I was told that it is possible and safe to add essential oil drops to a glass of water to drink. Is it true?

Is safe to add essential oil to water?

By Marco Valussi

Essential oils, as we have seen before, are that distillation product that is not soluble in water (the aromatic soluble molecules in the water are in aromatic water).

It is therefore quite obvious that anyone who puts a few (or many) drops of essential oil into a glass of water will find himself with a glass of water with small drops of essential oil floating on the surface of it, not dissolved or dispersed in the fluid. So drinking your glass, your oral mucous membranes, your lips, your esophagus, even your stomach, will come into contact with pure oil. Now this is not necessarily a dramatic or worrying event (even if doing so with a phenolic oil such as thyme can cause severe pain and burning in the mucous membranes), but it certainly is not an intelligent dilution method.

Certainly there are methods to temporarily minimize this problem, such as putting the essential oil in a sprayer bottle filled with water, and shake hard before using it. But I don't understand why to go to so much effort to improve on a bad system when other more secure and effective methods are available.

Finally, if you want to drink a glass of fresh water flavored with lemon or mint, make a lemonade or put a slice of lemon or a few mint leaves in your water. If instead the intention is to use oils for therapeutic purposes, consult a professional and use the recommended dilution methods.


Is it true that you should not use essential oils that are not authorized for internal use?

Essential oils for internal use: Are they safe?

By Marco Valussi

No. But wait... this question really hides two of them. The first question is whether the risks involved in taking an essential oil by mouth are the same as when applying it on the skin. The second question is whether labeling an essential oil as food grade means that it is safer, of greater quality or more effective than an oil labeled as a cosmetic or as an aroma for environments.

  • Let's answer the first question.

The oral (mouth) intake exposes us to very different risks than those involved in a topical (skin or mucosa) use. Absorption is much greater for mouth (up to 100%) than transcutaneous absorption (on average 4-5%), and the concentration and quantities that can be used for mouth are much higher. For this reason, the amount of essential oil that can enter the blood stream is greater and, therefore, both the possible therapeutic effects and the adverse effects could be more important. While gastrointestinal mucous membranes are made to help absorb nutrients, the skin has a much stronger protective and insulation function from the outside, and therefore protects us better from the absorption of potentially dangerous molecules.

So it is true that we can use on the skin oils that we would not us (or would use with more caution) by mouth, for example Tea Tree oil, Eucalyptus oil, Citronella oil, etc.

  • As for the second question, the answer is no again

Let's take for granted that we're talking about real essential oils, not adulterated with synthetic substances, solvents, etc. If we are talking about real essential oils, then we know by definition that they may have been produced only by means of water steam distillation or cold pressing, two methods of obtaining that are intrinsically food-grade in the sense that they do not use solvents, only use mechanical and physical means to obtain the essential oil, and should only enter into contact with stainless steel and glass. The fact that an essential oil is or is not authorized for oral use, such as a food flavour, depends on the nature of the essential oil itself, not on the method used to obtain it, which is still the same. The calamus essential oil (Acorus calamus) is not allowed in oral intake, or suffers from severe limitations, for the risk of ingesting carcinogenic substances.  The same goes for Wintergreen oil (Gaultheria procumbens): whether it is labeled as food flavour or a cosmetic, a spoon is enough to kill an adult. And this also leads us to considering the fact that the purity and quality of an essential oil are not relevant to toxicity issues. For example, when someone on the web states that non food-grade essential oils may contain adulterates, solvents, and so on, declares the false, since it is not the food label that ensures that essential oil does not contain them, but the same definition of essential oil.  

The choice, at least in Europe, to go on the market with a label such as "food flavour", or  "food supplement", "cosmetics" or "home-made products" depends merely on marketing and commercial choices, and also on resolutions on litigation. The fact that a company's lavender essential oil has a label that says "not for internal use" has nothing to do with the quality of the essential oil itself, which will be measured in other ways. Rather, it is likely that the firm would rather sport a more restrictive label to have no responsibility if a customer decides to ingest the contents of the flask in one go. Or because in some cases the label protects the consumer more, discouraging it from internal use. The most important thing to remember when looking at a label is the choice of terms used, which is revealing. A label that uses terms such as "essence" or "perfume" is suspect.


