10 Sneaky Essential Oil Myths: Have They Fooled You?

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.

Have you been fooled by any of these 10 essential oil myths?

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 discomfortsemotional 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 and Where You’ll Find Them

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.

Have you been fooled by any of these 10 common essential oil myths?

And 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.

Have you been fooled by any of these 10 common essential oil myths?

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.

Don't have to be confusing 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.

Have you been fooled by any of these 10 common essential oil myths?

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 myhrr 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.

Have you been fooled by any of these 10 common essential oil myths?

But it is possible to find reliable, trusted information on essential oils.

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.

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    41 Comments

      1. Hi Ilona. There truly are many to consider. Generally, you want to avoid essential oils sold in large stores and drug stores that don’t specialize in natural products or are all priced the same, regardless of the plant type. Some you can look at are Aura Cacia, available in most health food stores (or Amazon) and with a growing organic line, Plant Therapy, Rocky Mountain Oils, and Florihana. There are certainly others, but these favorites come to mind quickly or are easily available. My book also gives extra guidance on choosing a brand. Best wishes as you get started!

    1. It’s posible to use essential oil nardos of Immalaya 2 drops in the woter with happy
      for 15days ,after stop the oil for 15days it’s not toxic

      1. Hi Eleni,
        I think you’re referring to spikenard essential oil (Nardostachys jatamansi), which is a really lovely oil! Used correctly, it is a relatively safe and nontoxic essential oil. However, drinking in water is an unsafe way to use any essential oil, no matter the individual oil used. The water will never dilute the essential oil. Anytime someone is interested in using essential oils internally for therapeutic benefit, they need to work with a well-trained aromatherapist or aromatologist and consult their physician, then dilute correctly.

      1. Hi Gina! The oil or butter you use to make a skin moisturizer will depend on the overall goals. Some oils are lighter and not heavy enough for dry skin, while others might be too heavy for oily skin. For just all purpose, general moisturizers, coconut and grapeseed are quite light, apricot kernel and sweet almond a little heavier, and olive oil is rather heavy. I will often blend them together. For years I used a blend of coconut and olive oil, though. Worked well! Does that help?

    2. Finally…someone with some common sense. Thank you! I have been a nurse for 30 years and have such concern about the rampant thoughts that EOs are perfectly safe on every level…because the rep said so. I use oils intermittently. I am a medical person, but I do believe there is a use for oils in conjunction with medicine, not in place of it. I have been ” spoken” to on occasion for my responses on a particular EO page because of warnings I have posted…..such simple things like do not use oils on the face and around the nose of someone on oxygen– it’s dangerous. i was asked to not place things like that on the page , despite the fact that I had printed information from NIH to show them what I was talking about . I truly believe that with many if these MLM programs , the information is spotty at best. When I was told that ” they can’t hurt you when ingesting” I used the scenario that years ago no one thought cigarettes were a big deal either…it took years and years for people to develop lung cancer and for the association to be understood. But people are like lemmings…they just follow along and don’t ask questions. So sorry for the rant. It makes me sad that people who clearly want to do natural things to make themselves healthier may actually be doing more harm than they realize. ( Deep breath ) so, it was very refreshing to read your page and realize that this is some place I can come for reading, information , etc and feel like it’s real. Thank you!

      1. I understand the rant, Stacey! Sometimes I get really concerned with things I see online regarding essential oils and my hubby has to listen to me vent for a bit. I’m glad this post was helpful and hope you’ll come back again!

    3. Thank you very much for your blog and information. I have been bothered for quite some time about the “free” uses of EO’s and the claims behind them. I make lotions and healing balms and have used different sources for the herbs and oils, but always try to be careful in how I address an issue with someone. I have a friend that is respected by me, has a background of nutrition and Holistic health who has now started with YL oils. It seems they can do no wrong…. and this bothers me about how people can blindly even if they do research and are informed (such as this friend) believe all the claims behind EO’s. She is a Christian (bible believing born again) like I am and can not seem to grasp that there is A LOT of New Age thought to the uses and descriptions of the oils. This bothers me too, because she wants to help me make an income like her, but I hesitate because of the New Age spiritual claims. I love EO’s and the I would love to study more on herbs themselves since I grow many. I even use them in the care of my goats and horses. Thank you for sharing that I can use the glory to our God for his provisions and can find a good, safe place to study about herb uses. I will try to get her to look at more that I find in my own research, but I too don’t want to upstage her in knowledge.

      1. Hi Jennifer! You are very wise to use oils with some caution, especially when formulating products for other people.

        Depending on the source, there can certainly be a New Age theme running through claims on essential oils. Thankfully there’s good factual info out there, too! And I know of some excellent YL representatives who are Christian and promoting best safe practices, so that can be done as well. Taking additional eduction from outside sources is a great way to do that.

        One excellent Facebook group that I’m a part of and is in conjunction with Vintage Remedies is Evidence Based Aromatherapy. You and your friend might both like it!

