Essential Oils + Water

Posted by Lauren Bridges on

One of the first and most basic lessons one learns when they become interested in aromatherapy is that essential oils and water do not mix. This essential fact—coupled with what we know about irritation to the mucus membranes and digestive tract—is why aromatherapists argue so staunchly against the idea of adding a drop (or more) of EO to water for drinking. No matter how much people may like to think otherwise, essential oils and water simply cannot mix. This is due to divergent chemistries that do not allow the two substances to mix without the interference of an outside influence (such as a solubilizer).

Generally speaking, this information is more known and broadly accepted today than it has been in the past. There has been a lot of education on the topic, and more and more, people rally to protect their bodies and those of their friends and families from adverse effects caused by consuming essential oils in such a manner.

Yet, despite this improvement, we still find people accepting of the concurrent use of only EOs and water for other things. This includes sprays (for the skin or not), baths, foot soaks, compresses, etc. Outside of potential skin safety issues, we run into the problem that the EO is not evenly distributed. And for anything that is meant to last more than a single treatment, this means that you will not receive consistent exposure. What many do not realize is that this can lead to a discrepancy in your expected results.

We’ve talked a lot about dose on this page. You’ve probably heard from multiple sources that “the dose makes the poison.” Well, the dose also determines efficacy. And when you utilize formulations that do not enable an even distribution of your active (the essential oils in the case) you run the risk of ineffective applications.

On top of this, there is also the misconception that essential oils will preserve a water-based product. Long story short, they will not in concentrations that are typically safe for use on the skin, and they definitely will not preserve any water phase when they are not mixed into it. You cannot expect a substance that remains immiscible in water to protect it.

Despite this, we see arguments attempting to defend the use of EOs in these ways frequently. And usually the justification for such arguments are based on what amounts to nothing more than an opinion.

So, be aware of claims surrounding the use of EOs and water together without other measures in place to account for product or dose form stability. Not only does it often end up a waste—one sometimes not perceived due to the power of suggestion and placebo—it may ultimately be ineffective or have the potential to harm.

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