Today, medications become more effective with each passing day. Yet, the demand and interest for natural remedies is still growing. You’ve heard about GRAS essential oils, but do you know why they are called so? Do you know all there is to know about their safe use? If not, this article will tell you.
In this post, I’m going to tell you:
- All about FDA approved essential oils, with the help of a comprehensive Q&A section.
- A list of edible essential oils so you know which ones to consider in your therapy.
- A top with 9 of the best aromatic essences to have at hand. These oils can help you deal with almost any minor to moderate health or beauty problems.
- Plus essential oil blend recipes to help you try your favorite essences right away.
Questions and Answers about GRAS Essential Oils. Clearing Up the Confusion
Essential oils are natural plant extracts. They come in small glass bottles that look very nice. On top of that, they smell incredibly well too. At least most of them do.
All these things make it so very easy to take them lightly. That’s why it’s also easy to overdose on essential oils.
There are true concerns about self-medication with natural remedies, and with good reason. Many people have ingested various essential oils in large dosages.
In combination with other drugs, some can even induce coma. Not to mention that some of them can trigger seizures and asthma attacks among others.
Healthcare professionals that specialize in Aromatherapy are the best authorities to go to for advice. It’s important to know about the chemistry of essential oils to recommend a treatment.
Dosages and treatment time may depend on a few important factors. They are the age, gender, medical history and living conditions of a patient.
That being said, let’s move on to the questions and answers so you can follow everything faster and easier.
1) What does GRAS mean?
G.R.A.S stands for Generally Recognized As Safe. It is a designation given by the Food and Drug Administration (USA). It is also the only regulating body that classifies essential oils in America.
Plant extracts are classified as food additives (FA). Essential oils, oleoresins, absolutes and hydrosols are considered plant extracts. Pure extracts contain various chemical constituents. Their unique chemical profile makes them great at preserving food and giving it flavor.
2) What does it mean if an essential oil is FDA approved?
It means that that oil has undergone some specific laboratory tests. They are tests that show how safe it is for these oils to be consumed. By consuming an essential oil they mean in food, beverages, chewing gums, etc.
These laboratory tests are made by qualified professionals. They follow a few criteria that take into consideration:
- The chemical composition of the oil and the way it reaches the blood and other organs.
- The level of toxicity of that specific oil.
- What happens to the human body if that level is reached.
- The speed with which the oil is absorbed and eliminated from the body.
All these things are measured in parts per million. The food industry produces massive quantities of food and beverages. As a consequence, essential oils make it into each portion in minuscule amounts.
Let’s say you eat an orange flavored biscuit. The amount of oil you ingest with that biscuit is barely noticeable. This amount will be eliminated by the body very fast. Volatile molecules are treated as foreign bodies. But before that, these molecules are processed and used by the body where it needs them.
3) Are essential oils edible/ingestible?
Pure essential oils are edible in that they can be used to flavor and preserve foods and beverages.
4) How safe is it to use FDA approved essential oils internally?
Even though they are approved and GRAS, FDA does not refer to their ingestion in large quantities. The oils are natural and they don’t cause significant side effects; if used properly they don’t have side effects at all.
Unfortunately, many people think that that makes them safe to ingest on a regular basis.
Well, it’s not safe at all to take essential oils internally, without medical guidance. Their long-term use can cause serious damage to your internal organs.
Even if you don’t see any signs or experience any adverse reactions right away, this doesn’t mean the oils haven’t harmed you in any way.
No one should assume they’re safe to ingest until they’ve talked to a doctor. Even so, you need to talk to doctors that know essential oil chemistry to get a good advice.
GRAS essential oils can be safe only if applied topically or diffused, diluted and in small quantities!
5) How important is it for an essential oil to be recognized as safe by the FDA?
That should only strengthen the knowledge that that oil is safer to use than other oils that haven’t been approved yet.
However, this doesn’t mean other essences can’t be used even if they’re not on the FDA’s list of edible essential oils. There could be just a matter of time until more get tested and approved.
Moderation and research are keywords for the latter oils. You need these two things to enjoy all the benefits of an essential oil and none of its side effects.
