Many use therapeutic grade essential oils (EO) to enhance the flavor of foods and beverages. While some EOs make great flavoring agents, it is important to know that they can be highly aggressive towards certain types of plastics many of which are frequently used in the very bottles and containers we later intend to use for storage. Recently, we did an experiment to show just how corrosive essential oils can be if not paired with the right storage material. We will also show you great alternatives that can help you avoid the ingestion of harmful chemicals.
Setting Up the Experiment
Our experiment involved doTERRA's lemon essential oil and a generic party cup we purchased from Albertsons. Lemon EO is one of the cheaper and more widely available essential oils. It is frequently used in cooking or for enhancing the flavor of beverages. It's basically a byproduct of the citrus industry, and is usually either expressed mechanically or cold-pressed, both of which are methods far more cost-effective than distillation or solvent extraction.
We matched doTERRA's oil against a disposable cup mainly because these two could potentially interact with each other in a real life situation. The cup featured a category 6 recycling stamp on the bottom as well as a PS marking signaling that it was made from Polystyrene. Polystyrene, even before we made it interact with the EO, has had a poor track record of safety. According to Life Without Plastic, food containers made from PS can leach styrene, which is a human carcinogen, that has shown adverse effects on genes, lungs, liver, and the immune system. Lots of bad stuff that we expected to be only amplified during the experiment.
doTERRA Lemon V. Party Cup
For the sake of visuals we did not dilute the EO. We do understand that this may not represent a real life scenario, however it does demonstrate the kind of chemical reaction and accelerated degradation that occurs between a potent EO and Polystyrene. A diluted solution would have had similar results except it may have taken longer and may have been less spectacular, however, the same chemical reaction would have occurred at the molecular level.
Now, for the experiment, we turned the cup upside down and put 16 drops of doTERRA's lemon essential oil into the small indentation of the cups bottom letting it completely saturate the coin-sized surface. Our camera was rolling, and we just let the EO and gravity do their job. After only 30 minutes we started seeing significant degradation and the beginning stages of liquefying of the plastic, and in a little less than 1 hour and 10 minutes the bottom completely caved in. The reaction also produced some gasses similar to when Polystyrene is overheated to the point when it starts melting.
How to Consume Essential Oils Safely
Having seen the potency of essential oils users may rightfully ask what precautions they should take to ensure that infused meals and beverages are safe for consumption. First and foremost, read the labels! Only ingest essential oils that are meant to be taken internally. A full list of FDA-approved EOs for internal consumption is available here, and as David Wolfe points out on his blog:
Second, make sure you use a container that can safely store essential oil infused foods and beverages: glass and silicone are a good start, both of these materials have been known not to react with essential oils.
Our Bottles Work with EOs
Many beverage bottles, even the ones that are made from glass, may have plastic caps, lids, and straws. We designed the Meshbottle to be a completely plastic-free, non-metallic bottle that is capable of storing beverages in a glass environment up to 99.9%. It is built from only two materials: glass and food safe silicone. The Meshbottle is a great alternative for those who are trying to move away from plastics and plastic chemicals, and yes, it works with essential oils.