An aromatherapist speaks out – Part 1

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[Red Corvette]: Today we’re speaking with Gilbert P*, who is a qualified aromatherapist from New Zealand, who, along with the rest of his profession, has serious concerns about essential oil MLMs. This is the first part of our interview with him, so stay tuned for more to come.

Gilbert, why is the qualified aromatherapy community so concerned about essential oil MLMs like Young Living and dōTERRA?

[Gilbert]: Thank you Red, I appreciate the chance to explain to your readers.

Essential oils are a complimentary health product. Yes, they are a natural product, but essentially, they are chemicals which are extracted from plants and used for non-life threatening health conditions. Natural equals natural, natural does not mean safe. Essential oils are not supplements (vitamins, minerals) or products to replace dried, herbs, zests & spices.

The MLM companies are ‘guerilla’ marketing essential oils in such a way that consumers are beginning to believe that they can not start their day (as well as their family members’ days, including babies & children) or live their lives without them, and lots of them, in so many unsafe ways! Adding to water, popping capsules, using in baking/cooking/smoothies etc . using constantly in a diffuser. Overuse, as well as internal use, incorrect dilutions and selection of essential oils for age ranges (especially babies, toddlers & children) are all HUGELY concerning, and this is all happening, worldwide, in epidemic proportions. They are promoting potentially dangerous and high risk methods of use which can lead to injuries, leading to sensitisation.

The qualified community is also very concerned due to conflicting motivations. A qualified essential oil practitioner’s motivation is to provide safe, appropriate and effective products to alleviate and provide relief for specific health conditions following best practice methods and duty of care.  An MLM reseller’s motivation is to sell, sell, sell, reach sales targets, climb reseller levels with material provided by the MLM company, whose purpose is to make money, as much and as fast as possible.

A qualified essential oil practitioner’s social media posts will be about ‘sharing & caring’ not ‘telling & selling’ like the MLM’s social media posts — and BOY do they go hard! They are brainwashing consumers, it’s very frightening.

[Red]: So basically, you really must have proper training and qualifications to advise people about essential oils safely. And MLM reps don’t have this. Can you explain a bit about sensitisation, which you just mentioned? It sounds like whatever it is, it’s a problem? 

[Gilbert]: I shall quote Robert Tisserand (recognised in the aromatherapy industry as the leader and world expert): “We must realise that self-treatment, although it has it’s place, also has its limitations.  Do treat yourself for simple, common ailments, but for any long-term, or deep seated problem, seek professional advice”.

In New Zealand, the training required to become a qualified essential oil practitioner is recognised by an official body which has authorised the framework of the course, such as NZQA (New Zealand Qualifications Authority), and recognised by IFPA (International Federation of Practicing Aromatherapists).   (I use the term ‘essential oil practitioner’ as a general term, as our roles have many different names — Aromatherapist, Aromatologist, Aromascience Practitioner — depending on the school or course you take and your gained qualification allows you to be recognised by.)  Each country will have their own requirements — it’s rather official and this is great, as it means it’s quality assured. Qualifications on the ‘governed program’ layout a clear pathway to the level of knowledge and skills that you’ll have gained when you graduate, start a private practice, online business, aromatherapy massage and so on. The courses are highly structured and disciplined. For example, I studied the Certificate of Aromascience. It required 770+ hours of study, 50+ case studies, assignments and an exam. It took me almost two years to achieve my qualification. I learned a massive amount about essential oils and loved it!

bady-qb-992290-unsplashTopics covered (in depth) were: History, we studied 90 essential oils where we learned (for each oil) the botanical name, plant family name, origin, method of extraction, note (essential oils are either a top, middle or base note) and what that means, in-depth. We learned what colour we should expect a specific essential oil to be, the aroma, the main chemical components, properties, therapeutic uses and contraindications, for each of the 90 essential oils.  We learned about methods of use, which are topical & various inhalation methods, dilution, percentages, why and who for and of course, safety.

