Essential oils are becoming a go-to solution for everything from insomnia and stress to headaches and nausea.1
They’re also used for cooking. When mixed with a carrier oil, essential oils can add flavor and fragrance to dishes.
Ingesting essential oils, however, is not recommended. Some can be toxic, such as wintergreen oil, and others may interact with medications.
Essential oils are highly concentrated, and they can be dangerous if improperly used. A little education and heeding of safety guidelines can go a long way in making aromatherapy a positive addition to your home health regime.
Most sources recommend that you dilute essential oils before applying them to your skin. Pure oil is too strong and can irritate the skin, leading to redness and rashes. It can also trigger allergic reactions in susceptible people, such as breathing difficulties and nausea.
If you’re planning to ingest essential oils, consult a physician before doing so. Johnson-Arbor says that if you’re taking medication, a specialist in integrative medicine is the best person to ask about whether the oils are compatible. It’s also important to avoid relying solely on information provided by oil makers, which often exaggerate the benefits of their products. Check online research databases such as PubMed to vet claims about a company’s products. This can help you spot bogus studies and misleading marketing.
Essential oils are very potent and must be diluted when used for skin-based applications. If they are applied directly to the skin, they can trigger unwanted side effects including irritated or sensitive skin, rashes and allergic reactions.
Carrier oil is the most effective way to dilute essential oils. These oils are made of skin-loving fatty acids and help to evenly disperse the essential oil on the skin. They also help to minimize the potential for systemic toxicity such as fetotoxicity, hepatotoxicity and carcinogenicity.
Dilution is especially important when using essential oils on children because they have thinner skin than adults and can be more susceptible to unwelcome side effects. It is also recommended to use a higher dilution ratio when using essential oils on infants and pregnant women because their skin can be more sensitive than those of adults.
Cooking with Essential Oils
With proper use and dilution, essential oils can boost the flavor of recipes and provide a range of health benefits. It’s important to only cook with pure, therapeutic-grade oils that are safe for consumption and have been labeled as ‘generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for human ingestion,’ per the Food and Drug Administration.
Essential oils are extracted from the roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and fruits of plants to create a highly concentrated oil that has potent effects on our bodies. They are often used as fragrances or in aromatherapy, a complementary health practice that involves inhaling the scents of the oils to promote emotional well-being and physical healing.
However, many people are using essential oils in cooking as well to add a natural herb-like flavor to dishes. In fact, it’s common to find recipes that call for essential oils in smoothies and juices, salad dressings, no-bake cookies, and more. It’s also important to note that it’s best to use diluted essential oils when adding them to food since the oils can easily cause irritation to the soft tissues in your mouth, throat, and digestive tract.
Essential oils can be used in a variety of ways to promote health and wellness. They can be inhaled for their soothing scent, applied to the skin (with proper dilution), or used as a natural alternative to chemical-based household cleaners.
Inhaling an aromatherapy blend can relieve congestion, soothe sore muscles and headaches, boost energy levels, or encourage sleep. Oils with antifungal, antiviral, and immune-boosting properties can be useful in treating colds, while oils like peppermint, fennel, and chamomile have been shown to help treat digestive issues.
However, it’s important to remember that the practice of using essential oils and the claims made about them are not regulated by the FDA. For this reason, it is best to seek out reputable brands and avoid those that make unsupported health claims. It’s also a good idea to speak with your doctor or a certified aromatherapist before using any essential oil for treatment. Those with certain medical conditions, such as high blood pressure or epilepsy, should avoid direct contact with the oils and should only use them under the guidance of a trained professional.