Ethics in Aromatherapy

I am very disturbed to recently be dragged back into yet another essential oil drama.

Back in May, Dr. Pappas (essential oil testing specialist – not medical doctor) posted:

“I got to thinking *If there was a non-profit foundation set up by someone who could accept my donations of oil, hydrosols, CO2, extracts, boswellic acid powder and other extracted aromatic products that we accumulate from various research projects and testing that would otherwise go unused and then these products could be sold by the foundation to support free testing as requested by the buyers of said products, this might be one way to accomplish a decent amount of testing of oils from companies that people would love to verify if the quality is really what these companies are claiming.*”

Clearly, the idea of a non-profit was Roberts. He writes “I pitched this idea to my friend Roxanne Benton.

Their professional connection was recently disclosed as being through doTerra, Dr. P’s former testing client, and MLM that Roxanne sells/sold for. Shortly thereafter, Roxanne announced that she and her husband are the proud “owners” of a 501(c)3 charity called “The Essential Oil Analysis Foundation“.

The mission of this “charity” is described as “an attempt to bring accountability into the industry through competent GC/MS testing made available for free to the consumer…”

Their About page concludes with “The results of the testing will then be displayed on the website and filed according to company name. The consumer can then always have a place to go to check on which companies are selling authentic oils and which ones are selling fake oils.”

Obviously, this scenario raised a lot of questions and was met with skepticism, and as so often happens in this volatile essential oil industry, the personal attacks and accusations began.

I’m not going to post the web address for the main *haters* because they want to remain anonymous, so they won’t get any web traffic from me!

There are some legitimate questions, however.

#1 – there was a lack of transparency when this idea was formally launched which *seemed* to be an attempt to downplay Robert Pappas’ affiliation with the organization and that raised the alarm. Because of this lack of transparency, people assumed this entire exercise was a cover for driving more business to Dr. P’s testing services. Anyone who has followed Dr. P’s career or for that matter, his Facebook page, knows he does not need the money! This exercise would be like a millionaire spending 40 hours a week cutting coupons in order to save $20 on groceries.

The best analogy I can think of is, this is almost like a wedding gown company donating their sample sizes from a past season to a store that then sells them at a discount in order to be able to donate dresses to the less fortunate or which sells the dresses and donates the profits toward a stated charitable purpose.

Here is one such example –

A win win for everyone.  All transparent at the bridal shop!  That is what is missing at this new organization: clarity of purpose, and a mission which is actually charitable.

#2 – claims that Roxanne Benton and her husband “own” the charity. That set off alarm bells, and rightly so.

If the founder of a charity does not know that no one *owns* a charity, what else do they not know about forming a charity? They should have presented themselves as the founders of a non-profit foundation, incorporated in the state of Nevada, and NOT presented themselves as a 501(c)3 Charity.

#3 – the way this foundation is described, they will not be eligible under the Federal regulations governing charitable organizations, as I understand the regulations.

“Inurement/Private Benefit – Charitable Organizations – A section 501(c)(3) organization must not be organized or operated for the benefit of private interests, such as the creator or the creator’s family, shareholders of the organization, other designated individuals, or persons controlled directly or indirectly by such private interests. No part of the net earnings of a section 501(c)(3) organization may inure to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual. A private shareholder or individual is a person having a personal and private interest in the activities of the organization.”

An analogy – there is a lot of public interest in the charity run by Eric Trump. “Donald J. Trump Foundation, a charity set up by the president, “apparently used the Eric Trump Foundation to funnel $100,000 in donations into revenue for the Trump Organization.

Setting up a charity where the money generated is paid to one or two labs for testing services, is no different than planning fund raising golf tournaments, and having a large percentage of the funds pay for the golf club costs!

#3a – so why is this non-profit being set up as a charity in the first place? Saving a consumer or a supplier the costs of having their own products or ingredients tested? How is that charity?

  • Is the only purpose the ability for certain people to make donations *to* the charity and take a tax deduction for their donations?
  • Then their donations are sold, and that money gets paid back to them in the form of paying for them to test other oils?
  • Because right now, that is how it appears – whether that was the intent or not. And it looks way too much like a money laundering scheme, which explains the drama.

