Lee Tea is an investigative journalist with a focus on essential oil consumer advocacy.
Injury Report Published by Leading Aromatherapy School
Founded in 1989 by world-renowned essential oil expert Sylla Sheppard-Hanger, The Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy of Tampa, FL, provides education and training for health care providers and aspiring aromatherapy practitioners. The school offers related workshops and reference materials, and documents first-hand accounts of essential oils injuries and adverse use effects on an ongoing basis.
Their annual report on essential oil injuries for 2015 includes only individuals directly impacted by or directly witnessing adverse effects from essential oil use. As the report states in its summary:
"The intent of this effort is to inform the public through case reports of adverse effects to essential oils, so that we can have a greater understanding of the effects on humans from their unsafe use."
Poison Control Can Help You
Q: I am experiencing an adverse reaction to the use of essential oils. What should I do?
A: Seek medical attention immediately. Call 911, Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222, or your doctor.
Remember you can also call Poison Control not only for help during an emergency, but also for general information and preventative instruction. Take advantage.
Report Reveals Alarmingly High Percentage Rates
Out of a total of 133 reports, of which 100% reported experiencing adverse effects or injury from the use of essential oils:
- 91% of participants are females (121).
- 80% are age 18-59 (107).
- 85% of reported cases are from the use of Young Living or doTerra essential oils (113 total, 44 YL/69 dT, 3rd highest is NOW brand essential oils with 4).
- 77% used undiluted/ineffectively diluted oils (103 total: 77 undiluted; 26 diluted with water).
Have You Experienced Negative Side Effects from Using Essential Oils?
If you've suffered an injury from the use of essential oils, the Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy wants to know about it!
Follow this link to report your experience, and contribute data for the safe promotion and use of essential oils worldwide!
Report Details Include Ingestion and Emergency Care
More data from the AIA report reveals details about the types of injuries sustained, the causes of injury, and follow-up actions taken by the injured:
- 43 reports are a result of ingesting essential oils (30 cited oral ingestion; 13 more ingested oils in a capsule).
- 70 of the most-reported undesired effects include experiencing a burning sensation (26), red-rash bumps/hives (25), and itching (19).
- 47 participants followed up with professional help.
- 21 participants sought emergency care for their incident.
- 83% of those who noted their source of instructions for use cited a sales representative (38). The next highest statistics reported were doTerra's "AromaTouch" technique (3), and nurses (3) who may or may not have been using the technique. Only 3 more total sources of information were identified by report participants.
- 1 participant called poison control, likely accounting for the total number of participants from this report that will be accounted for on Poison Control's 2015 annual report.
Calculations performed on the raw data presented in the Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy's 2015 Injury Report confirm that, currently:
- The use of essential oils can result in adverse effects and injury.
- Female essential oil consumers/users and consumer/users age 18-59 run the highest risk of experiencing adverse effects and injury from essential oil use.
- Two multi-level marketing companies are primarily responsible for supplying injured users with essential oils.
- Most essential oil consumers/users experiencing adverse reactions do not recognize the issue as a matter of Poison Control.
- Improper instruction and risky use techniques account for the majority of documented essential oil injuries.
- Sales reps are the single greatest source of unsafe essential oil use information.
Smoke, Mirrors, and the Marketing Game
Why is there an overwhelming majority of injuries involving marketing companies and sales representatives?
The common sales rebuttal, passed down the line through company lore, is that a large market share, exceptional annual revenue growth, product popularity and generous employee compensation result in more people using their product than any other source to begin with, thus naturally leading to higher numbers for their companies in these categories. That image of stellar success is crucial in sustaining the life span of a multi-level marketing structured business, since employees must be enchanted enough to repeatedly and indefinitely pay into the business in order to sell their products.
