May 2018

Are essential oils safe?

Most essential oils are safe when inhaled as aromatherapy. Many are safe when diluted and used topically, although there are some exceptions. Bergamot oil, for example, can make the skin sensitive to sun exposure when applied topically. And there is some evidence that applying lavender oil to boys might cause abnormal breast growth. Patients should avoid applying any essential oil over broken skin, as the body might absorb too much too quickly, leading to possible side effects.

Whether or not an essential oil is safe to take orally really depends on that specific essential oil and the dilution of that oil. In general, it’s best to be cautious or avoid taking any by mouth. Safety is often unclear, and some could be toxic. Some essential oils that are commonly used as aromatherapy but can be toxic when taken orally include tea tree oil, clove oil, and eucalyptus oil.

The bottom line is that most essential oils are considered to be safe when used as aromatherapy, short-term. Many essential oils are considered to be safe when diluted and applied to unbroken skin. A few essential oils might be safe to use orally, but many are not. Therefore, taking essential oils by mouth in medicinal amounts is generally discouraged. 

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