Are Essential Oils Too Popular For Our Own Good?

Did you know that essential oils are not harmless?

Essential Oils can be a good thing. Many of them have useful healing properties. But as with anything, too much of a good thing is not in our best interests.

They can be sensitizers and allergens, and can cause other health problems too.
They can emit and create hazardous air pollutants. Some are made with synthetic ingredients, or from pesticided plants, and using toxic solvents.

They are WAY over-used and over-promoted, and any beneficial uses the organic oils may have, risk being lost due to this careless over-use.

They should not be used as a popular way to make money the way they are now.

They should be kept for medicinal use under the guidance of qualified, trained professionals, and  not the MLM (multi-level-marketing) folks who are inventing new ways to use them so that they can sell more product.

Some people have severe adverse reactions to them, and their proliferation is causing new barriers to access, meaning people can’t access food from health food stores,  other essentials, or even alternative health care, because the oils are so prevalent and contaminating everything (1st, 2nd, and 3rd hand) in what should be healthy places with clean, fragrance-free air.

Fore more information, here are a few links to check out:


The safety issue in aromatherapy 18 pages PDF
Aromatherapy Science (ISBN: 0 85369 578 4) © Pharmaceutical Press 2006

The Safety Issue in Aromatherapy

  • Introduction
  • General Guidance for Essential Oil Purchase and Storage
  • Toxicity Testing in Animals
  • GRAS Status/NOELs
  • Poisonous Chemicals
  • Toxicity in Humans
  • Toxicity in Young Children: A Special Case
  • Selected Toxicities of Certain Essential Oils and Their Components
  • Abortifacient and Teratogenic Oils
  • Antifertility Oils
  • Genotoxic Oils
  • Neurotoxic Oils
  • Absolutes and Concretes
  • Phytols
  • Interactions Between Essential Oils and Conventional Medicines or Medical Conditions
  • The Phenomenon of “Quenching”: True of False?
  • Possible Dangers of Novel Essential Oils and Plant Extracts
  • Dangerous Practices of Some Aromatherapists
  • ‘Safe’ Essential Oils and Their Toxicity
  • Possible Dangers of using Essential Oils Internally and Externally in Large Doses
  • Reporting of Adverse Effects by Aromatherapists
  • Safety Warnings in the Aromatherapy Industry
  • Legislation: Present and Future
  • Conclusion:

““In the past essential oils have been considered to be relatively safe, with a few exceptions, but with new technological advances in the manufacture of synthetic components and ‘designer’ essential oils to suit every pocket, there is an increasing danger of toxicity, which can manifest itself as sensitisation. New legislation has now become a reality, and warning consumers of the dangers of essential oils on bottle labels, as well as the labels on other cosmetic products, is imminent. The next stage could be the restriction of sales of concentrated essential oils to pharmacies, under the supervision of pharmacists and medically qualified personnel only.”


Tea Tree and Lavender Oils: What We (Don’t) Know

Integrating Aroma
Cautions and Considerations


Primary Products Emitted From Evaporating Essential Oils and Potential Secondary Pollutants From Their Reactions With Oxidants

Stability of Essential Oils: A Review

Can aromatherapy produce harmful indoor air pollutants?

Interesting facts about lavender

The use of herbs is a time honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, contain active components that can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a health care provider qualified in the field of botanical medicine.

Some people may develop an allergic reaction to lavender.

Nausea, vomiting, headache, and chills have also been reported in some people after inhaling or absorbing lavender through the skin.

Lavender applied to skin may cause irritation in some people.

Oral use of Lavender may cause constipation, headache, and increased appetite.

Lavender oil is toxic if taken orally.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid using lavender.

Possible Interactions

  • CNS DepressantsThere are no known scientific reports of interactions between lavender and conventional medications. However, because lavender promotes relaxation, it may make the effects of central nervous depressants stronger. These drugs include narcotics such as morphine or oxycodone (OxyContin) for pain, and sedative and anti-anxiety agents such as lorazepam (Ativan), diazepam (Valium), and alprazolam (Xanax). Ask your doctor before using lavender with these and other sedatives.

