It’s no secret that I’m generally not a fan of MLMs, or multi-level marketing companies, but I will tolerate a few. I don’t think joining up is a good idea, but things like Thirty-One Bags or Tupperware aren’t pretending to be anything other than a company selling you fabulous things to put other things in. I think most people who sign up to sell are at risk of losing money, of course, but if you want to shop them, that’s not the end of the world.
But some MLMs are dangerous to more than your bank account. I think the most dangerous MLMs out there are the ones that sell essential oils. DoTerra and Young Living come to mind first. Avoid these companies.
Here’s why I think that essential oil MLMs are possibly the most dangerous MLM out there. If you’re buying bags or containers, very low risk to your health. If you’re buying weight loss products or vitamins, you’re hopefully thinking about the fact that you’re about to put something into your body and paying attention to the health effects. You might even think about asking your doctor about them.
But essential oils. They’re natural. And they’ve been around forever! Clearly they’re just as low risk as purses, right?
Wrong. In fact, they can be more dangerous than people realize.
First off, let’s go with this “natural” word. Natural doesn’t mean safe. You know what else is natural? Mercury. Anthrax. Asbestos. Arsenic. And plenty of less deadly things like poison ivy, for example. So let’s drop the belief that “natural” means “safe.”
Taking Essential Oils Internally
The big essential oil MLMs all talk about how you can take their products internally. Add some lemon essential oil to your water! Use oregano oil in your cooking! Add peppermint oil to cookies!
Don’t do these things. Don’t do any of these things.
While there are safe ways to take essential oils internally (often in coated caplets), this should only be done under the treatment of an expert, and no, your MLM consultant is far from an expert.
Essential oils are extremely, extremely concentrated. And when you put them in water for example, you aren’t diluting that concentration. After all, we all remember that oil and water don’t mix. So when you drink the water, you’re getting all that oil in one gulp. That can cause damage to your mouth and esophagus. There are also studies out there showing that regular internal use of essential oils can cause liver damage. That’s not good for your health or your bank account. People suggest shaking it up. Shaking it up still doesn’t mix the oil and water, it just makes the particles smaller, but you can still get a chemical burn from them.
Sure, plenty of people claim to be ingesting essential oils with no problem. But they may be causing problems they haven’t discovered yet. It’s just not worth the risk. Squeeze a real lemon into your water. Sprinkle oregano in your cooking. Buy peppermint extract from the grocery store. It’s all so much easier.
Essential Oil MLMs and Children
So much of what I’ve seen talks about the need to make sure oils are very diluted when used on children. That’s good. On one of the big MLM sites, they talk about how essential oils have been used for years, and while you may not want to use them topically on your children, you can just use a diffuser.
Diffusing is not the safe way to use essential oils that these MLMs seem to claim.
Some essential oils shouldn’t be used around children in any form, and that includes diffusion. Eucalyptus and some rosemary oils shouldn’t be used on children under 10, and peppermint can caused slowed respiration in children under 6. Just from putting it into a diffuser!
And we haven’t even talked about skin sensitization.
And yet these MLMs will tell you it’s safe.
Essential Oils and Pets
There are quite a few essential oils that shouldn’t be used in any form around pets, and that includes diffusion.
I have cats, so I have done quite a bit of research on diffusing essential oils around them. A cat’s liver can’t process essential oils, which makes them very susceptible to toxicity. One oil you should never diffuse around cats is lavender, one of the most common oils used in relaxation. And yet I have seen MLM reps recommend that you use a bit of lavender oil to calm your cats before taking them on a car ride or during storms if they get nervous. Do not do this.
So are essential oils bad?
No. Essential oils are awesome. You just need to know what you’re doing. And MLM companies and MLM representatives aren’t putting out correct information.
And additionally, their products are (as with most MLMs) way more expensive than buying from a traditional retailer.
I took a look at the price of 15ml of lemon oil from two MLMs and two reputable essential oil companies.
DoTerra (MLM) – $14.67
Young Living (MLM) – $15.79
Rocky Mountain Oils (non-MLM) – $11.95
Edens Garden (non-MLM) – $10.50 (EG doesn’t sell 15ml, but a 30ml bottle is $20.95 and a 10ml bottle is $8.95 )
Of course the MLMs are quick to tell you that you can spend less if you join their team and buy at wholesale prices.
I like essential oils. I’m not sure that they’re going to treat anything, but I enjoy the scent. I have a few blends around that I dilute in oil and use for relaxation or muscle relief after a long workout. But I’m careful to use them safely. I only diffuse oils that are safe around pets, and to be extra cautious, I only diffuse them in areas of the house where the cats aren’t allowed.
And I refuse to buy from MLMs. You can find all the products that MLMs sell from other, reputable companies. For example Thieves oil is “prized” among the Young Living folks. Both Rocky Mountain Oils and Edens Garden sell the same blend, just under different names. And of course, it’s much less expensive.
Who Can You Trust?
Obviously, the big thing here is to do your research. And with essential oils, there is a lot of bad information out there, frequently because of the push from MLMs and bloggers who sell MLM products.
One highly recommended expert who I have come across in a lot of my research is Robert Tisserand. He has written a number of books and articles and is widely considered the expert when it comes to essential oil safety.
Don’t let yourself get pulled into the essential oil MLM trap. Do your research, buy from reputable companies, and don’t believe someone if they tell you that you can dilute oil in water. You can’t.
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Megan is a 40-something government employee in the Washington, DC area. She got interested in Personal Finance when she got out of college and realized that her paycheck wasn’t going to go as far as she had hoped. Since starting this blog, she has managed to buy a house and make a solid start on her retirement goals, and hopes to help others do the same. Here is her story:
In 2007, I was a gainfully employed 20-something with no debt but not a lot of knowledge about personal finance. It was a co-worker’s comment about Roth IRAs that sent me to the internet, searching for information. It was then that I realized that I really didn’t know a whole lot about personal finance and that my current financial situation was due a lot to inherent frugal tendencies, generous family members, a fear of debt, and good luck. While that was working for me, clearly I needed a better plan.
While I had no debt, I was also pretty much living paycheck to paycheck and not worrying about going over budget (I say this as if I had a real budget) because I had an emergency fund set aside to cover any overages.
Except that’s not what an emergency fund is for.
So I did a lot of research, read a lot of blogs, and decided that I needed a plan. I needed to budget. I needed to know what I was spending my money on. I needed to prepare for the future.
I decided to create a blog not only to make myself accountable to others but also to share the knowledge that I gained along the way. I’ve learned so much from my fellow bloggers, and I hope that my readers can find something useful in what I have to share as well.
[…] of Young Living reps and their hundreds of bottles of oils. Not to mention, they’re incredibly overpriced and some reps recommend dangerous uses. You can spend significantly less, and get better quality oils from a reputable, non-MLM […]