Organic essential oils have been gaining more and more popularity in the health industry over the last decade. Most consider essential oils “better” than artificial fragrances and perfumes. I have heard time and time again that organic essential oils are beneficial for your health. A healing remedy that can help almost any issue a person is dealing with, if you will. But do we know the outcome of using these oils on a regular basis?
Recently, I’ve been thinking about organic essential oils and their effects. I wanted to learn more about them as a whole and the effects of using them in the long term. So, I started sifting through the vast internet for answers. And I was not expecting what I found.
What are organic essential oils?
If you’re reading this article, I assume that you have heard of essential oils before. But in case you don’t know what they are, here’s a brief overview.
Essential oils are made during an extraction process from different plants. The extraction process is not cut and dry, there are multiple ways to do it. The only difference between regular essential oils and organic essential oils is the way the plants are grown. Contrary to popular belief, organic crops still use pesticides. The pesticides they use are classified as “natural” pesticides, but that doesn’t mean that it is totally safe. However, I am not sure how it works in other countries besides the US.
Anyway, there are different ways you can use these oils. You can diffuse them, use them in beauty and skincare, apply them to the skin, make candles, and more. I have even seen people use organic essential oils in their cooking. The possibilities are endless.
Are essential oils regulated by the FDA?
In fact, Young Living Essential Oils and doTERRA received a warning from the FDA in 2014. Both of the Utah-based companies made claims on their websites that these oils cure Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, herpes, and more. Since both Young Living and doTERRA’s products are cosmetics, they are not allowed to make such claims. Only drugs are allowed to market that they can cure a medical condition. If you’d like to learn more about this, you can check out this article.
Are there side effects to organic essential oils?
Yes, there have been side effects reported when frequently topically applying oils. According to this Government News Release from 2007,
“repeated topical use of products containing lavender oil and/or tea tree oil may cause prepubertal gynecomastia. A condition resulting in enlarged breast tissue in boys prior to puberty.”
In Colorado, three young boys were diagnosed with prepubertal gynecomastia. They were ages four, seven, and 10 years old and otherwise healthy. They had more than their diagnosed condition in common. The doctor realized all three boys used cosmetic products that contained lavender or tea tree essential oils. So if all three boys are growing breast tissue and all using lavender or tea tree E.O.’s, there must be a reason for that. And this is not just a one-off case, this has also happened to young girls.
According to an article published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, a team of scientists discovered lavender fragrance products are also the cause of a condition called premature thelarche. This means that girls below the age of eight had no other signs of puberty except for premature breast development.
Over the course of seven years, there were 24 patients at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami, Florida who were diagnosed with premature thelarche or prepubertal gynecomastia.
16 of those patients, 11 boys, and five girls, were exposed to lavender fragrance. Whether it be perfumes, shampoos, soaps, or lotions. At the University of California-Irvine, four more girls came in with premature breast development. They also used lavender fragrance products. One of which, had been bathed in a lavender oil soap since infancy. At just one year of age, she had breast development occur.
From what I have been able to find, most studies claim that this only happens when the oils are applied topically. However, I found information on a government site about an incident that happened when the oils were diffused. It stated that there was a girl who sat next to the teacher’s desk in school, who diffused lavender essential oils every day. It only took one year for the girl to show signs of premature breast development.
Organic Essential Oils and Hormones
After that discovery, a lot more research needed to happen. Scientists wanted to know the relationships between estrogen and organic essential oils.
The results of the laboratory studies found that lavender and tea tree oils can mimic the effects of estrogen. It will also inhibit the effects of androgens, which is a male hormone. Concluding that essential oils are classified as endocrine disruptors, just like BPA in plastic (among many other things).
“An endocrine disruptor is a chemical in the environment that interferes with hormones and their actions in the body“
Although it can mimic the effects of those hormones, the Colorado boy’s hormones were tested and came back with normal levels. That was just one study though, so there is not enough data to make any definite conclusions about hormone levels.
Now that we know how lavender and tea tree oil E.O.’s can affect our hormones, let’s understand how that happens.
Are there chemicals in organic essential oils?
Yes, there are chemicals in organic essential oils.
In order to figure out which chemicals were the cause of these issues, they had to do some testing. Scientists conducted a study on eight different chemicals, four of which are found in both oils. Lavender and tea tree oils share four of the same chemicals which were all tested.
They applied these chemicals to human cells to see what they would do. All eight of these chemicals displayed properties that affected estrogen and androgen receptors. The effects varied from high or low levels of activity in different chemicals.
The other bad news
These same chemicals are found in at least 65 other essential oils. So it is not just the lavender and tea tree oils that have these same properties and effects. My theory is that lavender and tea tree are the most popular E.O.’s in cosmetic products, so it was more obvious.