Essential Oil Safety
The second edition of this book is virtually a new book. It is the only comprehensive text on the safety of…   (google books extract)

AAFA Explains: Can Essential Oils Help Asthma?

…”There is no evidence that essential oils can help asthma. In fact, breathing in the particles released by the oils may trigger an asthma attack.
The strong odors emitted by essential oils contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs affect indoor air quality, just like incense, air fresheners and scented candles. Poor indoor air quality can make you sick with asthma, allergies and other illnesses.”


American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology
Essential oil diffusers and asthma


Essential Oils Safety: 30 Ways You Shouldn’t Use Essential Oils


Effects of essential oils on the formation of formaldehyde and secondary organic aerosols in an aromatherapy environment

This CEO Wants You To Know Your Essential Oil Air Freshener Has Hundreds Of Chemicals In It
“That includes the chemicals ordinarily glossed over with catch-all phrases like “natural ingredients” or “essential oil.”

“In an infographic, SC Johnson laid out just how much most people don’t know about “essential oils.” from Huffington Post

However, for a growing number of people, there is NO safe level of a carcinogen, or any other pollutant, sensitizer, or allergen.

The essential oil industry is no different than the rest of the fragrance industry in how low they will go, they are members of and represented by IFRA:

“IFRA North America represents over 90% of all fragrances developed and sold in the United States and Canada. Our member companies create and manufacture fragrances and scents for home care, personal care, home design and industrial and institutional products, all of which are marketed by consumer goods companies. IFRA North America also represents companies that supply fragrance ingredients, such as essential oils and other raw materials, used in perfumery and fragrance mixtures.”

There are even  more cautions, but seriously folks, this should be enough to make a reasonable person understand that they totally should not be promoted or used the way they currently are.

There are a significant number of people having serious adverse reactions to EOs (which vary widely in quality), even with those that are certified organic. And there are  surprised reactions and even complete denials of the possibility of these adverse effects from those who promote their over-use.

Fragrance-free policies are taking effect in more and more places due to these adverse effects, and essential oils are being marketed as  fragrances in addition to thei “therapeutic effects” as “alternatives to” drugs.

You can’t use fragrances (even EOs) in places with scent or fragrance free policies, and you should never force other people to inhale your drugs.

To become a qualified practitioner using EOs requires more than a few weekend workshops and more than reading a few downloads or books on the subject. It can take years of study under teachers who have years of experience. This is medicine, folks, and it’s not a substitute for a basic healthy life “style”.

The fragrance industry seems to have successfully brainwashed people into believing that everything has to be scented and boosted to be complete, but this is simply not true. It’s a way to sell more product now, regardless of the future consequences (many of which have not been explored yet).

We now have serious antibiotic resistance in the world due to massive and unnecessary over-use of antibiotics. Some farms are turning to essential oils and plant extracts as antibiotics, and we can all too easily lose these benefits through over-use too.

Please think carefully before buying and using EOs. Use them only when really needed, not just because they are there. Use them with full awareness of the pros and cons that we already do have access to, while realizing that we do not know everything.

If you use them medicinally, do so in the privacy of your own home,  do not subject others to your medicines.  And do what you can to prevent the problems they might be useful for solving, instead of applying them willy-nilly because you can. In other words, please use them cautiously and responsibly.

What we do and use now has an  impact on others, now and in the future. We are all in this together. Can we try to live as if our children will have a future too?

(P.S. that last part applies to everything we do and use, not just essential oils)

If you are using personal care, laundry, and cleaning products that claim to be natural, organic, and use essential oils, please be aware that the air pollutants and VOCs they emit are not significantly different that the emissions from regular chemically fragranced products.

“72.6 % were not aware that even so-called natural, green, and organic fragranced products typically emit hazardous air pollutants.”

Your Favorite Personal Care and Cleaning Products Went to the Lab, and They Came Back With This:

– Comparing the most prevalent compounds in green and regular products, four out of five are the same (d-limonene, β-pinene, ethanol, and α-pinene)

– Terpenes react with ozone to generate a range of secondary pollutants including formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, secondary organic aerosols,and ultrafine particles

– Of the most prevalent VOCs, 80% are the same between green and regular products, and of the most prevalent classified as toxic or hazardous, 75% are the same between green and regular products.

