Do you know how to tell essential oil fact from fiction? Uncover 10 common essential oil myths with a certified aromatherapist and trained herbalist so you’re not fooled.
As a natural health-loving momma, trained herbalist, and certified aromatherapist, essential oils are a mainstay in my home. I use them in skincare, topical remedies, and cleaning sprays. I turn to them for physical discomforts, emotional support, and general room freshening. Sometimes I even use them in cooking!
Like many other natural mommas, I love my oils. But I don’t like all of the myths and misinformation out there about them.
And there are plenty, ranging from skeptical myths to cure-all myths and everything in between. This bad info continues to spread as more people jump on the aromatherapy bandwagon. If you’ve ever searched online for information about essential oils, I can almost guarantee you’ve already read some of them.
And unfortunately, it’s quite possible you’ve already been fooled by one or two of them. Maybe more.
I don’t want an aromatherapy urban legend to trick you.
Good information is out there. You don’t have to be stuck wondering what to believe.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, your cost is the same but I can earn a commission. Thanks!
Why Essential Oil Myths Matter
Knowing essential oil fact from fiction isn’t about being smarter than someone else. It’s about safe, smart, and effective use. Falling for some of these common essential oil myths can have serious consequences, like
- spending too much money by buying oils you don’t really need
- wasting the oils you have by using more than what’s necessary
- not getting the results you wanted because the advice you followed was full of hype
- not getting the results you wanted because the advice you followed was too conservative and made you fearful
- suffering an adverse reaction, or seeing a family member experience one, after short-term or long-term use.
Where You’ll Find Essential Oil Myths
These myths are everywhere. In fact, one of the reasons these essential oil myths are so tricky is that they’re so widespread. You’ll find them
- on websites from natural health “experts”, essential oil sales representatives, and wellness enthusiasts
- in person at health food stores, essential oil “classes” and sales presentations, and in casual conversations
- on social media, like frequently shared Facebook videos and Pinterest images (Pinterest is a huge culprit!).
Cue the collective groan.
It’s hard enough getting started with natural remedies when it’s all new to you; much more so when bad information is lurking around every online click.
I remember being there.
I was the mom making my aromatherapy choices based on things I read online and dealing with unpleasant consequences because of it. But as I learned more, I learned how to do things better. And I became so passionate about helping others know essential oil fact from fiction that I wrote Essential Oils: Separating Truth from Myth, a book covering the things I wished I’d known when I first began using oils.
The following 10 essential oil myths are some of the biggest, sneakiest, and widespread offenders.
10 Widespread Myths about Essential Oils
Myth 1: There is only one truly pure and superior essential oil brand.
There are many quality brands of essential oils at a variety of price points. Brand name and price tag do not necessarily mean higher quality and purity.
When checking out an essential oil company, see if they offer batch-specific GC/MS reports (these detail the chemical profile of every essential oil sold). Then, find out how the botanical material is sourced and if it is free of pesticide residue (certified organic is the most reliable). That should give you a good idea of the company and its standards.
Choosing an essential oil brand usually comes down to doing your research, checking your budget, and going with your gut.
Myth 2: You need a big collection of essential oils to get started.
Most essential oil starter kits, no matter the company you buy from, include around six to ten essential oils and cost around $100. If you want to go bigger with more oils or add proprietary blends to your starter kit, the cost can go up.
For many beginners, the price tag and learning curve on starter sets is just too steep and intimidating.
But you actually don’t need an extensive set to get started. With a small collection of the most important essential oils, you can meet most of your family’s needs without going over budget. Starting with just one, three, or all five of these oils is often a better choice than jumping in with an expensive starter set.
Myth 3: Make sure the essential oils you use are therapeutic grade.
In the United States, no independent organization grades essential oils by quality. For the most part, therapeutic grade is a marketing term companies use for a variety of reasons and not a guarantee of quality.
All true essential oils are therapeutic by nature. In order for an essential oil to not be therapeutic, it wouldn’t be an essential oil at all. It might be a synthetic fragrance oil, a reconstructed oil, or a highly adulterated oil, but it won’t be a true essential oil.
Some companies use the term therapeutic grade to mean genuine, unadulterated, pure essential oil with nothing added or taken away. So if you see the term used, ask the company exactly what they mean by it to get a better idea of their standards.
Myth 4: So long as you use a pure essential oil, you can freely ingest it and use it undiluted.
Essential oils are extremely concentrated substances that demand careful use.
The benefit of highly concentrated substances is that you can use a small amount of it and dilute it in something else. Essential oils are no different. Even the purest of oils, in the vast majority of situations, should be diluted in a carrier oil before they’re used. The type of oil you use (meaning the plant material), not the brand, determines how carefully it must be diluted.