    4. I really like your article on oils however I disagree with oils not being mentioned in the Bible. Oftentimes they are referred to by plant name with the oil reference coming later. One example is when spikeNard was poured on Jesus. I love archeology and I learned that oils were found in Egyptian tombs because they were so valuable. The process of extraction may have been different but steam distillation isnt all that complicated so maybe it was the same. I was also surprised that you referenced Robert Tisserand. I certainly respect his experience but he is very New Age. There are other sources of information out there which I prefer simply because I tired of his personal theology. I also wanted to tell you that it always comforts me to read about Christians like yourself who are open to the healing power of God’s creation and share it with others. Keep up the good work.

      1. Thanks, Amelia. Yes, I stand by my belief that essential oils, as we know them today, are not mentioned in the Bible. Oils infused with plant material is a much more likely use and better lines up with current archeological understanding and also with how we see the oil used in context. For example, spikenard poured on Jesus’ feet was not likely undiluted spikenard essential oil as that wouldn’t be a beneficial use of the substance. Rather, a very fragrant spikenard infused oil seems more plausible and still would have been highly prized because of the expense of spices at the time.

        Regarding Robert Tisserand, he was one of the experts I was familiar with at the writing of this post, and I value his insight due to his experience. I think Christians can pull from the understanding and experience of anyone, even with differing views, though I’ve personally not read extensively enough from him to say he is very New Age. That’s interesting you say that, since I hadn’t heard it before.

        Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts! And yes, I think Christians of all people should be able to use and enjoy the beneficial plants and plant materials that God blessed us with for health and wellness!

    5. Hello,
      There is some wonderful information in your beautifully written blog! Alot I have been looking into myself. As a Pagan natural healing,herbs, tinctures and the like have been a part of my life since diapers lol. For ancestors well in the past. Taught at a young age to respect nature and all it gives and make my own oils. Certain oils can be taken internally for most, its like eating the peel of a orange which is where your oils come from. The key to all is MODERATION and you can’t / shouldn’t mix all sorts of modern pills with herbal. They were never ment to to mix in high volumes. Once again thank you. .your information and time was incredible.

      Bless be

      1. Hello Fae! I’m glad you enjoyed this post. Yes, some oils can be taken internally and even used in recipes, like sweet orange essential oil as you mentioned. I feel it’s always important to have some solid education and information on hand before using them that way, though, just to ensure they’re being used appropriately and safely. 🙂

      2. if ur making ur own oils, ur making infused oils, which of course, can be ingested with no problem. i dont know of anyone capable of making essential oils at home.

        1. Great addition, Helene. Infused oils and essential oils are completely different substances! Like you said, infused oils can be ingested with no problem, so long as the herb you infused is safe for internal use. The vast majority are. Some people do distill their own oils at home, but it takes some expensive equipment and experience. Not something most of us are going to get into!

    6. Thank you for offering such a well-written balanced, post! I am sharing it with my own readers in hopes it will get them thinking, and looking for educated answers themselves. I have used EO’s for about two years, with caution, and overall good success. After having spent 15+ years studying nutrition and nutritional supplements, I felt I needed to find out what the fad was all about. I was often disheartened at the number of people who promoted taking them internally. I think this provides too much risk for the home apothecary and should only be done under direct supervision of a Naturopath or similarly trained professional. EO’s can be beneficial, but, like you said so well in your post, are not a magic cure-all and are only a part of the total health puzzle.Thank you again for this post!

    7. Hello! Just found your great post tonight. I’m very interested in learning all I can before jumping in head first to THE EO field. I really appreciate the time you invested in writing such a great myth breaking post. I really appreciate not only the info, but also your candor and graciousness in all of your replies and your
      “on point” reasoning … thanks so much and May God bless you. (Have signed up for your newsletters and will definitely be reading your blogs thoroughly )

      1. Hi Dannie! Glad you’re joining the newsletter list and that you found my blog this evening. It’s so wise to take some time to learn about essential oils before you start buying and using them! (I actually neglected to do that myself years ago). There are a few more posts here that might interest you on the topic, so be sure to check out the Essential Oils category from the menu, under Natural Living & Wellness. Happy learning to you!

    8. This is a great article. One of the things that concerns me is the importance of keeping in mind how the oils interact with medications the person is currently taking. For example, if a person is on a blood thinner, there are several of the oils that have the same action and can cause a very serious result. I love the oils, but we must be so careful to use them wisely.

      1. Excellent point, Ed! It’s definitely wise to consult a health care provider if you want to use a particular oil extensively while on medications. Same for herbs.

    9. Hi Kristen, This post is timely for me….I am going to be sending it on to some friends that are “getting into essential oils” and/or attending parties from distributors. I think it is great that they are interested in EO’s but am concerned about a lot of misinformation out there. Sometimes I want to speak up when they are discussing things(and I do sometimes) but it is hard because then I feel like I’m saying “Hey, I know the answers.” It is so helpful to send along info from others that is concise and well written! So again, thank you.

      1. Hi Sherri!

        I missed your comment when you posted it a couple of weeks ago! So sorry.

