That is a great question.
- It depends on the cultivar from which the essential oil was produced.
- European warnings relate to Lavandula latifolia and Lavandula hybrida (x intermedia)
- The US Food and Drug Administration considers Lavender as ‘Generally Recognized as Safe’ as a food item
- Multiple research reports indicate the oral consumption of L. angustifolia is safe
- A general recommendation for Lavender Essential oils is they need to be diluted prior to consumption or only consumed in small quantities. [i]
- Mesa Lavender Farms is required to use food grade certified essential oils and other ingredients in our CBD tinctures. See https://curtisswift.com/food-grade-certified/ for more info.
Depending on the website and the specifics provided at the site, you can find statements which say lavender essential oil should not be consumed.
Other sites report consuming lavender essential oil is not a concern.
These differences are in part due to the variation in the chemistry of the various cultivars of lavender. For example, some cultivars are much higher in camphor than other cultivars. Camphor consumption can be toxic.
- WebMD states “When taken by mouth: Camphor is UNSAFE. Ingesting camphor can cause severe side effects, including death.” Thus, why would one knowingly use a lavender essential oil known to be high in camphor when preparing products taken by mouth?
Spike Lavender and Lavandins are high in Camphor
- Europe’s warning on Spike Lavender (Lavandula latifolia)
Lavandula latifolia is a high camphor lavender. The European Chemical Agency of the European Union web site states lavender, Lavandula latifolila “… may be fatal if swallowed and enters airways, causes serious eye irritation, may cause damage to organs, is harmful to aquatic life with long lasting effects, causes skin irritation and may cause an allergic skin reaction.” This site specifically refers to Lavandula latifolia. https://echa.europa.eu/substance-information/-/substanceinfo/100.076.600
- European warning about Lavandins
The European Federation of Essential Oils – EFEO, https://echa.europa.eu/brief-profile/-/briefprofile/100.085.846, warning regarding Lavandin, Lavandula hybrida ‘Grosso’ states “causes skin irritation”, “may cause an allergic skin reaction”, and “may be fatal if swallowed and enters airways.” The first references the cultivar ‘Grosso’, the second reference does not specify cultivar but Lavandins in general.
- Note: L. x intermedia = L. hybrida
- European warning about Lavandula angustifolia
Lavandula angustifolia (vera) (officinalis) is classified along with the other lavenders warning it may be fatal if swallowed and enters airways. https://echa.europa.eu/substance-information/-/substanceinfo/100.110.110
the US Food and Drug Administration indicates lavender is ‘Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS)’ to add to food for human consumption. CFR – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21 (fda.gov)
Furthermore, the use of Lavandula angustifolia has been approved by international organizations to include the World Health Organization (WHO), the European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy (ESCOP), and the European Medicines Agency (EMA). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5437114/
The European Medicine Agency even concludes Lavender essential oil (L. angustifolia) taken orally “can be used for the relief of mild symptoms of mental stress and exhaustion, and to aid sleep”, but it “should only be used in adults and children over the age of 12 years”. “Only few and mild side effects had been reported in studies with lavender oil, including very rare cases of allergic reactions.” Lavandulae aetheroleum | European Medicines Agency (europa.eu)
So, Is Lavender Essential Oil Safe to take Orally?
Research Backs Up the FDA’s GRAS Status
The National Institute of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Integrated Health web site at https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/lavender makes several points to include:
- “Lavender is used to flavor foods and beverages and as a fragrance ingredient in soaps and cosmetics. It is promoted as a dietary supplement for anxiety, depression, digestive symptoms, and other conditions. It is also promoted for topical use (application to the skin) and use in aromatherapy.”
- “Studies of a lavender oil product that is taken orally (by mouth) have suggested it might be beneficial for anxiety, but because of limitations of the research, including the small size of the studies, no definite conclusions can be reached about its effectiveness.”
- “Consumption of lavender in the amounts typically used in foods is likely to be safe. Short-term oral use in the amounts tested in studies of lavender for anxiety or other conditions may also be safe.”
Other Research on the Safety of Oral Administration of L. angustifolia
Lopez, et al. reports one EO used for anxiety given orally is lavender (Lavandula angustifolia Miller or Lavandula officinalis Chaix) and has been found to have a clear and significant beneficial affect. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5437114/
Silexan is a standardized essential oil of L. angustifolia flowers prepared by steam distillation available in 80-mg capsules. When taken orally for anxiety it has been found to produce a significant reduction in anxiety. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-54529-9
In addition, Silexan has been reported as “a safe and effective treatment in anxiety disorders”. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28511598/
Researchers have also evaluated the effect of orally consumed lavender essential oil as a dietary supplement on lactating mothers answering the question Is lavender essential oil safe to take orally?. They concluded:
- “In general, lavender is well tolerated”.
- They cautioned however, no data exists “on the excretion of any components of lavender into breastmilk or on the safety and efficacy of lavender in nursing mothers or infants.” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30000925/
To ensure the safety of essential oil used for consumption Food Grade Certification is necessary
Contrary to some web sites and personal statements food grade certification is real. It is classified as NSF/ANI151 under the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). https://d2evkimvhatqav.cloudfront.net/documents/water_nsf_ansi_51_and_61.pdf
The production of food grade essential oils starts with food grade stills, whether copper or stainless steel. From there the essential oil must not come in contact with anything which could emit/release harmful substances.
When Mesa Lavender Farms began producing CBD tinctures for oral consumption, we were required by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to verify all components were food grade. Testing by third-party analytical labs was conducted to ensure the tinctures were free of heavy metals, fungi and other microbes, pesticides, and any compounds possibly used in the CBD extraction process.
[i] The concentration of food grade essential oil used in Mesa Lavender Farms CBD tinctures (lavender, lemon, and peppermint) average 0.02% well below the level typically used for oral consumption