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.


News: Essential Oils Can’t Cure or Prevent Ebola

You’d think this would be, well, common sense.
But no.
An article on September 24 in the Washington Post talks about three companies (Natural Solutions Foundation, Young Living, and DoTerra) that have been warned by he FDA about “marketing their products as possible treatments or cures for Ebola.”
Previously we posted a link to the letter from the FDA to DoTerra.
Letter to Natural Solutions Foundation can be found on the FDA site here, and the letter to Young Living can be found here.
The letters are, along with the DoTerra letter, worth reading. They’re excellent examples of the kinds of completely outlandish claims that these MLM companies make with regularity, and why anyone interested in essential oils should stay far, far away from them.

DoTerra Chastised by FDA in Official Letter

It’s not without a certain amount of glee that I present a link to where the FDA tells DoTerra, among other things, to stop telling people that essential oils fix a variety of medical conditions.
Like eczema, asthma, migraines, diabetes, cancer, and recently, ebola.
No, really. EBOLA.
My first reaction was “OH NO THEY DID NOT” but there’s evidence and links and quotes and you can kind of hear the exasperation in the FDA’s letter. Kind of an “Seriously, we have to tell a multinational corporation to stop insisting distilled plant oils cure cancer and EBOLA?” tone.
You can read the letter on the FDA’s site.

(If you are involved in an essential oil MLM system, either DoTerra or any other, and you think that sending me hate mail or writing novel-length comments calling my expertise into question are going to convince me that these oils are special and perfect and made by sparkly fairies and/or vestel virgins, save it. I have a whole file of hate mail, and I publish only the really crazy comments.)

Multi-Level Marketing Scams

This has nothing to do with the ritual use of oils, it’s just something I keep running into in the oil business. I’ve seen it twice just today, people making outlandish and borderline dangerous claims about essential oils made by certain companies.

plain bottles

There’s at least two, probably more, MLM scams involving essential oils. People sign up as “consultants,” buy the oils “wholesale,” and sell them to their friends. The problem is, both of these MLM companies make claims about essential oils in general, and their essential oils in particular, that just aren’t true. In addition, the markup on these oils – even “wholesale” – is something like 500%.

To recap what I’ve said before:

  • There are no purity standards for essential oils.
  • There is no certifying body for essential oils.
  • Both of the major MLM essential oil companies certify their own oils as pure.
  • Claiming that oils are objectively pure because they are subjected to Gas Chromatograph, Mass Spectrometer testing, and heavy metals analysis (by their own lab, naturally) is profoundly misleading.
  • Essential oils are not graded. Terms like therapeutic grade, aromatherapy grade, and fragrance grade have no meaning outside of being marketing buzzwords.
  • Essential oils should not be used undiluted on the skin, and should not be taken internally. Period, the end, no caveats or “except for….” statements.
  • There are no essential oils that have been certified as safe for consumption – see above, where there is no certifying body for essential oils.

In addition to all this, both of the major MLM essential oil companies overcharge for essential oils to a horrifying degree. An example:
Multi-level Marketing Company #1: 15ml Basil Essential Oil, $24.75
Multi-level Marketing Company #2: 15ml Basil Essential Oil, $26.67
Standard Essential Oil Seller: 15ml Basil Essential Oil, $4.09

That’s a difference of over $20 per bottle – for what? Nothing.

I find these multi-level marketing companies, and the claims their representatives make, to be really disturbing. For the record, there is no reason on EARTH to pay $25 or more for basil oil. It’s a scam, it’s a ripoff, and it upsets me that so many people are falling for it.

(Edited to add: I’ve been looking for the CropWatch report on “Therapeutic Essential Oils” for a while, since it was missing from their website. I’ve since found it on their website, but inaccessible other than via their cache, so I’m providing a copy of it here.)