How to Safely Incorporate Essential Oils into Your Nutrition Regime
Essential oils, think of them as highly concentrated drops of beneficial plants! Nutritionally, using essential oils would be like adding them into your supplement options, as they have powerful, plant-based benefits. These oils are not regulated by the FDA like our foods and beverages, so be smart and selective about which you buy and how you use them.
With essential oils becoming more and more popular, they have naturally been popping up in the news-- especially regarding their safety. As with anything, you have to do your research. Know what you are using and what its intended uses are, always keeping in the back of your mind that too much of anything isn’t necessarily a good thing.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Look for 100% pure, therapeutic grade essential oils; especially if you plan on ingesting them for any nutritional benefits.
- Using essential oils for nutritional benefits is not the same as diagnosing or treating a condition. Also, as with any supplements, always check with physician first, as it could interfere with any conditions you may have or any medications you may be taking. Use during pregnancy and/or lactation also calls for physician approval.
- Always use according to directions, as not all essential oils are equivalent. Ones found at the grocery store, for example, are not necessarily pure or therapeutic grade-- meaning they have limited uses and are likely not safe when used outside of their labeling.
- When ingesting, always use glass, stainless steel or ceramic rather than plastic, as plastic is more likely to react with the oils.
- A drop to start will do just fine. You may be more sensitive to certain oils, so start small and work your way up as needed.
It sounds strange, but a large portion of our health and wellness is tied to our gastrointestinal system. Nutrients from our food are digested, absorbed and then utilized based on how well our GI tract is functioning. The lining of our GI can “leak” nutrients rather than utilizing them when our hormone levels get out of whack (i.e. due to stress) and over time -- through a complicated process -- can result in inflammation and even allergic reactions. Inflammation itself is linked to all sorts of conditions from diabetes to heart disease to cancer, just to name a few!
Insert essential oils. When taken orally, they can be powerful aids to help with wellness, immunity, digestion and overall GI support.
Two popular and versatile essential oils that are easy to incorporate into your routine are:
Lemon – distilled from lemon rinds, but not as acidic as juice or as irritating to tummies or teeth; lemon oil can be added to fish, chicken, veggies, dressing & marinades and beverages (i.e. water, tea, smoothies). This concentrated lemon taste will pack a punch in both flavor and nutrition.
Peppermint— distilled from both the leaves and flowers of the peppermint plant, it’s a popular and versatile favorite for many. It can be added to a protein shake, iced or hot tea, baked goods, even mocktails or cocktails. You could add color and aroma with fresh mint leaves, but dropping in some peppermint oil will really enhance the flavor and provide digestive support.
Three less popular, but nutritionally-worthy oils are:
Thieves – a blend of clove, lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus and rosemary oils, thieves can be added to coffee, tea, or your morning apple cider vinegar routine. It’s a great part of an overall wellness and immunity boosting routine.
Digize – a blend of various oils including tarragon, ginger root, peppermint, juniper, fennel, lemongrass, anise, and patchouli. It was formulated specifically by Young Living and developed to aid in digestive health. Drop it in some water to drink after your meal to help with digestion or even place a drop directly under your tongue to soothe your stomach.
Copaiba – distilled from the Copaiba tree native to South America, it has been used for hundreds of years in many areas from helping with babies’ teething gums to aiding in stress management to respiratory support. Nutritionally, it can be added to hot tea to help with sore throats, immunity, and GI support as well.
*Note: Thieves and Digize are two blends of oils that are uniquely found through Young Living, although other distributors may have similar blends. If you’re interested in learning more about Young Living products, my go-to guru whenever I have research-based essential oil needs is Lauren Dunaway. She has her PhD, is a registered dietitian, and owns her own essential oil company called Essential Simplicity. Lauren shared with me a popular and feasible way for adding oils into your nutrition regime-- through a vegetable capsule! Simply add the essential oils of choice with olive oil to the capsule and ingest like any other vitamins or supplements!
Rebecca Miller, MPH, RD, LDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist with Ochsner Fitness Center. She also writes a blog called Twisted Nutrition. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 504.842.9551