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Why Are Essential Oils So Controversial?

admin November 14, 2014

This post is sponsored by Plant Therapy.  However, all opinions are my own and all oils were purchased with my own money.

Essential oils are, surprisingly, one of the most controversial topics in the natural health world.  I’m not one who talks about essential oils a whole lot, and I’m one of the few bloggers out there who isn’t a rep for a company, selling them on the side (even though I could make a lot of money doing it).  Despite this, one of the main criticism levied against me by my detractors is my promotion and discussion of essential oils!  Apparently they’re so controversial that they’re worth pointing out, despite how infrequently I discuss them.

Plus, just within the natural health world, people get really nasty at times about this brand vs. that brand.  Lots of people claim that only XYZ brand is the best, most pure, and safest and no one should use any other brand.  Some even say that all other brands are adultered, of poor quality, or that the people who run the companies are shady and out to make a buck and nothing more.

It’s shockingly bad at times.

Today, we’re going to tackle it head on — why is it so controversial?  And if you’re just looking for quality oils at a good price, what are you supposed to do?

How Did the Controversy Start?

Most people know that there are two “leaders” in essential oils, and that they are both MLM (multi-level marketing) companies.

One was started in the mid-90s and the other in the early 2000s.  The newer company was started by some executives who left the first company, and there’s always been bad blood there.  Prior to these two companies, essential oils were difficult to come by and the average person really didn’t use them.

The majority of the controversy started because of the bad blood between these two companies.  It’s why people are often so polarized, recommending one of these companies or the other.

It’s incredibly important to realize that a lot of the information out there about essential oils is put out by one of these two companies.  And that their terms, “therapeutic grade” (or “certified therapeutic grade” and so on) are made up terms.  They aren’t regulated by any independent body.  They are used by the companies and regulated by the companies in order to sell more oils.

How Do We Know Which Oils to Buy?

This leaves the average consumer confused.  Which essential oils are really the best?  Which ones are the purest and safest?  Which ones are the best for the budget?  In what ways are they safe to use?

I’ve always felt a bit uneasy about the MLM companies.  Not that I thought their oils were unsafe, but I wasn’t sure about the whole MLM thing (I’m not a fan of the business model, personally, but that’s another post).  I also wasn’t sure about some of the information floating around.  I know many reps for each company, and I frequently saw conflicting claims.  Plus, I often found instructions to use oils very liberally, including on infants and young children, to consume them, to use them “neat” (undiluted), and more.

I like essential oils.  I use essential oils.  But they are not always safe, in any dose, in any method, on any person.

We’ll get back to that point.

But the buying….  Where is it safe to buy them from?  And are they going to fit into your budget?

I was recently introduced to a company called Plant Therapy.  I first heard about them when I read some essential oil testing results that had been done by independent labs on several brands (most failed, by the way).  Plant Therapy‘s tea tree oil failed one of the tests, too.  But unlike the other companies, their response was to immediately pull that batch of oil off the market, and then pay to have the new batch re-tested to ensure compliance.  How many companies stand behind their product like this?

Plant Therapy is not an MLM.  It is a small, family-run business.  They stand behind their product and they produce a lot of quality and budget-friendly options.  Plus, recognized expert Robert Tisserand has begun working with them now, and helping them to create safe essential oil use information, plus safe blends (including several especially for kids).

These essential oils are honestly very affordable.  A lot of companies are selling oils for $25 – $50 per 10 mL bottle.  Plant Therapy’s oils are $5 – $15 per 10 mL bottle.  Just as a selection, lavender oil is $6.99 and tea tree is $7.59.  That’s for pure, undiluted oils.

Plus, Plant Therapy offers a lot of different essential oil products.  They offer individual, pure oils.  They offer sets of oils (their top 14 single oils are available in a set for $54.95 — which is $3.92 each).  They also offer pre-diluted oils in roller containers, and special essential oil blends.  They offer carrier oils so you can blend and dilute your own.

Plant Therapy also offers a special area for kid-safe blends.  Many aromatherapy professionals believe that the oils in the “four thieves” blend that is so popular is not safe for children.  Plant Therapy offers a version of this blend that is safe for kids.  We recently bought their kid-safe Tummy All-Better and Germ Destroyer blends.  I immediately diffused the Germ Destroyer when I got it!  (It was about $22 for 30 mL, too.)  Additionally, we bought their 14 Essential Oil Set, and a muscle blend for my husband.  Bought, you guys — not “was sent for review.”  After doing my research on the company, this was the one I chose to purchase from.

