Is lavender essential oils safe to ingest?

Lavender essential oil is derived from the lavender plant, typically through steam distillation. It has a pleasant floral aroma and is commonly used in aromatherapy, personal care products, cleaning products, and more. Some proponents claim that ingesting lavender essential oil provides health benefits. However, there are risks and safety concerns to consider before ingesting lavender oil.

Is it safe to ingest lavender oil?

The short answer is no, lavender oil is not considered safe for internal use. Lavender oil is very concentrated, containing complex phytochemicals that may be toxic if consumed. There is limited research on the safety and efficacy of ingesting lavender oil. Potential risks include:

  • Cytotoxicity: Lavender oil contains compounds like linalool and linalyl acetate which may be cytotoxic, meaning toxic to cells. Consuming lavender oil could potentially damage tissues in the digestive tract and beyond.
  • Hormone disruption: Studies suggest lavender oil may have estrogenic and anti-androgenic properties. Consuming lavender oil could potentially disrupt hormones in the body.
  • Central nervous system depression: Lavender oil contains compounds like linalool that may have sedative effects. Ingesting lavender oil could potentially cause excessive drowsiness, fatigue, and inability to concentrate.
  • Drug interactions: Lavender may interact with other medications, increasing potential side effects.
  • Aspiration risk: As an oil, lavender can pose an aspiration risk if accidentally inhaled into the lungs, potentially leading to chemical pneumonia.
  • Gastrointestinal distress: Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea have been reported in some cases of lavender oil ingestion.
  • Unknown long-term risks: There is insufficient research on the long-term safety of ingesting lavender oil.

Due to these potential dangers, lavender oil should not be ingested unless under medical supervision. The risks likely outweigh any potential benefits.

Does lavender oil have benefits if ingested?

There is limited evidence that ingesting lavender essential oil provides any meaningful health benefits. Some preliminary research suggests it may offer benefits like:

  • Antioxidant effects
  • Anti-inflammatory effects
  • Antimicrobial effects
  • Relaxation, anti-anxiety effects
  • Improved sleep quality
  • Neuroprotective effects
  • Analgesic (pain relief) effects

However, these potential benefits have not been confirmed in large, robust human studies. Almost all research has been limited to cell studies and animal models. Any benefits seen require high doses unlikely to be achieved by ingesting small amounts of lavender oil.

Some alternative medicine practitioners claim lavender oil can treat headaches, nausea, anxiety, insomnia, depression, and more when ingested. But there is no good evidence to support ingesting lavender oil as a health remedy.

How is lavender oil properly used?

Instead of ingesting lavender oil, it is safer and more beneficial to use it topically or aromatically. Suggested safe uses include:

  • Topical skin application: Dilute 2-4 drops of lavender oil in 1 tablespoon carrier oil and apply to skin. Helps soothe skin irritation, burns, cuts, eczema, and insect bites.
  • Aromatherapy: Add several drops of lavender oil to an aromatherapy diffuser. Inhale the vapors to promote relaxation.
  • Bath soak: Add 5-10 drops of lavender oil to warm bath water. Helps reduce stress and promote restful sleep.
  • Inhalation: Add 2 drops lavender oil to hot water and inhale the steam vapors to ease headaches, sinus congestion, coughs.
  • Massage: For sore muscles, combine lavender oil with a carrier oil for massage. Has a soothing, analgesic effect.
  • Cleaning: Add a few drops of lavender oil to surface cleaners or laundry for its fresh scent.

Always dilute lavender oil before applying it to skin to avoid irritation. Never ingest essential oils without medical guidance.

Are there any situations where ingesting lavender oil is appropriate?

The only appropriate circumstances for ingesting lavender oil are under medical supervision by a trained professional.

In some cases, complementary medicine practitioners like aromatherapists may recommend internal use of lavender oil for certain gastrointestinal or anxiety conditions. This should only be done short-term under professional guidance.

Microdosing lavender oil has also been investigated for relieving anxiety in clinical settings. Doses from 0.5 to 5 drops were well tolerated in a small study of dental patients. However, more research is still needed.

