This is a common question. It seems that some are saying that if you can drink an oil that this is a sign of purity. Then there are others that say that you cannot ingest oils at all. Where does Gritman stand on this issue.? We can support both sides. For us at Gritman, we see ingestion and purity as two different issues.
Whether you can ingest an oil or not has nothing to do with purity. The confusion comes from believing that you only want to ingest pure or the best food. We whole heartedly believe this, but this belief has nothing to do with ingesting oils. Combining the idea that you want to eat pure food and then relating that to essential oils is a marketing tool. If you agree with eating pure food then it is logical to think that you can eat or swallow pure oils. The problem is that oils are not food. They can be found in food and are usually described as flavorings. The amount found in these processed foods is very, very small. Here at Gritman we also teach classes in cooking with essential oils but as a replacement for herbs and spices. The amount used is only a drop or maybe two.
Can you take oils internally? Why would you be taking them internally? It would usually be for a medical or physical issue that you are having. Only a doctor can prescribe the internal use of medical products. That is why you will see most essential oils are sold with a disclaimer not to take internally. As well as some oils can smell very sweet and some children will drink them. This has led to the death of children. Again most essential oil companies would want to err on the side of safety and instruct you not to take them internally. The ingestion issue has nothing to do with purity. Drinking a bottle of PURE wintergreen can kill a child.
Having said this, I will tell you that I ingest oils all the time. At the first sign of a soar throat, I will take tea tree. It works like magic. So you can ingest essential oils. Yes, you can. Can you ingest all essential oils? No, you cannot. Then which oils can you ingest? It has to do with the chemistry of the oil.
Essential Oil Chemistry is all about the very smallest molecules found in organic chemistry. This chemistry works with various chemical molecules. They are called terpenes, alcohols, phenols, aldehydes, esters, ketones, and oxides. Oils high in terpenes, alcohols and esters seem fairly safe to ingest. Tea Tree is high in terpenes and alcohols.
The most difficult chemical constituent to ingest is phenols. Tylenol is a phenol and it is linked to liver damage in those that take it. Essential oils high in phenols will also cause liver damage. These are oils like basil, oregano, dill, thyme, cinnamon or oils that are very pungent and spicy. The reason phenols are such a problem in that the molecule forms a ring that is very difficult to break down. The liver’s job is to break down the essential oil that is fat soluble so that it becomes water soluble. This can weaken or deplete the liver especially if it has to do this daily.
Ketones and oxides can also put stress on the liver as the ketones are broken down to become water soluble. Pennyroyal should never be ingested because of its high percentage of ketones and there is almost always liver damage if this oil is ingested. Eucalyptus which is an oxide is to be avoided as it can react with prescribed medications and make them useless. Both pennyroyal and eucalyptus can be used topically with the right precautions.
If you are wanting to take an oil internally, please research or ask a certified aromatherapist if this is in your best interest. It is always wise to err on safety and not to ingest oils until you are sure.