Food Grade Essential Oils & Ingestion
If someone asks an essential oil company if their essential oils are “food grade” the intent of this question is probably are the essential oils you offer able to be ingested (safely)?
They are not really interested if you sell your essential oils to a flavour manufacturer who would create a flavour profile for food technologists to integrate into a manufactured food product. They are really interested in that grey area between food, essential oils derived from herbs and other plants and plant materials and medicine.
The ingestion of essential oils is an interesting question as there are certainly qualified experts in both the allopathic and naturopathic fields that would say some essential oils are safe to be ingested if used correctly. In fact, if ingested correctly and for an acute illness, some essential oils in the correct dose and integrated into the correct delivery medium can be very beneficial for some conditions in my opinion.
At the same time, it is prudent to mention that records kept by the Atlantic School of Aromatherapy in their Injury Reports show just how dangerous essential oils can be if used incorrectly. These reports are collated from people who write what adverse reaction has happened to them personally. They can also mention exact details including brand names and what it primarily boils down to is the incorrect use of pure and natural essential oils no matter what brand be it a famous brand or otherwise.
The Tisserand Institute also have an Adverse Reaction Reports Database. I would highly recommend also doing the Tisserand Institutes Essential Oil Safety Masterclass.
Now what would be some of the considerations for safe ingestion?
There are so many questions that need to be answered by someone with professional qualifications, experience and knowledge before providing their patient with an essential oil protocol. Especially if essential oil ingestion is part of that protocol.
In Australia, we have the Standard for The Uniform Scheduling of Medicines & Poisons (SUSMP) which is under the Therapeutic Goods Administration. Is the essential oil you are looking at taking internally mentioned within the body of literature produced by the National Health and Medical Research Council for the Therapeutic Goods Association & SUSMP? If so, the dose would need to be considered carefully! Whilst indeed the dose is important with any “medicine” consideration must also be taken for sequential doses and possible build-up before the detoxification pathways within a person’s body can metabolise the essential oils. As Paracelsus also mentioned wisely quite some time ago the correct dose differentiates a poison from a remedy. Is there consideration for age, weight and medical history of the person ingesting essential oils? Is the Lethal Dose 50 considered? The Lethal Dose 50 helps Toxicologists understand the acute toxicity of a substance given in one dose.
Are there any contraindications in using this essential oil in any way but particularly through this method of absorption? Are there any medical conditions or drug interactions that need to be considered? Epilepsy, Hypertension, Hypotension, Pregnancy, Allergies, …. the list goes on.
Will the form that the essential oil be administered be emulsified or at least in a food type carrier oil and as previously mentioned in the correct dose? We all know that essential oils and water do not mix. We should also understand just how concentrated and powerful essential oils are. Is there consideration for age, weight? Do they need more than just emulsification or food dilution? Do the essential oils in question need to be capsulated?
Do you know and understand the latin name of the plant just to be sure it is indeed what you think it is? Are there chemotypes to this essential oil as this changes the chemistry significantly.
Has the essential oil been rectified, had the terpenes removed or folded as it may be for the food flavour industry (food grade)?
Was the aromatic derived from a plant or tree grown in the best terroir? Were the environmental conditions and growing conditions as best as can be expected? Was the essential oil grown in the best region at the most ideal altitude known to create a superior essential oil for Aromatherapy?
How were the essential oils stored? Ultraviolet light, radiation and oxygen levels and to some extent long term temperature variation can degrade oils.
Food technologists requiring standardised flavour profiles built around not only essential oils but also other flavour components typically require an essential oil that is firstly rectified to remove essential oil components that may be irritating to the mouth and throat and perhaps the stomach. They may also require a folded essential oil. These oils are fractionated and only certain fractions are used and possibly re-distilled to increase concentrations. Therefore, with folded oils only part of the essential oil is used and concentrated. The complete essential oil is not typically used if food grade ie. used by flavour companies.
Aromatherapists and Aromatologists want essential oils that are pure and natural.
Pure & Natural is the only industry term that is used and understood amongst Aromatherapists and allied Naturopathic fields when referencing the authenticity of an essential oils. Organic essential oils also have importance especially in the case of pressed essential oils. The perfect essential oil is derived from plant matter grown in its ideal environment, naturally (wild) or organically during supportive weather conditions.
Any other terms including “therapeutic grade, “aromatherapy grade”, “clinical grade”, “CPTG grade” (Registered Trademark and self-regulated within the company that has registered this Trademark), and many more are either marketing terms or are a Registered Trademark of a company that regulates themselves.
Terms such as “food grade” and ‘pharmaceutical grade” are correct terminology for industries outside Aromatherapy where the essential oils are standardised to a monograph, rectified and or folded.
Now getting back to the question that I am asked about almost daily with regards to Ahimsa Oils:
Are our essential oils “food grade”?
The answer is no because we have the following philosophy :-
Of the nearly 200 essential oils, resins and absolutes we stock all are not available in food and flavour industry form.
However, and more importantly, why would we want standardised, rectified and folded essential oils for Aromatherapeutic use?
Our pure and natural lemon essential oil as an example is complete. Food technologists would probably buy food grade 5 fold lemon essential oil. With 5 fold lemon essential oil most of the terpenes have been removed as they are insoluble in many foods and add no flavour value. Lemon oil 5 fold is therefore much more soluble in many media and also has flavour advantages for the food manufacturing company. Ahimsa Oils provides our essential oil range to Aromatherapists, Massage Therapists etc. not flavour companies.
We want complete, pure and natural essential oils in our range. Always buy pure and natural essential oils and use them responsibly and with knowledge.