The German model focuses on inhalation of essential oils — the true aromatherapy. Research has shown that the effect of fragrance on the sense of smell can exert strong effects on the brain — especially on the hypothalamus (the hormone command center of the body) and limbic system (the seat of emotions). Some essential oils high in sesquiterpenes, such as myrrh, sandalwood, cedar wood, vetiver, and Melissa, can dramatically increase oxygenation and activity in the brain, which may directly improve the function of many systems of the body.
Together, these three models show the versatility and power of essential oils.
In some cases, the inhalation of essential oils might be preferred over topical application, if the goal is to increase growth hormone secretion, promote weight loss, or balance mood and emotions.
In other cases, however, topical application of essential oils would produce better results, particularly in the case of back or muscle injuries or defects.
In some cases, all three methods of application (topical, inhalation, and ingestion) are interchangeable and may produce similar benefits.
The ability of essential oils to act on both the mind and the body is what makes them truly unique among natural therapeutic substances. The fragrance of some essential oils can be very stimulating — both psychologically and physically. The aroma of other essential oils may be calming and sedating, helping to overcome feelings of anxiety or hyperactivity. On a physiological level, essential oils may stimulate the body's natural immune function and regenerate damaged tissue.
Probably the two most common methods of essential oil application are cold-air diffusing and neat (undiluted) topical application. Other modes of application include incorporating essential oils into the disciplines of reflexology, Vita Flex, and acupressure. Combining these disciplines with essential oils enhances the healing response and often produces amazing results that cannot be achieved by acupuncture or reflexology alone. Just 1-3 drops of an essential oil applied to an acupuncture meridian or Vita Flex point on the hand or foot can produce results within a minute or two.(3)
Young Living Essential Oils Labeling
Young Living has made it simple for the consumer to know which essential oils can be used internally by their designated Vitality™ line.
Important Note: The essential oil contained in both of these bottles of peppermint are the same quality and purity. The only difference is the label. If you have a Young Living essential oil that does not have a Vitality labeled-version, it is not advised to use that essential oil internally.