The rampant BS in essential oil marketing

…because I always come away from a Pinterest trip with something I have to write a PSA about! I’m sure this will piss off at least some of my readership, but this stuff has been ridiculous for a while now.

Y’all, there is no such thing as “therapeutic grade” essential oil. There is no governing body that grades essential oils and there is no standard definition of “therapeutic grade” or any other grade. Any company can decide to put “therapeutic grade” on their bottles. It’s totally freakin’ meaningless, and in fact, just speaking for myself, when I see a bottle of essential oil labeled “therapeutic grade,” my trust of the company goes down several notches, because it’s bullshit and they either know it, or they don’t know enough about what they’re selling to take their word on anything.

And if you see a blog telling you there are four grades of essential oils, I will bet you cash money that they are shilling for one of the big multilevel marketing setups that typically price their oils at least four times higher than typical quality retail brands. They use language like “therapeutic grade” to try to justify the markup, but I promise you, this is just marketing crap. Those oils are not some kind of ultra-elite anything, and they aren’t worth what they want you to pay for them. And the claim that “grade A” is organic and therapeutic grade, and “grade B” is food grade and could contain synthetics and contaminants… just click out when you see that bullshit. That’s garbage. People are just making shit up.

Now I believe those bloggers probably believe what they’re saying. There’s a lot of psychology going on here. I’m not saying it’s the bloggers necessarily who are lying to you – at least not on purpose. They have faith in this company or else they wouldn’t go to all the trouble. But that doesn’t mean they have the slightest idea what they’re talking about. The rhetoric that floats around, too often with bad advice, is dangerous. And if you believe these companies are angelic entities with humanity’s best interest, and not their corporate bottom line, at the heart of what they do, well, you’re drinking the Kool-Aid, and I suggest you put it down.

I also took a tour through the first 25 Amazon reviews of an essential oil set from a reputable and recognizable essential oil retailer. Absolutely zero percent of those 25 reviews were written by someone who knew enough to justly evaluate an essential oil. The criteria by which they judged the oil were nearly universally stupid and all over the map. Reviews like this are worse than useless as real data or any kind of yardstick of quality.

Also, don’t consume essential oils because some random website told you to. (Or at all.) No, that is not how your ancestors overcame illness. Your ancestors used the *whole plant* – not necessarily the whole thing from root to flower in every case for every blend, but the point is they did not use isolated compounds or massively concentrated distillations of only part of the plant’s constituent profile. They used the actual plants with their actual phytochemicals to make teas and salves and liniments and baths and such so that the infusion, decoction, etc. contained numerous active components that *worked together synergistically* in ways we still only barely understand. That is so far away from taking an aromatherapy essential oil internally that my head just about explodes when I see people recommending you ingest essential oils. That can kill you.

(I’m going to save for later the rant about how the trendiness of essential oils has contributed to some massive sustainability problems and ecological crises and exploitation, because that rant needs to come along with specific and practical discussion of alternatives as well as some historical, agricultural, and *chemical* context, and that’s gonna require significant time and research. But for now I’ll just say that the essential oil craze has actually been devastating to the environment, and I think everybody interested in rootwork needs to spend some time thinking about things like ethical sourcing as well as whole-plant infusion as an alternative to all-essential-oils-all-the-time, and choosing native/regionally available herbs and roots. Your great-great grandparents most certainly were not using essential oils to make up their medicines or condition oils or baths, and it’s unlikely that were they importing expensive, rare resins and spices from other countries. They were using what they could go out and gather. We’ve really developed a kind of perverse concept of essential oils as some “pure essence” of a plant, and this related idea that one plant is the Ideal for a certain thing and there’s nothing better anywhere, so we should get it by any means necessary and totally ignore what’s growing right under our noses in our regions. Nothing could be further from the truth.)

Bottom line: there’s a lot of freakin’ garbage out there. Some of it is just common obfuscation for the sake of marketing, but some of it is straight up dangerous. Some of the BS being circulated comes from well-meaning but gullible people who have believed a bunch of hype and overestimated the ethical character of the companies they shill for. You shouldn’t take their advice and you probably shouldn’t follow their recipes without doing some of your own research with reputable sources, either (esp. if they talk about “toxins” and “chemicals” a lot in really vague, sweeping terms, think you should put essential oil in your kid’s pancakes, and don’t think body products need preservatives).

And don’t just take my word for it, either. After all, I’m not a an aromatherapist or herbalist or a botanist or a scientist of any stripe at all. Go see what credentialed experts have to say about this stuff – not “momwithablog74” who wants you to buy a certain brand of incredibly expensive essential oil. Go see what trained aromatherapists think and how naturopaths feel about all this and what medicinal plant conservationists recommend, and while you’re at it, what the FDA and the Better Business Bureau have had to say.

