Essential oils: When shady marketing and quackery meet

The Pediatric Insider

© 2014 Roy Benaroch, MD

Kayla wrote in: “Hello!  I am curious what you think about essential oils.  They have recently become incredibly popular in my community, but I am pretty skeptical because so much of the enthusiasm is coming from those who have signed up as ‘distributors’ with doTerra or Young Living (2 essential oil multi-level marketing companies.). The biggest concern I have is that these companies (and all these new distributors) recommend taking many of these oils internally, and giving them orally to children.  I know there is little research to validate the super exaggerated claims that these oils cure EVERYthing, and I am wondering if there is evidence of them actually being harmful-especially taken internally?  I try to provide good information to the moms in my community groups (I am a BSN/public health nurse), and I wonder if taking these oils internally, and especially giving them to children internally, is something that should be discouraged.”

One of the reasons I enjoy writing this blog is questions like these—I had no idea that essential oils were being aggressively marketed for their alleged health benefits to children. I just thought they smelled good. Silly me. When there is money to be made, you can bet someone is out there hustling.

Essential oils are concentrated liquids containing volatile compounds from plants. The name itself, essential, refers to the “essence” of a plant, or the key compounds that form a plant’s unique aroma. It does not mean “essential” as in, “essential for health” the way that the word “essential” is sometimes used to refer to vitamins or other compounds. Because they deliver a concentrated aroma, essential oils are commonly used in soaps, fragrances, incense, and as flavorings in foods.

Of course, not all essential oils are the same. What they are and what they do depends on what plant they’ve come from (and sometimes what part of the plant.) Some essential oils have clear medical uses:

  • Oil of wintergreen (chemical name methyl salicylate) is a constituent of many heating rubs, like Ben Gay. If swallowed, even a small dose of concentrated oil of wintergreen can be fatal. In lower concentrations the same compound is used to flavor chewing gum.
  • Oil of cloves has both antiseptic and analgesic properties, and is used topically in dentistry to numb toothaches (remember that scene in Marathon Man? By the way, the book was better.) High doses of oil of cloves can cause abdominal upset, intestinal bleeding, and liver or kidney failure.
  • Oil of lemon eucalyptus is an effective mosquito repellant when applied topically. But, as with many other essential oils, it’s dangerous when swallowed.

Some essential oils can have harmful effects even when used topically. Lavender and tea tree oils, used only on the skin, can be absorbed well enough into the blood to cause systemic, estrogen-like effects, causing breast growth in boys. Whether taken internally or used topically, essential oils should be used with caution.

Is there any reason to think there are broad health benefits from essential oils, as a group? Many of them smell good, and I imagine that used in a sort of aroma therapy they might be relaxing to people who like the smell of lemon, cedarwood, patchouli, or hyssop. But statements referring to essential oils collectively as having near-magical health benefits are just plain silly. If you wouldn’t say “chemicals are healthy,” then you shouldn’t say “essential oils are healthy”—because essential oils are just one group of chemicals, a group that contains many different things that could all have different effects when put on or in a human body.

Essential oils have been around a long time, but what about these firms that have sprung up to market them? Kayla mentioned two companies that she says are aggressively setting up “distributors” in neighborhoods via multilevel marketing schemes. Parents need to be very wary about purchasing anything through these kinds of shady arrangements, or (worse) of getting themselves involved in these schemes as distributors themselves. Multilevel marketing arrangements rely on distributors recruiting their own distributors, where each level above gets a slice of the commissions from each level below. If you recruit your own distributors, and they then recruit their own distributors, then you will get a slice from everyone below you. Of course, the early adopters above you are getting their slices too—and unless a whole ton of product is actually sold, you can bet that most of the people who actually sell product don’t themselves have much commission left over for themselves. The math just can’t work unless each level manages to recruit an ever-growing number of further distributors… and eventually, the pyramid collapses. With distributors at the bottom of the pyramid left with unsellable inventory and no possible way to recoup their investment.

When these kinds of sales arrangements evolve, with everyone depending on commissions and the recruitment of further distributors, exaggerated claims for a product’s benefits are very likely to follow.

So, Kayla is right to be suspicious of this latest health fad. Some essential oils probably do offer health benefits, but many can be harmful if used incorrectly; and since selling these is intertwined with questionable business practices, it’s unlikely that Kayla is going to get reliable or balanced health information from local distributors. Don’t waste your money or endanger your health—stay away from the multilevel marketing of essential oils.

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42 Comments on “Essential oils: When shady marketing and quackery meet”

  1. CATT Says:

    Anything when used incorrectly can be harmful. The track record of “drugs” proves that. The use of herbs and plants and their essence has been going on for thousands of years and has been extremely useful for all of mankind and have proven their worth, beyond a shadow of a doubt. Alopathic chemicals (Pharmaceuticals) of the past 100 years is the new boy on the block, and in the past 35 years have become potent poisons with warnings of their own, for good reason. I have found that researching and using certain products is the best and most viable way to make a judgement call. I was a distributor of Melaleuca Inc. for over 30 years, because their Melaleuca oil *(tea tree oil) is the most outstanding in the world. I have also done the same with researching essential oils and have found Doterra is the best for internal and external use. For those of us who have done our research and also used the products, we know which ones to use internally and which ones to not use internally. We also know which ones to cut with other oils. It all boils down to knowledge. For me, personally, I would never use prescription Pharmaceuticals. They have always caused problems that took time to recover from. Herbs, EO’s and food are my medicine. They are a tried and true, since the beginning of mankind.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Melissa Says:

