An aromatherapist speaks out — Part 3

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Red-tiny[Red]: We’re back with Gilbert, as he still has a lot to say about essential oil MLMs, like dōTERRA and Young Living. What sort of unethical marketing ploys do you see in this field? (Catch up here with Part 1 and Part 2 if you’ve not read them yet.)

[Gilbert]: Oh gosh … where do I start?

A concerned consumer called me recently, for a chat about safety. An MLM in her area told her that her goal is to earn $200K next year — do you think that MLM reseller has safety and ethics top of mind? No, it’s money, money, money — that is her goal. Ask a qualified practitioner, they would answer they want to continue high standards of best practice methods, so as to provide relief for non-life-threatening conditions, in the safest manner possible, while continuing their own professional development.

Spot the difference?

One of the most concerning marketing tactics I see is when a reseller already has a trusted ‘brand’. A food blogger, for instance, might have a following on Facebook of around 100,000 people — people who have bought their recipe books, followed their blog on healthy eating for themselves, family and friends, making the most of the free advice and recipes available to them from their beautifully crafted Instagram photos and Facebook posts. But then, with that wonderful exisiting pool of potential customers, who trust them, they start selling essential oils, they start telling people how they should use them, every day, several times a day …

And then they then start adding essential oils to their recipes for drinks, smoothies, raw food, in salad dressings, in soups (you name it, they add them), they start telling you how you should rub them undiluted on your skin, and in quite a manipulative way, do this with these essential oils to prevent your babies and children from getting sick, creating fear and and using scare tactics, saying what your child might catch if you don’t!

These people target the vulnerable, the tired mums with new babies, mums who want to give their children the best diet — but feeding your child a homemade ice block containing lemon essential oil is hardly giving a nutritious alternative to the sugary lemonade ice block — it is, in fact, enabling an adverse effect in that poor child’s body (and their friends, if they are being shared)!!

One of the more recent shockers seen online was a reseller sharing her ’tips’ on maximising milk production “… use basil, fennel & clary sage essential oils, topically on the breast after feeding and & internally basil & fennel in water/tea/hummus…” There is no dilution advice so I assume this to be undiluted (which is one of the worst paths to sensitisation). This blogger is particularly clever as she ropes them in with a first paragraph on the importance of breast feeding, appealing to a mother’s guilt that she may not be doing as well as she could, then WHAMMO, the sales pitch comes next.

These particular essential oils shouldn’t be anywhere near a baby — not even the essential oil bottles!  Babies, toddlers and children’s sense of smell is incredibly acute. These are essential oils contraindicated to children till age 13+ (in my professional opinion), and ingesting these for the mum is potentially very dangerous! Seriously, PLEASE do NOT do this!

And it’s all in the name of money …

These MLM companies often have exquisite marketing material, very high end designs, beautiful photos, amazing copywriting which makes them look like a trusted brand — they have the money to do this! In my opinion it’s a ploy to suck you, the consumer, into a false sense of security, and the resellers are guided to use it in the best way, to ‘maximise sales’.

They create excitement around events — events you are expected to pay to attend, and then be sold to, but in a clever way, again using emotional touch points like “There is nothing more loving that handmade gifts for Christmas, come and learn to make homemade chocolate using essential oils.” Actually no, DON’T, as you could potentially poison those loved ones! And this is NOT an exaggeration, as you have no idea who could be potentially eat this chocolate — a child, a pregnant woman, someone with an ulcerated gut, someone on medication that is contraindicated for the peppermint you put in your homemade chocolate, and other health conditions or if someone has had recent surgery — there is SO much to consider!

I have had a personal experience where I have written a warning about a new potentially dangerous trend emerging, and before I know it, a MLM reseller (who is obviously watching what I’m publishing) is writing a post contraindicating everything I have said. Reminding her ‘oily followers’ that her company’s essential oils are so pure, they are safe to ingest — and of course, this is an absolutely untrue statement (as mentioned before, the MLM companies do not have exclusive rights to pure essential oils, and purity is not the issue here — no-one should be ingesting essential oils at all.). They will even go to the extent, very cleverly, of advising their followers on how to deal with ‘people like GilbertP’ and other qualified practitioners — apparently we are opposed to their methods of use because we want control of the industry or feel threatened by them.

Actually no, we simply don’t wish to injure our valued clients and customers, their families and their children. That’s it.

Red-tiny[Red]: The Coalition would like to thank Gilbert for sharing his knowledge with us. Do you agree or disagree with him, or have you come across essential oil resellers who behave in similar ways? Let us know in the comments below, or check out our guidelines for guest submissions if you’d like to share your own story.

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.

Further reading

Photo by Katherine Hanlon on Unsplash

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