However, business reports show these companies may promote themselves better than they actually perform. Neither company made the list of Top 100 Global Direct Selling Companies of 2015, an honor Young Living is actively pursuing for 2016. Also contrary to misleading presentation figures, Young Living's annual revenue has actually decreased 80% over the past 5 years, while doTerra's annual revenue of $14.4 million is much lower than their more frequently advertised figure of $1 billion in sales over the entire lifetime of the company.
In regards to industry leaders, a March 2015 article in Oregon Business about doTerra reported the top three essential oil manufacturers and retailers to be Mountain Rose Herbs, the Essential Oil Company, and Liberty Natural Products. As for that generous employee compensation, income disclosures from Young Living show that 92% of their active members earn an average of $1/month, the top 8% of active members earning an average of $26/month.
Admittedly, their ability to attractively package those details and sell it to new recruits time and time again is a testament to their marketing expertise. They do rank among the best at creating buzz about whatever it is they are trying to sell. Get excited.
Influencial Factors of Report Results
Further analysis of the injury report indicates training and technique may be a key factor in essential oil injury prevention. The report shows that out of the 133 individuals injured by essential oil use, none of these injuries occurred under the care of a certified or clinically trained aromatherapy professional.
Examining some of the key factors of these professions that supply essential oils to individuals may offer some insight.
Sales reps are primarily trained in sales rhetoric and business matters. Their job training includes rehearsing persuasion techniques and rebuttals, refining interpersonal verbal and non-verbal communication skills, learning the company-provided product information, and teaching good business habits and elements of the sales pitch on to newly recruited sales reps. The main objective of a sales professional is to sell a service or product.
Trained and certified aromatherapists are generally educated in matters of anatomy and physiology, chemistry, botany, and safety. Courses of study for aromatherapy practitioners require a minimum of 200 hours of study and are based on credible scientific research, following established guidelines for maintaining ethics and integrity in their industry. The primary goal of an aromatherapy professional is to improve the well-being of their client.
Aromahead Institute School of Essential Oil Studies. BLACK AND BUTJE, INC, 2015. www.aromahead.com accessed 10/21/2015
Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy. "Injury Report 2015". 16018 SADDLESTRING DRIVE, TAMPA, FLORIDA 33618, Atlanticinstitute.com. http://aromatherapyunited.org/injury-reports/oct2015 accessed 21 Oct 2015
"doTerra". AtoZdatabases.com. Accessed via http://www.erielibrary.org/research-services, 23 Oct 2015
Nuyten, Ted. "Direct Selling Momentum Ranks 2015". Business For Home Direct Selling Facts and Figures and MLM News. http://www.businessforhome.org/2015/04/top-100-global-direct-selling-companies-2015/ accessed 22 Oct 2015
Nuyten, Ted. "Top 100 Gloal Direct Selling Companies". Business For Home Direct Selling Facts and Figures and MLM News. http://www.businessforhome.org/2015/10/direct-selling-momentum-ranks-october-2015/ accessed 22 Oct 2015
"Young Living". AtoZdatabases.com. Accessed via http://www.erielibrary.org/research-services/, 23 Oct 2015
The information presented in these pages should not be considered medical advice, and you should always consult a physician before beginning a new regimen to be advised about complications, interactions, or contradictions to your current treatment, or altering your course of treatment.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Janet Y on August 20, 2019:
Thank you for this post, I myself have been injured from using Essential Oils “Neat” and my daughter had a bad reaction to a certain brands germ fighting blend. However, there was good from it, I decided to pursue my Aromatherapy Certification from Aromahead. I still use many brands of Essential Oils, but with the education we haven’t had anymore incidents in our family.
Kathy Wilcox on December 16, 2018:
Hi Lea, I would like to apologize for the nasty, unprofessional, and inflammatory post from Misty below. I don't know this individual personally, but I've experienced some of the same knee-jerk, hostile reactions from other individuals on a DoTerra Facebook group. I have a DT Wellness Advocate account, and the reason that I elected to pursue my Aromatherapy certification (currently studying through Heart of Herbs) was because I was hearing some usage recommendations that were downright scary. I honestly do not understand why DT and YL have not been called to court (or perhaps they have) for some of the statements on their website and the misinformation they disseminate promoting casual ingestion.