Is it safe to put the pure essential oils directly in the bath water?

Is it safe to put the pure essential oils directly in the bath water?

By Marco Valussi

No. Essential oils are lipophilic substances, which means they dissolve well, enter into solution, in fatty solvents, such as oils or butters, or in apolar or slightly polar solvents, such as ethanol. Which means that if we put a drop of essential oil in the bathtub water, this drop will not dissolve in water but will remain on the surface like a small floating oil stain. Then when you put the essential oil into the tub, it is very likely that your skin will come into contact with undiluted essential oil, with possible adverse effects such as burning, inflammation, and increasing the risk of allergic sensitization. Let's recall the general rule that says no essential oil should be used pure on the skin or mucous membranes, but always diluted to the appropriate extent.

This is because the dilution reduces the likelihood of allergic phenomena, reduces the risk of irritating phenomena, and because it has been proven that it is never necessary to use pure oil to observe the desired effects. For more on proper dilution, read here

To use essential oils safely in bathtub water, or in peduncles, it is necessary to dilute the essential oils in an appropriate carrier, which allows solubilizing or emulsifying the essential oils and which then may be dispersed in Effective way in the water. There are many options, but the simplest and most direct is to mix the essential oil into a sufficient quantity of liquid detergent, which will then be dispersed in the water. 


Is it true that if an essential oil is 100% pure it is also of the highest quality? And that it cannot hurt you?

Pure essential olis have the highest quality?

By Marco Valussi

No. We can give a fairly straightforward definition of what we mean by pure essential oils: an essential oil is pure when it is identical to the material obtained by the production apparatus (steam distillation or squeezing machine for citrus peels), apart from simple mechanical filtering operations. That being said, a pure product may be of low quality, because there is no link between the two concepts. I can distill pure 100% lavender, but the quality of the oil will come from other factors:

  • the origin of the plant
  • when and how it has been harvested
  • how it has been distilled
  • for how long
  • in water or in steam

In addition to the fact that the concept of quality is always dependent on the context of use, so it is variable and not fixed.

So, if the term "pure" is not accompanied by stronger guarantees, and if it is not associated with quality research, it is reduced to a mere marketing tool.

In addition, the link to safety  is even more labile. "Pure" just means that it contains all the molecules it should contain, and if there are dangerous or toxic molecules in the chemical make-up, such as tujone or β-asarone, a pure oil will be toxic, while an oil fractionated to remoce the toxic elements will be safer, although less "pure.

Dilution is important: essential oils must always be diluted, as a generic precautionary measure, and dilution can make oil safer.

Is it true that essential oils are the most oxygenated substances in the world and provide oxygen to tissues?

Essential oils are the most oxygenated substances?

By Marco Valussi

No.  This strange question probably derives from a superficial reading  of essential oils chemistry texts, where perhaps it was found that essential oils contain molecules composed only of carbon and hydrogen atoms (terpenic hydrocarbons), as well as molecules containing oxygen atoms (the terpenoids derived from hydrocarbons, i.e. alcohols, ethers, aldehydes, etc.).

This is certainly true, but the amount of oxygen (O) contained in an essential oil is always lower  to the hydrogen  (H) and carbon (C) content, and in some oils it is very low (eg conifers or citrus oils). Let's say that the ratio between O, C and H in mono- and sesquiterpenes could be 1-2: 10-17: 18-26. In addition an oil contains molecular O (i.e. bound to other atoms in the whole of a molecule) which is not assimilable to free oxygen in the form of oxygen molecules or oxygen radicals, that are the forms able to interact freely.

To liberate molecular oxygen, an organism needs to metabolize molecules. And even in this case it is doubtful that metabolism leads to free oxygen, at least immediately. Usually this is the passage of oxygen from one molecule to another, through a series of steps. That is why oxygen of essential oils can not in any way "oxygenate" the tissues. For a more in-depth discussion of the subject, here is an article by Robert Tisserand