Every part of this study is vital knowledge required to be able to start treating clients — once you graduate of course!  During the first six months of the course, we were only allowed to practice on ourselves, the next six months we could ask friends and family to be test cases for us, and in the last half of the course, we were allowed to invite volunteers to become case studies — with absolutely everything we did, we had to record it and have it marked. Obviously this was all done at the students’ expense, which didn’t concern me as money was not my motivation. NB; This example is from courses in New Zealand.

As far as I’m aware, the MLM companies do not provide this type of training. I feel confident stating this as if they did, there is NO way the resellers would be even contemplating the recommendations of use, the guerilla marketing techniques, etc that the MLM’s do (let alone the business model).

And I quote Robert Tisserand again:

The need for self-regulation
One challenge facing aromatherapy is the gradual increase of adverse events — adverse skin reactions or poisoning — that has accompanied the increase in popularity of essential oils. This, along with often baseless claims for treating serious disease, gives aromatherapy a bad reputation, and is a short-cut to increased regulation of essential oils, something that is already happening in Europe. Self-regulation is a far better road. The Fragrance Industry has accomplished this through IFRA, but there is no professional or trade association for aromatherapy anywhere in the world that has a set of safety guidelines. Companies that sell essential oils have almost entirely ignored the IFRA (International Fragrance Association) standards (which are there to protect consumers from adverse skin reactions) and each one does its own thing on labels. Consumers who experience adverse events with essential oils cannot be faulted if they are following instructions.

And these instructions are coming from the MLM’s and their unqualified resellers.


If you still wonder if safety is important? Well, Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young (lecturer in plant chemistry, pharmacology, nothing to do with Young Living) wrote a 780 page manual for using essential oils, on the subject.

Sensitisation means minor to severe injuries and adverse reactions from misuse and overuse of essential oils, stemming from uneducated guidance. These reactions can be ones yet to be ‘noticed’, but could be beginning in the oesophagus, gut, organs such as liver & kidneys, gall bladder & more (from ingesting essential oils), to minor to severe skin reactions.  Unfortunately, if these reactions occur, resellers are simply being told “This is a detox experience”.  The qualified community believe this is a desperate attempt to give a positive explanation for any adverse reactions caused by essential oils and is physiologically impossible. If you are interested in a harrowing but insightful example, I urge you to purchase this book The Unspoken Truth About Essential Oils by Kayla Fioravanti & Stacey Haluka.

In this book Stacey takes you along on her raw and real journey that is eye-opening for the reader. She will reveal the unspoken truth about essential oils so that you can learn the lessons learned from her experience. Her story is not unique and can happen to anyone, at any time. You will want to read this truth to prevent harming yourself, or anyone you love.” Stacey is an ex MLM reseller.

It is a quick read, only 84 pages. I can almost guarantee you will not want to put it down once you start. Stacey’s journey was horrendous, and she was following instructions.

Not only is the qualified community concerned about adults, but we have serious concerns about babies, toddlers & children being exposed to essential oils — they don’t have choices with what they are exposed to. Injuries occur because of misguided and incorrect advice from untrained MLM resellers.

[Red Corvette]: Thank you Gilbert! We’ll continue our conversation with Gilbert soon — stay tuned.

* Not his real name.

Disclaimer: This article provides very useful information on the different levels of training and expertise between trained aromatherapists and multi-level marketing representatives who sell essential oils. The Coalition cannot comment upon essential oil training or the evidence for their use, and suggests readers interested in essential oils conduct their own research into any evidence for the use of essential oils that may exist.

Header photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash
Flower poster photo by bady qb on Unsplash
Diffuser photo by Gilbert P



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  1. I have just come across this article and it makes very good reading. Anyone who wants to get into the Direct Selling industry please choose wisely, from one who has been there. I too am a AP and chose a company because my mother like the skincare and they had EO’s so why not right. Well as time went their practices like in the article shocked me, I even offered my services they just turn a blind eye it is all about the $$$

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