In recent years, there has been an increasing trend in the use of essential oils. People use essential oils in conjunction with or as an alternative to pharmaceuticals to treat medical conditions. Additionally, essential oils can increase general well-being. Essential oils are the natural and pure products of non-toxic plants, so can they be harmful if ingested?
You should not drink lavender essential oil. Ingestion can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, and constipation. While it is generally regarded as safe by the FDA, its contents, concentration, and production are unregulated. Massage and aromatherapy with lavender essential oils yield the best results; there is no need for ingestion.
There are multiple health benefits associated with lavender essential oils, and lavender is an ingredient in some sweet and savory dishes. These two facts may lead you to believe that it is safe and even healthy to ingest lavender essential oils.
But lavender essential oils are highly concentrated, unlike their culinary counterparts, and a common principle in medicine is that dosage is the difference between a cure and a poison. Additionally, the route of exposure affects the risk of a substance, and something can be harmless to touch but toxic to drink.
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are oil concentrates extracted from plants through steam distillation or cold pressing. Distillation involves passing steam through the plant. The steam draws out the oils, which can then be collected from the water once the steam condenses. Cold pressing involves mechanically squeezing the plant to release the oils.
Massage and aromatherapy use essential oils diluted with a carrier oil, such as jojoba, coconut, and olive oil. Essential oils are also in skin products because they have beneficial effects on the skin and also give the products a pleasant scent.
The benefits to health and well-being resulting from essential oils and the potential adverse health effects depend on the type of plant from which the essential oil comes.
Uses Of Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender essential oils generally come from a specific lavender plant known as Lavandula angustifolia. The medicinal properties of lavender essential oils are sedating, antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory. The scientific proof for the uses of lavender oils varies from limited to none.
Limited research shows that aromatherapy with lavender essential oils has a sedating effect and aids in:
- Stress relief. This includes relief of general stress and stress associated with specific medical treatments like dental work.
- Reducing anxiety.
- Treating the symptoms of depression. In cases of clinical depression, lavender oil can enhance the effectiveness of pharmaceutical antidepressants.
- Promoting deep sleep and counteracting mild insomnia.
Furthermore, there is evidence that menstrual cramps in women can be relieved through massage therapy with lavender essential oils.
Testimonial reports, as opposed to scientific research, show that lavender essential oils are also effective for treating:
- Headaches and migraines. On the other hand, inhaling lavender essential oils for too long or at too high a concentration can induce headaches.
- General pain and surgical pain.
- Agitation associated with dementia patients.
- Bug bites (anti-inflammatory properties). In conjunction with soothing bug bites, lavender oils can act as insect repellents to prevent bug bites.
- Dermal irritations such as eczema and psoriasis. However, lavender essential oils are also possible causes or aggravators of dermal irritations and allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.
- Acne (anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties).
- Wounds. There are reports that lavender essential oils aid in closing wounds.
The treatment of medical conditions with lavender essential oils should follow the dosage and frequency as recommended by a healthcare professional.
The pleasant scent and antioxidant properties of lavender essential oils make them popular in skincare products.
Read our full review on Best Lavender Essential Oils.
Dangers Of Ingesting Lavender Essential Oil
Most lavender essential oil bottles and online articles warn against the ingestion of lavender essential oils. Some bottles tell you not to ingest the oil, and others specify external use only. Both these warnings indicate that you should not drink the lavender essential oils.
The FDA has classified lavender essential oil as GRAS or generally regarded as safe. However, this classification refers to a specific concentration of lavender oil, which you cannot achieve through a normal home dilution process. Additionally, the FDA does not regulate essential oils, so some may be more toxic to drink than others.
Before using lavender essential oils on your skin, you need to dilute them with a carrier oil to the recommended concentration to prevent an adverse dermal reaction. Your skin is tougher than your mucous membranes, so drinking undiluted lavender essential oil has the potential to burn the sensitive mucous membranes of your mouth and digestive tract. Additionally, your skin is a more effective barrier than your mucous membranes, so drinking lavender essential oil can result in the absorption of toxic concentrations of lavender oil into your bloodstream.
When ingested, lavender essential oils can cause constipation, headaches, nausea, and vomiting. Children are particularly at risk for these toxic effects of drinking lavender essential oils.
Limited research is available for the effects of ingesting lavender essential oils in pregnant or breastfeeding women. But there is some evidence that essential oils made from the lavender species Lavandula stoechas can cause miscarriage in pregnant women.
Safer Forms Of Lavender To Ingest
If you particularly like the taste of lavender, you should investigate culinary lavender extract or lavender teas, which are safe to ingest.
Lavender extract is much less concentrated than lavender essential oil and is safe to use in food and beverages. To make lavender tea, you brew the flowers in boiling water.
There is no scientific proof of the effects of lavender extract and lavender teas, but people report that ingestion of these forms of lavender calms nerves and reduces depression.
Recommended Ways To Use Lavender Essential Oil
There are safe and effective ways to use lavender essential oils, so you really shouldn’t ingest them.
Simple inhalation: Open the bottle and take one or two deep breaths. Alternatively, put a few drops onto your clothing or a handkerchief, which you can carry with you. This is helpful if you are going into a stressful environment such as a doctor’s room or an exam.
Steaming: Add a few drops of lavender essential oil to a bowl of hot water, a humidifier tank, or a hot bath and inhale the steam.
Diffusers and vaporizers: These disperse the essential oils into the air either directly or in water droplets.
Direct application to skin: Add some lavender essential oil to your favorite moisturizer, or massage the oil directly into your skin. In addition to diluting the lavender essential oil with a carrier oil, you should always do a patch test. Rub some of the oil onto a small section of skin and wait to see if you develop an allergic response.
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Consult A Professional
While lavender essential oils are pure and natural, they have medicinal properties, so you need to use them wisely. It is advisable to consult with a member of the healthcare profession before using lavender essential oils.
This is important for pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding because the effects of lavender essential oil on fetuses and babies are undocumented.
Furthermore, if you are taking pharmaceutical medications, you need to speak to your doctor about possible interactions between the medicine and the lavender oil. Lavender oil can interact with medicines used to treat hypertension, high cholesterol, anxiety, depression, and cardiovascular conditions.
Lavender essential oils have many uses. They are beneficial in the treatment of stress, anxiety, and insomnia. These oils can also help to alleviate menstrual pain when massaged into the affected area of the back or abdomen. However, the concentration of a substance and the route of exposure affect its toxicity.
Lavender essential oil is highly concentrated and needs to be diluted with a carrier oil when used in massage or aromatherapy. However, diluting the essential oil before ingestion does not guarantee that it will not cause adverse health reactions. The level of absorption into the body, and the organs to which the lavender oil has access, differ when ingested. Ingestion of lavender essential oils can cause nausea, vomiting, constipation, and headaches.
If you enjoy the taste of lavender, then there are safer forms for eating and drinking: culinary lavender extract and lavender teas. However, if your only focus is the health benefits, you will get the best results through massage and aromatherapy.
Whenever you are uncertain about eating or drinking something, even if it is a natural product, read the packaging for instructions for use or speak to a professional.