Essential Oils: I'm Calling Bullshit

Update 1/28/16 Since writing this post yesterday, my account has been shut down by Young Living. Apparently sharing an honest opinion about your experience with essential oils is frowned upon. Choose your essential oil company wisely. 

Being a Naturopathic Physician, when I first heard about essential oils many years ago, I was totally open to them.  I mean, I regularly use herbs in my practice, so to have a substance extracted from plants used medicinally to help people, this made complete sense to me. 

This quickly changed however when I ran into people peddling essential oils.  They often didn’t know what they were talking about, were quick to spout off pseudo-scientific “facts” about their oils, and would recommend a litany of different essential oils for every ailment known to humankind. 

Needless to say I was quickly turned off my essential oils, so I turned my back on them and happily walked away.

Fast forward to 2012.  I was pregnant with my third child and was experiencing extreme hip pain. No, it was actually debilitating hip pain.  I’d be fine in the morning, but by the late afternoon and evening, I couldn’t take a normal step, and would end up shuffling around the house like I was 90 years old.  When nighttime hit, crawling was my least painful option.  It sucked. 

After trying a variety of things, and not really wanting to take Advil, I came across some testimonials about the essential oil Panaway by Young Living.  My pain was so severe, I was willing to try anything. I ordered a bottle and gave Panaway a shot. 

It not only worked, it was almost a miracle for me.  Nothing I had tried so far touched it and Panaway, while it didn’t last forever, would give me enough relief at night that I could walk like a normal person.  It was incredible.  (And no, I’m not allowed to make claims about essential oils on my website but screw it, it worked!)

So was I an essential oil convert now?  Nope.  Not by a long shot.  After my pregnancy was over, I didn’t touch an essential oil for another couple of years.  Why?  The essential oil parrots – people who have NO idea what they are talking about, merely repeating what others tell them to say – ruined it for me.  Sure, Panaway may have worked for me, but the people that sold them were such a turn off, I still had no interest dealing with them. 

Fast forward again, this time to 2015.  Essential oils had been slowly creeping into my life for a long time by now and I was once again re-introduced to them.  For whatever reason, I decided to look into them a little more.

I was reading about essential oils, seeing what the scientific research said about essential oils, came across a number of impressive testimonials about them, and ended up deciding to give them a shot.

So, I purchased the “Starter Kit” and began playing with them. 

And you know what?  They were cool.  Like, really cool.  I started making DIY cleaning products, diffusing them in my home, using them on my children, and I was impressed.  I began feeling like they had a solid place in my life and quest for a happier, healthier household and family. 

Now, I’m a researcher at heart, so I went straight to work, reading books, reading blogs, and of course, reading the support groups I was included in as a Young Living customer. Based on what I was reading, I was hooked and began getting really excited for all of the amazing uses for these incredible oils. And just like we all do when we’re excited about something, I started sharing what I learned.

Even better, I started incorporating essential oils into a side income.  Because with the essential oil promise, not only are they essentially a cure all for anything that ails you physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually, but there is the promise of making millions off of them as well.  Who wouldn’t love this?  And in a short period of time, my monthly essential oil orders were paid for, and I was bringing in a nice little stream of income. 

But then the charm started to wear off. 

For starters, essential oils weren’t doing what they were supposed to do.  My daughter’s eczema got worse any time I tried the oils that supposedly cured it.  One day my husband had a headache, and none of the oils we used touched it.  They seemed to be hit or miss.  (And don’t even get me started on the placebo effect, by the way.)

Being someone who gives health and wellness advice for a living, my confidence in recommending essential oils for certain symptoms or conditions began to dwindle.  Don’t get me wrong though, I still loved diffusing them and using them to make cleaning products.  They just weren’t as great as they were cracked up to be.

Then one fine day, I was contacted by Young Living.  They told me I wasn’t being “compliant” on my blog when it came to writing about their essential oils.

WHAT?!?! 

One thing I intentionally stayed away from was making any ridiculous claims about them.  On the secret Facebook group I was part of, people were recommending certain oils for cancer, Lyme disease, club foot, infertility, iron deficiency anemia, and PTSD (to name a few).  Instead, I was suggesting that according to research, oils like lavender or lemon may help support mood. 

I’m mean seriously.  You have to rub the oils clockwise to “activate” them?  One drop “literally touches every cell of your body 40 times”?  If you put a drop of ________ on your wallet or purse, it will manifest money?  Seriously?!?!? 

