Essential Oils and Animals

This has nothing to do with ritual, magic, or anything esoteric, just one of my frequent freakouts over people using essential oils in dangerous ways.

My sister-in-law is a veterinarian in northern California, where a lot of people are really concerned with keeping things as natural as possible.  A few weeks ago, a dog died in her arms.  A perfectly healthy dog, whose owners had decided against a flea treatment like Frontline because of their concerns over pesticides.  They’d done some online research and discovered that certain essential oils can repel fleas, so they bought a bottle of pennyroyal essential oil and rubbed a small amount into the dog’s skin.

24 hours later, the dog died of liver failure brought on by pennyroyal poisoning.

This is not unusual, sadly.  Pennyroyal, which is extremely toxic to dogs, is touted in a ton of places online as a very effective flea deterrent.  Search “natural flea treatment” or “essential oils for fleas” on Google or Pinterest or almost anywhere you CAN search and someone will have helpful directions about using essential oils to treat a flea infestation.  Among the most popular – Pennyroyal.

“A 1992 study (Sudekum M et al, Pennyroyal oil toxicosis in a dog, JAVMA.1992) reported that .07 oz of pennyroyal essential oil was applied to a dog’s skin to help control fleas. “Within 1 hour of application, the dog became listless and within 2 hours began vomiting. At 30 hours after exposure, the dog exhibited diarrhea, hemoptysis (coughing up blood) and epistaxis (bleeding from the nose). Soon thereafter, the dog developed seizures and died. Histopathiologic (tissue) examination of the liver showed massive hepatocellular necrosis”. In other words, the dog died of liver failure.” [source]

.07 oz is less than half a teaspoon.

On the face of it, using essential oils to repel bugs is really sensible.  We use citronella candles with essential oil of citronella, after all, to keep mosquitos away.  People even use citronella sprays.  No big deal.  Plant based, natural, no dangerous pesticides.

Except one of those natural bug repellents is virulently poisonous, and less than half avteaspoon applied to the skin (not consumed, just rubbed on the skin) will kill a dog.  That part didn’t make it into the webpage or pinned recipe for flea repellent.

I have another post in the works on the many, many Pinterest recipes floating around, for human and animal use.  Put it on your skin, take several drops by mouth, diffuse it into the air so you/your kids/your pets/your guests can breathe it into their lungs.  Get the essential oil into your body, they say, because it’s natural and nontoxic and healthy and safe.

Essential oils are the most concentrated form of a plant that exists.  They can make humans and animals sick or dead.  MLM companies want to sell oils; the more you consume in more ways (skin, ingestion, diffuser, etc.), the more you’ll buy from them.  They are salespeople.  Not herbalists, aromatherapists, doctors, nurses, homeopaths, naturopaths, or anyone else who has been through training regarding the safety of essential oils.  Some of them are knowledgeable, I’m sure, but the are first and foremost salespeople trying to sell you something.

Be careful.  Please.  Essential oils are strong, and they can make people and animals very ill, or even kill them.  Never base your use of oils on a salesperson’s pitch, an essential oil company’s instructions, or something you found on Google or Pinterest.  If you’re interested in essential oil use, learn from a qualified program before you use them on yourself, your dog, your kid, or your clients. These pet deaths (the dog my sister-in-law saw was just one of many households pets sickened or killed every year when people try to treat a problem with herbs or oils) are completely avoidable.  Not one of those animals had to die.  They were victims of a “natural medicine” craze that turns salespeople into instructors, advising their customers on the use of oils to maximize their own profits.


Essential Oils STILL Not Medicine

The most popular entry on this blog remains the one I wrote on multi-level marketing of essential oils and the outlandish claims and insane price markups that these companies were peddling.
Anyway, if you’re interested in the topic, you know that the FDA formally reprimanded a number of MLM essential oil companies for making claims that their oils were medical treatments. Which, of course, they’re not. A lot of these MLM companies make (or have made in the past) claims about FDA certification, lab testing, purity standards, national certifications, oil grades, and other marketing inventions. I went poking around today to see if there was anything new that I hadn’t run across on the topic, and found a blog called “The Fraud Files” that’s run by a forensic accountant. She did an entry earlier this year on the essential-oils-as-medicine claims and does a fairly good takedown of the MLM company claims and insinuations.
You can read it here.
(as an aside, I really don’t want to hear from any more DoTerra or Young Living reps accusing me of being a shill for the FDA, or hating essential oils, or claiming that I hate holistic medicine, need Jesus in my heart, or that I’m basically a terrible person for thinking MLM essential oil companies are deeply offensive to anyone who’s in the essential oil/ritual oil business – I’ve got plenty of correspondence on the topic, I’ve even published some of the comments, but I’m tired of reading the crazy and you’re not changing my mind by ranting at me.)

