Reputations Count!

If you have been buying essential oils since the 1980’s or so, you probably used many tools to help choose which brands to purchase. Personally? I bought a lot of books, and looked in the back of the books for Resource Guides. Most books about aromatherapy had lists of companies the author would recommended. I also spoke to teachers of aromatherapy, and asked what companies they recommended. I honestly don’t know of a single consumer, aromatherapist or essential oil educator from the *early days* who relied on getting a GC/MS test result BEFORE they decided to buy an oil! That kind of testing was certainly used people in the wholesale supply chain – both to determine purity and quality. But not on the retail consumer level!

Things changed a bit thanks to self-proclaimed “experts” coordinating crowd-funded “3rd Party Testing” of a series of essential oils starting in 2013. The result? All hell broke loose! Yes, a few companies were found to be selling (knowingly or unknowingly) adulterated products. But some legitimate companies were defamed and damaged. How? One popular brand was selling a boutique oil from a small distiller. It was analyzed and compared to the library sample of a “pure oil” which was from a completely different country of origin! This so called “expert” declared the oil to be “adulterated” when in fact, it was 100% pure.

In another incident, a well known MLM brand of peppermint oil tested as adulturated with ethyl vanillin. Well known expert and affiliate of the same MLM (he was *their* contract chemist) disagreed with the analysis of the test results.


I use this as an example of how experts can test the same sample, or even evaluate the same test results, and reach different conclusions. These tests are scientific, but they are still quite dependent on the individual doing the analysis, not just the skill or expertise of the lab running the actual test.

So why have we become so dependent on these tests, as consumers? In my opinion, the reason is fear.

Fear and folks preying upon that fear to make consumers increasingly reliant on “lab tests” to make decisions on which products to purchase. They set up crowd funding schemes or “non profit” companies (more about that later**) and convince their fans and followers to send them money to pay for testing, and convince them there is no other way to determine if the oil is pure or good quality (rarely if ever with a criteria *for* good quality I must add).

I recently read that there is even a school which teaches “if a brand does not include a GC/MS test result with your bottle, don’t trust them.” I’m sure this school has loads of new students who think they can’t buy a bottle of lavender oil unless they complete a course on understanding these test results! FOLLOW THE MONEY!

Lets say you regularly stock Lemon EO from ten different batches, and sell retail sized bottles all across North America and Eastern Europe. You have test results from each batch on file, of course.  But to also produce flyers to insert in boxes, and match up those flyers to each specific batch number as the product goes through the assembly line, is both unrealistic and would dramatically increase the price of these retail bottles.  And for what?  A consumer pacifier, because while the retail customer may have no idea what the report says, some blogger or teacher claims they should not trust the brand unless this information is available to them?  It’s both unrealistic and actually increases the incentive to provide fraudulent reports.

Example – you buy a bottle of lavender and get this report with it {used for editorial purposes only}. If you are not trained to evaluate the report – for all you know – it’s not even lavender! [It is].

It is also naive to believe that just because one bottle of EO tested pure, or with specific constituents in certain percentages, that the next batch will be the same. If a company wants to cheat, they are going to cheat!

Dr. Pappas of Essential Oil University writes in his article “The Proper Protocol for Utilizing EO Analysis Reports“:

“Lastly, its very important for anyone selling essential oils to know that if you have an analysis done on a pre-ship sample for the purposes of making buying decisions, then you CANNOT use that report on the pre-ship sample to represent the actual bulk lot that is purchased and received in, even if your supplier says it’s the same lot. If you want to forgo having your actual received lot analyzed because you trust your supplier to send the same thing they sampled you then that is fine, but you CANNOT use that pre-ship sample report to represent the oil that you sell to your customers because you did not have the actual bulk lot analyzed once it came in your door. This is very important because it frequently happens that a supplier sends one lot as a pre-ship sample but the actual oil that is shipped in bulk to fill the order does not match the pre-ship sample. I know it sounds crazy but this happens all the time.”

So what percentage of EOs that come with reports, are unsuspecting essential oil consumers purchasing based on the “school of thought” that as long as the bottle comes with a GC/MS or they can download it from the suppliers website, it’s some guarantee of purity or quality. These customers may be fooling themselves!

So how do you choose a good, reliable, high quality brand?  Go back to basics!

  • History – has the brand been around for many years?  That’s a positive.
  • Affiliations – does the company & staff belong to professional associations*
  • Education – who are the owners of the company, and where did they study aromatherapy?
  • Marketing & Labeling – truthful, legal, industry standards:
    • Common name for the Plant
    • Latin name
    • Plant part
    • The extraction process
    • “Keep out of reach of children”
    • “External Use Only”or “Not for Internal Use” or “Not for Ingestion”
    • An expiration date or date of manufacture or Batch Number
  • Reputation – A good reputation among professionals in the aromatherapy field is critical.
    • A bad reputation is rarely without cause in this industry.
      • Look for honesty and transparency if there was an issue with a product in the past
      • Watch out for prices which seem too good to be true – that is a big red flag!
      • Watch out for salespeople who claim their product is organic, without Certification
      • BEWARE of companies that claim their essential oils are “Therapeutic Grade” or “Clinical Grade” or “Pharma Grade” or “Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade” – there are no such grades! THESE CLAIMS ARE LIES.

