French Aromatherapy: Differentiating MLM Marketing from the Actual Practice

French Aromatherapy: Differentiating MLM Marketing from the Actual Practice

I write a lot about the nuances and specifics of French Aromatherapy (or Aromatic Medicine) because not only is it a topic of interest, but it is also the subject of my final research paper for my French Aromatherapy certification. I completed the coursework almost a year ago and got sidetracked by business development and other certification programs so I ended up putting the final paper aside. It is still a work in progress, but I have done considerable research on the subject matter.

There is a lot of buzz and significantly misinterpreted information when in comes to the actual practice of French Aromatherapy, much of which comes from the MLM (Multi Level Marketing) side of the aromatherapy spectrum. The information passed down under the rubric of French Method/Model comes from Young Living and doTERRA and is a very loose interpretation of the actual practice of French Aromatherapy.

In this blog post, I am going to break down what the MLM companies are telling their reps and members about the "French method or French model" and counterbalance that with the actual practices of French Aromatherapy and general practices across the professional aromatherapy industry. They overlap in theory, but are extremely nuanced in approach.

The "Schools" of Aromatherapy: British, German, and French.

  • Where did the notion of different aromatherapy schools come from? Simply put, the originated from MLM marketing campaigns and as a result it misleads people about the practice of aromatherapy. Countless times, I have seen rhetoric referring to the British and German schools being outmoded, and this could not be further from the truth since aromatherapy educators do not teach the practice based on British and German methods.

  • The aromatherapy industry combines all three modes of application: topical, inhalation, and internal. Some aromatherapists, educators, and industry professionals do not practice or advocate internal use because of the inherent risk involved in consuming essential oils through improper methodologies. You can listen to your body all you want, but that undiluted lemon oil floating in your water could be damaging your kidneys and liver -- and you may not know it. It call comes down to a matter of personal preference and judgment calls. French aromatherapy, which is being referred to more and more as "aromatic medicine" encompasses more than just ingesting essential oils. At its heart, it combines aromatherapy and herbalism into its own unique practice.

  • Please read: The Truth Behind Aromatherapy Schools of Thought and 'British vs. French Aromatherapy' – a myth... or a smokescreen? for further information on the myths of different schools of aromatherapy and their origins.

The Importance of Essential Oil Safety and the work of Robert Tisserand & Rodney Young within the practice of French Aromatherapy.

  • While some MLM insiders discredit Tisserand & Young's work stating it is outmoded, doesn't apply to the French method, or is stringently dogmatic and only takes into account dermal and inhalation - this is not true. I had the privilege of taking Robert Tisserand's Essential Oil Safety Masterclass in 2018. In addition to our coursework, we had live Q&A sessions with him throughout the duration of the class. The course addresses the proper methods of internal use of essential oils and respective safety concerns.

  • Tisserand & Young's, the Essential Oil Safety book is one of the recommended texts for the French Aromatherapy certification course, and is referenced throughout the essential oil monographs studied in the program.

  • Regarding the safety data on the chemical composition of essential oils, this mostly pertains to the chemical constituents that are at the highest levels in a particular oil. Lets, use Methyl salicylate as an example, Birch and Wintergreen are comprised of over 90% of Methyl salicylate. Given the numerous safety precautions associated with it, the results are the safety warnings. If they only had, 0.1% Methyl salicylate, the safety warnings would be adjusted accordingly. The same applies to oils that have high amounts of 1,8 cineole. There will always be exceptions to the rule as some chemical constituents in any amount can be hazardous. As with all aromatherapists and industry professional, we are all concerned about the quality of essential oils and the growing conditions. To say that we are not, is irresponsible and flat out incorrect. Safety is not fear mongering. If your SUV was recalled due to a safety issue, wouldn't you want to know about it? If your medication has dangerous side effects, wouldn't you want to know about it? The same principle applies to essential oils.

  • Read Grasse Phyt’Arom 2017 – what we learned in France about French aromatherapy from the Tisserand Institute. To summarize, what was learned from true French Aromatherapists is what is being taught in general aromatherapy across the board with respect to standard practices and safety concerns and this is in stark contrast to what the MLM folks purport to be the "french method."

MLM companies use the French method/model which places a high emphasis on the quality of essential oils and encourages "aggressive" use of essential oils.

  • Regarding quality, all aromatherapy industry professionals and educators place a high emphasis on using high quality pure essential oils. Perfuming is the only exception to the rule because if you are creating a perfume for aromatic purposes only, the quality of the essential oil isn't as crucial as it is not being used for its therapeutic benefit. However, that is not a be all end all rule, if you are creating a natural perfume to be used for its calming and relaxing benefits, then you would definitely want to use high quality essential oils. That said, perfuming is not covered in the scope of French Aromatherapy. I encourage you to The Quality of Essential Oils by Jade Shutes for further clarification on the quality of essential oils.

  • "Aggressive" use of essential oils through using higher dilution ratios (the amount of essential oil to carrier oil ratio) or "neat" undiluted application is taught by aromatherapists. BUT, special attention is given to the longevity of undiluted use as this should be a short term approach, not a standard daily approach to using essential oils. Some aromatherapists prefer not to use or advocate the use of undiluted essential oils due to the potential risks for sensitization and other contraindications based on the type of oil being used and its dermal safety precautions coupled with any medical issues that may be present. Aromatherapists are not a monolith, we have educated ourselves and continue to advance our education and we approach our personal or business practices based on our findings. While I am trained in French Aromatherapy and am generally neutral about ingestion as long as it is done safely, I personally, do not feel like I have the need to ingest essential oils at this time or recommend that mode of application to my clients and customers. Additionally, as a business owner, there are liability and insurance issues along with FDA regulations regarding consumable products.