Please take care


39 responses to “Are Essential Oils Too Popular For Our Own Good?

  1. regarding comment “Our study provided a strong evidence to suggest that high levels of fine particle and formaldehyde might be produced when coexisting with emission of essential oils emissions and low concentration oxidants in the air, and consequently result in adverse health concerns for those using essential oils in general indoor environments”
    In a nutshell does this mean it is not safe to use 100 % organic essential oils for medicinal purposes please Linda?

  2. I have to say, as a qualified and experienced aromatherapist, that one should not use aromatherapy without consulting a qualified aromatherapist first for medical or cosmetic etc. purposes.

    A qualified aromatherapist should first do a very extense first consultancy taking into consideration any health conditions or illnesses the patient has to ‘confirm’ or ask for acceptance for treatment with the patient’s medical doctor or expert who is treating them! This is mandatory and very important!

    Then they will also test for any adverse reactions; sensitivities, allergies, intolerances, etc. and keep control and records of the latter so they can check the constituants to asses with other EO’s with similar chemical make ups that should be avoided. They should know how to provide you with truely ‘organic’ EO’s (no pesticides, safe methods of extraction, where and how the plants are grown must all be taken into consideration), the proper doseage (this is of upmost importance also and like any other medicine must be assesed and adjusted to each individual and case), the method of application (absorbtion, inhalation, etc.) and they should never be taken orally as this can damage the delicate lining of the stomach and mucous membranes.

    EO’s are VERY CONCENTRATED and can react or interact with many other substances. There are EO’s that photosinthesize, react to sunlight even. They should NEVER be used without presciption and instruction from a qualified aromathetapist (medical doctors do not have enough knowledge to prescribe these, they can only refer you to a properly trained and qualified aromatherapist if they suggest you can use them).

    A qualified aromatherapist will also be insured, if they are not qualified they will not be able to find any insurance that will cover them and are not reliable. Only a qualified aromatherapist can instruct you on how to use aromatherapy safely!

    What is happening is similar to getting prescription drugs over the counter or from the supermarket with no control over quality and doseage and this can be extremely harmfull.

    Thank you for raising awareness, like with any other ‘natural’ products there exists many cautions, especially in quality and doseage. ‘Organic’ is not equal to ‘natural’ and in EO’s even just the altitudes the plants are grown at or the environment in which they grow and the way they are handled changes the chemical makeup within the same species.

    Great article Linda♡♡♡

  3. Thanks for putting the info out there so we can make informed decisions. Yesterday, I was out to breakfast and a woman at another table heard me mention to someone about my chemical sensitivities. She said that all three generations of them at their table ranging in age from 2 to 58 were chemically sensitive. Have we learned nothing since Rachel Carson wrote “Silent Spring”?

    • The research into epigenetics is showing that the chemical injuries of one generation can be passed on to the next…

      Regarding learning, some people have learned a lot, but can’t get the message out… Look at what happened to Rachel Carson when she tried… And what other messages came out from industry…

      The book and film “Merchants of Doubt” explains a bit…

      While I do know that some who promote EOs are doing it with good motivation, they have been misled by others into believing these things are harmless and can be used like candy… I think they also haven’t read the research that candy too should be consumed as rarely as possible and can be made with all kinds of questionable ingredients…

      EOs are being promoted in the same mass consumption way that consumer culture does, without regard to consequences.

      We need a few paradigm shifts, for people to learn how to respect the earth that sustains us, the gifts of the earth, our bodies, and each other…

      • It is tough to keep up with every product that one uses. I don’t react that I have noticed to my laundry soap but I finally looked it up at EWG to find out that although some products from that company get an A rating, my particular laundry soap gets a D rating. Time to find something “better” to use.

        Moderation seems to be a word that has been lost from our everyday vocab.