If you’re going to use essential oils, you should know what the deal is, both in terms of the quality and ethics of the company whose product you use and in terms of the global status of the plant the oil comes from. Don’t contribute to ecological crises (or cultural theft) and don’t give your money to dishonest companies who use misleading marketing techniques. They are trying to swindle you.

Murphy ‘s Oil Soap, why Colgate-Palmolive sucks, and stealth-conjure

This article, “Murphy’s Oil Soap: A Most Unusual Story” in Popular Woodworking by Bob Flexner is amusing.

And it’s true. You should not use Murphy’s Oil Soap to clean your furniture. Well, I guess if your furniture is plastic you could… but not if it’s wood. At least not wood that you don’t hate and want to punish somehow.

But this is a pretty neat tale of marketing and how it basically totally overwrote common sense and common knowledge within a freakin’ generation.

You shouldn’t use it on your beautiful hardwood floors either. And as I came to find out when I became the new owner of “tile laminate” in my kitchen earlier this year, you shouldn’t use it on laminate either – at least not according to the manufacturer, despite what Murphy’s says on their packaging. (Seems like the more “advanced” flooring gets, the more the technology regresses for caring for it or something. The most efficient way I can clean my kitchen floor is by getting on my hand and knees to wash it with a damp, not wet, rag and vinegar, which I then immediately have to wipe dry, which is why I don’t bother trying to use a mop and doing all that getting up and down.)

But yeah, if your wood is all “dry and thirsty,” what it needs is oil. And Murphy’s Oil Soap doesn’t have any oil left in it by the time they put it in the bottle. That’s how saponification works. Lye + oils/fats –> soap. Not soap and lye and oil, just soap. And soap doesn’t “nourish” wood; in fact, it does the opposite. The only reason you can sometimes get away with using Murphy’s on finished furniture is because some finishes create a water-resistant barrier *that prevents (or slows) the soap from going into the wood at all.* It’s just cleaning dirt that’s on the surface of your lacquer or whatever.

Now that doesn’t mean there’s no use for Murphy’s! I always have some. As far as household cleansers go, it’s among the least potentially icky if you have children or pets running around and/or want to understand what all the stuff on the label actually is and/or get all sneezy around lots of household cleaner scents.

I mean, it’s literally just soap and essential oil.  That’s it. You don’t have to have a permit to dispose of it and it’s one of the few things I’ve seen in ages that doesn’t contain something known by the state of California to cause cancer. (Sorry, California, love y’all, but you gotta know what I’m saying, right?)

And it’s a good spiritual cleanser, as well, straight off the shelf. I like having something like that around that I can just “grab and go” even though I have actual floorwashes and sweeps around here, too. And I especially like it because I can pray over it and then give it to someone who needs some spiritual cleansing in their house but doesn’t want to hear that stuff. Boom, benevolent sneaky trick. Or I can use it in someone else’s house if they wouldn’t respond well to my hauling a bunch of herbs over there.

I love Murphy’s. I use it all the time. I wash all kinds of stuff with it. Just not wood, and you shouldn’t either if you give a crap about the thing made of wood.

And I sure don’t love Colgate-Palmolive’s misleading advertising and packaging and the way they basically managed to brainwash North America with this crap. I think that’s pretty shitty of them and I want to know why they hate wood so much and what it ever did to them that they’re out to freakin’ destroy it. But there’s no FDA to protect the health and wellbeing of American armoires and dining room tables to step in and do anything about the stupid labeling and packaging, so I guess we’re stuck with this situation and should at least be glad it smells like good old citronella instead of chemical toilets or whatever.

Seems like we had a “sneaky trick” thread going on a few years back… I ought to see if I can find it. That might be cool. But in the meantime, y’all share your own favorite sneaky tricks and methods of stealth-hoodooing folks, if you’d like. I think everybody got at least one new idea out of that thread a few years back – it was fun.

think twice about buying oils with eye dropper caps

I’ve seen a lot of essential oil blends and prayer oils and dressing oils getting sold in glass bottles with bulb dropper caps lately. If you don’t know why you shouldn’t store your essential oil-based stuff with these types of caps, look here and learn from my own archive of Storage Disaster Stories.


That stuff in the bottle? Van Van oil. If you’re not familiar, Van Van oil is normally a quite bright and fresh yellow. This is what it looks like after a couple of years of being stored with a bulb dropper in it.

See, it’s not just that EOs break down plastic and rubber – that plastic and rubber they’re breaking down *is leaching back into the oil as it deteriorates.* I don’t know about you, but none of my oil formulas call for liquefied remains of bulb dropper cap to go in them. And the breakdown starts WAY before you can see it this clearly.

I wouldn’t do it, y’all. I wouldn’t sell my oils with that kind of cap and I wouldn’t buy them that way. (I normally don’t store mine this way – but lots of things got packed rapidly by lots of helping hands when we moved.)


The second picture is a bottle of dye stored with a dropper cap. (I didn’t actually expect that one.) The bulb part just *melted* down the inside and the outside of the bottle, ruining it and everything else in the moving box with it.