Part 6: The Appropriate Dose

(Internal Use) - Substantiating Use

Internal use is perhaps the most potent method for using essential oils; however, our bodies are also well-equipped and actually accustomed to metabolizing them. Did you know that essential oils are already a well-integrated part of your diet? Mentioned previously, many plants that we consume on a regular basis produce small amounts of essential oil. When you sprinkle cinnamon on your oatmeal, sip a mug of peppermint tea, or add fresh basil leaves to your spaghetti, you are actually consuming some volatile aromatic essential oil compounds. To food, essential oil contributes many health benefits as well as flavoring and aroma properties. When in their concentrated form, essential oils can be used as dietary supplements for more targeted and potent health benefits.

Internal use is a very safe and effective method of application because of the sophisticated physiologic processes of our bodies. When ingested, essential oils directly enter the blood stream via the gastrointestinal tract, where they are transported throughout the rest of the body. Discussed previously, essential oils are lipid soluble so they are readily transported to all organs of the body, including the brain. Then, like all things we consume, essential oils are metabolized by the liver and other organs and are then excreted.

The composition of essential oils is highly complex. Each constituent possesses a unique set of biochemical properties that react with cells and organs in different ways. Although these mechanisms of action are not completely understood, the positive end results have been demonstrated. However, the body is only equipped to handle appropriate doses of essential oils. Proper dosing according to labeling recommendations and other professional guidelines should be strictly followed to avoid toxicity.

Effective Methods of Internal Application:

  • Use oils in recipes for cooking or baking to replace fresh or dried herbs and spices. Remember that essential oils are much more potent than dried or fresh herbs and spices, so start with a very small amount. For more potent oils, it may be better to administer them by toothpicks (dip the end of a clean toothpick into the oil and then add to the food) rather than drops.
  • Add essential oils to water, smoothies, milk, tea, or other drinks.
  • Take essential oils internally in a veggie capsule or add to a small amount of applesauce or yogurt

Although the safety of internal use has been questioned by some aromatherapy practices, clinical research has confirmed that it is actually a very safe application method that also offers potent benefits. As the body of available research continues to expand, traditional internal usage protocols are validated and new uses are being discovered. Below are summaries of just a few studies that have examined the efficacy of different essential oils used internally.

Example 1:

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oil has long been used for its calming and soothing properties; however, scientific evidence has been limited to studies using topical or aromatic application methods. A recent double-blind, placebo-controlled trial investigated the ability of lavender essential oil to reduce anxious feelings when taken internally.* The study used a suspenseful film clip to create anxious feelings in the study participants and then gave the participants either 100 microliters (a little less than two drops) or 200 microliters (just over 3 drops) of lavender essential oil or a placebo in a capsule. The lavender essential oil relieved mild anxious feelings,* thus confirming its traditional use as a calming agent. (Bradley BF, Et Al. 2009.)

Example 2:

Infantile stress is characterized by episodes of prolonged crying in healthy babies for an undetermined reason. One double-blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled trial examined the effect of fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) essential oil on infantile stress. The oil was administered to the infants orally as part of a water emulsion. Each infant consumed about 50 mg, or a little less than one drop, per day. The treatment group eliminated infantile stress in 65 percent of study participants, which was significantly better than the placebo group (24 percent). This study suggests that internal use of fennel essential oil may be beneficial for alleviating stress in infants*. (Alexandrovich I, Et Al. 2003.)


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