I’m honestly really impressed by all they are able to do — bring quality essential oils, that they stand behind 100%, along with solid education on how to use them safely.  They’re absolutely worth checking out if you’re seeking essential oils.

How Do We Use Essential Oils Safely?

We need to remember that essential oils are highly concentrated.  This means that they’re powerful, and if used incorrectly, could even be harmful.

I choose to use primarily a diffuser with my essential oils (you’ll be seeing more about which one I choose and why in a couple weeks.  I did a ton of research before choosing the one I have almost a year ago).  I also add them in small amounts to salves, primarily for adults.  With kids, it’s usually just the diffuser.

There are plenty of people who feel more liberal with their use of essential oils than I do.  There are multiple schools of thought on this.

The English school of thought promotes extreme caution — 2% dilution or lower, never neat, never used internally, certain oils should never be used with children.  Most of the cautions you’ll find about essential oils come from this school.

In contrast, the French school of thought is much more liberal — recommending using some oils neat, taking internally, or being less cautious with children.

I personally think you should start with caution and see what works best for your family.  Consult a professional aromatherapist if you have a specific need.  I am less cautious with oils in the diffuser with children than I would be if I were using them on their skin (even diluted).  I mostly use oils to uplift mood, help people calm down, or just make our home smell pleasant.  I rarely use them medicinally, although there are all kinds of medicinal purposes for essential oils, some of which are well-researched.  I suggest talking to a professional or reading some books written by professionals if you really want to get into specific medicinal use.

Ultimately, it’s up to you.  Which you use, how, and when.  Just be cautious about the source of the information, seek multiple sources ideally, and err on the side of caution if you’re unsure.

How do you feel about the essential oil controversy?

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  1. This is *exactly* how I feel about oils! They are super-concentrated and must be used with extreme caution! I think a lot of people assume that because they are a natural remedy that it really doesn’t matter how much of it you use. I’ve not tried out Plant Therapy, but I’m very interested in giving them a try!

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  2. I would love to try Calming the Child Synergy. I have been thinking about trying essential oils for a good while. I am so confused as to which to try. They ‘ain’t’ cheap by any means. Ha!! I have never heard of Plant Therapy.

    I did not know you could use them as an inhaler until I saw this on Plant Therapy’s site. I did learn that.

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  3. Great post. Nice to see someone else not “comfy” with the MLM concept for EO’s. It seems like every real food blogger is promoting them and it just never felt right to me. I’m sure they like making some money doing it, but it just makes the product more expensive. My mother did SMC, same concept, but with knick knacks.

    All the internal/external and therapeutic grade stuff *is* confusing!

    I have tried Plant Therapy oil, either lavender or tea tree, I don’t recall. I currently use Rocky Mountain Oils, but will add Plant Therapy website to my “okay to buy” from list.

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  4. I’ve been using Plant Therapy for (probably) over a year. They have great customer service, and I really appreciate that they have certified aromatherapist available by email for answering questions! I started out purchasing from one of the MLM companies, many years ago, but I was never comfortable with the price points or some of the recommended uses (neat, internal, etc). PT has been a great find for me.

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  5. Just liked Plant Therapies Facebook page. Am interested to find out more about essential oils.

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  6. I’m not a fan of the MLM companies either. It was a turn off for me and I almost passed on essential oils for this reason. This was in the mid 1990s. Fortunately I did try them and they have been a blessing to our family since. What I began to understand back then and what most today don’t, is that way back then when there was basically only one company selling essential oils to the public, there was very little information available about essential oils. There were not blogs and web sites where you could go and find out how best to use them and which oils to use for what. MLM was really the best option to share the oils, to get the information out to help people be able to use them, and to have a network for getting questions answered. Even today most people start with essential oils because someone shared their experiences with them. I too don’t understand why people like to attack each other on the brands they choose or vilify the company that really brought essential oils to the public. Without them it’s not likely we would be having this discussion today. Is that company expensive? Yes. I would love to find another brand of the same quality that is less. I have tried a number of others but as of yet have not found one I find comparable. Our family has relied on essential oils for the last 15+ years as our primary health therapy so efficacy is very important to us. Also, being so familiar with a brand and it’s standards is important to me that I don’t feel I need to research every product they sell for harmful ingredients and processing practices. I have looked at Plant Therapy and like what I see. I may order a couple bottles to check them out but even an $11.99 bottle of lavender gets expensive if it doesn’t measure up and it just ends up sitting in the drawer with the other random brands that I’ve tried. Thank you for checking out the brand and sharing your findings with us.

