Category: Essential Oils

Why I don’t Take Essential Oils Internally

This post is taken from the blog of Julia Lawless on her company site, Aqua Oleum.

Julia Lawless is a world-renowned aromatherapist, highly respected as an authority in the field of aromatic plants and oils. She believes ingesting essential oils is a dangerous method which she doesn’t encourage.

This is an excerpt from an article written for the Canadian Aromatherapy Association: BCAPA. I wrote the article because of a growing concern I have regarding an increase in members of public in the UK enquiring about taking essential oils internally. I want to make absolutely clear that the UK official Aromatherapy policy as supported by Aqua Oleum Ltd does NOT support taking essential oils internally in any manner by members of the public, as stated clearly on our labels. I myself consider this a very dangerous trend and would like to ensure that this practice is not adopted in the UK despite the internet and other sources, especially in the US, publishing misleading information in this field – as outlined in this article.

I am writing this article in Colorado with a large volume in front of me entitled: ‘Essential Oils Desk Reference’, a type of encyclopedia compiled by Essential Science Publishing and published in the US. In the section entitled ‘How to Safely Use Essential Oils’ it says at point 11:

“Before taking GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) essential oils internally, test your reactions by diluting one drop of essential oil in one teaspoon of an oil soluble liquid like blue agave, olive oil, or rice milk. Never consume more than a few drops of diluted essential oil per day without the advice of a physician”

How many drops are a ‘few drops’? In their ‘Essential Oil Application Codes’ in Appendix E at the end of the book, they divide oils into those that can be taken neat (such as lavender); those which need to be diluted to 50-50% – i.e “one part essential oil to one part vegetable oil for topical and internal use “- (such as basil and bergamot); and those which should be diluted 20-80% (such as lemongrass or clove). A 50-50% blend of an essential oil with a vegetable oil being recommended for internal use is not the same as a few drops! Generally speaking, in making a blend for a massage or body oil, I recommend using a 1% to 5% blend of essential oils in a vegetable oil base – depending on the subject, the specific oil and the region being treated. So a 50-50% blend is itself a very, very strong dilution for topical application… let alone internal use!

When in the same Appendix, an oil such as ‘Blue Tansy’ (Tanacetum annuum) is recommended for neat use while ‘Tansy’ (Tanacetum vulgare) is recommended for 50-50% use, the situation becomes even more worrying! Tansy (T. vulgare) contains up to 80% thujone, as stated in the constituent data section – yet thujone is a severe oral toxin. Moreover the average member of the public is not going to distinguish between tansy and blue tansy so may even be tempted to swallow tansy essential oil neat. Indeed, in another popular book published in the US, I found ‘tansy essential oil’ being recommended for treating tummy upsets in children by adding a ‘few drops’ to their bowl of yogurt in the morning!

In my ‘Encyclopedia of Essential Oils’, which is still used as a textbook for training aromatherapists on an international basis, I also list the essential oils which should not be used for aromatherapy purposes. Under the Safety Data entry for Tansy (T. vugare) it says:

“Oral toxin – poisonous due to high thujone content. Abortifacient. Should not be used in aromatherapy whether internally or externally. … The oil used to be used in alcoholic beverages – it is no longer used for flavouring.”

Another words, this oil does not even have a GRAS status due to its toxicity levels. I specifically decided to include such oils in my Encyclopedia as a form of education … to outline the reasons why such an oil can be dangerous. Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) falls into the same category due to its high thujone content, yet it is also recommended for 50-50% usage in the Essential Oils Desk Reference volume. It is not that essential oils cannot be used internally under any circumstances, such as under the guidance of a Medical Herbalist qualified in this field … but the vague, inaccurate, contradictory and blatantly dangerous messages being communicated to the public regarding safety issues via all sorts of media sources these days, such as the internet and you-tube, is of very real concern.

See the post on Aqua Oleum here.


A Brief Guide to Using Essential Oils


The use of essential oils has grown widely in popularity in recent years, but one thing is for sure, they’re nothing new. They have existed since the moment the earth was created and have been used therapeutically for centuries.

When slicing a lemon, the smell that is left behind on your hands comes from the oil of the peel, and the beautiful, heady scent of a rose is from the oil of its leaves.

If you’ve ever been handed a bottle of potent smelling oil and wondered what to do with it, I’m going to break down the what’s and the how’s of essential oils here.

What are Essential Oils?

Essential Oils are volatile liquid substances extracted from aromatic flowers, plants, barks, stem, leaves, roots, fruits or other parts of the plant by various extraction methods.

They are called “essential” because they are necessary for the life of the plant and contain the essence of the plant. They are live, they contain life force, intelligence and energy that gives them healing power when used by the body.

Essential oils can be traced back to biblical times, with over 600 references to essential oils and/or aromatic plants in the Bible. The most popular one we probably all know are the gifts of Frankincense and Myrrh given to baby Jesus at his birth.