The list of FDA’s approved essential oils contains not only essential oils. There are oleoresins and extracts and hydrosols there too.
Generally speaking, only steam distilled oils could be ingested. The other extraction methods are a bit more complex. Some of them need to use solvents to extract the oils. The sediments that are left behind, even in trace amounts, makes them impure.
Professionals don’t recommend the use of CO2 extracts, concretes and absolutes for therapeutic purposes. This includes their diffusion, as well as their ingestion. Those types of extracts are great for perfumes, candles, soaps, etc.
An aromatic oil labeled as “therapeutic grade” does not mean it is safe to ingest either. That’s just marketing as there are not grades in Aromatherapy.
There’s no grading system and there’s no official body that regulates these “therapeutic grade essential oils”. Read more about this matter here.
6) Do essential oils have dietary benefits?
Contrary to popular belief, essential oils are not “full” of vitamins. They might contain traces of certain oil soluble vitamins, but that’s it.
Vitamin C for instance, is water-soluble. Sellers who claim their essential oils contain vitamin C don’t know much about their products. Or they do it on purpose.
Vitamin C and the B-complex of vitamins are water-soluble. Essential oils, while not oils in the true sense, they don’t mix with water. They have a molecular weight that’s heavier than water.
During steam distillation, these water-soluble vitamins don’t make it into the extracted essence. They will make it however, in the byproduct called hydrosol (floral water).
Certain minerals can be found in essential oils. But that is still not enough to fill in the body’s needs.
GRAS essential oils should not be used as dietary supplements. They shouldn’t, simply because they don’t have nutritional value. On top of that, they can burn and irritate the mouth, throat, stomach and intestine.
Some can do that even to the skin, which is why they need to be diluted with carrier oils.
General Safety Measures for the Use of GRAS Essential Oils
By now, it’s clear that essential oils should not be taken internally. Not without professional guidance and approval anyway. For ingestion, you should still be mindful of the following safety measures:
- Aromatic oils should never be used pure. Whether they’re taken internally or applied topically, they have to be mixed with fat or neutral substances. Vegetable oils are a good means of dilution. Honey and salt are two other good products that can disperse the oil molecules properly.
- Even GRAS essential oils need to be tested for allergies. Before using each new oil, you should apply it to your skin and leave it on for a few hours. Watch it closely for adverse reactions. The chemical composition of an essential oil depends from batch to batch. The season, geographical area, soil quality and altitude can influence an oil’s chemical profile. That may lead to different effects on your health and skin.
- Pregnant and/or breastfeeding women should never attempt ingesting plant extracts. Not without medical approval. The same goes for children and elderly people.
- Certain essential oils are not recommended to people with asthma, seizures or other serious health problems. If you’re not sure, it’s better to talk to a doctor.
A List of Edible Essential Oils (FDA Approved)
I’ve taken out from the FDA’s website only the essential oils. They have them mixed with other plant extracts. So, if you’re interested in that too, you can visit this link for more details.
- Lemon Balm (Melissa)
- Balsam of Peru
- Bay leaves
- Ylang Ylang
- Clary sage
- Laurel leaves
- Black Pepper
- Rose Geranium
- Spike Lavender
All these are GRAS essential oils used as flavoring agents and food preservatives. Obviously, there are essential oils that don’t show up in this list. Like I said, that doesn’t mean they can’t be used for aromatherapy purpose.
Those oils have been tested and proven they have low toxicity levels. Some examples are Tea Tree, Manuka, Pine, Juniper, etc. All volatile oils must be used with moderation and not for a long period of time.
Top 9 Best GRAS Essential Oils to Have in Your Home, plus Blend Recipes
This section is dedicated to 9 of the best volatile essences, with multiple purposes. They can deal with most domestic accidents and necessities and they are great to just have around.
1) Chamomile essential oil – Promotes sleep and relaxes deeply. It is also anti-inflammatory and well-tolerated even by babies. It’s great for stress, anxiety, hyper activeness, insomnia, etc.
2) Lavender essential oil – great for anxiety and stress disorders. Lavender can be used for migraines and headaches as well.
3) Ravintsara essential oil – is a powerful stimulant of the nervous system. It can be used to soothe and improve psychological fatigue and nervous breakdowns.