    I have done a good amount of research into the use of therapeutic essential oils, and I do use them in my home, though never internally. The key is to do the research yourself and never, ever blindly trust the person or company who sold the oils to you. I have seen relief from headaches and allergy symptoms in all members of my family with use of oils. Some oils have antibacterial, antiviral and immune boosting benefits; since using oils this fall and winter, my family has had fewer colds and upper respiratory “junk” than in previous years, even in a high viral season as per Dr. Stan. Do I think they’re a cure-all? No. Would I use them for everything? No. But with the right information in your hands along with some common sense, essential oils can be beneficial. And there are other reputable companies that offer therapeutic oils at much lower cost than Doterra and YL and who stress safety and knowledge in using oils (that is – not internally) much more. I can point you to a few if interested.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kerry Says:

    I have a few small bottles of different essential oils, eucalyptus, majoram etc. it is comforting to dab some on your handkerchief in the winter months or put in your bathwater. They all have variations of ‘DO NOT SWALLOW’ on them, I can’t believe anyone would ingest the stuff! Don’t drink anything that would burn if you accidently splashed it in your eye is, I think, some sound advice. I would never use them on my child, I wouldn’t trust myself to dilute it properly. Also, did not know that about tea tree oil. My parents would drench our hair in it when we caught headlice. if I’d known it caused breast growth I would have tried to catch them more often! (late bloomer)


  4. erika Says:

    I’m so disheartened to see you say what you’re saying about essential oils as “quackery”, and “shady arrangements” – I can tell you didn’t spend much time looking into this topic….

    I’m a BSN/RN, mom of 4 and use doTerra products daily for my kids – it’s immensely helped my daughter’s asthma, helped my kids fight the flu (despite getting the flu shot), reduced fevers, a natural bug repellant, among countless other benefits of using these oils. I can’t speak for young living – but doTerra has an A rating with the BBB, is full of education and information on how to use the oils, and offers an amazing income for many many families who happen to want to use these for their families.

    As a RN, i am far from using quackery when i discuss alternative ways to help heal strept throat, ear infections, and other bacterial riddled illnesses – which are becoming antibiotic resistant, and cause many issues internally for children – i just helped a mom who’s child had a major histamine reaction to penicillin with just lavender, lemon and peppermint – the first good night the little one had since they left the dr office with the antibiotic. Mere drops rubbed on the soles of her feet, less than 6 cents for a blend that will last her a LONG time…. Many oils are even anti-viral – so instead of collecting the insurance for an office visit, sending parents away hearing “it’s just a virus, go home, rest, push fluids and pain relievers”, there are actual alternatives to help stop the cellular reproduction of these viruses, and help start feeling better.

    While i am by no means saying these will ‘cure’ an illness, or not to seek professional medical advise – they are a viable alternative, and are always suggested to be used extremely diluted (1-2% strength) on children. doTerra oils go thru 6 levels of testing for purity (even 3rd party testing) to make sure their oils are 100% pure.

    While i don’t personally give oils to my children internally, i do know that many GRAS oils would be completely fine for children. My kids love to drink my water with 1-2 drops of Lemon essential oil. doTerra has a child proof cap on Wintergreen and products containing Wintergreen essential oils, with warnings about how large doses are dangerous for children. They do educate on the safety of the oils.

    please check out for more info on essential oils – in published articles..
    There is one there on “Evaluation of the effect of aromatherapy with lavender essential oil on post-tonsillectomy pain in pediatric patients”, with findings that “The use of lavender essential oil caused statistically significant reduction in daily use of acetaminophen in all three post-operative days but had not significant effects on pain intensity and frequency of nocturnal awakening.
    CONCLUSION: Aromatherapy with lavender essential oil decreases the number of required analgesics following tonsillectomy in pediatric patients.”

    Find alternatives for parents whose children are allergic or sensitive to acetaminophen or other pharmaceuticals…. please don’t assume that everyone involved with direct marketing sales of these oils are uninformed, pushing products for profit, — doTerra also has NO monthly requirements for buying products.. There is no agenda here.
    There mission statement is:
    thanks for taking the time to read this –
    take good care,

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Linsey Says:

    Please note that the study you reference about lavender and estrogen is highly questionable. Further research contradicts the claims made and, in fact, show that lavender is not estrogenic.

    Please see:

    Personally, I trust mother nature far more than any prescription and have experienced and witness profound results using essential oils and herbs for physical and emotional health.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Dr. Roy Says:

    Linsey provides a link to a very widely cited article defending lavender– I could find dozens of links to that at “natural” oriented health cites, but I still don’t know where it originally came from. Is that peer-reviewed? Random articles from the web, even when widely re-posted, may not be the best source of health information.

    Her second link is to a study of 40 prepubertal rats.

