Essential Oils and Aromatherapy

Essential Oils & Safety Part 1

There is something I would like to talk about that was brought to my attention about a month ago.  It is something that while it may seem a little off topic, in reality it is not.  I see people discussing essential oils all over Facebook and chronic illness forums.  Everybody is looking for a “miracle” or “cure”; anything to relieve their suffering.  So, I really want to address the topic of essential oils.  First, I want to state that I am not an Aromatherapist.  I am basing my knowledge on the reading I have done across many websites, books, aromatherapy associations, aromatherapy blogs written by Certified Aromatherapists , aromatherapy schools, free classes offered by aromatherapists, etc.  In other words, the experts that have actually studied, trained, and hold a professional license or certificate.

I have many family and friends who have stepped into the world of using essential oils through an MLM company.  I have been interested in aromatherapy for many years, however, I have had to be extremely cautious because most strong smells, chemicals, synthetic or flowery scents, can cause a reaction and/or asthma attack.  I have a mask to wear when I leave the house for really bad flare days just to make it through traffic or a store.  But all of that is beside the point for this blog post…  It came to my attention that REALLY BAD ADVICE is being given out regarding the safe use of essential oils, and that the bad advice is basically coming from people who sell essential oils.  Unfortunately, most of the bad advice is from MLM companies and their independent sales representatives.  I don’t have anything against MLMs, and I think that the large majority of sales representatives are truly trying to help people live a “natural” lifestyle or find helpful alternative ways to clean, etc.  With that being said, the MLMs they work for are handing down bad advice and usage instructions under the guise of vague “scientific” research.  Their essential oils are labeled as “Supplements” and they say their oils are so pure that they are safe enough to put a few drops in water.  This is in stark contrast to the advice from Certified Aromatherapists.

So, after hearing some bad advice from an MLM rep friend being given to someone, I started doing some reading and looking for legitimate sources of accurate information.  I had started writing a previous blog post over a week ago with more details on the particular situation, but decided to start the post over again from scratch.  Why?  Because after proof-reading, it became clear to me that my previous post came across as a little negative.  It came across as negative because frankly, I’m a little angry after learning and studying just how dangerous this bad advice is and what has happened to some people.  People have been seriously injured by using essential oils unsafely because they followed bad advice.  As a nurse, it is extremely concerning to hear that consumers are being told that it is safe to ingest essential oils and to use them neat.  If you study any legitimate basic information about esssential oils and aromatherapy in general, you know ingestion and using neat is generally unsafe.  I’ve been so concerned about this topic of bad advice from one particular MLM company that I’ve literally been digging and reading for over 3 weeks in my spare time.  Not only is bad advice being given out about ingestion of essential oils, and the practice of using them neat, there is also bad advice being given out about using certain essential oils with babies and young children.  There are two MLM companies, and another lesser known MLM promoting this bad advice.  I’m not going to name them, but I’m sure most readers will have heard of at least the top two. I’ve been looking at both sides of these arguments and it is REALLY clear that there are two distinct sides.  The MLM companies/Chiropractors (uncertified in aromatherapy) vs. Certified Aromatherapists.  While there are some grey areas, I have been unable to find a single aromatherapy association that advises the use of essential oils as stated by MLMs and their independent consultants.  In fact, they all state that you should be under the advise and care of a certified aromatherapist regarding ingestion.  Ingestion of essential oils is rarely done, and when it is done, it is diluted in a capsule (many times enteric coated) or a suppository by a trained professional with a carrier oil.  The aromatherapy associations also advise dilution of oils on the skin.  Neat use of oils is considered unsafe.  PLEASE do not take the advice of an MLM sales representative, who has no certification in aromatherapy.  Moreover, you need to be aware that essential oils, especially when used on the skin or ingested can interfere with many medications.  There are essential oils that should be avoided with children and pets because they are unsafe.  I also read a little on essential oil use around cats and dogs.  Most cats lack an enzyme to be able to break down the essential oil just from inhalation, so if you are diffusing an essential oil in your home you should be aware of this fact.  Smaller dogs are in general more susceptible to toxicity than larger dogs.  Same thing with children.  You really must do your homework and educate yourself if you are going to enter into the world of aromatherapy.  Of course, the best thing to do is to have a consultation with someone who is certified.  I want to point out, that unless a Chiropractor has went through training and been certified, they are no more an authority on giving advice on the safe use of essential oils than a general practitioner.  Taking advice from a health professional who has not been to school and been licensed/certified in that particular area is really not wise.  It’s the equivalent of going to a podiatrist for a heart condition.  There are several really popular doctors on the internet that are now selling their own brand of essential oils or giving advice about use, but they have no certification in aromatherapy.  I CANNOT stress enough how important it is to know the source of the information you are receiving and their knowledge base and training they’ve received.

There have been people injured by ingesting essential oils and using them neat on the skin.  You can find injury reports by going to Aromatherapy United’s website and looking at their Injury Reports.  You can also report an injury by going to the Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy’s website and file an Injury Report.  You can find information about filing a FDA complaint here.   You can find warning letters sent out by the FDA to essential oil companies here.

What I have written above is just the tip of the iceberg.  There are many more issues, and I want to address each one at a time.  The bulk of the misinformation on safe usage has to do with marketing and sales pitches.  There are loopholes in our labeling laws that are allowing essential oils to be labeled as supplements.  This is confusing for consumers because if something has a supplement label you naturally assume it is meant to be taken by mouth.  There’s also issues with using essential oils everywhere 24/7 in our home, businesses, etc.  and using multiple essential oils for different ailments every day.  Companies are sending out the message that essential oils are safe because they are natural, and most people miss the distinction between found in nature and naturally derived by man.  I was told by a sales representative that I could not possibly be allergic to essential oil because there are no proteins in essential oils and only “true” allergies happened with substances that contain proteins.  Anyone with any type of allergic condition could spot that as false from a mile away, but people who do not live with allergies may think a statement like that is true.  There are just so many issues and problems, and I am not trying to bash MLM companies or the people selling their oils.  I just want to point out factual information and points so that people are well informed.  Knowledge is power and I want to share what I have learned so far.  So to conclude my “Essential Oils and Safety Part 1”, I will leave a short list of resources to check out if you are interested in learning about the subject.  One of the first places I looked was the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy.  Another great resource is Robert Tisserand’s website, or one of the books he has written.    There is a wealth of information out there, you just have to know where to look.  Another great source is Aromahead Institute.  These are just a few of the really great resources I have found.  If you are looking at purchasing books to learn, make sure they are up to date, and that they are written by a Certified Aromatherapist.  Many of the websites mentioned above have many more website and book resources listed.  If you want to see a personal testimony of someone who was injured by advice from an MLM sales rep, look here.

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