The Ingestion Question

 AROMA QUEEN are retailers involved in the Aromatherapy industry since 2005, completing various courses along with extensive research and experience, which allows us to know that the essential oils we sell are high quality – personally we wouldn’t feel comfortable selling them if we didn’t understand them, as any half-clever aromatherapy user appreciates that they are potentially dangerous if misused. Most are toxic in varying degrees, and so need to be treated with respect. And so part of what we consider our job is to make information available to educate our customers on how to use their oils safely.

But whose job is it to advise, or prescribe, how to administer essential oils for therapeutic use?

To Ingest or Not to Ingest

Most people familiar with aromatherapy know the most basic safety instructions:

  • Always dilute essential oils before using them on the skin as they can cause sensitisation or irritation; and
  • Never swallow essential oils.

The International Federation of Aromatherapists Code of Ethics states:

No aromatherapist shall use essential oils for internal ingestion or internal application nor shall any aromatherapist advocate or promote such use of essential oils unless the practicing aromatherapist has medical, naturopathic, herbalist, or similar qualifications and holds an insurance policy which specifically covers the internal application of essential oils.”

(IFA code of ethics. Simply Essential, No. 11 December 1993).

This is a guideline that most responsible Australian aromatherapists, including Aroma Queen, adhere to: that you should NOT ingest ANY essential oil unless specifically prescribed for YOUR condition by a qualified medical professional (ie not the person trying to sell you oils). (See our SAFETY Discover page for more safety info).

And there’s a reason for these rules: essential oils are EXTREMELY concentrated. Lemon oil is NOT lemon juice. A single drop of an essential oil may be the chemical equivalent of 25 – 75 cups of herbal tea made from the same herb.

Yet one of the things we come up against on a daily basis is the question of whether our essential oils are food grade, and is it safe to ingest them?

This is because the Aromatherapy industry is changing. Up until fairly recently it consisted of a group of devotees who spent their careers studying the effects of oils – the potential danger was understood and so a ‘less is more’ approach was taken.

However a number of MLM (multi-level-marketing), party-plan or ‘pyramid’ scheme companies have joined the market. Some have sales reps (called ‘consultants’) who sign up to sell aromatherapy products with no prior understanding or training on the subject – all training is provided by the company in the form of marketing materials, including information about ingesting or applying them neat to the skin.

It’s in their interest to encourage people to use more essential oils.

Food Grade? Therapeutic Grade?

Some companies warn that only ‘food grade’ or ‘therapeutic grade’ oils are ‘safe’ for ingesting or for therapeutic use. The funny thing is, there’s actually no ‘Therapeutic Grade’ – it’s just a marketing term that’s been TRADEMARKED by a company – it’s not actually regulated or approved by any external body, or ‘certified’ by anyone. And as it’s a trademarked phrase, nobody else can use it.

So if it’s suggested that only ‘therapeutic grade’ oils are safe to use, however only a certain company’s oils can actually use that trademarked term, then consumers are discouraged from using any other brand. Clever, isn’t it.

But it’s not the BRAND of oils that makes them work: essential oils come from plants. And while there can be wild differences between oil quality from one company to the next (depending on things like plant type / part, country of origin, distillation method, seasonal weather etc), a good quality oil from one brand should be every bit as good as from another. It’s the quality of the plant that makes an oil beneficial, not a company name.

At AQ have always worked hard to remain ethical and honest, and take a responsible approach. So we adhere to the Australian guidelines and specifically request that no Aroma Queen essential oil should be used for ingestion – unless prescribed for you by somebody medically qualified.

Not somebody selling you oils; not a Pinterest post from a person who says it works; but somebody who has studied the long term effects of that particular oil and taken into account your personal situation. Ultimately yes – people have swallowed the odd essential oil and been fine. But plenty have not. Here’s a few things to consider:

* Oils can cause stomach & other upsets by reacting with the mucous membranes in your mouth / throat / stomach. Taking oils internally will hit your stomach as a neat (undiluted) oil.

* Oils can accumulate in your system, leading to systemic toxicity: what may feel fine now may be once the oils have accumulated over long term ingestion. Toxins can build up to cause potential organ failure, or in the most extreme, death.

* The acids in your stomach and digestive system can actually destroy the oil’s therapeutic qualities so you might be wasting your time anyway – at much personal risk.

This is an actual word-for-word testimonial from someone who followed an ingestion recipe for a ‘Morphine Bomb’, which they’d been told would help treat pain:

Protocol was to use 4 drops each of frankincense, copaiba, and balsam fir. They advertised it could be used via inhalation, on skin or ingested. I trusted this combination would [alleviate] my pain due to their claims. Within a few hours of ingesting the oils, I began having racing heart, shortness of breath, pressure in my chest that radiated to my back, up my left jaw, and down my left arm. The symptoms continued and I eventually experienced cold sweats and nausea. The symptoms did not go away. I went to Hospital, they gave me an EKG, blood work and a CAT scan. They determined I was having a heart attack. I remained hospitalized for 3 days and underwent a heart catheterization.”

 (Atlantic Institute Injury Reports 2014)

Well respected aromatherapist Robert Tisserand says this, regarding taking essential oils internally:

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.”

Personally I’d trust Robert Tisserand over Pinterest any day.

 

Even a common oil like Eucalyptus has been documented to have killed grown adults who took small doses over a period of time. Small children who have accidentally ingested the oil have suffered from vomiting, lethargy, coma, seizures and death. Doses as small as 4ml have been fatal.

Essential oils need to be in glass, not plastic bottles – they can dissolve glue, strip varnish and eat through plastic with even minor spillages corroding through a solid substance. We’ve personally spilled 1 or 2ml of Myrrh oil which then actually spontaneously combusted when sopped up with a tissue and tossed in a bin – I kid you not. And you really want to swallow these liquids?

