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Perspective on Dumbest Claim in Aromatherapy.

Mar 15, 2020

This is a guest post by Amanda Clegg from the UK.


Kent , reading your recent article about the dangers of ingesting essential oils made me think about some of my experiences with the companies he refers to, one of which is now big in the UK.

Three or four years ago I was invited to join a Facebook Aromatherapy group. Fairly new to social media at the time, I thought ‘oh, what fun: how nice’, and proceeded to join in discussions and give opinions in my capacity as a UK-qualified practicing aromatherapist. All went well until the lady who ran it started posting alarming ‘tips’, culminating in my very negative response to a suggestion from her that placing black pepper oil under your tongue would negate cravings for nicotine. I was thrown out of the group!

Around the same time, several of my fellow Neal’s Yard Remedies Organics colleagues were also having similar issues, and some lively discussions resulted in our private group. (NYRO is the MLM/Social-selling arm of Neal’s Yard Remedies, a leading organic skincare/family health & beauty company founded in 1981, and has an excellent but small range of essential oils in the catalogue.) We have always been very careful about giving advice for EO usage, usually referring customers to a qualified aromatherapist where questions arise over the therapeutic use of oils, and always adhering tightly to the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority when making any recommendations. NYRO Independent Consultants are not all aromatherapists, most are, like many MLM reps, just interested, love the products, just buy for themselves with the discount, or go the whole-hog and run teams, hold parties etc. But we are backed by a highly ethical organization, with brilliant training and support available, with different training courses available for therapists..

It seemed that these new kids on the block were riding roughshod over the laws and general ethics, and were being driven solely by somewhat aggressive sales and marketing policies. We took a decision, however, to stand back and ignore, rather than publicly engage head on. That just leads to bad feeling and an air of ‘tit for tat’/’we’re better than you’, which doesn’t help anybody really.

However, it is a moot point that UK aromatherapists are not trained in, nor insured to give advice on, the ingestion of EOs. Countries differ: the US, I understand, is also less regulated (Kent will know more about that; in France the industry is more tightly regulated, and aromatherapists are expected to have a bona-fide medical qualification, and can be specifically trained in internal administration.

I did a presentation to a local Women’s Institute group who wanted to know how to use aromatherapy products safely at home. (That was scary: I don’t do many talks, and this was a room full of very highly educated, intelligent people asking lots of questions!) Many had already come across other EO MLMs and were thinking about, or experimenting with ingestion.

When I pointed out that a single drop of lemon oil requires the rind of 20 lemons in the extraction process (citrus oils are a great, cheap by-product of the fruit-juice industry), and that a drop of peppermint oil is equivalent to 20 cups of peppermint tea, or that it takes 75 or more kilos of rose flowers to produce a teaspoonful of oil, I could see the thought-processes changing: who would eat 20 lemons, or drink 20 cups of peppermint tea? And that’s why Rose EO is so VERY expensive!

My daughter recently texted me some questions from her gym-buddy who had been to a DoTerra ‘party’ and got sucked in to the whole caboodle. She had been given a recipe for a salad dressing made from Kumquat and Black Pepper EOs – added, apparently, for the sharp and ‘different’ flavours. She admitted to not feeling very well, with a sensation of general ‘upset stomach’ after eating this quite regularly, and it transpired that she had also burned her oesophagus quite badly.

I’ve also been asked about dilutions for topical application – I work to a maximum of 4% EO to carrier oil/cream/gel preparations for my clients, but usually only 2%: often less really is more, whereas there seem to be lots of recipes about for home-made skincare and household products that ask for vast amounts by comparison. I’m all for using natural oils rather than synthesized chemicals, but…! A couple of drops of thyme oil with soda in the bucket for floor washing is fine. 20 drops of orange oil in your tumble drier frankly is a fire-risk, (and they can stain!). And don’t forget that many oils are toxic to pets, especially cats, so diffusing strong solutions for hours on end can be harmful to them as well as to your own respiratory system.

Sadly it seems that the modus-operandii of such companies is to sell-sell-sell, maxing out their client’s use of EOs with the eye always on the order book and not on the ethics or even the client-retention and company reputation. I very rarely sell bottles of pure oil to clients unless they are diffusing them, instead preferring to make up shower gels, bath salts, face or body creams and room/aura sprays to a blend that augments the aromatherapy treatment they’ve had from me. And from a commercial point of view (we do all have to make a living), this is actually better, as the % profit from the base products is usually higher than it is on just reselling oils!


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