The popularity of essential oils has skyrocketed in recent years with the success of companies like doTERRA and Young Living. Essential oils are plant byproducts that are produced through a variety of extraction methods including steam distillation, CO2 and other solvents. While the potency of extraction varies with the method used, the idea is that the fat and water soluble portions of the plant separate. The fat soluble component is called an essential oil and the water soluble component is called a hydrosol. Both components have a great deal of medicinal value however hydrosols are much safer. The safety is due to water solublility, meaning it is much easier for your body to expel them if it doesn’t like something. The problem with hydrosols is that they have much shorter shelf lives than essential oils.
The compounds in essential oils and hydrosols are highly concentrated. To give you an idea of how much plant material is required to make an essential oil:
Essential oils hold a great deal of promise in the treatment of many infectious diseases for which antibiotics are becoming ineffective. Furthermore, antibiotics can be very dangerous and should be reserved to last resort treatments rather than first line. Our practitioners studied essential oils extensively with Jeffrey Yuen and Kurt Schnaubelt, some of the top experts in the world on essential oils. These experts emphasized the potential danger of internal ingestion and a great deal of time was spent on the biochemistry of toxic components of these oils. Consequently, there are very few oils that we recommend for internal use (ingestion). Even diffusion of essential oils can be toxic depending on the method of diffusion. For topical application oils are most often diluted with carrier oils like olive, safflower, hazelnut, almond or rose-hip seed oil.
A recent press release from the Tennessee Poison Center at Vanderbilt University warns of a rise in children accidentally ingesting essential oils. Between the years or 2011 and 2015, the number of essential oil exposures doubled and 80% of those cases involved children. They warn specifically of the toxicity of camphor, clove, lavender, eucalyptus, thyme, tea tree and wintergreen oils with symptoms including mouth and throat irritation, nausea and vomiting when taken by mouth. Other symptoms involve the nervous system so be aware of agitation, hallucination, delirium and seizures. Other symptoms have included chemical burns, hypotension (loss of blood pressure which can be fatal), acute respiratory distress, acute liver failure, metabolic acidosis and cerebral edema.
While most of these companies and salespeople will tell you that essential oils are very safe, please be aware that many of these people (1) do not have much medical training, (2) do not understand the biochemistry or pathophysiology involved with essential oil exposure and (3) have not had extensive professional training in the safe use of oils. Many of these people work on commission and their job is to sell oils. They are well-meaning and believe in their products, but they do not understand the potential problems with it. We highly recommend extreme caution when experimenting with essential oils for medicinal purposes. Be sure to greatly dilute the oils and research the plusses and minuses before use.