The Dangers of Drinking Essential Oils
Most essential oils are made for their scent, so why would anyone want to ingest them?
This summer, a popular YouTuber who calls herself Fully Raw Kristina released a fruit-infused water recipe that included some odd ingredients: What she described as “pure, therapeutic-grade essential oils.” Into the pitcher went two drops each of eucalyptus, rosemary, lime, and cardamom essential oils, which, Kristina explained, she was doing “not only for the taste but also the nutritional benefits.” Kristina is a raw vegan influencer, with over 1 million subscribers on YouTube, and her interest in essential oils is just one indicator of their surge in popularity.
According to a report by Fortune Business Insights, the global essential oil market was worth $7.03 billion in 2018 and is anticipated to surge to $14.6 billion by 2026. Essential oils are highly concentrated compounds derived from plants, and today they’re typically used for their potent scent, in products like cosmetics, perfumes, and air fresheners.
Some studies have suggested that aromatherapy—inhaling essential oils and absorbing them through your skin—can lead to relaxation and relieves stress. It is therefore understandable why people have been led to believe that ingestion could provide even more benefits — especially when such advice is so commonly spread by “experts” who have not received formal medical training.
What’s more, some manufacturers have exaggerated the medicinal benefits of essential oils; for instance, in 2014, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning letter to doTERRA, a multilevel marketing company selling essential oils. In the letter, the FDA flagged sellers who marketed the oils as a potential cure for conditions like cancer, autism, even Ebola. Even so, simply smelling essential oils is unlikely to cause harm. Drinking them—that’s another story.
In 2016, U.S. poison control centers received more than 20,000 calls involving essential oils and more than 13,000 of those calls involved children younger than six.