You’ve seen the advice all over Facebook, Pinterest, and other social media…
Add a drop of lemon essential oil to your water. It’s awesome!
Why is this advice given?
- It’s convenient over slicing real fruit
- It flavors the water
- Claims of weightloss
- Claims of detoxification
- Claims of other various health benefits
- Claims of uplifting mood
Why I don’t add essential oils to my water
- Water and oil don’t mix.
We learned this back in elementary school, right? Essential oils need to be diluted with another oil/fat, especially when taking them internally. Water is not a sufficient form of dilution for essential oils because the oil will sit right on top of the water. Instead of it being evenly dispersed throughout the water, you will be ingesting the super concentrated form in just a couple of swallows. See how it floats on top of the water? A better way to flavor your water is with whole fruit or herbs by letting it sit overnight in the water or to squeeze the juice in your water. It really only takes a few seconds to slice a lemon in half and squeeze it in the water.
- Lemon essential oil undiluted can damage mucous membranes and tax the liver and kidneys.
Since these undiluted compounds are hitting your mucous membranes and body undiluted at one time, they have the potential to cause serious internal damage. The liver and kidneys work to remove waste and toxins in the body, and if you are constantly overworking them by ingesting these undiluted concentrated compounds, they can become damaged over time.
- 1 drop of essential oil is highly concentrated
When you use one drop of essential oil, it is not at all like drinking water with fresh squeezed lemon juice. It is the equivalent to MANY lemon peels. That’s great for using that kind of concentrated power in cleaning, but it raises concerns for me when drinking it. If I wouldn’t naturally eat that many lemon peels in a day, it seems strange to consume that many in an oil form. I would rather just use the form in food. For example, just squeezing lemon juice in my morning water, or steeping peppermint leaves in my tea instead of a drop of peppermint oil. I also have also been concerned about the sustainability of that much essential oil usage. That’s a lot of plants grown for one bottle of essential oils.
What if I’m not feeling ill effects?
I would certainly caution you with this thought. Just because you do not feel ill effects right now doesn’t mean damage isn’t being done internally that will increase over time. Cancers don’t develop in a day from smoking. You don’t get skin cancer right away from one sunburn. The same is true for ingesting essential oils. Conditions can develop over time and what you are doing to your body today could very well cause damage in the future with continued usage. You never know what the long-term effects could be. If you don’t believe me that this is a real issue, read for yourself just a sampling of injury reports from 2014. This is not at all an exhaustive list, but I find it helpful to read accounts of real people.
Is there ever a time to ingest essential oils?
Here’s what Robert Tisserand, leading essential oil safety expert and author of Essential Oil Safety, had to say when I interviewed him (Go read this article!)on various questions that I had on the topic of essential oil safety.
If you are buying a ready-made preparation intended for ingestion – usually in the form of capsules – then that should be fine, so long as it’s used as directed and for a specific problem. Generally speaking, taking essential oils in water is not a sensible way to go. Because essential oils don’t dissolve in water, you get some undiluted oil droplets in your stomach. Because of this, there is a risk of stomach irritation, and it also means that the essential oils are only poorly absorbed (even distribution is very important for absorption). You can of course make you own capsules containing essential oils along with vegetable oil, and if you absolutely and totally know what you are doing, then go ahead. But if you don’t, then don’t. This has nothing to do with quality or brand of essential oil, it’s about safety, and dosage. With ingestion, various risks increase, including gastric irritation, interactions with conventional medications, and fetal damage in pregnancy. And long-term, depending on dose and frequency, there’s a risk of accumulation in the body, possibly leading to systemic toxicity. You may not notice anything, but some types of toxicity do not announce their presence in the early stages.
I personally have been using essential oils for several years and have never needed to ingest them, but I’m not discounting it altogether, just spreading the word of caution and safety. I’ve heard too many reports and personal stories of burning of the throat, burning stomach and urine, bloody stools, sensitization, breathing issues, rashes and more. Don’t blindly jump on a health bandwagon just because someone told you it was safe to use. Research is your friend, and the experts are saying don’t do it unless under the supervision of a certified aromatherapist (a sales rep does not count). Some sales reps give great advice on usage and safety, but some don’t, so be sure to research every claim made before you put the advice into practice. It’s also a good idea to get advice from an aromatherapist not associated with a certain company so that their advice is unbiased.
I would feel comfortable ingesting essential oils in the following situations:
- in culinary uses where one drop is dispersed with some type of fat
- in a vegetable capsule with fat under the supervision of a certified aromatherapist
- for short term use only for a specific problem under the guidance of a professional
Have you ever suffered ill effects from drinking essential oils in water?
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