While a little off topic of what I had originally planned for my Essential Oils and Safety Series, I want to share my experience and observation of one particular MLM essential oil company. I believe my experience provides an example of how far the company has went to sell more oils by pushing the practice of using the oils neat and ingesting them. Now you may wonder, why is someone with my severe allergies, chemical sensitivities, asthma, angioedema triggered by air pollutants (this includes fragrances), autoimmune issues, mast cell disease, etc writing about essential oils? There are 2 answers to that question.
The first answer is because the use of essential oils is quickly becoming an epidemic in my opinion. It is getting harder to avoid essential oils. They are being put in emergency rooms, schools, hospitals, doctor’s offices, etc. There is major “peer pressure” from every direction pushing essential oils and singing the tune they are natural, so therefore they cannot be harmful. The truth is, they can be just as harmful as synthetic fragrances. Essential oils are VOCs or Volatile Organic Compounds. Have you heard of low VOC paint? I was first introduced to low VOC paint at my job around 12 years ago. Even though it was low VOC, it still made me sick. My asthma flared, I broke out in a rash, and I got a migraine. There are now even more low VOC building products. People are becoming more aware of VOCs leeching into their homes from man made products and how they are causing health problems. So why then is there such a boom in essential oils? Because people are being told that essential oils are natural. But there is a difference from something that is natural (as it is found in nature) and something that is naturally derived by man. Essential oils are naturally derived by man. You will not find what is in an essential oil bottle in nature.
The second answer is because essential oils do have a rightful place as an alternative therapy for some conditions when used appropriately under the advice of a certified aromatherapist. Interestingly enough, there has been research with essential oils stopping mast cell activation and even anaphylaxis in rats.
So, here is my experience with one MLM essential oil company and their Wellness Advocates: Years ago, I was invited to attend an event and I almost didn’t go. And in some ways I wish I hadn’t, but in other ways I am especially grateful that I did. I was invited to a free Essential Oils Introductory class at a family members house. The class was being taught by a sales representative known as a Wellness Advocate. (This was before my illness completely hit the fan causing me to go away from all synthetic fragrances, chemicals, cleaners, many natural scented products, etc. ) Aromatherapy had piqued my interest somewhat in nursing school when studying alternative therapies and I was generally interested in the subject. At this class, I found some of the things that were said to be interesting, and one thing to be particularly alarming. I did voice my opinion on the particular claim made by the Wellness Advocate that I found to be alarming. The Wellness Advocate’s claim was that their essential oil (that was a proprietary blend I might add) worked better at preventing the flu than the flu vaccine. The consultant even had a little flyer she handed out with her claim. The flyer lacked the Essential Oil Company’s name however, so I left under the impression that the medical claims being made were the consultant’s and/or her upline’s idea to sell more oils during flu season and not a claim made by the company. Ultimately, I learned from the class that essential oils should always be diluted with a carrier oil and never ingest. The Wellness Advocate really stressed this multiple times throughout the class. I repeat, the MLM company was having their Wellness Advocates teach to always dilute with a carrier oil and never ingest. Armed with that knowledge, I ordered a very expensive bottle of peppermint essential oil to be supportive of the hostess, and left in an asthma flare with a pounding headache vowing to stay away from anything lavender. (Lavender e. o. was being diffused at the party.) Since I didn’t get what I had hoped from the class about essential oils I decided to do my own reading. I found out that the MLM company had been in trouble with the FDA because of their consultants making medical claims with many of the company’s essential oils for multiple conditions. One of the letters can be found here: https://www.fda.gov/inspections-compliance-enforcement-and-criminal-investigations/warning-letters/doterra-international-llc-09222014 There are also numerous news articles written about the company being in trouble with the FDA which are easily found through Google.
So, after finding a wealth of information regarding the MLM company being in trouble with the FDA for making medical claims I contacted my family member and told them what I had read and sent the links from the FDAs website and news articles. Unfortunately, my family member chose to go the sales rep route and today is completely immersed in the essential oil MLM company’s rainbows and butterflies culture. As a side note, this particular family member has contacted me multiple times trying to convince me I could fix my complex health issues with essential oils. But that’s a story for another day…
Flash forward to present day and back on the topic of how far one MLM company has went to sell more oils and my experience with the MLM and Wellness Advocates:
Last year, after going to a family get-together where 2 Wellness Advocates were in attendance, I found out that this same MLM essential oil company is now telling people to ingest many of their essential oils in water, use essential oils in food instead of herbs as a money saving strategy (hillarious considering the price of their oils), directly deposit it under the tongue, and to use on your skin neat. And I of course asked some hard questions. The Wellness Advocates claimed that the essential oils that are safe to ingest now have a supplement label on the bottle. As an added bonus, I was told the essential oils were on the FDA’s GRAS list and therefore safe to ingest. I listened and cringed as one of them explained how they take lemon essential oil in their water multiple times a day. I found it even more alarming later (while doing some reading out of concern for some of my family members ingesting essential oils} to learn that this same company is building health clinics across the U.S.
Somewhere in between the class I attended years ago and last year, this MLM company switched safety gears. I imagine some rich individual at the MLM company who apparently wasn’t rich enough decided, “Hey, we can sell even more oils if we convince people it’s safe to put in their food and water.” I imagine they then talked to some attorney who pointed out a small little loophole in the law that would allow them to label their essential oils as a supplement. And just to back it up, let’s use the FDA’s GRAS list to tout the safety of this practice on the uninformed public (more to come on this subject later).
Now, I know the above paragraph may sound snarky to some people, but it is a fact that it is not safe to use essential oils the way this company is telling people to use them unless you are under the advice of a certified aromatherapist. It really gets under my skin and puts me on my soap box when I see people being given and/or harmed by BAD “medical” advice from a company that is in the business of selling essential oils. Their “expert” who issues out this advice at the company is a chiropractor. And his advice completely contradicts aromatherapists and the experts whose life’s work is essential oils and aromatherapy. There are injury reports that you can view from legitimate sources on the internet. (I discussed this in my blog post “Essential Oils and Safety Part 1” which can be found here: https://findingmyunicorn.org/2018/05/19/essential-oils-safety-part-1/ ). I’m still not sure where the “justification” of the practice of using an essential oil undiluted (neat) came from, but if I find anything I will come back and update this blog post.
So that is the highlights of some of the top issues I have with essential oil MLM companies, my experience, and what I have observed on how they have changed. And in my opinion, the companies who are doing this have put profits over safety. I am in no way against essential oils, but I am against harmful advice from people who are not qualified to be giving it.