The use of aromatherapy came into existence after scientists deciphered the antiseptic and skin permeability properties of essential oils and their therapeutic use to treat diseases.

How do Essential Oils Work?

Essential Oils are composed of tiny molecules that can penetrate into every cell, administering healing therapy at the most fundamental levels of our bodies which, when used correctly, come with no side effects. Once the oils are in the system, they remodulate themselves and work in a positive manner at the area of malfunction or distress. One of the wonderful things about essential oils is their ability to target a problem in a cell but leave the surrounding area unaffected, unlike some medical treatments.

Although essential oils have been used therapeutically for centuries, there is little published research on their effectiveness. But that is about to change as countries all over the world are conducting clinical studies on their power and uses. Research studies so far show positive effects on a variety of health concerns including infections, anxiety, pain, depression, cancerous tumours and hormonal imbalances, to name just a few.

Why Choose Essential Oils?

Essential oils are safe, which unfortunately we can’t quite say about medicines manufactured by man. Man-made pharmaceuticals lack the life, energy and intelligence found in essential oils and often come with many undesirable side effects, some of which are deadly.

The reason only licensed doctors are allowed to prescribe drugs is because they are inherently dangerous; a person can die from an overdose or from failure to follow given instructions. They also frequently work in disharmony in the body when more than one type of drug is taken at once, producing a downward spiral of needing more drugs to counteract negative side effects, hurting the body further and causing a dependence on the health system.

Essential oils however, when used properly (by this I mean not pouring a whole bottle of undiluted oil on your skin or down your throat) have no serious side effects and they can be used by anyone without needing the supervision or prescription of a doctor. When certain oils are used together, they work in harmony. They also have the ability to truly heal, naturally and harmlessly, bringing the body back into balance whilst withdrawing a persons’ dependence on the medical system.

How Do We Use Essential Oils?

There are a few ways to use essential oils, the main ones are through topical application, massage, baths, inhalation and controversially, ingestion. I say controversially because there are many companies selling essential oils who promote their internal use and the information surrounding this seems conflicted. Personally I do NOT ingest essential oils and I would never recommend anyone to. Please see here as to why.

When diluted appropriately, essential oils can be applied directly to the skin. I would think most household bathroom cabinets contain a small pot of Vicks Vaporub, and that’s all Vicks is; an ointment containing essential oils used for inhalation and topical absorption to relieve the symptoms of congestion.

I use essential oils topically for a variety of purposes; I use a diluted blend which includes frankincense, spruce, blue chamomile & blue tansy oil as perfume, which has a grounding effect and helps support my thyroid. I rub diluted oils directly on my neck in the area of my thyroid, as part of my healing from Hashimotos protocol.

At night I rub lavender on my son’s feet after his bath to help him sleep, and in the morning I rub an immune supporting blend on his feet for nursery.

Applying essential oils to the feet is one of the best ways to use them topically; the feet have much larger pores than the rest of the body so they can be absorbed better, but no sebaceous glands so the oil won’t have to compete with our own body’s natural production of sebum, which can act as a barrier. Combining essential oils with reflexology gives even further benefit, targeting specific areas of the body that need support through particular pressure points on the feet.

Inhalation is one of the ways I personally use essential oils the most; I have multiple diffusers in my house which serve a multitude of purposes. One of the most fascinating things about essential oils is they contain antibacterial, antibiotic, antimicrobial and antiviral properties. I found this particularly helpful when my son was first born last November, the time of year when colds are rife. I found diffusing essential oils helped to protect both him and me from airborne germs unintentionally brought in by our visitors.

At night I religiously diffuse Frankincense and Lavender; both very calming and soothing, helping us all sleep. Both Frankincense and Lavender have respiratory supporting properties, helping to clear mucus and reducing the spasmodic effects of coughing. If someone at my house has a cough, the first thing I do is turn on the diffuser!

Adding a few drops of essential oils to a bath, and Aromatherapy Massage are both wonderful ways to incorporate the benefits of oils into a relaxing way to de-stress and support the body. Having a professional massage is of course ideal, but we can become our own massage therapist just as easily (or ask a loved one!).

Essential oils are very powerful, and their uses are finally gaining the recognition they deserve. It’s important when choosing a brand of essential oil that they are graded as pure and therapeutic. There are many companies out there who are using synthetic oils which may smell nice, but they are adulterated, often containing no actual trace of essential oil and containing no health benefits.

Have you ever used essential oils for your health and if so, did they help you? Comment below!

P.H. Koulivand, M.K. Ghadiri, A. Gorji Lavender and the nervous system Evid Based Complement Altern Med (2013), 10.1155/2013/681304
Frankincense (乳香 Rǔ Xiāng; Boswellia Species): From the Selection of Traditional Applications to the Novel Phytotherapy for the Prevention and Treatment of Serious Diseases
This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information on the use of essential oils is based on personal opinion, research and experience, it is not advice and should not be treated as such.