“What are the best brands of essential oils?”
“Are your essential oils pure enough to take internally?”
“Are they pure therapeutic grade?”
I’ve been working, teaching about, and selling essential oils for over 20 years. When I began my journey, these questions were never asked. These are questions that came with the network marketing companies.
How MLM Essential Oil Companies Changed The Marketplace
When I teach a class, when I have a booth at a trade show, or when I meet someone who has a mutual interest in essential oils, I know they were introduced to essential oils by the network marketing (multi-level marketing) essential oil companies.
The US essential oil market was valued at $3.36 billion in 2015. The MLM essential oil companies own 85% of that market, with natural/specialty stores getting 12% and internet sales only 1%.
The MLMs are the ones who are reaching the most people. This is why the questions posed above are questions that many people feel are the appropriate questions to ask when attempting to purchase essential oils. Most have become familiar due to the MLMs.
Breaking the aromatherapy rules
When I was early in my career, there was a lot of controversy surrounding the introduction of MLM essential oils, specifically Gary Young and Young Living. The company broke all the protocols of proper essential oil use. It was upsetting and a horrible, abusive use of essential oils— according to the established aromatherapy tribe.
I was intrigued. What I was seeing is that Gary was selling more oils than all of us put together. More importantly, the MLM system was reaching people I, and other essential oil professionals, would ever reach.
An interesting result is that the vast MLM influence has placed marketing jargon into the mainstream understanding of and use of essential oils.
Hence the questions posed above. It has also created opposition from those who feel they do “serious” aromatherapy.
Safety and MLM oil use
The information marketed by these companies has produced a confusing atmosphere of essential oil fact and fiction. The main controversies are primarily: should essential oils be taken internally or used undiluted (neat) on the skin; and, in any application, how much is too much.
Safety is the general concern in all of these areas. MLM literature and distributors often recommend taking a high dose, 5 to 10 drops or more, of essential oil in water or other internal application. Though there are many stories, some documented, some not, of some ill effect from this, it’s uncommon that something dreadful happens.
This is the same with topical application, though many more true stories of irritation and sensitivity occur with undiluted application to the skin. So safety is an issue, but not as severe as some have suggested or feared.
The pros and cons of MLM influence
Here’s my take on the value and drawbacks of MLM influence on the aromatherapy market and sales of essential oils. I’ll start with internal use. This has potential for damage to the mucous membranes, maybe liver or kidney damage, but the risk seems relatively moderate.
However, internal use isn’t always the best way to use the oil for effective results. Often it’s the olfactory response when taking them internally that provides the therapy, and the consumer is just wasting essential oils.
This leads to my next point: MLM distributers recommend high amounts of essential oils so that members hit their monthly quota. This isn’t therapeutic application, it’s financial therapy to their up-line. There are times when internal is appropriate, and it’s not often.
This leads to my main disappointment, which is that essential oils are perceived as drug-like: this oil for this condition, that oil for that condition. This perception was inspired by MLM companies, but has infiltrated the industry.
Essential oils are not drug-like. The more you learn about all aspects of essential oils, the more you will see this.
Taking essential oils internally is drug-like; olfactory, energetic, and holistic cellular communication is essential oil-like. Take my course and you’ll see how this works.
Clearing up the common questions
Here’s how I answer the questions above. No brand is best. There are good essential oils and better ones, just like wine. At times, it’s somewhat subjective. But like wine, there are adulterated and industrial oils.
And what about therapeutic grade? Well, even cheap industrial adulterated wine is therapeutic grade—it gets you drunk. Oils are the same. Some bad oils actually work. However, essential oils with the nuances of what defines quality, like wine, are always better.
In a previous Meo Energetics post, Therapeutic Grade, Schmerepeutic Grade, I explained the variations and variables in sourcing the best quality oils.
The “pure enough to take internally” is opportunistic marketing created by Gary, based on the lawyer label statement on many oils sold (“not to be taken internally”). It has nothing to do with purity—it’s just a legal precaution in case someone does something stupid, and it also happens to be a great marketing tactic.
When you think about it, synthetic food flavors are pure enough to take internally. The phrase "pure enough to take internally" does not mean a substance should be taken internally.
I’m happy that MLM has been so effective at reaching so many people with essential oils. I think they also promote some good information, but like many companies, they market to create an image and sales. They promote science, though like many non-MLMs, they often misinterpret the science for their own benefit.
The good thing is that I find people want to learn. I’ve had many MLM distributers in my classes. I am asked to teach large groups of distributers. As I write this, I’m on my way to Japan to teach exclusively to doTerra distributers. I’ve done the same in China. Like anything you buy, question it, learn about it, and make your decisions.