        • It’s odd how sometimes we tolerate a product like that. I tolerated a shampoo for several years after I lost tolerance to most other products. It must have used a different set of chemicals, or something in their life-cycle was different.

          Regarding moderation… consuming toxic chemicals and allergens in moderation doesn’t cut it for a lot of people :/
          I wish EWG rated “no data” or “limited data” as a red 10 instead of as a green “0”. Aside from that (and a few other lapses), they are a very good starting point.

          I hope you can find a safe for you and the environment way to do laundry soon ❤

          I wish the so called "green" products, especially (but not only) those that use essential oils in them, weren't also emitting hazardous VOC's like Dr Steinemann found in her latest research.

          The profit motive and competition over price has made for too many corners being cut…

          • Industry/Government have left us in the dark so we need to constantly educate ourselves about every single product we use. This as you know is a daunting task. I have a science degree and I can’t decode most of the labels. In a perfect world every chemical used in the product would be listed and it would be followed by a code that let us know it’s environmental and health impact/hazard. This should be our right as humans and not be negotiable.

  4. Sorry I did mean assessed not assesed and photosensitize not photosinthesize : ( My spelling still gets muddled up : ( I hope the rest is clear and understandable at least!

    • I used to be a very good speller… but after years on fb with severe brain fog, I’ve noticed my spelling has suffered severely… Fortunately the computer puts bright red marks all over the place when I do that, so as long as I look at the screen before I hit enter, I can correct them 😀

  5. Dear Colleen, I guess there are some of us that are extremely chemically sensitive because I can’t even imagine ‘going out’ for breakfast. Apart from not having teeth to eat with I need to wear a carbon breathing mask to ‘go out’ of my environmental control and could not take it off in a public place here to ‘have breakfast’. Wish I could!!!
    Maybe we can get better enough to be around others again, or venture out of our environmental control without any breathing aids, yeah I guess we can at least hope! Must be nice : )
    Awareness will maybe help this happen and prevent others from getting so extremely sensitive or TILTed : ) definatley to make ‘informed decisions’ !
    Big hugs ♡♡♡

  6. I got involved with a MLM company and then started to see what they were promoting was downright harmful to people. I still know people who are taking lemongrass or lemon oil in water DAILY imagining it is helping them detox or helping with interstitial cystitis. then I learned that oil and water doesn’t mix (Duh) and when you drink it it separates and can affect the esophagus and stomach adversely. Marketing strategies to buy more oil is something these companies are good at.

  7. Essential oils cause “bizarre reactions” that mimic carbon monoxide poisoning in a daycare!!!

    “Our Kids Daycare manager Robin Hagaman said 12 toddlers went down for a short nap at about 11:30 in the morning. When they woke up a teacher told Hagaman that the childrens’ pupils were huge.

    “And so I came in and I checked them and I’m like okay they’re all dilated,” Hagaman told KTVB. “You need to get them out of here, we moved them to the other end of the building.”

    She opened up all the doors to ventilate the room. She says the children
    were very hyper, and then they crashed. Two teachers also had headaches and felt nauseous. Hagaman says at that point it seemed like they were experiencing carbon monoxide poisoning.

    Firefighters believe that essential oils being diffused in the back room
    while the kids were sleeping caused the bizarre reactions.

    “We’ve got some essential oils to kind of help with the different smells
    in the room of toddlers and to help with the viruses that are going around
    and stuff,” Hagaman said. “We had it up here on top of the little shelf,
    and it was going pretty steady.”

    Firefighters say with a main ingredient being cinnamon, the oils were
    potent at that level, causing the children and teachers in that back room
    to become nauseous, light-headed and spacey.

    “They’re thinking that it had no place to go and so it just built up, and built up, and built up,” Hagaman said. “They’re thinking we may have put too many drops in it and ran it too long.”

    According to essential oil safety guidelines, the oils are a very concentrated combination of multiple chemical ingredients. They say you must dilute certain oils in order for them to be safe and effective.”

