HJ: Essential are not just used for aromatherapy — some of them can also be safely ingested, wherein their powerful healing abilities are magnified substantially. Now, that being said, not all essential oils can be ingested, just as not all plants/herbs can be taken internally. For the many that can, however, taking some basic precautions and exercising restraint will ensure a positive, powerful healing experience.
Essential oils are incredibly concentrated — it can take literally 100’s of pounds of plant material to make 1 oz of essential oil, depending on the plant. In this way, essential oils are orders of magnitude more powerful than normal extractions. And so, one must use a correspondingly smaller amount of the oil. It is important to heed the guidance of experienced essential oil masters such as Monika Haas, who graciously offers her wisdom and guidance for those wishing to experience the internal effects of these potent healing substances.
Ingesting Essential Oils
by Monika Haas | Pacific Institue of Aromatherapy
The discussion about the perils of ingesting essential oils dates back to the beginning of Modern Aromatherapy in the early 1970s. How do we know what is right for us? Before we can decide, we need to take a look at the various schools of thought in aromatherapy: the British, the French and the Californian/American.
British aromatherapy started in 1979 with Robert Tisserand’s book ‘The Art of Aromatherapy’. Tisserand, a massage therapist at that time, recommended to apply essential oils topically and diluted in a base only. Ingesting oils or application of neat oils was considered perilous.
The French model, developed by Jean Valnet, Paul Belaiche, Daniel Penoel, Pierre Franchomme and others, advocates various forms of application depending on the condition being treated. This includes inhalation, topical use, diluted or undiluted, ingestion and suppositories.
Californian Aromatherapy was born in the early 80s, largely influenced by German chemist Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt, and is the implementation of French medical aromatherapy and scientific research into almost 30 years of practical use. Thanks to a large and very active aromatherapy community, California has been able to gather an impressive work of empirical data.
While aromatherapy is relatively new to Great Britain with almost no essential oils produced locally, France can be considered the cradle of Aromatherapy in the sense that the discipline as we know it today comes from Southern France, namely Provence. There, health issues have always been treated with the herbs people were walking on, Lavender, Thyme, Rosemary, etc. Ingesting them has long been part of the many possible ways of using plants.
Quality is the most important aspect in this discussion. In true aromatherapy, the essential oil must be 100% genuine and authentic!
The term ”Genuine and Authentic’ was created by Henry Viaud, the first distiller of essential oils exclusively for therapeutic purposes. Until the early 80s, essential oils were produced for the fragrance industry of Grasse. They were rectified with natural or synthetic molecules to ensure the consistency in fragrance and the profitable nature of the product. Until today, most essential oils on the market fall into this category.
Furthermore, most research that led to warnings about ingesting essential oils was performed with such chemicals well meriting the label ‘toxic.’ The danger of applying such an adulterated oil topically, even in dilution, can be as hazardous as ingesting it. Due to their small molecular structure, essential oils penetrate the skin and get into the bloodstream within seconds. The potential damage can be the same as with ingestion.
In many cases applying essential oils topically or through inhalation is the appropriate measure. When treating a respiratory infection for example, we want to inhale the oil or apply it to the thorax to get it to the focus of the disease without detour. However if we want to address an intestinal bacterial infection or want to stimulate liver regeneration, we look back at 30 years of experience in ingesting oils. 1 – 3 drops of Lemon oil in a glass of water helps to cleanse the liver from toxic waste products. Greenland Moss, Everlasting and Carrot seed have been used internally successfully for astounding renewal of the liver cells, especially observed in cancer treatment patients when allopathic methods such as chemo- or radiation therapy take their toll on the liver and thus the entire organism.
Very important though is that one always needs to be 100 % comfortable with the oil and the form of application. If an individual feels queasy about ingesting essential oils, they should never be talked into it. Suppositories, topical use, or inhalation will do the individual a much better service if they feel safe with these methods.
The beauty of aromatherapy is that there can be many solutions for one problem. We don’t treat a condition in aromatherapy, we treat a person. Everybody is different, so even if two individuals have the same virus infection, they might require completely different oils, applied in a different manner. Also we have a respiratory infection for example, and we know that Ravintsara has always helped in in the past, but unfortunately our bottle is empty, and all we have is Niaouli and Myrtle. Even though these oils have a different chemical composition, they can address the problem with the same success as Ravintsara.
Aromatherapy is a healing tool with endless possibilities, so whether oils should be ingested or not is merely a question of quality and the comfort level of the individual.
Of course a solid knowledge is required when we decide to take essential oils internally. Many oils should never be taken orally. Essential oils for example, which contain Ketone molecules (Hyssop officinalis, Mugwort, Sage and Thuja, just to mention a few) are neuro- and hepatotoxic when ingested. Other oils, like Savory, Cinnamon or Clove can be much too strong for certain individuals. Even ingesting more gentle oils can lead to strong detoxification symptoms, such as fever and nausea, in sensitive individuals. It is advisable to start with one drop of oil per day if one is new to this form of application. In most cases the dosage can be increased to 3 drops per day, but we need to insure the oil is well tolerated.
Like any other healing modality, aromatherapy has to be used with respect. Once we have acquired a sound knowledge we will find ourselves in a powerful and fun world of healing with plants.
Monika Haas is a native of Bavaria. After moving to the San Francisco Bay area in 1988, she became involved with Original Swiss Aromatics of which she is now co-owner and director. OSA was among the first companies to import genuine and authentic essential oils into the United States.
Monika Haas also is managing director of Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy
, one of the oldest educational enterprise in aromatherapy in the US. PIA is an internationally acclaimed institution which has been the leading force in integrating scientific and wholistic aspects to essential oil therapy. In her capacity with PIA Monika Haas has organized seven international aromatherapy conferences during the past decade. She teaches aromatherapy in the US and in Europe and leads annual tours for essential oil enthusiasts exploring the aromatic sites of Europe. In 2004 she published the book Quick Reference Guide for 114 Important Essential Oils
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