How to Use Them?
The fastest way to enjoy their effects on your psyche is by diffusion. Simply add up to 6 drops of EO in the diffuser and leave it on for 20 – 30 minutes only! You can repeat every 2 hours or longer. Keep a window ajar while diffusing to avoid air saturation, nausea and headaches.
4) Bay Laurel essential oil – Works great for nasal congestion, bronchitis, asthma, gingivitis, muscle and joint pain, etc. It has good antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and pain relieving effects.
5) Tea Tree essential oil – can be used for all sorts of fungal infections, ear infections, hemorrhoids, bad circulation problems, etc. It is a major antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory.
6) Helichrysum (Immortelle) essential oil – is among the best oils in Aromatherapy. It is FDA approved and can deal with a lot of circulatory problems. It can also help with snoring, nasal congestion and bronchitis among others.
How to Use Them?
Not all are GRAS essential oils; that’s obvious. But like I said, Tea Tree is among those that have been intensely studied. Its usefulness and safety were proven. Mix up to 30 drops of EO/ Oz carrier oil and apply on the affected areas with gentle massage movements.
7) Lemon essential oil – it’s highly stimulant and disinfectant. It can therefore be used to treat and improve acne or cellulite. It can also revive a dull looking skin.
8) Peppermint essential oil – it’s a very uplifting and refreshing essence, which can stimulate hair growth. It can also be used for problematic skin types (acne, rosacea, eczema, etc.)
9) Geranium (Rose) essential oil – this is one good oil to use to improve and prevent aging signs. It can help with stretch marks, as well as with a wound or a tired skin.
How to Use Them?
Mix these oils with the proper carrier oils for your skin type. Warm the oil blend between your palms or in the microwave before applying to the face or hair. Make sure they are 100% pure and use smaller dosages at first.
Of course, they can all be used for other purposes than the ones I mentioned.
Essential oils are good in digestive blends. Or, they can help with cholesterol levels among so many others. Most of them are GRAS essential oils, so a moderate amount is safe to use externally.
Blend Recipes with FDA Approved Essential Oils
This final part is one of the best if you like natural products, and especially making them yourself. You can use the oils I will give you in the following recipes, or you can replace them with something similar.
How do you know what other oil has the same benefits? Each essential oil has its own unique chemical profile, thus different effects. Nonetheless, some contain almost the same major components that could help with specific problems.
The best way to know what they’re made of is to check out their GC/MS report or do a bit of research in advance.
Relaxing and Sleep Inducing Diffuser Recipe
- Lavender EO: 2 drops
- Roman Chamomile EO: 2 drops
Diffuse this amount for 20 – 30 minutes before going to sleep. Make sure the room is well-ventilated during diffusion.
Anti-Cellulite Blend Recipe
- Lemon EO: 15 drops
- Grapefruit EO: 15 drops
- Avocado oil: 1 Oz (30ml)
Shake the blend well before each use to activate the oil molecules faster. Apply on the affected areas, two times a day with vigorous massage movements. Good results should start showing after a months’ use. Both essential oils are GRAS, but they also need to be steam distilled to be safe out in the sun.
Better Digestion and Comfort Blend Recipe
- Tea Tree EO: 4 drops
- Bay Laurel EO: 4 drops
- Fennel EO: 4 drops
- Olive oil: 2 teaspoons
Blend these ingredients and shake the mix well before each use. Apply on the stomach area after a larger meal. Use clockwise massage movements for about 10 minutes.
That should boost digestion by stimulating bile production. The oils used will also kill bad bacteria and prevent inflammations.
FDA classified essential oils as food additives. They can be used to flavor and preserve foods and beverages. People that want to take volatile oils internally should not do so without seeking medical guidance first.
Even if they are GRAS essential oils that is no guarantee there won’t be consequences. If a drop of EO is accidentally swallowed, there should be no problem for a healthy adult. For a child or an older person, that can be dangerous.
I recommend their external use only and as many diffusions as you like. The oils work very well this way too and it’s much safer. What is your opinion on FDA approved essential oils? what is your favorite way to enjoy the benefits of these aromatic oils?