    The study that pointed out the association of lavender and tea tree oils to breast development in boys was from NEJM, 2007:

    Note that in the study, these products were used for prolonged periods of time on high body surface areas. I don’t think ordinary, occasional, routine use of these products topically is likely to cause problems. But (as with medications) there are always a few people out there who push the dose or use things as not intended. That’s often when trouble starts.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Dr. Roy Says:

    I appreciate everyone’s thoughtful comments here.

    I’d just like to ask, does anyone object to my characterization of the multilevel marketing of these products as shady or underhanded? Many of you have pointed out that you need to learn what you can about these products and use them correctly, and some of you have even agreed that you can’t learn these things reliably from these kinds of marketers. That’s my point.

    It honestly looks like we’re all in agreement here. These oils aren’t automatically some magic potion that is useful for every health condition. They need to be used as directed, they may help with some things, and it would be better if they weren’t aggressively marketed in a way that obscures reliable information about their risks and benefits.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. CATT Says:

    Personally I have trouble believing that Tea Tree oil causes breast tissue growth. But, maybe it’s true. You would have to slather on a lot of it and since it’s very powerful, I can’t imagine anyone using enough to encourage that kind of growth unless they are some kind of masochist. On a different note; back in 1989, my 5 year old son began to show signs of Asthma, so out came the Tea Tree oil. I added a few drops of it to boiling water and had him breathe the vapors for 5 minutes at a time, several times a day, for several weeks. His Asthma disappeared and has never returned. I have also used Tea Tree oil to get rid of dozens of cases of sinus and Bronchial infections and the kicker; 4 cases of Pneumonia. Two in myself and one each in two of my children. No antibiotics. The cases of Pneumonia as well as the Asthmsa were documented by doctors.

    As for multi level marketing. It’s like anything out there; good ones and bad ones. You have to do your research on them. It’s an excellent means of selling a product. Much better than going to a store.

    I thought Dr Roy’s statement; “it would be better if they weren’t aggressively marketed in a way that obscures reliable information about their risks and benefits”, interesting. How many times are we all inundated with commercials on Pharmaceutical drugs with the beautiful people and scenery while they list the obnoxious reactions, to sideline us. Talk about aggressive pushers in their own right. Case in point. Outside our local Albertson’s, at any given time, there are always 6 signs, advertising vaccines. And, when you go inside the store or any Pharmacy there are people asking you if you want to get this, that or other shot. It’s horrendous to have “pushers” in your face, when your trying to take care of business. And, do they ever tell you the reactions you might have if you allow yourself to be shot up? Nope. I really don’t like listening to hypocrisy.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Kerry Says:

    I do not object to your characterisation of these companies. Pyramid schemes are invariably scams.


  10. Megan Says:

    Erika are you saying you DON’T have to make a Do Terra purchase every month to maintain a whole sale membership? It feels very much like a pyramid to me.


  11. Allison Says:

    I actually do object. Multi-level marketing is not a pyramid scheme. Pyramid schemes are illegal, and involve money exchanges with no product or service of value attached. Multi-level marketing is a completely different beast.

    However, as CATT says, there are good and bad ones. (And I’ve been witness to and experienced both). While some can certainly be characterized that way, I have found that they can be an excellent way to purchase a product. Relationship based, rather than advertising based.

    With essential oils in particular, most people have no idea what they’re for, how to use them, what to do with them. Buying at a store does nothing to further their knowledge. However, being mentored and guided as to their use by a friend or associate who is also using them makes the oils accessible and removes the intimidation of not knowing what the heck to do with them.

    I think that is why essential oils have become so popular via MLM. Someone is introduced to the oils by a friend – has great results, enrolls for their own use. They use the oils, falls in love with them, learn more, shares them with a friend, who has a great experience and gets their own account… who shares them with a friend and so on and so on. It’s a natural result of caring about other people.

    After using essential oils for 10 years, I discovered and fell in love with the doTERRA oils and their company culture – which isn’t about sales/marketing/recruiting. It is very much about use, share, educate. That’s what I do. I give people an experience with essential oils by teaching a class, or sharing a sample. No selling or “recruiting” needed – the oils sell themselves. If they want to learn more, or want to begin using oils themselves, I guide and mentor them along the way as they discover that they, too, can become educated and confident in using essential oils.

    And I never get tired of friends, family, associates and strangers coming back to thank me for bringing the oils into their lives (including those who insist they never want to join one of “those things” (mlm)) because of how their lives/health/emotions have improved in some way. Sometimes very profound ways. I am grateful I get to have a career doing something I love while making a difference in the lives of others.


  12. Allison Says:

    Megan, no you do not need to purchase monthly (speaking of doTERRA only – other companies may have different policies).

    Anyone can get a membership and one order per year keeps your account active. If you want to earn free products, you may do so through a monthly purchase called “Loyalty Rewards”. It is entirely OPTIONAL – think of it like a cash-back credit card. Accumulate points with each monthly purchase.

    The only time you “need” to place a monthly order is if you are wanting to create a business and earn an income from sharing the oils. The majority of doTERRA members are users only (not building a business) and many choose to order each month simply because they love the products and enjoy earning free points.

    The choice is yours.


  13. CATT Says:

    Allison Excellent explanation! There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind, now, between MLM and a Pyramid.


  14. OMDG Says:

    Um, no.


