December 5, 2023

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Is It Safe to Cook With Essential Oils?

8 min read

Essential oils, which are extracted from plants, are best known for their use in aromatherapy, a complementary health practice that involves inhaling the scents or mixing the oils with lotion or massage oil. There has been a growing interest in other uses for these oils, however, including using them for cooking.

Some essential oils are marketed as edible, and many blogs and social media influencers have suggested that using essential oils can boost flavor and nutrition in recipes.

“Essential oils are concentrated sources of flavors and aromas, so you don’t have to chop a bunch of herbs or peel a bunch of lemon zest to get the flavor you’re looking for in a particular recipe,” says Sharon Palmer, RDN, a plant-based registered dietitian nutritionist in Ojai, California.

But adding dashes of essential oils to your dishes without caution and guidance can be a bad idea. Essential oils may be extracted from the roots, stems, leaves, flowers, or fruits of plants, per the University of Minnesota’s Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality and Healing, but just because they’re natural doesn’t mean they’re safe. “It takes a lot of plant material to get a little bit of oil. Because of that, essential oils are really concentrated and can affect us in powerful ways,” says David S. Kiefer, MD, a clinical assistant professor and the medical director for the Integrative Health Consult Clinic at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison.


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