The Professionals Weigh in on Essential Oil Safety & Usage

I recently asked experts, practitioners, and students in our community this important question:

“What do you see, as a professional in the community, to be the hurdles regarding educating others about safety and usage of essential oils?”

This is a topic near and dear to my heart and my practice, and I wanted to see how others weighed in on the issue. Are you ready to know how they answered this question? I hope their answers will reflect how you approach others in your community as well as social media in the future. Let’s get started!

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The biggest hurdle I see is the amount of unscientific false information pervasive on social media presented ‘professionally’ as if authentic. We must be concise and precise with specific distinguishing details that hone in on the basics of safety and warn where professional differential diagnosis and formulating is mandated so the general public, the uneducated, the miseducated, and the undereducated are enlightened to grow their knowledge and refer to the truly experienced professional appropriately. Jill L. Kelly, LAc, MAc, DiplAc, Aromatic Medicine, https://acucenz.com/

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My biggest hurdle is the resistance of individuals to listen to anything other than the misinformation that they’ve been provided by the company that they sell oils for. The stuck record of “our oils are the only therapeutic grade; the only ones that can be taken internally; these oils are fine to apply neat; it’s safe to use neat on babies’ feet,” etc. It seems that once brainwashed with the company line, there is no going back for most people. There are so many who are unaware of the dangers and they are very vulnerable to these people. -Sue Adlam, MFHT, Dip.BSA, B.Ed, http://www.sueadlamtherapies.co.uk/

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Rather than re-posting a MLM meme or poorly written blog and giving the MLM more exposure, as well as inadvertent credibility, we must shift our focus and energy on ourselves and what is right in our blog writing, memes, and attention grabbing snippets. We need to re-post one another’s amazing blogs with captions stating, “I want to share a blog one of my colleagues, who specializes in aromatherapy and pain conditions, wrote regarding safe essential oil applications.” We need to spend our energy supporting one another, shouting out about the amazing work our colleagues are doing, patting each other on the back, not spending time pointing out what is wrong with this MLM blog post, meme or graphic. We must point out the good each of us is doing in fighting the good fight! We need to do more than hit the “Like” button on Facebook, we need to hit the “Share” button! We need to be sharing those fact based blogs, articles, and memes our colleagues spend hours creating on aromatherapy safety. We need to flood the internet in the same manner the MLMs have done with their misinformation. Our colleagues’ safety information needs to be shared on our business pages, personal pages, aromatherapy group pages, everywhere an aromatherapy newcomer and learned practitioner may see it! -Haly JensenHof, Registered Aromatherapist Your Health Scents, http://www.yourhealthscents.com/

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In our society prevention and health maintenance are non-contiguous in allopathic medicine. We don’t enroll every hypertensive patient in a rigorous model of care that addresses underlying causes such as stress, diet, and lifestyle. We don’t even include dental care in the most basic of health insurance plans. So if a layperson wants to address their own prevention and health maintenance employing essential oils or other wellness tools they face a daunting amount of information that can fall into the categories of: 1.) sensationalized methods driven by profit margins that often lack scientific foundations, 2.) disinformation and misinformation from uneducated or undereducated bloggers and writers, 3.) safe and effective usage guidelines grounded in evidence-based practices, 4.) research data requiring a minimal background in anatomy and physiology and aromatic chemistry to grasp the details. In an age where people just read headlines our attention spans are short and data is abundant. -Amy Kreydin, NBCR, CCAP, BD, http://www.amykreydin.com/

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The AT community needs to be more united and consistent in messaging. This is what MLMs have that we don’t, and people are more likely to fall prey to their marketing tactics. Unfortunately, MLMs seem to have cornered the use of terms like “empower,” which they use to make people think they can throw caution to the wind and make health decisions based on (often unsafe and unfounded) advice doled out by MLMs. Then, we need to flood social media with our messages much like the MLMs do. Make safety feel safe, not fear-based. -Shannon Bachorick, Certified Aromatherapist, https://www.facebook.com/santessence

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There appears to be a growing divide in the aromatherapy community – broadly speaking, those who follow the MLM ideology and those who do not. Of course, it’s not fair to generalize or to crudely categorize groups of people. Unfortunately, MLM has become shorthand for a way of using essential oils that conflicts with the professional aromatherapy industry (such as casual ingestion and undiluted application on the skin). Some users are more willing to listen to untrained sales reps than qualified aromatherapists. The result is a kind of “us and them” mentality, which is driving the industry apart.
-Nuala, The English Aromatherapist, http://englisharomatherapist.com/

