November 12, 2020 3 min read

What Are "Food Grade" Essential Oils?

The FDA doesn’t actually classify essential oils, as “food grade.” It lists “appropriately regulated indirect additives” and categorizes foods and other items as “Generally Recognized as Safe” [GRAS] for human consumption when used for their “intended purpose.” That regulation may not be much comfort, but it’s as good as it gets.

“Intended purpose” 

Consider the fact that a manufacturer using a tiny amount of an essential oil as a flavoring for the mass production of food isn’t the same thing as a consumer drinking an entire bottle of the same essential oil. The first might be a legitimate intended purpose; the second most certainly is not.


The example often used to illustrate this is mustard essential oil, which is classified as GRAS. It’s utilized regularly in the food industry in everything from sauces to pickling spice blends. But ingested directly, it’s one of the most poisonous essential oils there is.

That brings us back to “food grade,” the term that’s often used but not legally defined.

Equipment manufacturers have used the phrase to describe materials that are fit for human consumption or safe to come in contact with food. More recently, some essential oil companies,  have adopted the term to describe oils that can be used in small quantities as a food additive. Still, others claim that, to be “food grade,” essential oils have to be sold as food, with a nutritional facts label.

You’ll get widely varying opinions from doctors, aromatherapists and industry spokesmen on whether any essential oils are intended to be ingested by humans. Doctors in particular say no essential oils should be ingested, except under the supervision of a physician with experience in aromatherapy.

But there are some essential oils that are generally accepted as safe additives for cooking when used in extremely small amounts, as small as one drop. They include spearmint oil, grapefruit oil, peppermint oil, lemon oil, cinnamon bark oil and lemongrass oil.

You can also find generally-accepted “food Grade or rather Food-Safe” essential oils in spray form, since they’ve already been heavily diluted. These products are quite difficult to find, but there are some options made by companies such as Mayan's Secret with herbal oils like oregano, thyme and rosemary. Several companies, including Mayan's Secret, market essential oil fragrance blends specifically for external use.

So what are food grade essential oils?

Food grade” essential oils aren’t tested, approved or certified for internal use.

Additionally, you must be very careful about how you use them.

For example, if you choose to do so and we suggest you to first, consult your doctor before hand.

You know most aromatherapists and health care experts, will use “food grade” essential oils, within a very small amounts. However, these oils can be used in essential oil diffusers and/or topically unless stated otherwise by the manufacturers label.

How to use therapeutic grade essential oils?

What Are Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils?

There’s no such legal classification as “certified pure therapeutic grade essential oils” or “therapeutic quality essential oils.” As mentioned earlier, the FDA and industry groups don’t govern or regulate the use of those terms.

However, reputable companies like Mayan's Secret, which use that type of language, do it to convey important facts about their products.

Moreover Mayan's Secret has set out to distinguish their essential oils from the lower-quality or rather cheap oils, that may be watered down with oils made from nuts or seeds, or even worse made synthetically, with other fillers and possibly toxic substances.

What Makes Oils Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils:

Oils derived from plant material, usually through a steam distillation process.
Pure essential oils, with only the highest-quality carrier oils used to dilute them so they’re safe to apply to the skin.

Properly labeled and bottled, stored and tested by the manufacturer to assure that they are all GC/MS unadulterated natural oils and to identify their components.

Produced by a company with a reputation for selling certified organic USDA quality oils.

The best essential oils for aromatherapy?

Search Google, and do not rely solely on marketing phrases like “food grade” and “therapeutic grade,” rather than trusting slogans that have no real legal or regulatory meaning.