Essential oils have a wide range of uses. They are usually topically applied or inhaled. However, in recent times, a lot of interest has been generated around using them for cooking. When added to recipes, it doesn't do anything more than enhance flavors. A very minimal amount is enough as it's quite concentrated. Not all essential oils are safe for consumption hence discretion is needed.
Essential oils have been hailed for the numerous ways in which they are beneficial to the human race. Its consumption is a widely debated topic worldwide. There are some essential oils that could be harmful on ingestion but many of them are totally safe. Here are 5 tips you should keep in mind before you start adding essential oils to recipes.
1. Look For The Right Labels
The ingredient list on the bottle of essential oil should mention 100% pure oil. In addition to the purity, it should have a label that says “Food Grade”. Despite bearing the food grade label, it doesn’t guarantee that an essential oil is safe for ingestion.
2. Avoid Unsafe Essential Oils
Several long-term studies have revealed that certain essential oils are downright unfit for consumption. For instance, consuming even a teaspoon of pure eucalyptus or wintergreen essential oil can be fatal to children. Another unsafe essential oil for consumption is pennyroyal essential oil which is made of 80 percent pulegone that can cause hallucinogenic effects in humans.
Even horseradish essential oil contains allyl isothiocyanate which can trigger severe irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and mucous membranes on ingestion. It’s best to know deeply what are the safe ones for consumption before you start taking them orally.
3. Two Drops Are All That You Need
Essential oils serve the purpose of adding fragrance to the original recipe. Since they are extremely concentrated, you don’t have to use more than a drop or two while cooking. In marinades, you can use essential oils of holy basil, lemongrass or thyme along with any carrier oil like that of olive, sunflower or coconut. In beverages like teas and smoothie, you need a couple of drops to uplift the flavors.
4. They Can Be Used In Any Season
Much like honey, essential oils have a long shelf life. This means no matter the season, you can still use it if you store them correctly. Make sure you purchase essential oils that are sold in dark colored bottles. They should also be stored in a cool and dark place to keep their effectiveness sustained. Citrus essential oils like lemongrass essential oil, grapefruit essential oil or tangerine essential should be stored in the refrigerator or else they could undergo oxidation.
5. Don’t Expose Them To Heat
Most essential oils contain a lot of volatile compounds that evaporate on exposure to heat. This can affect their potency and strength. Therefore, while cooking, make sure you add essential oils only after turning off the heat so that their aromatic compounds flavors stay intact.
Other than flavoring, essential oils don’t really provide many benefits via oral intake. On the other hand, using it in diluted form topically or in vapor form has proven to be safe without any side effects.
It’s best to avoid consuming essential oils orally if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. There have been incidences of toxicity which actually occurred due to overzealous consumption or due to a lack of proper awareness about it. Before you start orally ingesting essential oils, it’s recommended that you take advice from a certified aromatherapist or herbalist.