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According to my own observation, the over-riding obstacle to educating the general public as to the safe, appropriate use of essential oils lies in the insufficient and questionable information provided and tolerated by the companies engaged in pyramid-style sales and marketing. The responsible, non-MLM essential oil retail companies need to actively cooperate together to establish guidelines for both safe use and responsible marketing, working together as part of a PR-savvy trade association. The key remit of such an association should be to actively campaign to raise public awareness of their own clear guidelines and of safe use generally. -Gabriel Mojay, LicAc, CertEd, FIFPA, Co-Chair of the International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists(IFPA), and Author

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Safe use of essential oils should be taken very seriously from educators, practitioners and home users without compromise. We are only beginning to understand the bio-activity of essential oils and have a long road to travel to reach non-hypothetical assumptions on how essential oils work as a whole and include the understanding of the bioactivity of each chemical constituents within.

There is a need to change the approach of how one addresses essential oils as an absolute science, and begin to consider essential oils belong to the science of nature. Which continuously evolves and changes with each drop of essential oil, before and after distillation. Therefore, there is a great need to be educated in the bioactivity of the individual chemical constituents of each essential oil, also a need for comprehensive understanding that the range of each constituent changes the effects in treatments and environment which in turn influences the safe use of essential oils. -Danielle Sade, BSc, CAHP, Healing Fragrances School of Aromatherapy, http://healingfragrances.net/

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It seems the majority of the essential oil users now are due to the multi level marketing company’s rapid growth over the last ten years. The biggest problem is they don’t know that they don’t know. They are quickly sold into a cure all get rich scheme and start using up oils by slathering on and drinking, etc., and unfortunately believe what they hear if it is sold cleverly. Many are not given any education or warnings. I equate this to being given open access to the pharmacy with no instructions other than have at it. The majority of essential oil enthusiasts only know what their upline tells them, which may or not be true. Sensitization is denied in lieu of selling more; in spite of the known facts regarding the risk for decades!

So the hurdles will be:

1-To reach them since majority are not on social media, and if so not in our groups.
2-Helping them understand that these are precious resources not to be squandered and used up; and that they are powerful and helpful when used correctly.
3-That oils don’t do everything and there isn’t an oil for all things.

Nevertheless, many have started come around to safe use and I applaud them! They will be the ones to help educate and promote the change. -Sylla Sheppard-Hanger. Founder and Owner of the Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy, http://www.atlanticinstitute.com/

Having the lay person understand that Aromatherapy is old time pharmacy and is to be treated seriously. At the same time I want them to feel safe to use oils and integrate them into their everyday life, so it’s a fine balance to help the masses. The help of social media now days makes it easier to share information. -Jennifer Jeffries, Naturopath, Aromatherapist, Author, Philanthropist, http://jenniferjefferies.com/

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The expert marketers have a perfected system. They teach new salespeople how to sell essential oils to make a better life for their family – they make it personal. They give new recruits scripted answers, a ‘bible’ to follow, and (mis)information that sells essential oils. They’re sent out to convert eager-to-learn friends who trust them, believing they are genuinely doing a good, helpful thing. When trained aromatherapists come along with a different ‘doctrine,’ they feel they can’t trust us. After all, they learned everything they know from someone they trust and they don’t know who we are. From a marketing perspective, what they’ve done is clever. From a sustainability/safety standpoint, it’s been disastrous. It’s going to take time for us to regain the trust of the aromatherapy enthusiast community. Our hurdle is to stay focused. Producing content for the one person who is ready to resonate with the truth today is more powerful than arguing with someone who isn’t open to it yet. Eventually, people start to realize that what they’ve learned doesn’t sit quite right with them and they seek out sources of legitimate information. Focus on being there for them when they’re ready to learn and we’ll be able to make a bigger difference than we could have by participating in distracting, heated arguments on virtual street corners. Loud voices attract crowds, but real education happens one-on-one. –Erin Stewart, Certified Aromatherapist, Herbalist, Artist, Teacher and Founder of AromaCulture Magazine, https://www.aromaculture.com/

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I would argue that one of the biggest hurdles to educating others about essential oil usage and safety is the tendency of many to not seemingly want to protect our professionalism. We’re now facing a generation of aromatherapists who have forgotten their educational roots in holism and, instead of working in the field, are satisfied to run often very large social media groups that cater to addressing symptoms that are presented to them in a quick blurb on the internet rather than becoming deeply focused on an individual’s wellness and how aromatherapy can be used to help the body itself return to homeostasis.

