Internal Use of Essential Oils: Why Is It So Controversial?

internal usage of essential oils

INTERNAL USE OF ESSENTIAL OILS! YIKES!!!! This has been an extremely controversial topic in the aromatherapy field for seemingly forever. We receive calls almost daily at Stillpoint Aromatics from customers asking if they can take this oil internally or that oil internally. The first question we ask is ”Why do you want to take the oil internally?” and “Who advised you to do this?” About 95% of the reasons we hear are based on completely inaccurate information they received from someone who is not trained in internal usage, or not even trained at all.

Essential oils are effective medicine when used internally correctly. So, what do we mean by internal? We mean…

  • Orally
  • Sublingually
  • Rectally
  • Vaginally

Can essential oils and extracts be used this way? Absolutely, yes! BUT the aromatherapist must have advanced certification and training specifically in this area.

Who is certified to advise internal usage?

So, if you can use oils internally, what is the big deal? Well, that is a very good question and the answer depends on the aromatherapists scope of practice. And this, friends, is where the bulk of the problem lies. We hear the terms Certified, Clinically Certified, Wellness Advocate, Advanced Practitioner, and others. All sound impressive, but when it comes down to it, what exactly do each of them mean? Depending on where the individual obtained their “certification” will define their scope of practice and what branch of aromatherapy they are certified in. Until recently, the term ‘certification’ was a blanket term given to anyone that completed 200 hours of training from a reputable, accredited school, while ‘clinically certified’ meant that 400 hours were completed.

Hours of study make you knowledgeable, but they do not make you a certified or clinical aromatherapist.

What do we mean by this? Let’s briefly look at the branches of aromatherapy as we like to break it down.

Popular Aromatherapy

This branch of aromatherapy deals with blending essential oils for yoga mat sprays, lip balms, incense, soaps, kitchen countertop sprays, foot soaks, body butters, and ambient diffusers.

Holistic Aromatherapy aka English or the Anglo-Saxon Method

This branch of aromatherapy is the beginning of using the oils and extracts in a gentle yet effective medicinal way. It is an indirect form of therapy and involves formulating between 1 and 10 percent for primarily topical use. The aim of this study is to restore balance to the whole person using essential oils as a catalyst for the healing process to begin. This form of aromatherapy can be considered to be terrain therapy (Rhiannon Lewis).

Aromatic Medicine aka French Method

The aim of this branch of aromatherapy is to correct acute and chronic imbalances with the intervention of essential oils. This form is a direct approach and used when aromatic rescue is needed. When we are in the French medical style we are directly targeting organs, systems, microbes, cells, mediators, chemicals, and hormones. We are looking for a very precise mode of action. The chemistry becomes absolutely essential. Detailed Anatomy and Physiology knowledge is absolutely necessary

Clinical Aromatherapy

Clinical aromatherapy is where one can wear both hats effectively — the holistic hat and the aromatic medicine hat. The therapist has the knowledge to mix and match both methods to suit and benefit the client. It is in this capacity that you will be able to adjust your prescribed treatments according to the needs of the person. Chemistry is integrated into the formulas and preparation, but the essence of the whole person is assessed and considered
aromatically medicinal. Certification of both Holistic and Aromatic medicine is needed for the ultimate healing and restoration of health.

Ask yourself, what branch am I “Certified” in?

What is my scope of practice? Be honest with yourself. Do not step out of that scope. If you want to know more, get some advanced training. Some on site, in-person training is necessary for a good chunk of it. Maybe it is a blended class, some online, some in person. But the in person piece is absolutely necessary if you want to consider yourself “certified”.

It is our opinion, based on the standards of the Alliance of International Aromatherapists (AIA) and National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA), that people who have under 100 hours of formal training (whether it be online or in person) should not be suggesting how to use essential oils to anyone.

Additional thoughts on using essential oils internally

In a nutshell, some people that are “practicing” aromatherapy without any formal training are supposed to be “certified,” and they are practicing out of their scope of training. They are “prescribing oils” in an irresponsible, inappropriate, and unprofessional manner. This is a blatant disregard to the plants and trees from which the extract comes, to their “client” or friend or family member, to the profession, and to themselves. And even worse, people, children, and babies are getting hurt. Please know that we are not pointing a finger at anyone in particular, nor are we targeting anyone or any group. If you read this from a neutral perspective, you will see there are many valid points.

Something else to consider is that some students are learning that essential oils should NEVER be used internally, never applied neat, and never blended above 3%. However, that belief is completely false. While internal usage, high percentage formulating, and neat usage is not part of all classes, it does have its place and that is why advanced hands-on training is needed.

Some doctors, chiropractors, and acupuncturists (all professionals with a huge influence on their patients) are suggesting internal usage. Despite their schooling, they have no training in aromatherapy and have no business prescribing something they know nothing about. My dad (Joy’s dad) was a doctor and an amazing one. He was truly one of the best. He was an Internist and Cardiologist—not an aromatherapist. And just because he was an MD is quite meaningless, doctors should not practice out of the scope of their expertise.

So, in our humble opinion, that is why internal usage is so controversial, misused, and misunderstood. And that is a shame and is so limiting.