So who should be prescribing your aromatherapy treatment? Let me just sidestep again (I promise we’ll get to it by the time I’m finished).

Can Frankincense Cure Cancer?

Another question we are often asked is whether ‘Frankincense Can Cure Cancer’, after someone has come across a story on the internet. Some articles are so matter of fact about how well various treatments work that you really do feel embarrassed to doubt them.

But the information superhighway is full of varying qualities of traffic.

For example, an article I read a while back stated that the ‘oil of Frankincense’ has been used for thousands of years for medicinal purposes (this isn’t quite right, it was the RESIN like the type pictured that was traditionally chewed). The article claimed that many people remain unaware of Frankincense’s cancer-fighting potential – and that researchers from the University of Leicester confirmed this through “rigorous scientific testing.”

The article concluded with a paragraph advising that Frankincense oil can be consumed orally, in a beverage.

I looked at the actual press release from the University, cited as the only reference for the article. While the release did indicate some very positive results that a PhD student had found in using Frankincense to combat cancer cells in late-stage ovarian cancer, it was actually talking about the use of the anti-tumoral compound AKBA (Boswellic Acid) which is extracted from Frankincense RESIN. AKBA is not actually present in Frankincense essential oil at all.

The University of Leicester press release regarding the study actually concluded with this disclaimer:

This study is at an early stage and has been presented at international conferences. Upon completion, in due course, it will be presented for peer review research publication. None of the results of the study are applicable for treatments in people – the study simply points to potential future applications.”

There’s no question that there were very positive results in the study, but the original article, which advised the reader in no uncertain terms that it’s perfectly safe to swallow Frankincense oil, was entirely based on a study that pointed out that ‘None of the results of the study are applicable for treatments in people’, and was focused on a compound not even found in the essential oil.

So I have to ask myself, should I be trusting this article and swallow a natural essential oil? When the writer doesn’t even recognise the difference between a resin (small pellets of dried gum) and an essential oil (an extremely concentrated distillation)?

Many of us have family or friends with cancer who want to find hope, but we have heard first-hand stories of people who have fed their dying partner oils in the hope that they may help, when all they did was make the patient more uncomfortable and unwell.

Research into potential treatments like this needs to be done thoroughly rather than just taking things as presented, or you may do more harm than good.

From our own perspective, we think of aromatherapy as a COMPLEMENTARY therapy: that it should not replace Western medicine, but be better used to complement it. For anyone wanting to use essential oils to help treat those suffering from cancer or any other illness, discuss it with the treating GP or specialists first to see whether there could be any problems or contra-indications that might arise by using these therapies alongside other treatments.

With the right approach, Aromatherapy can still be used to enhance a treatment, help with sleep, give relief to symptoms or lift the spirits – there are plenty of uses, even if they may not always be the cure-all that some hope for.

So, Who Should Prescribe Your Aromatherapy Treatment?

One thing that I would like to see is the separation of sales and education … if you sell essential oils then you shouldn’t be making medical claims, you shouldn’t be making any claims for your oils, you’re just selling oils and the education part should be done by somebody different, somebody wearing a different hat.”

… “because then in a way you get away from this situation where you have one company that’s telling you what their product does, what their essential oil does, and trying to make a greater claim than the next company.”

Robert Tisserand, Dec 2014

 

If a doctor is discovered to be receiving kickbacks from a drug company (and seen to be benefitting financially from prescribing a certain product) we’re very quick to label them as disreputable. Yet, it seems to be currently acceptable to have aromatherapy companies (or their representatives) to advise on treatments and dosages, without questioning their motive or credentials, or that they are benefiting financially from their recommendations.

As retailers, we believe it is not our job to tell you whether claims over how well an oil may treat a condition are true or not, or to tell you what to take, how to treat, how much to use – beyond general safety advice. What we do – and all we SHOULD be doing – is making quality essential oils available to you, as responsibly as possible, and trying to provide enough education to ensure that they will not be used incorrectly.

It is YOUR job to educate yourself, to appreciate that before you take any aromatherapy advice as gospel truth, you need to:

* Understand the context of what you’re reading.

* Consider all sides of the argument and come to an informed conclusion.

Ask yourself:

* What are the credentials of the person who wrote/shared the information?

 * Is the writer affiliated with any commercial companies; is it in their interest that you believe their point of view?

* Are they trying to sell you something, or even to scare you away from something else?

* Is the information found on a website that draws advertising money from having you click on the page, and so are they being dramatic or controversial with ‘click bait’ just to get your attention?

* Are the cited references valid, peer-reviewed clinical tests that you can look into further to substantiate them?

* Is something being suggested that might be against health guidelines, which have been put in place to protect you?

* Could it cause more harm than good, or be potentially dangerous?

In the end it’s up to you to make your own decisions on how you approach your medical health.
Guard yourself against potential pitfalls by using a little common sense and proper research.

To DISCOVER MORE about basic Aromatherapy Safety CLICK HERE, or for more information about how to use various methods with your Essential Oils CLICK HERE.

Disclaimer

The advice within this page is general and not specific to individuals and particular circumstances. Before using essential oils or other natural treatments, check all cautions and restrictions. Aroma Queen cannot be held responsible for any injury, damage or otherwise resulting from the use of any treatments or products within this website. Do not attempt self-diagnosis or self-treatment for long periods or for serious problems, without first consulting a qualified medical practitioner.
Always seek professional medical advice if symptoms persist.

Always remember, Aromatherapy is intended to complement, not replace traditional medicine.

SHOP Aromatherapy

For more tips, ideas and recipes, visit our SOCIAL PAGES.

Our latest Instagram posts