Talk to your doctor before considering ingesting lavender oil for any health reason. Never ingest lavender oil from an untrusted source or without proper dosage information. Only medical-grade, 100% pure lavender oil should ever be used internally.

What side effects could occur with ingesting lavender oil?

Potential side effects of ingesting lavender oil include:

  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain, cramping
  • Headaches
  • Drowsiness, fatigue
  • Appetite changes
  • Mood changes, anxiety, confusion
  • Skin irritation
  • Hormone disruption, menstrual changes in women
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Liver damage with long-term use

Lavender oil can also interact with certain medications like sedatives, anticoagulants, and antihypertensives. Using lavender while on these drugs can enhance their effects to dangerous levels.

Children and pregnant/nursing women should never ingest lavender oil due to hormone disruption concerns and the fragility of these populations.

Seek immediate medical care if you experience severe side effects like difficulty breathing, blood in vomit or urine, fainting, or a racing heart rate after using lavender oil.

What is a safe oral dose of lavender oil?

There is no established safe oral dose of lavender oil for non-medical purposes. Consumption is not recommended without medical oversight.

In clinical settings, lavender oil doses from 0.5 to 5 drops have been used for anxiety relief and other purposes. But these microdoses come with unknown long-term safety.

Some online sources claim 1-2 drops of lavender oil mixed with a carrier oil or taken in a capsule is safe for self-dosing. But there is no scientific basis for these claims of safety and efficacy. Without medical guidance, ingesting lavender oil remains inadvisable due to too many unknown risks.

Can you cook or bake with lavender oil?

It is not recommended to cook or bake with pure, undiluted lavender essential oil. Thermal processing like baking can alter the properties of lavender oil constituents. Heating may make the compounds more concentrated and potent, increasing toxicity risk when ingested.

Some recipes call for a drop of lavender oil for flavoring. But it’s impossible to control the ingested dose when consuming baked goods, so this is not advised for unsupervised, non-medical use.

If you want to cook with lavender, it’s safer to use dried culinary lavender flowers or lavender extract rather than essential oil. Edible lavender provides floral flavor without the same degree of toxicity risk.

Can children ingest lavender oil safely?

No, children should never ingest lavender oil. Giving lavender oil internally to babies or children could be very dangerous.

Because of their small size, children are at greater risk for lavender oil overdose. Ingesting lavender oil could also disrupt hormones and menstrual cycles in adolescent girls.

Topically, lavender oil must always be diluted before applying to a child’s skin. Undiluted lavender oil can cause skin irritation and chemical burns in children. Proper dilution is 1-2 drops lavender oil per 1 teaspoon carrier oil.

For children, it’s best to keep lavender oil away from the mouth and hands entirely. Use child-safe essential oil containment like locked boxes. Lavender oil ingestion can be fatal for children and pets. Seek emergency care if ingestion is suspected.

Can pregnant or nursing women safely ingest lavender oil?

No, pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid ingesting lavender oil. There is a lack of safety research on lavender oil for these vulnerable groups.

According to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA), pregnant women should not ingest any essential oils unless under the guidance of a qualified practitioner.

Potential hormone-disrupting effects pose a particular concern. Lavender oil may act as an endocrine disruptor with estrogenic and anti-androgenic activity. Consuming lavender oil could have unknown effects on pregnancy and fetal development.

Lavender compounds can enter breast milk after ingestion. The oils could accumulate to high concentrations in a newborn’s immature system. For nursing mothers, it’s best to avoid internal lavender oil use and limit topical applications.

Conclusion

In summary, lavender essential oil is not considered safe for ingestion without medical supervision. There are too many potential health risks and an absence of verified benefits. Lavender oil is highly concentrated and contains substances toxic to humans in the wrong doses. For non-medical purposes, it’s best to only use lavender oil topically or aromatically. While lavender oil shows promise for some health applications when ingested, more rigorous research is needed to establish its safety and efficacy. Patients should not attempt to self-treat with lavender oil internally except under the guidance of a doctor or other qualified medical professional. When used appropriately, lavender essential oil can be an effective and gentle remedy. However, confirming its suitability for internal therapeutic use requires further study in clinical settings.

Leave a Comment