Why a Drop of Lemon Oil in Your Water Isn't Such a Good Idea

Sep 3, 09:39 PM

by Katharine Koeppen, RA

It's one of the most popular aromatherapy memes on the internet: adding a drop of lemon (Citrus limonum) essential oil to each glass or bottle of drinking water will improve your overall health.

This idea has no basis in fact, is potentially injurious, and is an incredible waste of essential oil.

If you've ever read a basic aromatherapy book or taken even the most basic class in aromatherapy, one of the first things you learn is that essential oils are not soluble in water. Repeat, essential oils are not soluble in water.

This means that when you drink your lemon oil/water concoction, the essential oil has direct contact with the mucous membranes lining your mouth, esophagus and intestines. Lemon essential oil is a terrific natural solvent, which is why it is used in so many green cleaning products. If you know what it does to your floors and countertops, just imagine what it does to your insides. This type of casual ingestion has been linked to nausea, burning pain in the upper GI tract, as well as esophageal and duodenal ulcers. These injuries can occur from ingestion of lemon essential oil or any other essential oil.

It's well established in the dentistry and medical communities that individuals who have the peculiar habit of sucking on lemons suffer from erosion of tooth enamel. Lemon essential oil is many times more potent than raw lemons, and has the potential to do much greater damage to tooth enamel.

Many people who are new or casual users of aromatherapy don't quite grasp the true potency of essential oils. Depending on the source plant, one drop of essential oil is the equivalent of 25-75 pounds of corresponding plant material! Would you eat several bags of lemons in one sitting? Imagine how many lemons it takes to produce a whole bottle of essential oil. Doesn't it seem wasteful to use this much citrus fruit in supporting a daily habit which is not beneficial to your health? Add a slice of lemon to your glass of water instead. It tastes just as delicious, is not a waste of lemons, and poses no ill effects.

Lastly, there is absolutely no reason to ingest essential oils on a daily basis. As a professional, registered clinical aromatherapist, I rarely ingest essential oils. I do so only when I am very ill, only for very short periods of time, and I never ingest them in water. There are simply too many potential problems with regular casual ingestion! For most purposes, inhalation or dilute topical application of essential oils is safe, effective and a judicious use of a labor- and plant-intensive material.

Be safe and responsible. Before you reach for that bottle of lemon oil, grab a knife and slice up a piece of citrus instead.

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