  15. Dr. Roy Says:

    The distinction between a pyramid scheme and a multilevel marketing scheme rests on whether product is sold to consumers or to distributors. What happens to the inventory? If it’s all (or mostly all) actually sold to actual customers– end users who intend to use it– that’s a legit, legal MLM (a rule of thumb: 70% of product must be sold to consumers, not just to distributors) If most of the inventory is sold to a next level of “distributors” who are trying to recruit more distributors to whom their own inventory can be sold, that’s a pyramid.

    But inventory may not be well tracked, and MLMs certainly aren’t likely to tell anyone just how much their product ends up with distributors. Thus, investigations into these schemes abound. The largest MLM apparently admitted in financial documents that approximately 18% of sales ended up in the hands of consumers; the rest remained inventory in people’s garages and basements.


    Liked by 1 person

  16. Martha Says:

    I have to take issue with your statement, based on the NEJM article, that tea tree and lavender can cause systemic estrogen like effects. What was reported in the article was a case report of only three boys, and some lab work suggesting that the oils could be estrogenic. This is far from conclusive and in no sense represents research. As a physician I would never take such anecdotal information as anything other than a interesting connection and a pointer for future study. And certainly it seems premature to make definitive statements based on such weak data.


  17. jane Says:

    The NEJM “study” was, as Martha notes, a case report of only three boys. Worse, if I recall correctly, all three of those had used products with one of the oils in question, and the product in one case also had the second oil. Now if the author had already decided based on his huge n=3 [of how many kids he had seen with similarly shaped chests who did not use oil-containing products?] that the former oil “causes gynecomastia”, would that not adequately explain the third case without need to presume that the other herbal oil in the product was equally culpable? This is reminiscent of the attempt to claim that valerian is “hepatotoxic” based on a case report of liver disease in a person who had consumed a multiplant product that also contained skullcap, which is sometimes accidentally adulterated with a known toxic plant. If he does not assume that any or all of the artificial chemicals in product #3 are toxic, he has no basis for assuming it about all of the natural substances in that product.

    Also IIRC, the three cases were rather divergent in terms of how long the child had putatively been using the product and how long it took for the issue to disappear. It seemed that temporal plausibility and consistency was not a big concern for that author.

    I agree that essential oils should not be consumed unless you really know what you are doing and some of the herbal zealots clearly don’t, but on the flip side, there is a fair bit of alarmist hype that gets published in high-impact-factor medical journals. Lots of people obtain health benefits from the topical use of tea tree oil without growing large breasts – including me, alas! – and scare tactics that contradict consumers’ personal and observed experience are likely to backfire and reduce people’s willingness to listen to better-supported warnings.


  18. Marie Bonacello Says:

    Dr. Benaroch, I take issue with this entire post, and quite honestly coming from an MD worries me because while you come down on the ‘home doctor’ you are no more informed than we are!

    From the research I did, the study regarding lavender and tea tree was spotty at best. A full list of ingredients was not provided, and the population size was under 5 children.

    It seems to me you dislike the multi-level marketing aspect more so than you do the oils. I do work with oils, have done so for years, and every time I have a workshop I do 2 things: 1. advise everyone to research on their own and learn more about oils, since I am sharing them and not prescribing them, and 2. provide links to independent research that I have relied on. There is more and more research being performed on the medicinal and therapeutic value of essential oils.

    further, I notice you, as so many doctors do, have no problem promoting prescription medicine, for example rx for adhd/add. How many prescription medications carry side effects and potentially harmful effects if taken too much of? As a medical doctor, you take an oath to treat medicine and patients with the utmost respect, and to use a blog to spout opinions that are not backed up is irresponsible.

    This is why my family does not see a physician regularly, and we take care of ourselves. Good day

    Liked by 3 people

  19. CATT Says:

    Amen, to your statement.


  20. david Says:

    Ugh…..all of this stuff is a scam….file it away with noni juice, advocare, amway, 31, etc


  21. Sherry Says:

    There is no need to buy essential oils from any one company. Do your own research & figure out which brands you trust. Just because a brand costs three times as much doesn’t make it 3 times better. Figure out for what you’ll be using an oil–a toiletry, perfume, room deodorizer, cleaning product, etc? The brand probably doesn’t make much difference, but if you’re going to inhale it you probably want to be more careful. Always read lables carefully & learn how a particular company processes it’s product. I personally would be cautious about Internet companies that sell products from China, India, etc.

    I am also suspicious of medical claims & taking essential oils internally. If something works for you, fine but don’t start handing out medical advice to others. We can get low cost health insurance under Obamacare, so the days of relying exclusively on “folk remedies” & faith healing are probably over in the US. Essential oils have their place, but they aren’t the solution to every ailment. Sometimes you ought to consult a doctor.


  22. Ted Danson Says:

    @Allison – the question was whether you have to purchase monthly to get wholesale distributor prices. The correct answer is simply “yes”. Either you misunderstood the question, or you danced around it.


  23. Sherry Says:

    Why would anyone sign up to be a “distributor” in a pyramid scheme to sell essential oils when it’s so easy to buy what one needs over the Internet & in stores for much lower prices? How can a “distributor” make any money when perfectly respectable companies like Aura Cacia & so many others sell good quality oils in stores & on the Internet. Also, it’s so easy to buy books on aromatherapy on the Internet. Who needs a shady “distributor” pushing products that they know little about to make a slim profit. Better to start out buying a bottle of lavendar oil & a bottle of almond oil from a health food store or Whole Foods, read up on the uses for lavendar on the Internet & later try another oil. Essential oils aren’t magic cures for anything. They are alternative medicine & they have many other applications like making perfume, cosmetics, skin creams, cleaning products, air fresheners, etc. Stop being gullible!