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  7. Thank you for your post. I’ve been a member of the second company since the beginning. I made it known to my up line that I was purchasing them for my own use and I’d not be trying to sell. This didn’t go over very well which has cost me some “friends”. I have since realized that there are many companies around that sell good quality oils and many that don’t. It just takes research.
    I am now a Master Herbalist and have learned all about herbs and feel now that herbs are for internal use and essential oils are for external use. Herbs are in their whole state and have all their constituents, which is safer.

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  8. Thank you for this post! I have had good results from using Plant Therapy oils. I also love using oils from Heritage Essential Oils (NOT an MLM). Great quality and less expensive than the “Big Two.”

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  9. Plant Therapy is not an MLM. It is a small, family-run business. They stand behind their product and they produce a lot of quality and budget-friendly options.

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  10. Thanks for the info! I’ve been wading through all this essential oil info on my own the last months, and I truly appreciate your perspective. I have a few different health store brands of oils, mainly used for cleaning, but was curious about using them for health and wellness purposes. I have friends selling from both MLM companies, but feel uneasy about the articles I see regarding lawsuits, and just general meanness across the Internet. I appreciate the Plant Therapy recommendation, but if I wanted to read essential oil quality reports, how do I get access to those to check out the company for myself, as well as the quality of the oils I’ve already purchased?

    In your opinion, if not using topically (I’m not a fan of internal use at all), and using only in cleaning supplies, or in a diffuser or humidifier, do you think there’s much risk of harm in finishing up a bottle of an oil if it turns out not to be totally pure? Thanks for your thoughts!

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  11. Great article on EOs. I’ve read several like this and have had many of the same questions myself. Then I found Floracopia. I’ve been taking their online classes. Wow! What an education on plants and essential oils! This is not a MLM company. This is my top choice for Essential Oils and Hydrosols.

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  12. Thanks, Kate, for another fair post. I agree with most of what you said, but I am not against MLM companies. I actually like to buy some oils from a friend or someone I know and help them out…..it is a small business, and when you buy from them, you are helping them out so they can make a little money on the side to pay bills, buy Christmas gifts, or send their kids to ballet lessons. I think that there can be a balance here. What I do NOT like about MLM is that some people become pushy and try to get all their family & friends to sign up……I say just leave them alone about it and if they are interested they will ask you themselves. To each his own…… 🙂

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  13. I have been very happy with Mountain Rose Herbs essential oil products. Might check out Plant therapy though

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  14. I personally know that Young Living and DoTerra are outstanding companies with super high quality oils. In regards to the business, however, if this is an industry that appeals to people, think of how much better and appealing it would be for potential customers / business builders if they could obtain the same or better quality oils at half of Young Living’s or DoTerra’s discounted prices from a company that has specialized in essential oils for 30 years?

    The reason for the price difference is quite simple and has been alluded to here, namely because of not being part of the MLM industry. However, their referral program is much more lucrative than Young Living or Do Terra.

    Note that I don’t sell the products. They can only be obtained directly from the company.

    Since I don’t believe I am allowed to promote companies by name here, I’ll let whoever wants information to contact me directly.

    Regards

    Reply

  15. […] the market and everyone goes crazy. Often, these are MLM (multi-level marketing) products (like essential oils), so it seems like everyone you know is selling them. The big thing right now is Plexus, and you […]

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I’m Kate, mama to 5 and wife to Ben.  I love meeting new people and hearing their stories.  I’m also a big fan of “fancy” drinks (anything but plain water counts as ‘fancy’ in my world!) and I can’t stop myself from DIY-ing everything.  I sure hope you’ll stick around so I can get to know you better!

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