I have personally experienced adverse reactions from ingesting a single drop of Peppermint oil, as well as using their DigestZen "diluted" in water. I've also experienced adverse reactions from topical use of oils that are considered "hot" without adequate understanding of safety and dilution.
I find it interesting that Robert Tisserand posted after attending an international conference in 2017 that many of the leading French aromatherapists are now advocating very limited internal use of oils, and only when prescribed by a trained medical professional. MLM advocates who toss about "The French School" or "The French Method" simply don't know what they are talking about, and either are too lazy to do their own research, or too willing to blindly accept the word of their upline or a company that, regardless of their claims about being ethical, EXISTS TO MAKE A PROFIT.
Thank you for your honesty and willingness to sound the horn of caution that so desperately needs to be heard. Kudos to you, and please don't let people like Misty below ever silence your voice.
Fighting the good fight for safe usage and to raise awareness,
Misty on February 21, 2018:
Where the heck do you get your information from? doTERRA's annual revenue is 14.4 million? No - try $1.2 BILLION ANNUALLY - not lifetime. Hasn't made the Top 100 Global Direct Selling Companies list - Ummm.. guess again - YL is on there #22. "Alarmingly High Percentage Rates" - how alarming is it to you that 121 reporting in, out of a total 133 reportees, were FEMALE, when the majority of EO customers IS FEMALE!?! How alarming is it really that "80%" were between the age of 18-59 when you have to be 18 to have an account with DT or YL? How alarming is it really that 113 of the 133 reported using YL or DT when the two entities are the dominant companies in the industry? What's actually alarming is that anyone with half a brain pays your blog any attention.
Michael on October 31, 2015:
Can you please clarify "pure therapeutic grade oils" for everyone? And who is the certifying or governing body classifying them as such? I do not disagree completely with your questioning of Lee's information, as all are entitled to know where the supporting evidence comes from- but citing something like the term "pure therapeutic grade" is also an opinion, and should be treated as such also.
Lee Tea (author) from Erie, PA on October 27, 2015:
Clearly what I have published here is neither a report nor a study, but an article to introduce you to the information contained within the Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy's injury report, which is now about to be linked on this page for the fifth time for anyone's own personal and complete review:
Once again, the report details are available at aromatherapyunited.org/injury-reports/oct2015/. It contains all the detailed information you are requesting.
For example, #3 on the report is a 34 year old female who was instructed to ingest 10 drops of undiluted lemongrass oil in a vegetable capsule twice a day after asking her doTerra upline for remedies to control her blood pressure issues and suffered dizzy spells making her nearly faint as she was driving her car. Additional subcategories like long-term side effects, dilution of oil used and emergency medical treatment sought are also included in the report.
Let me know if you need any more help locating information.
Stan Lee on October 27, 2015:
A report is not a study...just saying. A true report will mention the name of the brand and specific oil used in a specific way, on a specific person (age, gender, race etc.) The reason is that some oils are pure therapeutic grade oils that do not do harm, when used as intended in the bottle, and not pure therapeutic grade oils, certainly can do harm. Some were not distilled under pristine and proper distillation, some have additives, chemicals, toxic carrier oils etc, that do harm. This report does not tell which were used by the groups in this report. (not study). For now, I'm going to treat this as an opinion, not a report due to the format that these figures are arrived from.
Lee Tea (author) from Erie, PA on October 23, 2015:
Absolutely! The full report is linked throughout the article and sited in the "sources" section, but here's the link to where the report information can be obtained if you need to copy and paste:
They are spreadsheets, you will need to download them to see the full report.
I'm honored to see you visit my work, Dr. Stern.
Rory on October 23, 2015:
I'd like to see and read the actual instances of injuries. Are those available?