*American Herbal Products Association (AHPA), The Aromatherapy Trade Council (ATC) and owners or employees who belong to the International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists (IFPA), Alliance of International Aromatherapists (AIA), or National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA).

In conclusion, during every step of the supply chain, proper testing using standard methods for essential oil analysis should be mandatory. If someone is a formulator making perfume, or cosmetics, or soap, or OTC Drugs, naturally they need to know the exact chemistry in the essential oils they are using to formulate their products and obtaining a GC/MS that is batch specific can be critical. But those people are not buying small retail sized (and priced) bottles of EOs. They buy wholesale. Professionally trained aromatherapists or massage therapists who use essential oils on a regular basis, probably also usually buy in larger sized bottles and retail off-the-shelf sizes, and they also might need to have access to test results.  But the average retail customer, using the recommendations above, can almost always avoid brands which are likely to be adulterated.

**Following the money includes businesses that claim they are charities but which are not!  We are a country of laws and the IRS does not allow a business to accept money and claim they are “donations” and pretend they are a charity unless the IRS has reviewed the application for non-profit status as a 501[c][3] tax-exempt organization and approved the application.

In this case, being affiliated with well-respected members of the aromatherapy community does not give this organization credibility, by contrast, it seriously damages anyone affiliated with them!

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.


Buyer Beware ~ “Studies” & Generalizations

I am so excited to start the 2nd quarter of 2016 with new motivation and passion, directed 100% toward helping consumers make positive choices! So I am introducing a new Series – Buyer Beware.  I’m starting the series by reposting an article I originally published April 14, 2014. Enjoy!

Salespeople sometimes use studies as support for their medical claims for products like essential oils. These studies are taken out of context. The fact that a product or an ingredient is being studied as a cancer treatment for example, does not mean it should be used *as* a cancer treatment.

Salespeople (and some poorly educated practitioners) sometimes take the historic herbal use for a botanical, and generalize and apply those same properties to the essential oil.

The uses and safety concerns for a raw herb/flower/seed are often not the same as those for the essential oil. The uses and safety concerns for a water extract or an alcohol extract from a botanical are also often not the same as those for the essential oil.

Not convinced?

There is a seed which produces an oil we use for its many healing properties. It is used in food and skincare products. “Centuries ago, the plant was referred to as “Palma Christe” because the leaves were said to resemble the hand of Christ. 1.”


And how about this…a product from the waste material from processing the seeds (aka beans) “has been used experimentally in medicine to kill cancer cells. 2.

Sounds like a win win, doesn’t it! If some of these MLM salespeople had access to this – they’d tell you to take this product internally because “it has been shown to kill cancer cells!”

The seed is the castor bean. The oil is castor oil. The waste material being studied? Ricin. Not familar with Ricin?

“Just 1 milligram of ricin is fatal if inhaled or ingested, and much less than that if injected. Eating just 5 to 10 castor seeds would be fatal. Once poisoned, there’s no antidote, which is why ricin has been used as a chemical warfare agent.”

So something that kills cells in a petri dish…may also kill a person. And just because one product from a plant may have a safe and appropriate use in cosmetic or medical care, does not automatically mean that other products from the exact same plant are even safe, much less effective for the same purposes.


MYTH – EOs in the Bible

Essential oils are defined as “a product made by distillation with either water or steam or by mechanical processing of citrus rinds or by dry distillation of natural materials. Following the distillation, the essential oil is physically separated from the water phase.

Vocabulary of Natural Materials (ISO/D1S9235.2), The International Organization for Standardization (ISO)

There are books and companies who promote the use of essential oils in a way that reinvents historical fact. There were no essential oils used during Biblical times. The Wise Men did not bring Baby Jesus essential oils. Jesus’ feet were not anointed with essential oil, nor did he anoint others with essential oils.

Essential oils were not used in Ancient Egypt, nor are they found in the Pyramids.

“Since essential oils are produced by distillation, and distillation was invented in the 10th century by Persians, it could be said that aromatherapy began 1,000 years ago.” roberttisserand About Aromatherapy

The oils referred to in the Bible are infused oils, not essential oils. The Bible also refers to incense – which is also a completely different product than an essential oil.

To learn more:

Why is this important?

Because if someone is going to lie about historic fact, in order to sell you something – what other lies will they tell in order to sell you something?

And because the history of safe use of an infused oil does not demonstrate the same safety when applied to the essential oil.

And those four Thieves blend you also may have read about? They ALSO were not using essential oils! This is historical FICTION!

Royal, f. 301 detail

The story goes something like this… four thieves in France protected themselves from the black plague with cloves, rosemary, and other aromatics while robbing victims of the black plague, but who never got sick. “When captured, they were offered a lighter sentence in exchange for their secret recipe.”

This “Thieves oil blend” usually includes Clove, Cinnamon Bark, Rosemary, Lemon and Eucalyptus. There was no Eucalyptus available in France in the 15th Century! This story is historical fiction. The thieves were probably using a botanical vinegar and not essential oils.

But it makes a great story and plenty of companies sell their version – the legitimate companies refer to the story as legend or myth. The ones to watch out for are the ones who refer to the story as if it is historic fact, or who advise topical or internal use!