Sales Reps: Please Stop Telling People To Ingest Essential Oils

by Christine Burke
Originally Published: 
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There is nothing I love more than the smell of oatmeal raisin cookies in my oven. Or the scent of a gardenia flower wafting through the air on a hot summer night. And, well, I couldn’t survive if I never smelled lilacs, cinnamon, or lavender again.

My point? I love aromas, and I find relaxation and comfort when my favorite smells are in the air. My windows are open pretty much 24/7 for nine months of the year because, besides sight, my sense of smell is what I value the most.

Though I’m not one to put much stock in homeopathic remedies, I admit to rubbing a little mentholated rub on my chest when I have a cold or beefing up my intake of vitamin C when I feel run-down. And because I’m a registered nurse and an educated medical professional, I’m pretty careful about the medications I consume and the products I use in my home because I know the risks.

I trust science and hard facts to guide me when I am deciding on vaccines, flu shots, and other medical treatments for my family. I trust the CDC, and the FDA, and respected medical journals showcasing peer-reviewed research.

And that’s why I have such a hard time getting on board with the essential oils industry.

Not because I don’t love me some peppermint oil on my temples when my kids have caused me to have a whopper of a migraine, mind you. We all know that feels amazing.

What I can’t get behind is people who peddle essential oils with literally zero training, other than a taste of the Kool-Aid that their MLM company has poured into their essential oil diffuser.

I don’t trust the army of essential oil consultants who are trying to sell me products that could actually harm me if I use them in the wrong quantities. A quick visit to the National Capital Poison Center website shows that certain varieties of common remedies like peppermint and wintergreen can be toxic to the liver in the wrong doses. Let me say that again: toxic to the liver.

Camphor and eucalyptus can cause seizures if you overdose even in small quantities. And the side effects can be deadly for children who accidentally ingest essential oils that haven’t been properly stored. Some experts say that choking on even a teaspoon of ingested oil can cause pneumonia in kids.

So seriously, folks, don’t ingest essential oils. And definitely do not have your children ingesting them. Full stop.

If you aren’t a medical professional, you have zero business prescribing, administering, or promoting the ingestion and topical application of essential oils that can prove harmful — or worse, deadly.

And by “medical professional,” I don’t mean a degree from an hour-long onboarding seminar from the College of Young Living or University of doTerra, just to be clear. There is no training involved in becoming a distributor of essential oils. You pay your fee, you get your starter kit, and you start telling people what to do — with the goal of expanding your team and making some cash.

Medical doctors spend four years in medical school after obtaining their undergrad degree and then another three to four years in a residency program before they are allowed to practice medicine in their chosen field. Nurses train anywhere from two to four years, and advanced practice nurses train for up to six. Physician assistants, nurse’s aides, and medical technicians all have to graduate from licensed programs in their states.

There are well-respected naturopathic physicians and licensed, highly trained herbalists who can help you with your essential oil and homeopathic needs. Don’t patronize companies that continue to allow untrained consultants to peddle their wares without care.

If you talk to a consultant, there generally seems to be no hesitation whatsoever to disseminate products that are not FDA-approved to their friends, family, and social networks.

Fact: Essential oils are not regulated by any respected medical outlet or watch group. They are not FDA-approved, and though there’s a ton of “research” out there (by companies trying to support their business claims), no one really knows what the long-term effects are of ingesting these oils. We’ve all seen the messages in our Facebook and Instagram feeds: “A few drops of lemon in your water to help you detox!” or “A simple concoction of lemon, lavender, and peppermint in a teaspoon of local honey to alleviate your allergies.” And of course, there are anecdotes to back up these claims, but you just need to say no, folks.

In fact, the FDA sent warning letters to two major essential oil companies, Young Living and doTerra, citing that the companies were making illegal medical claims on their websites. To doTerra’s credit, company administrators created new guidelines for their advocates and their websites. DoTerra executives warned their consultants about using any language that claimed any sort of medical benefits. So that’s something, at least.

But it’s not enough because there are still consultants out there who think nothing of telling people that essential oils will cure everything from asthma to ADHD. These are not just personal success stories, these are actual claims that they can reverse/treat/cure with their products.

And before the EO consultants come at me with their pitchforks, just breathe in some steamed eucalyptus, take several seats, and hear me out: It is absolutely true that certain essential oils and homeopathic remedies are effective in certain situations. The CDC acknowledges that certain natural ingredients are effective for repelling ticks and the Mayo Clinic clearly states the specific benefits that come from essential oils when used as directed.

But both the CDC and Mayo Clinic are quick to remind the public that almost all essential oils are not regulated by the FDA which means that there are no rules when it comes to just how much you should inhale or apply to your body. And they don’t recommend ingestion.

Consultants, I understand you believe in your products. I know many of you think that because frankincense was good enough for Jesus, it’s okay for you to smear it all over yourselves as a pain reliever. I know that you have personal anecdotes to demonstrate how EOs have positively impacted your life. But you are playing with fire here. You are unlicensed, untrained, but assuming the role of a medical professional while marketing products you likely know very little about. It’s irresponsible.

Yes, I know you’ve “done your research.” I know that you are convinced that essential oils can cure cancer, make Donald Trump likeable, and relive you of all chronic pain conditions. Yes, I’m aware that many of you caution your clients to read the fine print and do their own research when it comes to choosing EO products to use on themselves and their families.

But the fact still remains that many representatives are sharing their tips, tricks, and recipes that involve ingesting these oils, and many potential consumers may not realize there is no training involved in dispensing this information.

So people, please be mindful when you decide to start your “oily journey.” I don’t know about you, but I’m not willing to wind up in the hospital with liver toxicity from trying to treat a stomachache with an unregulated oil. No amount of peppermint oil will help that kind of nightmare.

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