A new study published in the Medical Journal of Australia this week found that calls to the NSW Poisons Information Centre have increased by 5% each year from 2014 to 2018. 63% involved a child being poisoned, 80% were accidental (including children drinking from the bottle), and other "therapeutic errors". Most cases were as a result of ingesting the EOs.
The spectacular rise in popularity of EOs has been mainly due to 2 main MLM (multi-level marketing) companies marketing EOs to home users and those who want to build a home business by selling these products at exorbitant prices (so their upline and the main company can make a nice profit).
I've got nothing against making a profit! But I do have a few issues with these 2 main promoters of EOs, namely:
1) The resellers are not trained health professionals, yet they act like they are. Aromatherapists are professionally trained practitioners and prescribers of EOs and can treat health conditions. The mum and dad purveyors (aka, "wellness advocates"!) of EOs should not be treating health conditions, or making the many claims of health benefits, but they do. They are also not covered by insurances or a professional association for protection if they screw up and affect someone's health, and someone decides to sue them. Say goodbye to your house...
2) The two main MLM EO companies tell their resellers that ingesting EOs are safe. They are not! The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) in Australia which regulates medicines and therapeutic claims, also regulates EOs. Their guidelines say that EOs are to be labelled as "NOT TO BE TAKEN" (ie, not to be ingested!). But we know that the resellers do not heed this advice, especially when their respective MLM companies explicitly tell them they are fine to be ingested.
3) Even Australia's largest professional association of Aromatherapists (IAAMA) recommends that EOs not be ingested, unless under the close supervision of a properly trained practitioner qualified in aromatic medicine (ie, an Aromatherapist). Most EO resellers are not qualified. The IAAMA says that EOs being promoted for ingestion is a significant safety issue. Both the TGA and Qld Health have advised the public against ingesting these oils, for safety reasons.
4) "But they are natural"! Well, sort of... the essential oils are extracted from plants in a number of ways. Some can be done with steam, or with high pressure, and others are extracted with chemicals. One drop of an essential oil, depending on the plant and which part of the plant is used, can be a highly concentrated extract of 1 kilo to dozens of kilos or even more of original plant matter. Therefore in a single drop, you are getting the concentration of a LOT of plant material. One drop of rose oil is the equivalent of 30-50 roses! Would you eat 50 roses to get one drop of oil for whatever benefits that is claimed for this? No, of course you wouldn't, because that would be too many to eat and would likely make you ill. The same for the oils.
5) Essential oils do have a medicinal effect - they can affect our bodies in either a positive or negative way, depending on the dose, the individual, and how the exposure occurred. Other plant extracts, such as herbal remedies that I use, are nowhere near as concentrated as EOs but still have great therapeutic benefits. So you do not need such concentrated forms to have a benefit. As little as 5ml (or less) can cause life-threatening toxicity in children.
6) I don't prescribe EOs, as I have no training in them, even as a Naturopath or Herbalist! So if I can't prescribe EOs (for ingestion or any other way) as an experienced practitioner who knows about the therapeutic use of plants, then how can untrained MLM "wellness advocates" do this (especially when they are instructed by other untrained MLM advocates)?!
7) EOs, like medications, won't be good for everyone in all circumstances. I've had a client die from ingesting peppermint essential oil. She was diagnosed as being clinically dead while being rushed to hospital, after not knowing she had an anaphylactic allergic reaction to peppermint oil. She was resuscitated abd brought back to life 3 imes, and luckily she survived. Are the "wellness advocates" insured or prepared for this situation? Not likely.
8) I've also seen clients who are "wellness advocates" develop allergies to their EOs. When you don't know what you are doing, you can induce many adverse health effects from use of EOs because of their concentrations or how you are exposed to them.
9) I've also seen clients who have majorly damaged their gut lining or skin, or their digestive microbiome or skin microbiome by ingesting or topically applying EOs to broken skin. Many oils are highly concentrated antibacterials that obviously kill bacteria, but you need your microbiome to keep you healthy, to support your immune system, and protect you.
10) EO manufacturers make all sorts of claims about their products. The best one is from one which claims theres is the purest quality, with a Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade (CPTG) quality testing and rating. Sounds good doesn't it?! Except that the particular manufacturer creating this rating themselves! And they only rate their own products!
11) One MLM manufacturer claims their EOs are the best and "100% pure". Independent testing of their oils, and a resulting legal case (amusingly by the other of the 2 main MLM companies!), showed that their oils were not 100% natural or even pure, used adulterated (substituted) plants, contain unlisted ingredients, and even man-made synthetic compounds!
12) Many wellness bloggers and advocates of EOs recommend ingesting oils mixed in water or food. Well, a drop of oil in water does not actually mix! It stays as a drop of oil. If anyone says ingesting EOs is safe, and especially from representatives of the major MLM oil companies, ignore them as they are not allowed to say this, and their advice can be dangerous.
I like essential oils! I like the smell at least! But there's no way I would ingest any, and I certainly would not recommend ingestion for a child, or anyone in fact. Use them in diffusers for example and enjoy the smell! And make sure the oils are kept away from children. And perhaps look at good quality locally made Australian EO companies for much better value for money products! For using essential oils for health conditions, consult with a qualified and experienced Aromatherapist, not a "wellness" reseller.