  8. For the use of PURE (100%) Organic Essential Oils to be SAFE and effective they must be used as PRESCRIBED by a ‘Qualified’ Aromatherapist. Using Aromatherapy on children can be very dangerous!!! This should be constantly controlled by a qualified aromatherapist and Parental Consent is obligatory in such a situation.
    Overdosing on Essential Oils can in itself cause MCS/EI or TILT, etc….!!!
    Would you let your teachers ‘medicate’ your children without a doctors prescription or supervision???
    A qualified Aromatherapist would never prescribe cinnamon oil for children because of it’s toxic potencial, there are various ‘safe oils’ that USED IN THE CORRECT DOSEAGE can offer the ‘therapeautical effects’ you mention.
    A Qualified aromatherapist should always be consulted before using any form of aromatherapy!
    Please tell your kids Daycare manager ♡

  9. Here’s a really interesting new article (and development)

    The Maker Of Glade Air Fresheners Calls B.S. On ‘Essential Oils’

  10. “Our study provided a strong evidence to suggest that high levels of fine
    particle and formaldehyde might be produced when coexisting with emission of essential oils emissions and low concentration oxidants in the air, and consequently result in adverse health concerns for those using essential oils in general indoor environments.”

  11. “Spas that offer massage therapy using fragrant essential oils, called aromatherapy, may have elevated levels of potentially harmful indoor air pollutants such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and ultrafine particles, according to an article in Environmental Engineering Science, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
    Fragrant essential oils, derived from plants, may release various VOCs into the air. VOC degradation caused by the reaction of these compounds with ozone present in the air can produce small, ultrafine byproducts called secondary organic aerosols (SOAs), which may cause eye and airway irritation.”

  12. For the life of me I cannot get people to understand that my having mast cell disorder is a ticking time bomb for anaphylaxis. EOs and scented hand sanitizer are my worst enemies. Even if I can’t directly smell it I still have reactions.

    • People have been brainwashed to believe EOs are harmless. I hope that soon we have a public consciousness breakthrough, so our health is no longer threatened by ignorance and corporate greed.

      • I’m on day three of dealing with this allergy response. I can send you pics

          • lucrezaborgia

            I’m still trying to get information on what oil or mixture it was.

            Since then I have had another allergy attack due to the company relocating everyone and not enforcing the policy that no fragrance products be on the call floor. I also went to a different ER which treated me promptly with the correct medications as I present atypically and I got tired of arguing with doctors and PNs who refused to follow my allergy plan.

            There is a very stereotypical view of anaphylaxis in some of the medical community and think that you are only to administer epinephrine when the throat is nearly closed and your BP is dropping through the floor!

          • I can’t wait for people to realize that health (including the health of others) is more important than products. And that the imagined right to use products doesn’t give one the right to hurt others with them.

            I hope that you are able to get the necessary help to have the policy enforced, as well as someone to teach those who would disrespect the policy a lesson on basic human decency.

  13. It seems some people are unclear about what fragrance-free means!

  14. Absolutely. Scented product use is an addiction no different than other drugs. EOs in the wrong use is no different than prescriptions drug abuse. Most people cannot even smell properly because they have destroyed their neurons.
    Test yourself smell a house plant.can you smell the soil mix, the leaves?

    • You made me think about how we (society) used to be able to smell when a food was going off… Now people can’t even taste when coffee beans are burnt and other foods/products need so many flavoring agents or people complain there’s no taste.

      I can smell a bowl of apples in the other room!!! No need to spend money on products to scent up the air or to cover up other odours when we lead (as much as is humanly possible now) a pollution-free life!

  15. Essential Oils Company Sentenced for Lacey Act and Endangered Species Act Violations to Pay $760,000 in Fines, Forfeiture, and Community Service, and to Implement a Comprehensive Compliance Plan

    The Justice Department announced today that YOUNG LIVING ESSENTIAL OILS, L.C., (the Company), headquartered in Lehi, Utah, pleaded guilty in federal court to federal misdemeanor charges regarding its illegal trafficking of rosewood oil and spikenard oil in violation of the Lacey Act and the Endangered Species Act. The Company voluntarily disclosed its rosewood oil violations and has been cooperating with government investigators.

