Ingestion of essential oils
I'm updating to clarify that ingestion of essential oils should generally be avoided. Under the supervision of a licensed professional such as an aromatherapist. If the professional cannot tell you exactly how ingesting the oil will help I would still avoid doing so.
Essential oils are extremely concentrated substances that can and have caused problems like liver damage from casual ingestion.
To understand the potential effects ingesting anything can have including Essential Oils (EO’s) we must get a basic biology lesson.
Prior to reaching the small intestine, the oil(s) will have passed over the mucus membranes in the mouth as well. Remember, mucus membranes absorb substances faster.
Additionally, it will have a chance to interact with stomach acid and bile afterward.
This video goes over the mechanics of how the small intestines absorb substances.
So now that the EO has gone through the chemical interaction in your stomach it has hit the maximum absorption zone and it is going straight into the bloodstream.
Sometimes this is a good thing such as enteric coated peppermint oil capsules for treating Irritable Bowel Syndrome. But if you take the oil without the coating then you will end up a very unhappy person because of the chemistry in your stomach.
And remember, an EO is an extremely concentrated version of the plant.
If you want a more detailed understanding of how complex the plant chemistry is you can check out this book. Otherwise, keep reading.
Once the EO has been absorbed in the small intestine the body will then start to distribute things to the usual processing area, the liver. Also fats, such as EO’s get special treatment from the digestive process. As a Perdue university page says:
“Because fats are not water soluble and the media in which enzymes are dissolved is aqueous, several features of fat hydrolysis and absorption are unique.
Bile acids are used to ’emulsify’ fats to make them water miscible in order for digestive enzymes such as lipase to act.
Bile acids also function to transport hydrolyzed lipids to the enterocyte membrane for absorption.
Because fats are soluble in the lipid bilayer of the enterocyte membrane, absorption is by simple diffusion.
Once in the enterocyte, lipids must be made water miscible for transport in blood. This is accomplished in a series of steps that includes; 1) remaking TG by re-esterifying the fatty acids to the monoglyceride, 2) packaging the TG along with cholesterol and other lipids and protein into a water miscible complex called a lipoprotein. Lipoproteins come in different flavors (classes). The one that is formed in the enterocyte is called a chylomicron.
Chylomicrons are quite large particles. This presents new problems for the cell. First, to get it out of the cell, exocytosis is used. Second, the chylomicron is too large to enter the blood capillaries of the villus. Instead, chylomicrons enter the lymph vessels (lacteal) to be transported along with other cell fluids to the blood stream as we have seen previously.”
When the body sends the compounds in an EO to the liver it will then be sent throughout your body. This can have some far-reaching effects on your health.
And as can be seen in one of the studies linked below, you can see that if not properly measured, the dosage can cause intestinal cell death, the dose does not need to be very high either. Making sure you have an appropriate dose without the proper training can be extremely difficult to the point of being a guessing game.
So why can something that is natural have such bad effects? Because the concentration is not natural. It takes several pounds of the plant part to make an ounce of oil.
I’ve covered the biology aspect along with case reports and such linked below. If you would like to read an article covering this subject more from a chemistry standpoint check out this one:
I hope you have found this educational and hopefully deterred you from following bad advice taught by large companies hoping to increase sales.
Nutrient Absorption - Perdue university
Lippincotts illustrated reviews: Biochemistry
Essential oils—their antimicrobial activity against Escherichia coli and effect on intestinal cell viability
Near fatal ingestion of oil of cloves
Ingestion of tea tree oil (Melaleucaoil) by a 4‐year‐old boy
Poison on Line — Acute Renal Failure Caused by Oil of Wormwood Purchased through the Internet
Melaleuca oil poisoning: A case report