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Why You Need to Stop Putting Essential Oils in Food

Hello! Please stop cooking with essential oils.

Yes, normally writers bury the lede in a flurry of clickbait, but this is too important, so let’s get to it: Essential oils are pricey, can be dangerous, and are easy to over do without proper instruction. You know what else is expensive? The degree you need to fully understand the dosage, interactions, and potential issues that could arise from improperly dosing your dinner guests. You know what’s not expensive? Dried spices.

Now that the deep-seated huns have left to email my boss, I can continue to inform the rest of you why adding drops of medicinal-grade oils to your pasta sauce is just not a great idea.

Essential oils used to be relegated to the medicine cabinet. This made sense, as they’re basically “plant concentrate”, and, before the discovery of antibiotics and development of vaccinations, we used to depend on plants and other (yes) natural things to cure our ailments. We also died a lot, so while I’m not opposed to trying alternative medicines, I’m confident a few drops of basil oil on a cotton ball sitting outside the ear canal wouldn’t have touched the raging back-to-back infections my toddler suffered for four months until she got tubes inserted.

As the comedian Tim Minchin once said, “You know what they call alternative medicine that’s been proven to work? Medicine.” If that quote offends you, let’s try one at the bottom of every page of essential-oil maker doTERRA’s catalogue: “This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”

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When it was just being used to treat various conditions, I said nothing as I watched oily mamas push their wares on new moms whose kids suffered from the pains of teething, earaches, and sleepless nights.

That’s not true, actually. I tactfully advised the moms rubbing peppermint oil on newborn infant feet that they should definitely run that ish by their doctor. After all, one square inch on my infant’s foot is equal to about 10 inches of skin around mine. Plus, infant skin is super porous.

But essential oils are safe, you say. They’re natural, you say. Well, “natural” is a nice buzzword that means basically nothing on packaged materials. You know what else is natural? Anthrax. Arsenic. Asbestos. (We’re going alphabetically, right?)

I realize there are some well-informed oily mamas out there, those that understand you shouldn’t diffuse oils around kids and pets. They understand you should warn dinner guests about the inclusion of oils in the food as some can cause miscarriage.

The well-informed mamas wouldn’t dare dose someone else’s child without asking permission, because while oils are natural, they’re also chemicals. You know one of the ones that have been linked to miscarriage? Parsley. Which people put on food.

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Now let’s pause for a moment. If you sell or use oils and are completely irritated at this point about what you’re seeing, righteously shaking your fist saying, “I would never do that! That’s a crazy abuse of oils!” Then good. Don’t get mad. We’re on the same page. We’re both against uninformed people dosing others unknowingly without a clear understanding of the potential repercussions. You should be as mad about this as I am, since it’s hurting your business.

Essential oils have boomed in popularity in recent years. Yes, they were always common, but now they’re popping up as mainstream and everyone from your coworker to your PTA leader is selling them.

Naturally, some sellers are going to be well-informed, and others are going to tell you that Young Living’s Orange is good to try for cancer, as noted by the FDA on a 2014 Young Living warning letter. In the FDA’s round up, it addressed blogs and social media accounts that promoted oils for use against Ebola (Thieves), multiple myeloma (Frankincense), and tachycardia (Ylang Ylang).

Poison Control, you know the place you call when your kid gets into your medicine cabinet or you accidentally double dose yourself, lays it out very clearly, “If, for some reason, you have bottles of essential oils at home, consider discarding them (safely) if you have young children. Otherwise, they MUST be locked up, out of sight and reach of children and pets—all the time.” Nutmeg, it notes, can cause hallucinations and coma. Sage can cause seizures in children.

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I’m not advocating that oils never be used. I’m asking that they be used as directed, with full disclosure, after you’ve done a lot of research, and not on my children or around my pets, and definitely not in my pasta sauce.

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