  24. Mary Says:

    Hi Dr. Roy and others. I am every interested in this. I’ve worked with essential oils for ten years with great results. I started with Aura Cacia Lavender, Dessert Essence Tea Tree Oil and a few others that I bought in health food stores. At times I would make scrubs, aromatherapy sprays with carrier oils, etc.

    I am not selling these oils, though I am interested in exploring that, which is what bought me to your blog. I happened upon DoTerra through my cousin, and have had recurring good personal results. Heartburn relief from DigestZen, TerraSheild repellent that *works* (which is huge, especially in Dengue-ridden areas- I have had Dengue and it is no joke), relief from anxiety from blends I have made myself using DoTerra oils (and others), a quick healing of a cyst on my face from Frankincense… just to name a few. I’m not talking about any major health threats.

    I don’t like to take pharmaceuticals, but I am not a purist (yet). I take Advil for cramps and the occasional shot of DayQuil or NyQuil. I work in a deadline-oriented field and sometimes I reach for a quick fix to keep going. But -from my own experience- the Breathe from DoTerra has alleviated allergy symptoms better than Claritan. Lavender and Peppermint have stopped a headache faster than Aleve. Lemongrass and Lavender work better to keep bugs from biting than Off. And Frankincense has proven better results than any other products for the stress symptoms of my skin. Why *wouldn’t* I want to continue using them?

    I’m interested to continue down the path of using less over-the-counter drugs and products and finding more uses for plants as close to natural as I can get without growing them myself. I will let others have their own experiences. I’m not interested in diagnosing or treating any illness, but I do want to share things that work for me. I have always done my own research, and I only speak from my own experience. I listen and read to what other people say- and I’ve read this blog post and all the comments and I can see that the people who are selling DoTerra are like me- basing their use and promotion on proven personal results. Yes, they seek to spread it around and make money. But really- what is wrong with that? It’s not snake oil. Why isn’t anyone writing these kinds of blogs about the Lancome lady? I worked as a medical secretary for years and had doctors tell me they think acupuncture is quackery. And Reiki. And using apple cider vinegar. And aromatherapy. I’ve also had doctors say they are excited about the changes they are seeing in patients taking a more autonomous approach to their health and have “prescribed” alternatives as complementary with good results. And a 94 year old great aunt who swears ACV is why she still had enough energy to mow her lawn. I admit I am more interested in results than in tests.

    I understand the concern of “educating the public” and the fear of MLM’s. In this case, I don’t think it’s quackery at all. On the contrary, I think a lot of “quackery” lies in just taking the scripts one is handed by her physician, going to the pharmacy, and swallowing the pills, no questions asked, no research done- the other end of the spectrum. However it seems to be the norm.

    I think both Young Living and DoTerra are great and I am looking in to working more with them- DoTerra more so because I’ve had good results with them personally. Recently all I do is share what I’m in to and other people have their own experiences which prove beneficial.

    I am not a quack, I have nothing against Western-style medicine but I also think it’s awesome that people are becoming more aware of their own control over their health and bodies and are seeking more natural ways to direct their own wellbeing. That’s why yoga, pilates, acupuncture, whole food diets, competitive outdoor races, farmer’s markets, farm to table, etc. are all the rage. I think we’re headed in a positive direction and I do think essential oils have their place in this.

    As I research these companies, I am coming across posts like yours. I don’t consider myself shady or underhanded at all and I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with this style of marketing, but I do have reservations based on preconceived notions of network marketing. I have a masters in interior architecture and green building with substantial knowledge of renewable energy and was recently introduced to Viridian. I wasn’t convinced. I’m not saying it’s not a good company, I’m just saying I wasn’t convinced. Like some above say, there are good and bad ones- and some that are just not convincing- just like there are good and bad doctors- and some that are just not convincing.

    I wonder if you are confusing issues in your post.

    Anything and everything that promotes this kind of discussion – and that’s all it is- a discussion – is good for everyone. So thank you for allowing me to disagree.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Shannon Flores Says:

