“Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive and even spiritual satisfaction.” – E.O. Wilson
Before we continue on our seemingly long and arduous journey towards healthy decision making, there are a few pit stops to make. Deviating from the cliche metaphors that only seem to make the destination seem that much further away, I want to ask you a few questions. Amongst which include, what in the name of the food geniuses is an essential oil? Well, my potential friends, followers, and clientele, that is what I aim to answer and incorporate into your daily mob of thoughts. See what I did there? Yet another clever, although not food related, metaphor. So let us kick off with that same question, and of course, a few more:
What is an essential oil?
How are essential oils made?
Are essential oils safe to digest?
What is the toxicity of essential oils?
How do you cook with an essential oil?
What are some simple recipes to incorporate essential oils?
Now that we have established somewhat of an outline, I will answer the questions that I know you are dying, or starving — ha — to eat, I mean, hear, the answer to. Enjoy!
Q1 – What is an essential oil (EO)?
EOs are fragrant, dynamic compounds that are extracted through the distillation process from flowers, shrubs, leaves, trees, roots, and/or seeds. Funnily enough, they do not fall under our preconception of “oil.” EOs do not contain lipids like their fatty vegetable oil siblings, and as a result their distinctive chemistry enables them to permeate every cell and administer healing properties in the body. This structural complexity, created through volatile organic compounds (VOC), enables an EO to preform various functions with a few drops.
Q2 – How are EOs made?
EOs are, as previously touched on, steam distilled from plants. However, there are different types of extractions, and citrus EOs are cold pressed. Amongst these extraction methods are as follows: water vapor distillation, pressure extraction, expression, enlfeurage, solvent extraction, CO2 extraction, and synthetic imitation. One pound of EO requires at least 50 pounds of plant material. Take rosemary for example, rosemary EO uses 66 pounds of fresh rosemary for every pound. That is astounding!
Q3 – Are EOs safe to digest?
Society has accepted that the use of EOs is dangerous, but civilizations have been using them for centuries. Not to mention, industries that produce products like toothpaste, skin care, and sodas use them. So, before you run away from fear, keep in mind that these frequently used items have proven thus safe to ingest. That is not to say, “turn a blind eye and pick any toothpaste or skin product out there!” Quality is everything. Look for organic-therapeutic grade EOs. Purchased products should have bottle and company info that read the following: 100% natural, an English plant name, a Botanical name, the utilized part of the plant, the production method, the country of origin, and any hazard or allergy notations. Happy shopping!
Q4 – What is the toxicity of EOs?
Certain EOs have irritation potential and can be toxic is ingested in large doses, but there is beauty to be held in that statement. A little goes a long way, and as touched on, it only takes a few drops of an EO to make an impact. Regardless, if one were to ingest larges doses of an EO, they can suspect these possible, short-term complications: burning of the mucus membrane of the oral cavity, throat, and esophagus, the occurrence of reflux by irritating the digestive tract, some symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea, interference of certain medications rending the EO useless, possible interference with anesthesia, and elevation of live enzymes. EOs that should NEVER be taken internally include: camphor, citronella, thuja, pennyroyal, sassafras, wormseed, and wormwood. In that same line, if you are allergic to a food then you will be allergic to its EO. Again, dry, fresh, cooked, or otherwise, if you have a particular food allergy that allergy will remain in the EO form. Oh! To cover all bases, know that not all EOs on the FDA’s GRAS list have been tested with contemporary technology. Some EOs have been grandfathered into use by virtue of being widely used in the food industry for several decades without reports of negative effects.
Q5 – How do you cook with EOs?
First off, look back to Q3 and note that for internal use only use organic-therapeutic grade oils (these oils are 100% pure). Also, keep in mind reputation and remain conscious about reputable companies and suppliers to ensure you make smart, healthy purchases. From there, lead with this golden rule: 1 to 4 drops of EO per recipe. In more words than eight, 1 to 4 drops of EO is its serving size. To choose the right EOs, note whether or not it falls under the FDA category, GRAS. GRAS stands for Generally Recognized As Safe. The FDA, as logically follows, considers EOs with this label safe for consumption. Here are a few EOs on the GRAS list to take note of and keep in mind over the following blog posts: black pepper, basil, grapefruit, lemon, orange, thyme, tarragon, rosemary, savory, and peppermint.
Q6 – What are some simple recipes to incorporate EOs?
Well, I can’t dole out all the fun yet! Look for next week’s post to learn about the EO black pepper for some tasty recipes influenced and adapted from Jacque Pepin in the Heart and Soul magazine. Oh, and of course for corresponding learning opportunities.
~ Suzy Brown, Nutrition Practitioner & Personal Chef ~
Healthy Cooking with Essential Oil: Rebecca Park Totilo
Weigh Less, Eat Like Royalty: Menkit Prince
Aroma Kitchen Cooking with Essential Oils: Sabine Honig and Ursula Kutschera
Healing with Whole Foods, Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition, 3rd Edition: Paul Pitchford