Now that we know what chemicals are causing this to happen, let’s take a look at where these products are made. Specifically, Young Living and doTERRA since they are the best-known brands.
Where do organic essential oils come from?
When you go to YL and doTERA’s websites, they have a page that lists their farms across the world. They claim to have the most top-notch farms and facilities around the world.
What I found has me wondering how truthful they really are. Sure, some of their products may be of high quality, but I honestly have my doubts.
A closer look at Young Living
I found information about their shipments; who their suppliers are, their country of origin, and what products. The website I used makes you pay a high fee to be able to see everything, so I am not able to see all of their shipments. From what I can see, Eucalyptus and Wintergreen oils are exported from China. On the Young Living website, they say that their eucalyptus oil is from Africa, though. Here are some screenshots from their website that makes this claim:
But when I found the information about their supplier, a company in China called Shanghai Runfa Chemical & Perfume is supplying their eucalyptus oil. Take a look:
I was also able to see that they do receive a lot of oils from other countries such as France, Malaysia, and Africa as stated on their website. I did not audit all of the suppliers to see if they are involved with the farms listed on the website.
I did look into their one supplier from Africa. I was able to find an inconsistency with their African farm and supplier. The farm on the website is listed as Amanzi Amahle Cooperative Farm and Distillery. On the YL website, they claim that “In 2019, Young Living helped fund a mobile distillery that allowed the farm to distill on site.“
Yet, I found shipments from a supplier in South Africa that does not have any affiliation with the farm mentioned above. If they are able to distill the oils on-site, why are they receiving shipments from a completely different company in Africa? The shipments they have been receiving oils from is a company called Scatters Oils.
On the Scatters Oil website, they do not have Amanzi Amahle Cooperative Farm and Distillery listed as a supplier for their oils. So, I’m not too sure what to make of this. Between the factory in China where they are receiving Eucalyptus and Wintergreen, to their supplier in Africa being completely different than what is on their website, this doesn’t add up. I don’t want to say that they are lying about their sources, but…what do you think?
A closer look at doTerra
Unfortunately, doTERRA is in the same ball game as YL. I immediately found inconsistencies with their suppliers. One example, they say on their website that their eucalyptus oil comes from Australia. But I can see that they received eucalyptus oil from India as recently as July 22nd, 2021.
What’s up with that? Once again, I didn’t audit everything and I cannot see all of their shipments. Either way, I don’t feel that I can trust either of these companies after finding this. What about you? We are supposed to use these oils on ourselves, our babies, our pets, and our loved ones. We should feel safe and that we know exactly what is in them, but unfortunately, we don’t and probably never will.
Final Thoughts about Organic Essential Oils
Even though organic essential oils can be used in so many different ways, I don’t think it’s worth it. It is up to you to decide if you trust these products to use around your babies, in your home, in cosmetics, and more.
From my research, I concluded that:
- Essential oils are endocrine disruptors.
- They cause prepubescent breast-tissue growth in boys and girls.
- They are produced in different facilities and countries than YL and doTERRA claim.
- Most companies are not evaluated or regulated by the FDA as a drug, which means they
are not tested for purity or certified organic by the government.
- Are composed of various unknown chemicals.
These are the five reasons why I don’t use essential oils anymore. I think that there are too many risks associated with these products, and yet there is still so much we do not know. But then again, you can say that about anything nowadays.
Whether you think this is a deal-breaker or not, I hope you were able to learn something new. I am not against the use of essential oils, I am for informed choice on what we use in our homes and around our families.
So, will you still be using essential oils?
Wow this is an excellent article! I’m so thankful I found it. I usually avoid the MLM companies anyway(to each its own) but this is quite eye-opening. Thanks for sharing!
interesting read about essential oils and organic types. very informative especially for someone new to oils.
Very informative article and lots of food for thought. I went through an essential oil phase a short while ago and I just trusted them to be safe. But it’s a good idea to do some research!
What an excellent and thoughtful post! I learned a lot!!
Oh no! I love diffusing essential oils in my home, but this was an interesting read!
Very helpful and interesting. very informative. Thank you for sharing.
Fantastic article! I have used Essential oils in the past and I found some benefits at times, I too had been curious about any potential issues.
I mean for each oil you really need to do research before using.
They are not harmless by any means. I wish there was more regulation on these and other supplements as well.
What a great in-depth article on essential oils! I’m still navigating the world of essential oils, so appreciate this information!
Wow! Very informative post. It’s an eye opener. I didn’t know that essential oils had side effects.
Oh my gosh, this is such powerful stuff! It’s crazy to think there can be all these scary side effects, especially when they’re touted as the safe and natural option to other alternatives. Well done on a great piece and thank you for sharing!
Just as I was about to hop back on the EO train after having my son. I wanted to try and take a more natural approach on things and the first thing I thought of was using essential oils. I am second thinking this now. Super informative article!