    Sherry, Aura Cacia is not good quality oil! Have you done any oil research? Have you ever smelled their lavender next to Doterra lavender? Totally different. DoTerra has a very high standard of quality and does rigorous testing using a third party. You’re much better off buying pure oil from a knowledgeable distributor than just getting some diluted crap from the local store and having no idea what to do with it. I used Doterra oils personally and did years of research before I ever sold a bottle to anybody. I teach classes twice a month on essential oils and how to use them safely. I answer questions from people everyday who text, fb message and call me. I had a friend message me that she used a certain oil to clear up a problem she was having, she ran out of the oil and used one from Whole Foods and her problem didn’t go away. She got a new bottle of Doterra oil and withing 30 minutes her problem cleared up. She said she had been skeptical of Doterra’s claim of being pure therapeutic grade but after that experience she was a believer. Not all oils are created equally. The oils used in cosmetics, skin creams, cleaning products are usually synthetic oils. There are so many uniformed, misguided opinions on this page it makes my head spin! The lavender/tea tree oil research on those boys has totally been debunked. The petri dishes used have a chemical in it that causes an estrogen response yet that was unaccounted for in the “research” with Dr Pappas (an essential oil expert NOT connected to any one brand) called it the worse piece of junk science he’s seen. Doterra would rather not waste advertising dollars when they could pay and educate wellness advocates. Research shows that word of mouth is the best way to “sell” a product anyway. Doterra has an amazing compensation plan and they truly care about serving and helping others. They are an amazing company. You are NOT obligated to purchase every month to keep your wholesale membership although you do have an opportunity to earn points and get free oils. I’ve gotten hundreds of dollars worth of free oils. David…essential oils are not a scam. They’ve been used for thousands of years, they were brought to baby Jesus and mentioned over 100 times in the Bible. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, used oregano oil in his practice. I’ve seen amazing things happen with the use of oils and without side effects like pharmaceuticals. Many people are skeptics until they experience relief using the oils. They work. y kids only see their doctor once a year for their birthday check up. We’ve used oils to relieve ear infections, flu, chicken pox, sinus infections, bee stings, fevers, vomiting…you name it, there is an oil that helps. We don’t use any medication which is foreign to your body and causes side effects. Don’t be so closed minded. There is a website with scientific research studies about the benefits of essential oils. Do you own research before you make biased opinions without knowing the facts.


  26. Myrd Says:

    Essential oils are a scam. Period. They aren’t backed by anything but pseudo science and in many cases can be dangerous. There is no doubt that a pleasant smell will help you relax, but, having worked myself on the description texts, the claims they make are totally ridiculous, and have run into legal issues for false advertisement in countries with stricter laws. They are totally invented and we are encouraged to be creative as we write them.

    On MLM. MLM is nothing but a legal pyramid. Argue on semantics all you want. Be it oils, Quixtar, ACN, etc., people who make the big money do it with conferences and motivation material sales for the lower layers and recruitement. It is so much like a cult that it is frightening.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Sherry Says:

    Shannon, speaking as someone who has sales training & experience, knocking the competition is an age-old sales technique. Anyone who is silly enough to want to be a “distributor” of a product with a very low profit margin (like a $5 bottle of oil), especially in the age of the Internet & Whole Foods stores isn’t thinking with a full deck. It’s impossible to make any money that way. Yes, traditional medicine is flawed, but the jury is still out on how effective essential oils really are. I’ve used lavendar to help me sleep & it works like a charm. It also stops my runny nose, but I’ve tried other oils to help my eczema & they actually made it worse. (Aveeno products from the drug store work best for me.) Currently I’m trying to figure out what oil to use to make me unattractive to mosquitos. I don’t have medical training, so I wouldn’t even think of giving advice to anyone else. (We’re all differerent, so what works for me may not work for you or my husband.) If you want to make “big money” there are easier ways than essential oils–such as selling hedge funds.


  28. shanniberry Says:

    I don’t ever knock competition and I’m not in this to make money, I have a different job that I love that pays well (although after only selling Doterra for a few months I’m making $500/month on the side). I just love to help people use oils to get relief instead of turning to pharmaceuticals or drug store products loaded with toxic chemicals. I have dozens of testimonials of the oils helping people, they have been an amazing help in my family. I make an awesome salve for eczema, keratosis, rashes, wounds, etc that everybody seems to love. These are oils that help repel mosquitos: citronella, lemon eucalyptus, peppermint, lemon, eucalyptus, basil, clove, thyme, lemongrass, geranium, and lavender.

    Essential oils work and it makes me shake my head that anyone would say they just smell nice and could be dangerous. More dangerous than all the drugs that have been recalled? 100,000 Americans die every year from prescription drugs! I can’t even find any documented cases of anyone dying from essential oils…maybe if they drank a whole bottle of Wintergreen. I’m sure it’s happened but oils are far safer than anything prescribed from a doctor. The list of side effects from medications are ridiculous. It baffles me that people are so closed minded that they would rather take that poison than try an oil that they think is “a scam”. Have you even tried the oils for anything? (One time for one issues doesn’t count). I get at least 3 texts or calls a week from oil users raving about some rash that’s gone away, a fever that was reduced with peppermint or some illness that was nipped in the bud or arthritis pain not hurting any more. I use the oils for anything and everything and I can say they work wonders. I used to get horrible stomach aches and tried several different over the counter medications and they offered minimal relief (this was before I knew about oils) Now on the rare chance I get stomach ache Digestzen knocks it out within 10-15 minutes. My son has woken up crying with ear pain and I rub a little basil, lavender and melaleuca over his ear and he falls back asleep and by morning he’s fine. No need to drive 30 min to his pediatrician and sit in a germ filled waiting room, pay a $20 co pay and then give him $60 antibiotics for 10 days that screws up his gut. My youngest son was diagnosed with “sensory processing disorder” and I made an oil blend that has worked wonders with his behavior. A friend has gone off Ambien after 6 years after I made her a sleep blend. I could go on but I think it’s pointless since some of you are so set in your ways.


