Essential oils contain the concentrated essence of plants. They can be used in food and beverages, or for non-food use such as in aromatherapy. It is very important that any essential oils used in a food/beverage situation be approved for food use, as some oils that are not food grade are extracted with chemical solvents.
Essential Oils that are food grade in the United States will be labelled say FDA Approved for Food Use, FDA Approved for Internal Use, or something similar.
Note that many non-food-grade essential oils are labelled as "USDA Organic," which we may associate with food, but this label does not mean that the essential oil is food safe.
Be on the lookout for any essential oil that says "for external use only," as this is an easy-to-find indicator that the product is not food safe.
Some additional potential dangers of essential oils include [link]:
- Many essential oils are unsafe to use undiluted.
- Some essential oils, including ones from citrus, are flammable.
- Some essential oils can degrade plastic in their undiluted states.
- Some essential oils can be harmful to the skin.
- Citrus essential oils can cause photosensitivity. See "bergamot" [link]
"Food Contact Materials" Wikipedia [link]
"Essential Oil" Wikipedia [link]
Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health Care Professionals [link]