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 By Quest Blogger Dr. Joan Barice

I was asked to write this by someone just getting started with essential oils who wanted to know about using them by mouth. Lots of people do use them this way. It can be confusing especially if you start reading books or articles that say never take oils by mouth. Others recommend they be used by mouth aggressively if that is most appropriate for a particular situation, assuming one is trained and knowledgeable about how to use them safely and effectively. Who is right?

Well, both of them may be right sometimes. There are valid uses for ingestion of oils. Many physicians who are trained in clinical aromatherapy in France and other countries regularly prescribe oils to be ingested for sometimes serious medical problems, when they know they are the safest and best option for that particular patient. They use aromatograms to test bacterial sensitivity to oils. There’s a lot of clinical experience using ingested oils. And there’s controversy for a number of reasons. Most important is to know the oils and how to use them and to use only quality oils that are safe, effective and do no harm.

Not all oils are the same high quality that is needed for therapeutic use. Oils on the market that are not intended for that don’t necessarily have to be purest or the highest grade. They may warn you on the label they are not for internal use. Even if the label says pure, natural, organic, it may not be. It may be adulterated with toxic chemicals like antifreeze, or other synthetic chemicals to make more profit. The clerk in the health food store most likely believes and will tell you it’s OK but how does he/she really know? There is no control over the quality of oils you can get OTC in the US. Far more oils are brokered, imported and sold than are grown.

For example, the US imports far more tons of lavender every year from France than is grown there. There’s a study that tested oils on the shelves in US stores around the country, and found that a significant percentage of them are not what they are represented to be. If you don’t know whether the oil you are using is safe for internal or even external use, even if it’s got the same name as the oil you want to use, and even if it is labeled as pure or organic or whatever, do not use it. I know and trust Young Living oils. They are the only kind I have ingested. I can’t speak for the rest.

I can’t tell you to use or not to use oils by mouth. Nor can I give you medical advice here. It is your choice but you need to be informed. It may cause some anxiety if you have never ingested essential oils, and it is important if you decide to use them by mouth that you proceed cautiously and safely, starting with only 1 drop, only with pure oils that are recognized as safe to ingest. Always read the labels and read about the oil first, and follow the directions. Actually we all consume some oils every day if we eat mints, chew gum, or eat food that is flavored for instance with natural flavorings like lemon zest, spices, and herbs.

It would be sad if we could not take them orally when that is the best route for the problem. Ingesting oils is a perfectly valid way to use a number of oils sometimes. Many Young Living oils are designated by the FDA as GRAS, generally recognized as safe for ingestion. The label states “Essential Oil Supplement.” I have used them by mouth when I needed quick relief from an asthma attack, or to stop a sore throat, cold or flu in its tracks before it takes hold. It’s best to start immediately when you‘ve got the first symptom. One advantage is that unlike antibiotics, using the antimicrobial oils don’t have the side effects, bacteria have not become resistant to them (a big problem with antibiotics), and they have not harmed the good bacteria in our gut that are an important part of our immune system.

Dr Kurt Schnaubelt in his book, Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils, has a chapter on ingesting oils. Page 135 is about starting by ingesting lemon oil. He says while it’s an entirely harmless exercise for many aromatherapy users, first- time users should start with just 1 drop and see how they feel. He reminds us that essential oils are powerful concentrated messengers from the plant world. He says ingesting lemon oil begins the detox of many xenobiotics (toxic chemicals).

Lemon is a good oil to start with. It has many potential functions. It is antiviral, antibacterial, limonene in it has been shown to regress breast cancer in lab animals, it is calming, antidepressant, can help get rid of gas, is antispasmotic, helps clear phlegm, and is alkalinizing to name a few. Essential oils are by nature multi-potential, can do many different things, and if needed, likely will. I ingest lemon, copaiba and frankincense oils every day in water or in capsules or in Ningxia Red. Lemon oil in water is often used in France for slimming and for detoxification (“spring cleaning”). Young Living makes many products that contain essential oils, including nutritional supplements, Longevity capsules, Sleep Essence and Inner Defense.

Whether you use them orally depends on what you need. If I waited an hour or two before I started using oils by mouth for a potent virus infection I might be too late. You want to stop a virus before it takes hold in the cells and starts multiplying. If that has already happened then using lots of antiviral topical oils might help slow it down, according to Dr Daniel Penoel.

If I want the oils to go to my intestine, swallowing it in a capsule would be best. As a matter of fact, peppermint oil in enteric coated capsules has been studied, approved, and is prescribed by doctors to treat irritable bowel symptoms even in young children effectively and safely without side effects. Oral frankincense has been studied and found as effective as drugs routinely used to treat colitis and Crohn’s disease. It may be used for this in some other countries.

Ingesting is not always the best. It depends. If you have a headache and take peppermint by mouth you are missing the most therapeutic effects from inhaling the aroma and applying it topically close to where the pain is. If you want to treat localized pain, rubbing the oils on the pain will get a larger concentration of pain relieving oils absorbed directly where it is needed. You will need a smaller amount.

If you take an oil by mouth, it’s going to quickly go to the liver where it will be metabolized and excreted. According to Dr Schnaubelt, “it is advantageous to ingest an essential oil only if the metabolic intermediates produced during elimination create a desired therapeutic effect and safety parameters are favorable.” I know that’s heavy duty, but if you don’t know, let someone help you who has the training and knowledge. And get the Essential Oils Desk Reference and read about each oil you use. You might even want to take some training too. It is fascinating to learn in depth about what the oils can do and how they work.

Sometimes using oils by applying them to the skin or by inhaling them is better than oral, and can be very effective. The oils are readily absorbed through the skin, in minutes they get into our bloodstream just by applying them to the skin. After they do what is needed, they go to the liver and are metabolized and excreted. If we breathe the aroma of oils through the nose, their effect goes directly to the brain and affects our emotions, our hormones, and our physical bodies. Breathing them into the lungs gets them directly into our bloodstream too.

It is wonderful that the plant oils work for us, and that we have the enzymes to metabolize them. I believe they were made for us. Scripture tells us God gave us plants for medicine, and that He instructed Moses how to blend specific essential oils to make the Holy anointing oil as well as the Holy incense that Aaron used to save Israelites from the plague. 


Dr. Joan, known as “the doctor who dropped from the sky” survived a plane crash in the remote arctic wilderness and has since dropped from the sky more than 250 times. A Stanford and Harvard trained medical doctor, board certified in internal, and preventative and addiction medicine, Dr. Joan has special expertise in complementary medicine, lifestyle medicine, nutrition, clinical aromatherapy and pain management.



Information shared here is not intended as medical advice, and cannot substitute for professional medical advice and information. Information provided is general in nature and may be helpful to some people but not others, depending on their personal medical needs. Always consult with your personal physician before changing or undertaking a new exercise program or following advice designed for general audiences only. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay getting care because of something you have read here.


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