  29. Sherry Says:

    I’m so happy that you are so successful, well-informed & altruistic. Those are admirable qualities. However, I still cannot understand why you would choose to sell $5 bottles of essential & carrier oils for 2-3 x the price to your friends & neighbors & dispense pseudo-medical advice without a license? Doesn’t that make you feel like a lousey person? Especially when you know they can buy virtually the same products off the shelf at Wholefoods for less money? And get virtually the same advice from books they can buy on Amazon? Wouldn’t you feel bad if some kid got sick from your questionable advice? Essential oils are great for making fragrance products like air fresheners, soaps, cosmetics, cleaning supplies, perfume, natural bug repellants, etc. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I use lavender to help me sleep & it works for me, but I would never advise someone else about what to use. I would need to know their medical history before I did that. Why do you enjoy playing with people’s lives & health by dispensing medical advice? Did you ever consider that you may be misdiagnosing an ailment & causing someone to delay seeking medical advice from a trained doctor? All your anecdotes about the people who were “cured” by essential oils are interesting but lack scientific testing. You’re lucky no one has sued you. I also question the morality of selling expensive “distributorships” to poor, uneducated, unemployed people in today’s economic climate. Basically I don’t accept the idea of selling medical cures thebway Avon products or Tupperware are sold. It lowers your credibility drastically. I wouldn’t say I was “set in my ways”–I’d say I have common sense & a conscience.


  30. shanniberry Says:

    You are uninformed if you think Doterra oils and cheap oils from Whole Foods can even be comparable, they are a totally different quality of oil. Have you ever smelled them side by side or tried different brands? And you are sadly mistaken in your assumptions that I dispense medical advice (I don’t) and that I would EVER put anyone at risk or that I feel lousy. If someone needs medical attention I advise them to seek it. I actually feel great that I am able to help so many people. I love helping people. My advice is solid and researched, not questionable. I also state very clearly on my website “I am not a doctor and the statements on this site have not been evaluated by the FDA. Any products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.” I’m offended at your implication that I take advantage of people. I teach classes, give information booklets, have lots of information and links on my websites and give away tons of free samples at my own expense. I go above and beyond to help people. If they can’t afford something I offer a trade or to help purchase. I am one of the most kind, caring, generous, compassionate people and everyone who has bought oils from me can vouch for me and I have plenty of credibility. I also have common sense and a conscience and I should have known better than to ever waste my time leaving comments or try to defend myself on a site filled with such vultures.


  31. John Says:

    @Shanniberry and Allison: Excellent comments from informed posters.


  32. Amy Says:

    This article is bogus. Please do more research about 100% therapeutic grade essential oils, find credible sources, and actually know how Young Living and doTerra are ran before claiming how they work. Essential oils are being researched for how they can help fight cancer, and I personally know someone who used Young Living when they had cancer and it helped him become cancer free. Don’t discredit these companies because their members can benefit from their stellar product. They are changing people’s lives.


  33. Amy Says:

    Side note, not all doctors are like this one. My friend’s doctor actually wrote her a prescription to use Young Living essential oils for anxiety so she could get off her pharmaceutical anxiety meds. She was experiencing the many horrible side effects of her anxiety medication and since turning to essential oils she is completely off her anxiety medicine, no longer dealing with nasty side effects, and feeling happy and healthy. Don’t knock it til you try it. I’ve experienced and seen many success stories with EOs (YL specifically) so I know they are worth their weight in gold. Perhaps you’re just being paid by pharmaceutical companies and don’t like the idea of people turning to something natural and pure? Typical America.


  34. thevchip Says:

    It’s funny — all those who already like and use essential oils are patting each other on the back for their “well-informed” takes, while dismissing a medical doctor and anyone else whose information is apparently “bogus” or not “credible” if they don’t agree. That sounds more like confirmation bias than anything else.

    Nearly every medical study or review of essential oils do not back up the many claims of EOs being a panacea and medical miracle (like use as an antibiotic or curing cancer, or claims that EOs can be used to treat *any* malady). Some are effective complimentary therapies, and some are helpful in the aromatherapy arena or in limited usage (dental rinses, eucalyptus for bronchitis, peppermint oil for IBS, etc) but oral use as often recommended by EO marketers/websites can be chancy. Anecdotal evidence is NOT scientific evidence, and anyone in the scientific-based medical profession who suggests treatments that have no basis in science is not worth their salt.

    Liked by 2 people

  35. CATT Says:

    thevchip: Interesting how so many people think that science is everything. Well, it’s not! Scientific “theories” have been proven incorrect time and again. Essential Oils, are all based on tried and true food, plants or plant extracts that have been used for thousands of years, by all cultures. When you use your biased opinion that there is no anecdotal evidence for the use and healing properties of these long standing remedies (and I might add, God given “medicinal foods”) you are the one making unscientific claims. After all, if you really think about it, “modern medicine” is the new kid on the block, these others have a history as long as mankind’s existence. And, when you speak of “comparison bias”, between those who are knowledgeable and use EO’s and those who have no personal knowledge, in a condescending tone, then you have lost all credibility. Knowledge vs ignorance. Hmmmmm


  36. Sherry Says:

    CATT, we all know from your postings that you are dedicated to your beliefs about what essential oils can do for us. However, you are biased because you’re trying to make a living selling essential oils. Yes, science & modern medicine are imperfect. Yes, essential oils can be helpful, but to tell us that essential oils are better than modern medicine based on anecdotal evidence is foolhardy. You are biased against science & modern medicine. Information from anyone who is biased is suspicious. You have drunk the essential oil Kool-Aid. You are convinced that the company you represent makes THE best product despite the fact that it costs 2-3X as much as other brands. Yes, a Mercedes costs more than other cars, but is it that much better so as to justify the additional cost? Some people would say no. Save your money. Ford makes a perfectly good product. Secondly to make claims about essential oils curing cancer is absurd. Does the phrase “snake oil salesman” sound familiar? If you want to sell essential oils to make cosmetics, massage or cleaning products, fine, but please, stop trying to practice medicine without a license (for your own good).