Then there was the post asking about what oil to use for iron deficiency anemia.  Ummm . . . call me silly, but how about iron?  Or maybe some spinach, red meat or black strap molasses?  Or how about sending that person to a qualified medical professional to figure out why they have iron deficiency anemia in the first place?!?!

Long story short, I had to take down all of my blog posts, all of my facebook posts, and was told to “Only share information about essential oils around your kitchen table.”

Again, WHAT?!?

So you’re saying I can say whatever I want to people about essential oils in person, but not post it online, so that there is no record of it?  Shady, man.  Shady. 

I’m sorry but that just doesn’t fly with me. How come Young Living can self-publish a book with recommendations for a litany of oils for just about every ailment and symptom known to humankind and they recommend we buy this book (and buy it for others) so we can make suggestions about what oils to use, but we can’t use the information from the book to recommend oils to others online?

Why was it only after the FDA cracked down on Young Living, that it was recommended to make our Facebook groups secret and hidden from the general public?

I know.  Because all the ridiculous claims about essential oils are bullshit and everyone knows it! 

Notice I say ridiculous claims.  There is a handful of scientific studies that show essential oils may have some clinical application, especially as it pertains to the nervous system, but the industry – led by Young Living – is a joke.

And don’t get me started in these private essential oil Facebook groups. If you politely questioned anything, or made a sound, logical recommendation for a health concern that was posted, your post was deleted! Like, Stepford Wives style. Your question or comment just didn’t exist anymore.

But you know what does exist in these forums and the essential oil industry? Flight attendants giving health advice. Someone telling their neighbor they should use oils on a toe infection, that resulted in an amputation because of delayed medical attention. People with ZERO (and I mean ZERO) health or science background, giving the most ridiculous, outlandish, and sometimes downright dangerous recommendations and health advice.

For all these and a variety of more reasons, I had to separate. It was getting way too weird. I allow for a little grey area in my life but really, if it’s not black and it’s not white, I don’t have a lot of space for it.

The thing is, essential oils are cool.  They do have a few uses clinically, as well as make the air smell great and are fun to use in DIY cleaning products and cosmetics. But they are far from the cure-all that they are purported to be by the essential oil peddlers. 

I mean, if they were really as great as people say they are, why wouldn’t these multi-billion dollar essential oil companies invest a fraction of that money in some clinical trials?  Why?  Because they know that they won’t work for all their claims. 

So long story short, there is way too much bullshit in the essential oil world for me. I know writing this post may cause some people to hate me.  A lot.  That’s fine.  I’d rather speak my truth and be honest, than be deceitful, reckless, and caring more about the sale than about the health of a person.   

Do I still use my oils? Yes.  There is a saying, “Be in the world, not of it.”  I love my essential oils and will continue to use them.  I will not however, be part of the crap that is going on out there.  Essential oils are not the be all and end all they are promoted as. 

Do I still promote their use?  Kind of. I think chemical exposure is a very serious problem in our society and my contribute to a variety of things such as endocrine disruption, cancer, allergies, ADHD, and autoimmune conditions. Because of this, I think essential oils are a fantastic replacement for chemical cleaning products, personal products, air fresheners, and even perfume. I don’t recommend taking essential oils internally because I haven’t found enough good information on this and to me, it’s too risky. I also don’t subscribe to recommendations like using them for enhancing faith, doing better in your field, acquiring abundance, finding friends, or achieving your highest potential” That stuff just makes me cringe.

So there you have it, the most honest account of my essential oil experience. I know it’s very different from most things you’ll read out there but it’s the truth as I see it.

Update 1/28/16 Since writing this post yesterday, my account has been shut down by Young Living. Apparently sharing an honest opinion about your experience with essential oils is frowned upon. What did I say above? Stepford wives, people. Choose your essential oil company wisely. 

Update 2/3/16 What oils do I recommend? Yes, I used to recommend Young Living despite all of the terrible advice they allow to be circulated. However, since writing this blog post and deciding to shut the door with Young Living, I have taken a closer look at Plant Therapy. I am beyond impressed with what I see so far. You can read more about their quality here. I am a part of their essential oil Facebook group, Safe Essential Oil Usage, and all of their advice is given responsibly, by a team of aromatherapists. I have seen zero false claims. In fact, they don't allow it. I have ordered myself a nice little batch of their oils (again, I DO like essential oils for a handful of things) and am so excited to try them. I wasn't even upsold or encouraged to get on autoship - how refreshing! By the way, they were half the price, probably because they're not paying for their top performers to travel the globe or be entertained by dancing horses.

And in case you're wondering, I'm not selling Plant Therapy. Again, this is my honest account of my essential oil journey and a strong recommendation to choose your essential oil company wisely.