Saturday, February 06, 2016

My last words on the essential oil fiasco...

We don't sell essential oils, but we do have a small distiller and have a pretty clear understanding of how they are created.  So while my income is not dependent on eo's, whenever I speak out on the safe use of them I get nasty notes and canceled subscriptions, so this goes deeply into the negative column for me. 
I'm going to talk about what I've been watching for the last few years, and I'm even going to forgo any kind of icky, high-falluting, talk of chemistry and components and reactions.  Clearly, all that science-y stuff is just a ploy to confuse people (that's sarcasm). 
I may, however, use sarcasm from time to time.

In the 20+ years that I've been working and playing with essential oils, I've broken some of the so called rules.  We used to believe that a few oils could be used "neat" without being diluted.  Then I met a couple women whose lives had been forever altered after becoming sensitized to lavender oil in their work with the oils.  Simply relaying this new information about the use of neat oils has caused me to lose business and a few friendships.  Thing is, the common use of essential oils by the general public is relatively new.  Only a handful of decades.  Until then it was used mostly in commercial or scientific settings with proper safety apparel, etc. So what we know is not absolute.  It changes.  When it does, we must be willing to accept that new information.

This does not mean that ONLY lavender oil causes a problem for them.  It means that many, many scents can set off a chain of events that send them to bed for a few days.  The components (oops - sorry, I used it) in lavender oil are in many others and are in all kinds of products that we use every day.  You can barely get away from it.

One time I made some mints for an open house.  The recipe called for 2 pounds of confectioners sugar, 1 pound of cream cheese, and a single drop of peppermint.  I used 3 drops.  The mints were barely edible, but they did clear the sinuses.  So yes, the argument that essential oils are used in food is true.  HUGEly diluted (for instance 3 pounds to 1 drop), but they are indeed valuable flavoring and in medicine.

Gradually over the years, the conventional wisdom in the use of eo's changed a little bit but mostly I changed when I learned through some stupidity on my own part that there was a reason we do things the way we do.
Those who have studied essential oils for their entire working lives tell us that they can cause liver damage over time - especially if taken internally willy-nilly.  It's funny how that stuff happens.  When we can't see it, we often don't believe it.  I once worked at a company where the toluene and other solvents hung in the air until we didn't even notice anymore, but the people who worked where chrome was applied and dissolved were required to have extensive physical exams on a yearly basis.  Nobody really thought much about it. The money was good, and you couldn't see or feel anything.  Most of us were young.  It seemed though that a lot of my friends there had babies with health issues.  Nobody talked about it.  
With essential oils, people are working so hard to try to warn others of the dangers.  There are sites where data on injuries and related deaths are cataloged.  There are people who spend a good part of every day trying to reach people and tell the truth.  So it isn't that it isn't being talked about.  It's that there's too much money to be made from the current lack of knowledge.

So now we are seeing people giving others truly unsafe and uneducated advice on the use of essential oils. 
-They are selling it.  So there's money to be made.
-People who are sick want the talk of miracles to be true.  Desperately.  Most of us know and love someone who is ill at any given time, and would love to find a cure. 
-Unfortunately, for some people, it's become hard to trust the medical industry when people are jacking up prices 5000X for a drug and there are no repercussions.  There are some sectors that are all about the money, but you can take the time to find a physician you trust.  It is not the entire industry, although I've yet to see any sector of the pharmaceutical industry that maintains the altruism that I expected in my youth... Please prove me wrong.  I'd love that.  But that makes it much easier for hucksters to convince their marks.
-We do not know the consequences of these applications.  Never in the history of mankind have essential oils been used internally like this, in these intense quantities.  Never have we slathered ourselves with these concentrated chemicals.  So starting a kid early, maybe they'll *only* be sensitized by puberty OR maybe they'll be facing multiple organ failure.  WE DO NOT KNOW!

In the end, I think this will be the last word on essential oil safety from me.  Reason and learning have been vastly overwhelmed by social media.  My friends who have worked and educated themselves in the field of essential oil over the last few decades have been working tirelessly to protect people from shysters, and it looks to me like a losing cause. 

In herbs, we get huge waves of new people from time to time, and sometimes it is even due to something like Herbalaff (or something like that...), which was sort of equivalent.  Around 20 years ago, Herbalaff sold the herbal cure for everything, and you too could get in on their pyramid. For some reason, they were quickly squashed, even though in most cases herbs are much safer than the extremely concentrated essential oils.  I suspect that there aren't enough people in a position to prosecute that  know anything about the oils.  In any case, oils fly under the wire, even though they are often THOUSANDS of times more potent than a cup of herb tea or a capsule of herb.

It is disheartening and frightening to see the advice people are given. Here are just a few of the more insane methods:

*Put a few drops in a capsule and take them daily (then try to find a way to get on a liver transplant list now).  You know why you have to use that capsule?  The capsule gets it past the mucus membranes that have pain sensors. It sails past the area where you'd be able to SEE the scarring.  Don't believe me?  Dab a little oregano oil anywhere inside your mouth.

*____ oil will cure _____.  Really.  No. This is HIGHLY illegal. If you hear the word "cure" please run because the person saying it has broken the law and does not have your best interests at heart.  Please note that doctors don't sell drugs, and pharmacists don't diagnose and/or treat disease.  There's a reason for that, and it is to protect you.  Everyone who works in herbs hates this law, but this is why it exists.

*Any use of any oil on a newborn by anyone other than a highly trained aromatherapist (who most likely would not do it).

*Soak a tampon with ____ and wear it overnight (after which you can go to the ER for removal and treatment for the chemical burn).

*Apply these oils undiluted directly to the skin. Often the spine. That reaction is not a healing crisis (or whatever they call it), it is a second or sometimes third degree chemical burn.

*Tonight I heard about vaping essential oils.  Right into the lungs.  Might as well try to get some lungs with that new liver transplant.

So I'm probably going to give up fighting.  It is a deluge of ignorance and greed.  I'm afraid that some terrible things will happen to some people, especially children who have no say, but there's just no stopping it.  In the end, we'll all be punished for this, and find that the oils have become highly regulated, hard to obtain, and much more expensive - because some won't learn and refuse to listen to reason. 

Don't bother writing to tell me how wrong I am, I won't let it through.  The ignorance has over-run the internet, but at least I can control the comments on this blog.

NOTE - We added a post with some good resources:
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