Citation of Sources for Tables of Correspondence

I’m trying to put together a suggested reading list for people interested in learning more about oils. While I’m finding some good books to pass on, I’m also getting very frustrated with the enormous problem of authors choosing to completely omit the citation of their sources for the tables of correspondence that they use. Without any citations, the reader can’t really trust the book, in my mind. I can read over pages and pages of plant and oil attributions and the only thing in my mind is where the author came up with the correspondences – if they’re hermetic, Pagan, folkloric, tradition-specific, area-specific, or otherwise. Some of these correspondences I’ve never even heard of before – why should I trust this author? Answer to rhetorical question: I can’t trust the author, because at best they’re guilty of sloppy scholarship and attribution, and at worst, they’re just making things up.

In addition, most books on magical oils include recipes – mix this oil with that oil and add this third oil and you have a blend intended for a certain magical purpose. If I have absolutely no idea how the author came up with “X plant has the attributes of fertility, increase, and power,” I’m not going to have a whole lot of confidence in the recipes provided in the book. In fact, the book is going to be pretty much useless to me if the citations are left out.

As has been mentioned before, there’s loads of different tables of correspondence and each magician or witch must find what works for THEM, usually by trial and error. Maybe, like me, you use a mix of several different tables (witchcraft, hermetic, and hoodoo, if you’re curious) along with personal correspondences. Presumably, you keep a record of where you obtained the correspondence for that plant, even if it’s a little note that says if it’s Pagan or hoodoo or hedgewitchery or what have you. And if you don’t, well, it’s not all that important, if it doesn’t matter to you.

On the other hand…..someone writing a book on the topic is held, or should be held, to a higher standard. When an author draws up a table of correspondence, it’s probably a bit much to expect each attribution to be footnoted back to the source. I’d expect a note, at least, at the beginning of the book, informing the reader of the source for the correspondences – “plant attributions used from sources X, Y and Z.” Say some – or all – of the attributions are personal, obtained through trial and error, or divination, and not gleaned from any traditional table of correspondence. The reader should have that information, too.

One of the most recent books I read on the making of magical oils started out really strongly, with a great section on the actual physical process of mixing oils, timing oil creation with the lunar cycle, oil mix recipes for various purposes, and sample rituals that might be used with the created oils. The book concluded with appendices. The first was an alphabetical list of the plant or oil with it’s magical attributes, along with what planet the plant is “ruled by,” and what element the plant represents. There were even further appendices, breaking the list of plants down by attribute, by planet, by element – all really useful things, but without any indication whatsoever of where this information was obtained. I assume the reader was supposed to just trust that the author of the book knew what s/he was doing when s/he wrote the correspondences. The book, which had started out so promisingly, now wasn’t anything I could in good conscience recommend to anyone without a huge caveat, which means I probably won’t recommend the book at all.

Needless to say, I don’t blindly trust authors. Just because someone has the wherewithal to get a book published on oil-making or charm/spell creation doesn’t mean they necessarily know what they’re talking about. Don’t fall into the trap of believing that an author is an authority on a topic simply because they’ve had a book published on it. Even if it’s been published by a well-known publishing house, the odds of anyone fact-checking a table of magical correspondences are laughable. The fact that nearly anyone can now self-publish on sites like Lulu and e-publish for the Kindle and other e-readers means that “because the author said so” is even less of a valid reason to believe something – not that it ever was much of one.

Always know why you’re using the various ingredients you’ve chosen for your magical creation past “this book said to do it this way.” You are making this, not some pseudonymous author who wrote an ebook, or the person who copied and pasted a table off one website and into another. You are infusing this oil mix with your intent, your essence, and your power – this is magick. More importantly, this is your magick. Don’t let some random stranger tell you how to achieve what you’re setting out to do – know what you’re doing, and why, every step of the way.

P.S. I hadn’t actually intended for this to end up as a rant, but that’s what happened. I welcome discussion on the topic – you can contact me at questions[at]quadrivium-supplies[dot]com.