Can essential oils be considered as dietary supplements?

by Jade Shutes

Can essential oils be considered dietary supplements?

by Jade Shutes

The correct answer is: Yes.

PLEASE NOTE: This article is being written as a part of my research in preparation for our free webinar in January on Aromatherapy Products: Labeling and Packaging. One of the aspects we will be covering is how some companies are marketing essential oils as dietary supplements and what this means. The main goal of this post is not to discuss the merits or safety aspects regarding internal use, rather the main goals are: 1/ to recognize that companies marketing essential oil products for internal use are technically correct that they can come under the guise of Dietary supplements and 2/these companies are therefore allowed to use structure/function claims but must comply with cGMP (current Good Manufacturing Practices) and all laws and regulations within DSHEA.

Essential oils are utilized by many dietary supplement companies including Gaia Herbs, Wise Women Herbals, Time Laboratories, and of course, some aromatherapy companies. When an essential oil/essential oils is used to make a product intended for internal use, it comes under the guise of dietary supplements.

As defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration: A dietary supplement is a product taken by mouth that contains a “dietary ingredient” intended to supplement the diet. The “dietary ingredients” in these products may include: vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, and substances such as enzymes, organ tissues, glandulars, and metabolites. Dietary supplements can also be extracts or concentrates, and may be found in many forms such as tablets, capsules, softgels, gelcaps, liquids, or powders.

The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994 defined both of the terms “dietary ingredient” and “new dietary ingredient” as components of dietary supplements. In order for an ingredient of a dietary supplement to be a “dietary ingredient,” it must be one or any combination of the following substances:

  • a vitamin,
  • a mineral,
  • an herb or other botanical,
  • an amino acid,
  • a dietary substance for use by man to supplement the diet by increasing the total dietary intake (e.g., enzymes or tissues from organs or glands), or
  • a concentrate, metabolite, constituent or extract.

Dietary supplements can be created by using both nutritive and non-nutritive ingredients. Essential oils, of course, would be considered non-nutritive dietary supplements. The use of essential oils continues to actually grow within the dietary supplement world. This is the value of GRAS approved essential oils. They have already gone through incredible safety evaluation for internal use. So we see dietary supplement companies utilizing GRAS approved essential oils/co2 extracts.

Dietary supplement manufacturers are able to utilize structure/function claims whereas traditional aromatherapy companies who sell essential oils for external application cannot.

Here are some examples of how essential oils are being used as non-nutritive dietary supplements.

Here is WiseWoman Herbals line up of ingredients used in their dietary supplements: (note: they include essential oils)

Gaia Herbs utilizes essential oils and co2 extracts in several of their dietary supplements including:

Natural Laxative 


Bronchial Wellness Syrup


Wise Woman Herbs has a Liquid Serenity Liquid Extract Compound
Supports a normal healthy nervous system and emotional balance*

Ingredients: Hypericum perforatum (St. John’s wort), Eschscholzia californica (California poppy), Eleutherococcus senticosus (eleuthero), Avena sativa (oat), Matricaria recutita (chamomile), Schisandra chinensis (wu wei zi), Scutellaria lateriflora (skullcap), orange essential oil, and lavender essential oil in a base of organic alcohol, spring water, vegetable glycerin and honey.

There are so many others so these represent just a tiny sample of how essential oils can and are being used as dietary supplements. I truly hope this sheds light on this matter. And please be sure to attend class below if you are currently creating your own products for resale.

A note on Dietary Supplements:
Companies that utilize essential oils within their dietary supplements are under the regulation of the FDA, all dietary supplement companies must follow cGMP (current Good Manufacturing Practices)and must follow the laws Dietary Supplement Health And Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA).