Essential Oils and MLMs

I’m not going to talk at all about whether or not you should use them or why or how.  I am writing for those who have already decided to use them. I use them sparingly, mainly because I like the way they smell, and for cleaning (because I like the way they smell), and some ‘cosmetic’ use (toiletries).


Ask the person trying to sell you her ‘therapeutic grade oils’ who certified them as therapeutic grade.  Then ask for proof.  If you are given anything in writing claiming the FDA is involved, turn her in because that is not true..

There is, in fact, no independent, external certifying agency which  issues such certification, least of all the FDA.

Therapeutic Grade is a marketing term. Sometimes it or some variation of it is a trademarked term, which is not a scientific standard- almost any name can be trademarked without making any scientific proofs.   It’s not an objectively meaningful scientific term.    ‘Therapeutic grade’ has no official legal meaning. Within the industry it’s sort of become kind of an accepted term with a generally understood meaning, but any company can legally and accurately enough call their product ‘therapeutic grade.’    Contrary to what you will hear from those who have gotten their information primarily from one company, that company is not the only company that carries ‘therapeutic grade’, undiluted, or wildcrafted oils.

Both that term and claims about whether or not an oil is ‘ingestable’ have more to do with avoiding the FDA’s unwelcome attention,  for what I would say are various legitimate reasons. I drink raw milk which is clearly labeled NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION. This is not because it is unsafe for human consumption, but it is to protect my dairyman from the government.

For example, aura cacia, from what I can find in my own research, has very carefully structured themselves legally as a body care company. This does not mean their oils are not ingestable. It means they cannot say they are, or they have to restructure themselves legally. But many of their oils, just as other companies’, are GRAS (approved for use in foods, although GRAS approval still is more about a much diluted use as a flavoring agent in foods).

This notice serves the same purpose as the ‘not for human consumption’ notice on our raw milk:
“As a bodycare company we cannot put structure function claims on our labels, nor safely recommend ingestion of oils. Though many oils are on the FDA’s GRAS (generally recognized as safe to use in foods) list, and commonly used in food and flavorings, we cannot recommend internal use of oils.”!

Ananda Apothecary is another one we’ve used, and they have a good article on determining which oils are safe for consumption:

This article has some interesting information on which oils are safe for ingestion and under what conditions. I thought that might be helpful to others interested in making their own blends.

However, you should also know that many who work with essential oils and health issues who have no connection with any specific essential oil company find it absolutely appalling that any company would recommend ingesting oils.  Think about it.  Most of these oils are solvents used in your home-made cleaning products.  Why don’t we wonder more about the wisdom of taking them internally?  More about that here.

And, of course, the FDA refused to approve Stevia as a food product, but they did give approval to Saccharine and Aspartame.


I notice often with MLM companies that there is a problem with their members having difficulty distinguishing marketing claims from  scientific research.    Independent research is also hard to come by.
When I have asked for independent studies, from one company in particular, the replies I have been given demonstrate a lot of confusion.   I have frequently been told about a particular study that was actually sponsored by the MLM company itself.  That’s not independent research.  As a sidenote, even the study itself has been misused by distributors. They will tell me that this study proves their product is better than the other essential oils on the market, but the study in question didn’t compare brands of essential oils against each other. It simply compared essential oils to penicillin and ampicillin in their effectiveness against Escherichia coli (E-Coli) and Staphylococcus aureu.

A particular book is also often referenced as an independent source for information on essential oils, but a very little digging reveals that the book, though it has an official sounding name, is merely a publication of that MLM, largely authored by the founder of that MLM, making it anything but an independent resource.  It’s like me asking for somebody to document the claims of some Big Pharma company, and being given a book written by the founder of that company and published by that company as ‘proof’ of their claims.  It’s circular reasoning, at best.

In other cases, I’ve been given a link to a supposed independent research paper or article, only when I check the names of the authors of that paper, I find that the credit paragraph would be just as accurate if it read like this:

“The research was carried out, compiled, and reported by the person who has been the director of the company’s own private lab for well over a decade, her boss and founder of the company, and two professors who work at a university which receives many donations from that company.”

In a scientific paper authors are generally listed in order of their importance and participation in the study. \

If the owner of a vaccine company was the second author of a paper vindicating his vaccines, vaccines his company donated to the research, would any of us accept that as independent research? If not, why the double standard?

That’s not independent. That does NOT mean it’s wrong, but it does mean _not_ independent.

Dangerous Claims

This is a far more important issue than I can give  time and attention to, but many claims made by the distributors for some of these companies amount to dangerous medical malpractice. They do not cure cancer, and yes, you can, too, be allergic to pure, unadulterated essential oils.

Libel and Slander: 

When a business model appears to be based on harsh, emotional criticism of all the competition, I have to wonder what’s wrong with that product that it cannot stand well on its own merits, without needing to tear down all the competition.  The criticisms can be very shrill, and what disturbs me more is how often it comes from Christians.  I also am not at all comfortable with accusations that 99 % of all ‘other’ companies are unethical and use chemicals, particularly when those accusations are made without independent documentation and evidence.  I do not believe it is Christlike to accept such accusations without proof, which I have not seen.  it is not Christlike to make or receive accusations such as this against others without some sort of factual evidence. Feelings and personal testimonies are not evidence. Feelings and personal testimonies are not facts. But feelings and personal testimony are often the foundation and most of the substance of and MLM marketing plan.

 Personality Cults:

This is also a marketing approach based on appeal to emotions, and it never sits well with me. I am not going to say too much about this one, except for two points.  I don’t care that much about who founded the company or about his life story.  I care about the products.

OTOH, I do care about integrity.  The founder of one of the larger MLM essential oil businesses claimed for years to have an  ND degree at a doctorate level and it turns out it came from an unaccredited diploma mill with no authority to grant degrees, and it’s not clear that he even did as much work as the diploma mill generally requires.  Strangely, when I have pointed this out before to distributors with that company, the response is to:

1. ignore it, although just seconds before the cult of personality was part of the presentation.

2. claim it’s just persecution because he loves God (but not actually deny it).

3. tell me that it was never required that he have an ND degree.  In which case, it’s even stranger and more disturbing that he made it up, isn’t it?


The cost of MLM (multilevel marketing)  products will obviously be inflated to cover the overhead costs of having pay off the upline of distributors. Distributors will tell you the higher cost is for higher quality.  I truly do not mean to be insulting about this, but I do find it frustrating.  It seems to me if you simply have some basic common sense and haven’t invested yourself into the company already so that you can’t let yourself view this logically, anybody who looks at the way the marketing and overhead costs have to work for any MLM program can see that the higher prices *have* to come from the costs of doing business on a MLM plan- the overhead costs are just higher, much higher, than for an internet company that sells directly to consumers without the go-between of an upline market of 6 other people who have to be paid before the product reaches the consumer.   And, contrary to the way I sound here, it’s not that I object to the profit sharing.  What bothers me is that what is an obvious effect of the overhead is instead sold as proof of quality.  I’ve written before about my general concerns with MLMs, so I won’t say more here.

Finally- stories are marketing tools, not effective diagnostics or prescriptions-

This really isn’t all that important in the vast scheme of things, but it kind of amuses me, so I’m sharing it.  It does give some insight into how gullible some of us can be (including myself).

There is a certain tale told around essential oil circles about how, in the days of the black death, certain people concocted an essential oil blend to protect themselves from contracting the plague, and then went around robbing houses of the dying and the dead, immune to the plague.  This is now sold as a proprietary blend, although you can find references to making your own blend on other websites as well.

I find the story charming, and I bought the ingredients to make my own blend last winter- we put it in pots of water on our wood stove to diffuse throughout the house and try and keep the bugs at bay.  Now, maybe it works, and maybe it doesn’t, that’s not my point.  Here’s the thing that was recently pointed out to me.

Note the timing of the story- the black death in England.  That puts it in the 1300s.

Note that one of the ingredients common to nearly all recipes is eucalyptus, which was not known to Europe until Captain Cook’s exploration of the Pacific islands some four hundred years later.


Lastly, this is must reading.

Updated to add: Robert Tisserand is a good author on the topic.
“Essential Oil Myths” at is useful.
Cynthia Hillson at writes about oils and their use in Bible times.
Robert Pappas is a chemist and researcher who has an essential oils study program on the internet and several interesting articles on the internet, see

There’s also some very interesting information at this site, where they raise money for third-party testing of multiple brands of EO’s. Here are the results for peppermint oils.  Here is an overview of the results– for the record, Young Living’s Peppermint oil failed- it was not in compliance with standards, and their Myrrh ‘passed,’ was only 3rd out of 5 samples in so far as quality.

Updated (May 22, 2014) to add this: This mom did some interesting research and she chose this company-  Native American Nutritionals

Further update- Please, be very careful about the internal use of oils.  All the MLM companies I know suggest using the oils internally at what I consider irresponsible, uninformed, and even dangerous levels.  Read more about some of the problems with this here.

Anybody telling you it’s safe because the product is ‘pure’ has absolutely no idea what they are talking about.

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