Sadly, part of the trade-off for this type of fast food approach to aromatherapy has been the development of arbitrary rules about usage and safety that truly do not have any foundation in research but are promoted as being justifiable to protect the general population from mishaps. Well, when you’re spending a matter of seconds or minutes addressing an individual’s health, there’s not much more you can do. When you sit down and consult with a client, any legitimate safety concern is quite easily addressed, and people leave with a functional understanding of how aromatherapy can be applied in their lives with respect to these. But online is easy; it’s accessible. It’s free.

I usually hate the phrase you get what you pay for since in our field it is so often used to erroneously make assumptions about essential oil quality. But in this case, you do get what you pay for. And the trade-off is a plethora of misinformation coming from seemingly reliable resources that is not only damaging to the field we all love, but it is cheapening the value of the health of individuals seeking help. And actually, I’d argue this is also a huge ethical dilemma. –Lauren Bridges, Aromatherapist, Aromatic Medicine, http://www.indigoaromaticservices.com/

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The biggest hurdle tends to centre around our belief system. We want to believe that our friend who has told us information or a company that we love is telling us the absolute truth. So when shown that there is additional information or alternate facts, it hits people in their core belief system, so they tend to resist. The way around it is to take people on the journey with you, and show both sides of the story so they are educated not just informed. -Natalie Miller, Clinical Aromatherapist, https://www.facebook.com/AromaticInsights/

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I think one of the hurdles we have is trying to overcome the polarity regarding safety. Too often, I hear “always” and “never” in the same sentence with essential oils. While I know many of us think it is important to know and fully understand the risks of using essential oils, we should also be able to use our knowledge to weigh the risks along with the potential benefits to find a balance that works for the individual. Talking about balance just isn’t enough. We should also be trying to educate those we seek to help. If we aren’t educating on the how’s and why’s when we are talking about balance use, then we are only perpetuating the polarity of “always” and “never.” Education is the key to empowerment after all.

Another hurdle that we absolutely have to overcome if we are even going to deal with the polarity of usage is how we “show up” on social media. It can be far too easy for our emotions and opinions to get in the way and pit us against those that we are supposed to be helping when we are passionate about something we love. I am not talking about just the information we share in safety groups, review groups, or any other group…but how we as practitioners and professionals offer help on social media. Are we doing it with judgment and ego or with kindness in a true spirit to help others? We are all in this together and need to seek a way to unite ourselves as a whole on social media the way we do in person without letting our emotions and egos get in the way. –Lola King, Registered Aromatherapist, Owner of BeKind Botanicals, https://bkbotanicals.com/

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I think that misinformation and miscommunication are some of the biggest hurdles we face. Unfortunately, many people and companies share inaccurate and unsafe information.
A lot of people tend to trust their favorite company or their family and friends instead of a stranger (an aromatherapist) telling them otherwise. I think when we are informing others about safety, we need to emphasize that we are not against any particular company but rather we are trying to prevent harm. We need to build trust and bridges. Good communication and critical thinking skills, and common sense are key. -Li Wong, Aromatherapist, Herbalist, Formulator, Perfumer, and Environmental Scientist at Plant Alkemie. http://www.plantalkemie.com

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The biggest hurdle we face is the sheer number of people using essential oils incorrectly. This number increases exponentially as more individuals join the MLM organizations that are teaching incorrect or unsafe practices.

Communicating and partnering with the MLMs, rather than seeing them as the enemy, is a good place to begin in my opinion. -Liz Fulcher, Registered Aromatherapist, Essential Oil Educator, Founder and Owner of the Aromatic Wisdom Institute, http://aromaticwisdominstitute.com/

 

Deep gratitude for everyone that participated, I look forward to asking more hard hitting questions of the community in the near future.

 

 

 

Like so many practices in life I encourage you to become educated on the proper use of essential oils. When using them, please do so cautiously, understanding that there is often misinformation on the internet.  You can be assured that I support only educated and proven resources. While essential oils should not be feared they should be respected and used properly to ensure the safety of the individuals using them.

Please note that I am not a medical practitioner. The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. By using this website, you assume full responsibility and liability for your own actions. 

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