What To Know About Carrot Seed Oil, the Ingredient Loved by the Ancient Greeks

Photo: Getty Images / Isabel Pavia
There are some essential oils that get all the spotlight, like tea tree, eucalyptus, and even frankincense. But browsing through the shelves at your local natural foods market, you might find another option potentially worth knowing: carrot seed oil.

“Carrot seed oil use dates back to ancient Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians who used the oil in an effort to soothe inflammation and indigestion,” says Kelly Jones, RD. “While it may sound like a culinary oil, such as sesame seed, carrot seed oil is used as an essential oil,” Jones says.

The oil doesn't come from actual carrots that you'd buy at the farmer's market—instead, Jones says it's extracted from the seeds of a related plant called wild carrot, Queen Anne's lace, or Dacus carota if you want to get technical about it. (The plant is native to Europe, West Africa, and parts of Asia; it was later introduced to the U.S. and Australia.)

So what's the deal behind this underestimated oil? Here's what you need to know.

What are the potential benefits of carrot seed oil?

While carrot seed oil has been used historically for various medicinal and healing uses across different cultures, current scientific evidence supporting its purported benefits is not particularly solid. Most of the recent research on the oil has been performed either in vitro (on cells rather than on living subjects) or on animals—meaning that the results aren't automatically applicable to living humans. More clinical trials on humans are needed to confirm some of the more anecdotal benefits.

With that in mind, here are some of the potential ways that carrot seed oil could be good for the bod:

1. It might be anti-fungal

Some studies have shown some potential antifungal benefits to carrot seed oil. For example, the compound carotol (which makes up 40 percent of the oil) was found in an older study to inhibit growth of fungi by up to 65 percent in nature. While newer (and more robust) studies are needed to verify this ability, the research hints that this oil potentially could have a similar effect on the skin.

2. It might be antibacterial, too

“Carrot seed oil has also been shown as antibacterial, especially against gram-positive bacteria,” Jones says, referring to a class of bacteria that can cause staph infections and toxic shock syndrome. This means it could be helpful for wound healing and warding off infections, although much more conclusive research is needed.

3. It might moisturize your skin

When combined with carrier oils, such as jojoba, it may provide additional help moisturizing the skin and some anecdotal reports indicate helping with inflammation from rashes or other skin conditions. ”When used as a cosmetic oil, carrot seed oil has potential to be used for brightening and moisturizing,” says Jones.

Are there any side effects to this oil?

Again, the jury is still out on most of the oil's benefits. However, it is relatively safe to use for most healthy people, provided they are using it topically and not ingesting it. The exception: If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, steer clear, because carrot seeds in general may be an abortifacient.

Otherwise, the main side effect to consider is skin irritation. “As with the majority of essential oils, due to the strength, carrot seed oil should be diluted with a carrier oil before application to skin due the risk of skin irritation,” Jones says, as this can help lower risk of any adverse reactions. It's also a good idea to apply a small amount of the diluted oil to a patch of skin to see how your body reacts to it. That way, if you have a reaction, it's more manageable than if it was, say, all over your face.

How to use carrot seed oil

If you're looking for natural ingredients with moisturizing, anti-fungal, or antibacterial properties, there are quite a few options that are more research-backed than carrot seed oil, such as manuka honey, neem oil, and chamomile. But if you're set on trying this particular oil, Jones says you can start by diluting 12 drops of the oil with about one fluid ounce of a carrier oil or lotion. That should make it the right amount to get the benefits without irritating the skin. (But again, do a skin test before you dive in to be sure it won't make your skin freak out.)

As with any essential oil, Jones says it's important to buy your product from reputable brands to ensure you're getting a high-quality product.  She recommends Now Foods Carrot Seed Oil ($16) and Aura Cacia Carrot Seed Essential Oil ($15).

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