As an aromatherapist, I can’t begin to describe how very concerned I am with the trend of freely ingesting essential oils, be they dropped into water or placed in a capsule. In fact, if you’re going to ingest them, especially long-term, you need the guidance of a professional to prevent any internal organ or tissue damage.
By the way, water and oil don’t mix. When you drop an essential oil into water, it doesn’t freely disperse like an herbal extract. It floats on top and hits the sensitive tissue in your throat and mouth, potentially causing irritation.
Myth 5: Essential oils are a hoax.
Because some of the claims surrounding essential oils are so outlandish, skeptics have taken to the internet to claim that essential oils are nothing but a hoax placebo effect, fooling the masses into wasting millions of dollars on nice smelling snake oil.
Research clearly demonstrates otherwise.
A quick search on Pubmed or Google scholar for “aromatherapy” will turn up study, after study, after study on the positive benefits of various aromatherapeutic applications and essential oils. The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy offers a sampling of these studies here.
Aromatherapy for Health Professionals and Clinical Aromatherapy are two excellent books which discuss essential oils and aromatherapy from a research-based perspective. They’re a bit technical for beginners but offer a wealth of knowledge to anyone who wants to really dig deep.
Myth 6: Essential oils are perfectly safe to use during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and around or on infants, young children, and pets.
No one would ever suggest that an unborn baby, infant, or young child should have an adult medication at an adult dose. We all understand that their small, sensitive bodies could have a very negative response.
The same is true for essential oils. Many oils are unsafe to use while pregnant, breastfeeding, or around infants. As children grow, the restrictions lessen, but great care needs to be exercised. Some very common oils, like peppermint, are known to trigger breathing difficulties in children when used incorrectly.
Pet aromatherapy is a young area of essential oil use, but we do know that some animals shouldn’t be exposed to essential oils at all. Cats, birds, and reptiles, in particular, require extra care. And all animals need a way to quickly get away from any essential oils they’re exposed to.
Myth 7: When you have a health concern, you should use essential oils first.
Essential oils are one choice, but they may not always be the best choice when choosing a natural remedy. So much depends on the specific ailment and individual. Essential oils are not a pill for every ill, nor are they a miraculous cure-all.
Finding the root cause of a problem is crucial to treating it. For example, no essential oil is going to cure high blood pressure if someone refuses to give up drinking a two liter of soda and eating a super-sized fast food burger meal every day.
Myth 8: Essential oils are in the Bible.
Essential oils are made through a process that most historians and aromatherapists agree wasn’t refined enough to produce substantial essential oils until the 10th century. The Bible was finished hundreds of years prior to that.
Yes, the Bible speaks of plants and natural materials that are now distilled into essential oils (like myrrh and the frankincense resin pictured above). It also alludes to vegetable oils that may have been infused with plant material. But nowhere does it mention essential oils as we know them today.
This myth, unfortunately, seems to be another marketing ploy.
Myth 9: You can never/can always trust an essential oil brand representative.
There’s never going to be an easy, one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to essential oil brand representatives.
There absolutely are essential oil reps that make safe and accurate information their top priority. I know some of them.
These people have usually gone through outside training and/or certifications to ensure they have the education needed to best help their customers.
On the flip side, not all brand consultants give factual information. It’s vital you know where an essential oil representative got his or her information before you accept it as truth and apply it. The sales rep may stand up in front of a group and teach a class, but that doesn’t necessarily make the person a trusted source of information.
Before following the guidance of a brand rep, find out if the individual has gone through any training or certifications outside of what is offered by their company or team sponsor. If not, you’re at a much greater risk of getting unsafe or inaccurate information.
Myth 10: It’s impossible to find good information on essential oils.
I’ve heard people end up so frustrated with the conflicting essential oil information they read online, they throw up their hands and declare it impossible to know who to trust. It’s just one person’s opinion against another’s.
Thankfully, that’s not the case.
I admit, there is an art to aromatherapy. What one trained professional uses may be different from what another prefers. There are different schools of thought, even among certified, practicing aromatherapists.
But it is possible to find reliable, trusted information on essential oils.
- National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) and Alliance of International Aromatherapists offer basic general educational articles on essential oils and aromatherapy.
- Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art by Keville and Green and The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils by Lawless are both practical, understandable books for beginners.
- Many aromatherapy schools share excellent information in their newsletters and on their Facebook pages. I studied at Franklin Institute of Wellness, and NAHA lists other approved schools on their website.
- Pubmed and Google Scholar offer a wealth of research studies on specific essential oils, blends of essential oils, and aromatherapy in general.
- Many aromatherapists work privately with clients to provide individualized essential oil education and/or custom blends. If you’re interested in that, just contact me here.
Essential oils don’t have to be a confusing mess of half-truths and myths. There is better information out there when you know where to look and what to ignore.
If you learned from this post, be sure to check out my book Essential Oils: Separating Truth from Myth. It dives deeper into these myths and many others. Available in print, Kindle, and PDF download.