An aromatherapist speaks out — Part 2

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[Red Corvette]: We’re continuing our discussion with Gilbert (read Part 1 here). Can you give us some examples of unsafe methods and uses of essential oils, and the sorts of things MLM essential oil resellers are saying?

[Gilbert]: Sure thing. So, this should be a quick question to answer and initially it is, but there needs to be some explanation and examples of the high risk and potentially dangerous methods being recommended. Also, the MLM resellers I have had communications with strongly state they are not advising — well guess what, some do! Others are very clever at planting seeds, for example: “I’ve taken my 8 year old daughter off her respiratory medication prescribed by our doctor and now we simply diffuse XXXX synergy and XXXX synergy [oils] — YAY no more meds for my girl.” This was actually written on a reseller’s ‘wellness advocate’ page. Others will share their daily routine of essential oil use, and supply recipes (for use in baking, cooking, smoothies and more).

Essential oils are chemicals. They penetrate the hair follicles and pores, and are in the blood stream within two minutes of application, and in the central nervous system within 15 minutes. They have a cumulative effect, so the longer you use them, the more effective they can become. If used under the guidance of a qualified practitioner for a specific reason, this is a positive thing. But the negative effects of overuse are potentially dangerous and can head towards an adverse reaction / sensitisation [Red: Gilbert explains what sensitisation is in his first post]. Please don’t think an adverse reaction may simply be a rash — it could be, but it could also be something not immediately obvious, and deep-seated — like it was for Stacey Haluka. 

To explain why we use the terms ‘potentially dangerous’ and ‘unsafe’ — these methods are not best practice methods, and do not follow the duty of care that qualified essential oil practitioners follow, which are covered in our courses, and in the associations we belong to (AIA, IFPA etc).


NB: Please do NOT do these!

Current unsafe methods are:

1) Internal use — (Do not ingest essential oils!)

  • Adding drops of essential oils to water and drinking it.
  • Using essential oils instead of safe dried and fresh herbs, spices and zests, adding drops to cooking, baking, smoothies, sprinkling over salads, sprinkling them over your roasts, adding them to soups (these are the most common ones I’ve seen).
  • Adding a drop of essential oils to the roof of your mouth.
  • Making or taking caplets with essential oils (which the MLMs sell).

The problems that may occur include damage to the mouth and oesophagus (burning), gut damage (can cause ulcers, kill good bacteria, potentially damage the neurotransmitters) over time, and damage to the internal organs, including the gall bladder.

This is what we do know. What is yet to come is the long term damage that this could cause.  Saying “I’ve been doing this for 6 months and I’m fine” is an ignorant statement, as you don’t know what damage is slowly occurring. Remember, essential oils have a cumulative effect — they build up in the body. One drop of peppermint oil is the equivalent to between 25–70 cups of peppermint tea (depending on the brand). It takes 60 lemons to be cold-pressed to extract 1 drop of lemon essential oil, aside from the fact that citrus oils are high in the chemical limonene. Limonene is used in cleansing agents to remove oil ie: mechanics use this to clean oil from engines. And you think it’s safe to drink?

2) Undiluted use — This is horrific. Essential oils should not be used undiluted. I’ve seen it recommended for all age ranges. Essential oils are highly concentrated. They need to be diluted for safe use — the worse case I’ve recently heard of was a reseller advising that a neat drop of essential oil be ‘popped’ onto the umbilical cord of a newborn baby. I literally have zero words for this — it is absolutely shocking for so many reasons.


3) Incorrect dilution — We see so many recommendations by MLM resellers for blends which are WAY too strong, especially for babies, toddlers and children. Robert Tisserand offers great guidelines for safe dilution. However, if they follow these safe use guidelines, a reseller is not going to sell much product (because the product will be used up slowly), and therefore they won’t reach their sales targets!

4) Incorrect oils used for specific age ranges — This is vital too! So many essential oils are too harsh for many people — they are being recommended by MLM resellers for babies, children, toddlers, more mature adults (80 years + as a general rule) — plus for people with chronic illness or compromised immune systems. Here are just a few of the  essential oils being ‘guerrilla marketed’: wintergreen (this is a hazardous essential oil), oregano, clove, cinnamon, basil, camphor, peppermint, and some eucalyptus species.

5) Using a diffuser / vaporiser incorrectly We see MLM resellers recommending too many drops of essential oils, using the diffusers and vaporisers for far too long, and incorrect oils for differing age ranges. Here are the actual safety guidelines for using a diffuser/vaporiser.

6) Overuse — Essential oils should only be used to assist in providing relief from a health condition — yes, pop the vaporiser on for an hour if you come home from work stressed out, add some drops (which have been mixed in a small amount of liquid soap so the drops aren’t floating in the bath neat) to a bath to relieve painful overworked muscles — but don’t wake up in the morning and start a daily regime of essential oil use, unless it is necessary. For example, if you have the flu or a cold and are using a topical blend that could boost your immunity, and doing a steam inhalation for congestion — that’s reasonable. The other thing to consider, if you are diffusing oils day-in day-out, who else around you is being affected by this? Babies, children, people with health conditions that are contraindicated to the essential oils you are using? Or have allergies? Or asthma?  Pets? There is so much to consider!

I have a client who went for a massage in Australia. Her massage therapist (who sold for an essential oil MLM) dropped undiluted wintergreen oil all over her back — apart from the fact that this is a hazardous, highly toxic essential oil, and can cause internal bleeding to anyone on blood thinners, the MLM therapist did not ask my client about any health conditions. She placed her in a potentially dangerous situation using wintergreen in the first place. But also the risk to this masseuse is huge — how many times a day is she doing this? She is at a high risk for adverse reactions, given repeated exposure like this!

Injury report sites

Injury reporting sites are popping up now. The qualified aromatherapy community is gathering as much information as possible — please report any adverse reaction to essential oils which you have experienced — minor and major reactions are just as important as each other.

[Red Corvette]: Thank you for all this information, Gilbert! We have more questions for you, so stay tuned folks.

Disclaimer: This article provides information on dangerous practices in essential oil use as seen from 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 aromatherapy to conduct their own research into any evidence for the use of essential oils that may exist. Please consult your doctor before starting any complementary therapy.

Photo credits

Header photo by Dorné Marting on Unsplash
Glass photo by Yasuo Takeuchi on Unsplash
Sleep photo by Brittany Neale on Unsplash


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