    Pursuant to the terms of the plea agreement, the Company was sentenced to a fine of $500,000, $135,000 in restitution, a community service payment of $125,000 for the conservation of protected species of plants used in essential oils, and a term of five years’ probation with special conditions. The conditions include the implementation of a corporate compliance plan, audits, and the publication of statements regarding its convictions.

    “The importation of illegally harvested wood and timber products harms law-abiding American companies and workers and threatens forest resources around the world,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood of the Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Our Division was proud to work alongside the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Utah, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Department of Homeland Security to bring this case to a positive conclusion.”

    • From an asthmatic friend, in response to someone who shared a slick video YL put out in response to these issues (shared with permission):

      As stated in the release by the Justice Department, that this crime was intentional. Wait, I’ll say it one more time, intentional. Not an accident. No, 86 illegally harvested TONS of Peruvian rosewood was NOT an oops.

      AND as stated in the DOJ release, that in Dec 2016 [5 months AFTER Young Living completed their own internal investigation] the Federal Investigation then discovered that Young Living Essential Oils AGAIN attempted to export spikenard oil illegally, without a permit.

      THEN in March 2016 to make matters worse, after the fact, YL filled out a permit application to cover up that illegal activity.

      So no, I’m not enamoured by a slick promotional video by a Billion dollar company that pats themselves on the back for doing what should have been done long, long ago. The DOJ report states clearly “The Company lacked an internal compliance program or formal procedures, training, or means to review and resolve problems and identify and stop potential violations.” As the above video states, Young Living “burgeoned into a billion dollar plus” company in the past two decades. Twenty years and a billion dollars is plenty of time & money for a responsible ethical company to have created a stringent compliance program to evaluate and assure that this company was legally acquiring resources for their products.

      That sunshiney video conveniently skips informing customers regarding their lack of effective internal compliance program and the subsequent March 2016 internal cover up of ongoing illegal activity AFTER their own investigation.

      And last, but not least, our tax dollars were required to support SIX separate Federal offices/divisions to investigate and prosecute this case. All of the above is quite relevant to asthma sufferers who many times don’t have enough money for all the needed medications, testing, procedures and doctors visits,]. Many end up bankrupt and homeless after being denied disability. Might help if billion dollar companies just followed the law so our tax dollars could be better spent taking care of the asthmatics that need health care and disability assistance.

      Trust is earned. Companies are in business to make money…BILLIONS apparently per the YL video above. As an asthma sufferer, where we choose to place our hard earned resources is important. And for us, it’s not just about money we spend. We are risking our current health and future health when we purchase products from a proven unethical company. As stated in the release, this company is on FIVE years PROBATION. Not likely irrelevant if probation was issued. Just providing our community with the necessary information to make informed choices

  16. Insights into the cult of EOs

    How Essential Oils Became the Cure for Our Age of Anxiety
    Aromatic oils have become big business. But are they medicine or marketing?

  17. Young Living fined for using illegally sourced essential oils, highlighting issue of supply chain transparency

    Young Living, a multilevel marketing company that sells products based on essential oils, has entered into a plea agreement for illegally trading in oils from endangered species. The company will pay fines totaling $760,000, the Justice Department announced this week.

  18. More on the #cult of #essentialoils.

    …”Each oil has a unique aroma that believers claim can help with physical and psychological symptoms: One Facebook salesperson posted yesterday about her “child-safe air purifying blend” which she says “has powerful antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal and sanitizing properties. It purifies and cleanses the bacteria in the air, neutralizes mildew, smoke, and other noxious odors.”

    So can essential oils really clean the smoke out of the air? In a word, no, says Jeff Williams, an air pollution specialist with California’s Air Resources Board. “I don’t see any benefit to using a diffuser.” In fact, he says that experts agree that these devices can actually add more volatile organic compounds—toxic air pollution particles—to the air. For people with respiratory problems, that could be dangerous.”

  19. Pingback: Help for How to Be Fragrance-Free | Seriously "Sensitive" to Pollution

  20. This links to a thread with a lot of relevant links in the comments:

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