        I also never want to come across as knowing all the answers, especially when it comes to essential oils! In fact, the more I learn, the more I truly realize that I don’t know in this area of natural health. But from what I have studied and learned, I continue to become convinced that with essential oils, less is more, and caution never hurts.

    10. Wow thanx for the info! I have been makin capsules for hubby for a couple years now & I had done quite a bit of research before hand, but I think I need to check up! I wasn’t aware of long term use issues. He takes one daily! I dilute with coconut oil, but seems like it’s not much. Great & informative! I always love reading your blog!

      1. If you are able to check with an aromatherapy professional on what he’s been taking, that might be really helpful, Shonna. I know for myself that I don’t have the knowledge that would be required to really understand how to take oils internally, so right now, I don’t.

        Do be sure to check out the essential oils course that’s offered in the bundle sale! I’m so excited that it’s part of the ecourses and it will probably help you decide if the capsules you’re making are a good choice or not.

    11. Very good statements and gracious answers! I have also been concerned by people thinking that because it is natural, it’s okay. Arsenic is natural and we have other poisons that are natural. We have some natural substances that are fine in small amounts, but dangerous in bigger quantities. That said, I do use oils. I have for years, but I do want to learn more about safer ways to use my oils.

      Thank you for warning your readers!

      1. I’ve used a very similar analogy, Mama2eight! It’s really easy to get in the mindset that natural means no side effects, but that can mindset can have disastrous results.

        Thank you for reading and commenting!

    12. Great tips! Thanks! You may want to revise your thoughts on EOs in the Bible….. I am reading David Stewart PhD’s book Healing Oils of the Bible. You may be surprised at what our ancestors were able to do years ago and he explains all the terminology and why the actual term “essential oil” doesn’t appear in the Bible. Great info to read!

      1. Hi Allison!

        Thank you for such a kindly worded alternate viewpoint. I genuinely appreciate that!

        Based on my research and the viewpoints of others in the aromatherapy field, I still would have to stick with my statement on essential oils and the Bible. I have no doubt that aromatic oils (oils infused with aromatic plant material) were used in ancient times, but I believe that those would have been much different from the essential oils that we have today. The natural living experts I contacted to double-check agreed with me.

        Robert Tisserand, who I quoted in this post, offered a book review on another of Dr. Stewart’s essential oil books. Because I respect Mr. Tisserand’s vast experience, I would have to keep the critique in mind if I checked out the Healing Oils of the Bible. I still might take a look sometime, anyhow.

        Thanks again for reading and adding to the discussion!

      2. “Healing Oils of the Bible” also contains some “interesting” theology such as ““The Word is a vibration, a frequency, a consciousness, an expression of energy. When God created plants by His speaking voice, He imbued them with His Word and His intelligence” and that oils, containing God’s intelligence, KNOW how to benefit us.

          1. I *think* Lynn is making the same point, Rachel, that those ideas aren’t very Scriptural but rather very New Age. And I agree completely, we have to be so careful when those ideas are crossed with Christian teaching! The two can’t and shouldn’t mix.

    13. I agree with you on just about everything. But I’m confused on the point about freely ingesting oils… (which I don’t do). Specifically how you talk about how oil and water don’t mix… because I’ve never been told to dilute an EO with water – only with a carrier oil, which would mix with the EO. I do hear of people dropping lemon oil into their water at times, but I don’t think that’s for dilution purposes, I think it’s for flavoring… anyway, I just was curious if many people are thinking they can dilute with WATER instead of another OIL??

      1. Hi JulieK! Thanks for reading and commenting today.

        I’m not sure how many people might think they are properly diluting essential oils when mixing them in water, but I fear that it’s far too many. As you said, I think many people do it for flavor and some for assumed health benefits.

        I made the point about oil and water not mixing in that section because I want us all to be aware that drinking essential oils like that allows them to be in contact with very sensitive tissue at full strength. Also, it is not uncommon for some essential oil users to regularly add citrus essential oils to their water, and that really concerns me.

        Does this help? I wanted to try to keep this post as concise as possible, but sometimes that leaves room for confusion. 🙂

      2. I am one of those people who add lemon oil to my water daily for taste and for added health benefits. I use young living and follow the directions on the bottle regarding ingesting. I also shake my glass water bottle before each drink.

        1. Hi Allison! Thanks for chiming in.

          I don’t have any YL lemon oil, so I’m curious as to what the bottle says on ingesting.

          I do feel that it is safer to put organic lemon juice and slices in water rather than the oil. I’m familiar with too many stories of damaged tissues from this practice to be comfortable with it. Oils that are ingested should be diluted in another oil or a fat, and I think it’s very important to work with someone who has advanced training with essential oils.

          As I mentioned in the comment and through this post, my main concern is that years down the road, people will have suffered some organ damage from freely ingesting oils without guidance from a professional. So I just encourage you to do your own research and perhaps look into some of the potential risks with daily ingesting oils so that you are fully informed, in case you haven’t already done so.