Does the human digestive system processes petroleum jelly? In other words, does it pass through the digestive system without any interaction, or is it absorbed and/or metabolized?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Liquid paraffin was used as a laxative (i don't know if it still is). $\endgroup$
    Jun 30, 2015 at 16:31

1 Answer 1


There are controversial case reports about systemic absorption of paraffin used for constipation. These reports mention systemic effects of paraffin absorption and one of them report liquid paraffin accumulations in abdominal visceral organs. (full text article about paraffin)

Liquid paraffin is indigestible and is absorbed only to a limited extent following ingestion.


As inert substances the ingested mineral oils mostly are excreted intact in feces and to some degree in urine. However, some absorption form the small intestine has been observed (Stryker 1941). Using radiolabeled mineral oil, it was established that the amount absorbed in rat was appr. 1.5 % (Ebert  et al. 1966).

  (full text article)

  • $\begingroup$ Is paraffin the same as petroleum jelly? I was under the impression that paraffin was a more-or-less natural wax, and that petroleum jelly is a byproduct of oil refinement. $\endgroup$
    – mHurley
    Jul 4, 2015 at 14:49
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    $\begingroup$ @mHurley In the scope of the question it is the same. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petroleum_jelly $\endgroup$
    – Ilan
    Jul 4, 2015 at 15:22

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