  37. CATT Says:

    First of alI, I don’t sell EO’s, but I have used them for over 40 years. And, I don’t recall ever saying they cure Cancer. Those are someone else’s claims. So please don’t claim to think I said something I didn’t because that is slander. I do have a personal bias against Pharmaceuticals because being the 5% of the population that has reactions to them (that is the very reason for the warnings on all OCT and prescriptions), I don’t trust them anymore. And, drinking “the kool aid”, works both ways. What works for the goose does not always work for the gander. We all have the right to choose what works for our individual self and reject what does not work. I use these “alternative” remedies because they work, for me, whereas modern medicine has failed me, miserably.


  38. Lynne Says:

    To quote: “If you wouldn’t say “chemicals are healthy,” then you shouldn’t say “essential oils are healthy”.

    So you mean to say then that the drugs you recommend are healthy?
    If essential oils aren’t healthy you are the saying that drugs (regulated by the FDA) are healthy and we should use those (even though every single drug comes with all sorts of possible side effects – some that can lead to death).

    What really disappoints me is how medical professionals are not doing more research and constantly looking in to ALL methods of treating/curing/healing. There is so much out there that is unknown or “not regulated by the FDA”, but slowly becoming known (essential oils, energy healing, etc).

    Maybe a drug cured a disease in someone. Maybe an essential oil cured a disease in another. Maybe thousands of prayers cured someone else’s disease. To say only 1 method is correct and the others are all “quackery” is extremely disappointing. It is no wonder thousands of people are turning to other “professionals” for help.

    Liked by 1 person

  39. thevchip Says:

    CATT: Science isn’t “everything” (whatever that is supposed to mean) but the great thing about it is that science tests and verifies or disproves hypotheses and will willingly change when contradictory information is discovered. Not so much for the people touting all these unscientific arguments. I never said there was no anecdotal evidence — you need to re-read my statement. And despite your implication, “natural” is not the same as “good” — disease is “natural,” as are poisonous berries and plants, and foods that cause allergic reactions. Appealing to Antiquity is a logical fallacy. For thousands of years some people treated headaches by burning the scalp, putting a dead mole on your head, cutting holes in the skull, rubbing animal feces on the head, soaking the feet in hot water, or leeches among many others. Having “knowledge” in EOs is nothing compared to having scientific evidence that backs up the knowledge. So far EOs just don’t have that evidence. And I said nothing of “comparison bias” (you even used quotes around it as if I had!) I said “confirmation bias” which is a completely different thing. Again, you should re-read my statements — later you accused others of “slander” by attributing to you something that you did not say; physician heal thyself.

    Lynne: No he isn’t saying “the drugs [he] recommend[s] are healthy” he is saying that if someone else says “chemicals are unhealthy” then EOs are unhealthy as well. The reasoning he even spells out: essential oils ARE chemicals. Therefore, if you say chemicals are unhealthy, then you are saying EOs are unhealthy. Not all chemicals are unhealthy (nor are all chemicals healthy, obviously many are very unhealthy); not all EOs are healthy nor are they all unhealthy. And he never said all other types of “healthcare” are quackery. Many are not scientifically proven yet, and until they are either proven or at least studied with positive outcomes there is a big risk in putting one’s trust that the chosen alternative will have successful results.

    Liked by 1 person

  40. shanniberry Says:

    thevchip – You are mistaken. Essential oils DO have science to back up the knowledge.


  41. Dr. Roy Says:

    That site is beautiful, calming, well-organized– truly inspiring. Too bad it’s so thin on actual science.

    I couldn’t possibly go thru all of the internal links and articles there. It’s like a firehose to dull the mind. But I did click on some links from the “research: clinical and scientific articles” page. What I found were long, vague articles chock full ‘o sciency-looking language, and plenty of internal links to similar articles– but very little actual clinical information based on studies of human beings. It’s all speculation.

    I liked this sentence: “There are no known toxicity or side effects from using either oil if infact they are “pure” as they are naturally produced by the earth.” Yes, we all know that things directly from the earth have no toxicity (smallpox, rattlesnakes, cholera, aflatoxin, cadmium, arsenic….) When you start to believe that natural always equates with good and safe, you’re living in a fantasy world.

    Liked by 2 people

  42. […] Roy Benaroch, MD (yes, an actual doctor!) writes about essential oils: […]

    MODERATOR EDIT: One illustrative point made in that article: doTerra made up and trademarked the phrase “Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade”. Looks sciency and reassuring? Nope, just marketing. Clever!


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