#4 – so if not a Charity – what about founding as a nonprofit “Scientific Organizations”?

Nope, because “Scientific research, for exemption purposes, doesn’t include activities of a type ordinarily incidental to commercial or industrial operations such as the ordinary inspection or testing of materials or products…” Testing of essential oils is an activity of a type ordinarily undertaken as the normal course of business. So performing the same tests but publishing the results publicly, is not scientifically valid (SEE #5) or what the public understands when they hear the word *charity*.

So it looks from the outside like a *scheme*…again, maybe this was not the intent – but clearly the way this nonprofit is set up to avoid paying taxes looks self-serving.

#5why do I say the tests themselves are not scientifically valid?

An analogy: It’s no different from being pulled over for drunk driving, and the Breathalyzer shows no alcohol – all it means is that day, on that drive, you were not DUI. It does not mean you weren’t yesterday or won’t be tomorrow.

These tests mean that one bottle from that one batch – tested as reported.

So what is the point? Dr. P. himself has said for years that his test results only are valid for the batch he tested. And with many of these suppliers selling EOs worldwide, from hundreds of different batches – a test result on one batch showing purity or free from adulterants, or for that matter, showing adulteration – only applies to that one specific batch.

(Regardless of the source of the original oil tested – no one with an ounce of sense would question the test results of Dr. P. – but to imply the results mean anything other than that one batch tested with the published results, is implying something which may not be supported. AND critiquing a company based on these test results, opens this organization up to a huge liability for defamation if a company is characterized in a negative manner based on the test results.  They better have a very hefty liability insurance policy because law suits are almost guaranteed.)

So every test result is tied 100% to the commercial product tested and is in effect, no different from a YELP review for a restaurant – helpful if you are considering that restaurant for your next meal, but just one bit of information helpful to consumers to review before they make a purchase.  And hardly an act of charity!  It’s more like free marketing and advertising for whomever happens to be the supplier of the oil that had a positive test result!

Just because someone receives something for free – does not make that something charity.

#6why I am even writing about this topic?

Over the past couple days, my past employment as the Founder of the American Essential Oil Trade Association [AEOTA] was recently brought up in a discussion about this topic. A person wrote something like “this reminds me of that scam, the AEOTA”.

  • The AEOTA was founded by me, and incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation in the state of CT.
  • The AEOTA was NOT a charity, it was not a church or other religious organization, it was NOT a political organization, it was NOT a private foundation, it was NOT a school or university – it WAS a BUSINESS LEAGUE.
  • It was NOT a 501(c)3!
  • The AEOTA was self-declared as a 501(c)6 Business League, and once we had a years worth of tax returns, the newly elected Board of Directors were supposed to file the appropriate forms in order to comply with tax exempt status with the IRS.
  • Membership dues were NOT tax deductible as charitable contributions.
  • I was paid a small salary to run the organization (not profit status does not mean the organization is run by volunteers, almost all non-profit organizations have paid staff).
  • All Federal Tax returns were filed per Federal laws.
  • Bylaws were available to Members.
  • The AEOTA went out of business when the new Board of Directors refused to take office.
  • As a volunteer, after the newly appointed Board failed to take office, I filed all final tax returns and state corporate filings.
  • EVERYTHING about the AEOTA was 100% transparent from day one: some people may not have agreed with how we initially raised the start-up funds in order to afford to incorporate (crowdfunding), and start in business; but nothing about any part of the process was conducted in secret or without peer review from the volunteer Board of Advisers.


2 thoughts on “Ethics in Aromatherapy”

  1. I was recently notified that Roxanne Benton will no longer be running the EOA. The new owner is one of the Facebook Page admins, named Jenny Ingle. I have been told she is a very competent and qualified nurse practitioner in FL who will soon have her PhD in nursing. She is changing the structure to just an LLC. This sounds like a huge step in exactly the right direction. Once the EOA website is updated I encourage people to give them a fresh look and put the past “missteps” in the past! It seems like the critiques were taken seriously and addressed in a very positive manner. Sue A.

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