  • According to the study and practice of French aromatherapy with regard to undiluted "neat" topical application:

    • High dosages and undiluted applications are warranted at certain times and for specific conditions. Sometimes higher dilutions and undiluted applications are particularly useful if treating a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection. The safety advice regarding this approach and topical application in general is to 1) avoid prolonged use of the same essential oils for long periods of time and 2) Avoid the use of undiluted essential oils unless otherwise indicated.[Source: French Aromatherapy, New York Institute of Aromatic Studies] While they do utilize undiluted use of essential oils, it is for special circumstances over short periods of time, not multiple times a day for an indeterminate amount of time.

Ingestion of Essential Oils, Europeans widely practice this because they follow the French model, but everyone else follows the British model and is firmly against the practice.

  • I have written about this subject matter on a few occasions to try to dispel the myths regarding internal use of essential oils. French Aromatherapy: The Truth About Internal Use of Essential Oils, Ingesting Essential Oils: What You Should Know from a French Aromatherapist, and The Mythos of Cooking with Essential Oils

  • The primary reason many aromatherapists are against the practice is because MLM reps with minimal (if any) formal training espouse putting drops of Lemon oil in your water or Peppermint oil in your tea -- neglecting the fact that oil and water do not mix therefore are ingesting undiluted essential oils. There are numerous safety precautions pertaining to ingesting essential oils, just because they are natural or have GRAS status does not mean that they are safe to consume every day for an indefinite amount of time.

  • This first thing mentioned when it comes to oral use of essential oils is the list of an excipient that need to be used in conjunction with the practice, including: honey, alcohol, solubol/disper, gelatin capsules, herbal tinctures, neutral tablets, sugar cubes, fatty oil capsules, charcoal, tinctures, bread, rice flour capsules, syrups, or dried powdered herb capsules. [Source: French Aromatherapy, New York Institute of Aromatic Studies] When adding an essential oil to a capsule, it should always be diluted with a carrier oil.

  • The next immediate necessity with oral use is the dosage and longevity based upon acute and chronic conditions. Note, they do not teach anyone to drink essential oils in water every day or to cook with essential oils either. There are very specific reasons to treat acute or chronic conditions with internal use of essential oils.

  • The AIA (Alliance of International Aromatherapists) does not allow anyone affiliated with MLMs to join their organization. This has less to do with ingesting essential oils and more to do with the fact that the vast majority of MLM reps have no formal aromatherapy training. You have to have completed at least a 100 hour aromatherapy program to be an associate member. MLM essential oil reps are not being banned from membership solely because they are part of an MLM company. It is a pretty standard practice with membership in industry specific organizations such a NAHA and AIA, their reputation stands upon their members and in order to be a member you need the appropriate credentials. I probably wouldn't be able to join a professional organization based on interest and minimal education alone. There are plenty of interest groups or meet up groups for that.

Detoxing is a normal response to your body removing toxins from your body.... use more oils...

  • I don't know if this gets wrapped up in the French method or is just a MLM notion, but detoxing has been widely discredited across the whole aromatherapy industry as more and more people have had serious adverse reactions and have become sensitized to some, if not all essential oils and fragrances of any kinds -- and that is irreversible.

  • You can be allergic to essential oils or become completely sensitized to them. Fact or Fiction: On the Topic of Allergies + Sensitization by Kayla Fioravanti outlines and responds to these dangerous myths.

  • If you want to truly understand the dangers of this myth, please read: The Unspoken Truth About Essential Oils: Lessons Learned, Wisdom Gained by Kayla Fioravanti and Stacey Haluka.

Negative effects of essential oils are extremely rare and no one has ever died from essential oils

  • Plants can be deadly, whether in their natural format or via essential oils. People have died from consuming deadly poisonous plants like water hemlock and digitalis. In actuality, numerous scientific articles and journals have documented cases of essential oil injuries and fatalities, which were due to ingestion. For more specific information on injuries and fatalities: Essential Oil Ingestion: Documented Side Effects, Injuries, and Deaths.

  • There are few organizations who publish injury reports and adverse reactions, it is helpful to keep in mind these are self-reported. Many more people are injured and do not report it or do not realize that their injuries came from improper essential oil use. The vast major of injuries are due to undiluted application and ingestion. While millions of people use essential oils everyday, it may seem like a small amount, but these injuries do occur and it is something to be mindful about.

  • A note on GRAS (Generally regarded as safe) status, this does not necessarily indicate that there are zero safety concerns when it comes to ingestion. Things that were deemed GRAS by the FDA were done in parts per million not individual drops in a single beverage or dish. This article clearly outlines the particulars of essential oils and GRAS status and the confusion surrounding this issue.

In conclusion, and I say this a lot, the aromatherapy industry loves essential oils and we want everyone to experience their benefits and to do so safely. Do you need to be an aromatherapist to use them? Of course not, but knowledge is power. Safety precautions are not tantamount to rabid fear-mongering. The aromatherapy industry is not just a bunch of kill-joy gatekeepers, we are here to help and glad to do so. I answer countless questions on a regular basis from people who contact me personally with questions regarding safety, myths, and proper use of oils. Ask questions, learn something. This is how I became an aromatherapist.

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