A Basic Look at Sustainabilty, Essential Oils, and How MLMs Play a Role

If you are an "independent distributor" for an MLM essential oil company, chances are, you are not going to like this post. Don't worry, I'm not even going to begin to cover oil quality or testing transparency...people go bat shit crazy when that gets brought up.

This post is taking a look at the long term sustainability of essential oils. This DOES, however, include how MLMs are destroying a beautiful tool in the natural medicine cabinet.

1) Monocropping

Essential oils take A LOT of plant matter to create. 250 pounds of Lavender buds for 1 pound of essential oil.... 10,000 Rose petals for 1 pound of essential oil.... 6,000 pounds of Melissa for 1 pound of essential oil....3000 lemons for 2 pounds of essential oil...

This creates fields of a single crop...AKA monocropping.

Monocropping is something that does not happen naturally. Walk through any wild field or forest and you will see a large variety of plants. It is that way for a reason. The plants work together to be stronger...against disease and pests. Some of them replenish nutrients into the soil that other plants need AND they communicate with each other via a mycelial network.

Think about it this way...if you had an military that could only fire at 25m with the same specific weapon AND ONLY if the conditions were sunny and clear...how easy do you think it would be for an enemy to wipe them out if they wanted to? 

Monocropping depletes the soil. It wipes out biodiversity...which is required for long term sustainability. It leads to an increased need for pesticides and herbicides (because other plants will try to grow...because a monocrop isn't normal for plants.

2) Locally Made

BECAUSE of the monocropping requirement for the current demand of essential oils, it is damn near impossible to find a local essential oil distiller. You can absolutely distill your own essential oils but don't forget how much plant matter it takes for an essential oil (might I suggest hydrosols?)

On top of that, many of the essential oils that are well loved we don't actually grow or produce here in the US...anyone ever stumble across a wild frankincense tree here in the US? I am going to guess that is a no. That places an additional environmental load onto the essential oil ( I also recommend you read a little from Fair Trade Frankincense) 

Now, I do have essential oils in my fridge (where I store all of them except Patchouli because it become very thick when cold)...and I know that those are NOT local and not all of them are organic...that actually leads into my next section

3) Current Use

Because creating essential oil requires a lot of labor (all the growing, harvesting, distilling, etc) it was not a common for mass distribution...even then, it was more likely used for hydrosols (with essential oils being a by product) because distilling can produce quite a bit of hydrosol*. Then for the essential oils that were produced, they were used in addition to other modalities and definitely not as the panacea they are today.

Today's current use (are pushed by certain MLM companies), talk about how they can use essential oils "neat" or without dilution. Aside of the safety aspect of that...how much essential oil do you go through? If I can add 6 drops to a 10ml roller, which is about a 3% dilution, that roller is going to last me quite a long time....versus using 6 drops neat which are used up once they hit your hand or your body. Dilution does NOT make the essential oils less potent, it makes them safe.

Look at essential oils in baths...from one YL consultant... she recommends 15 drops (5 each) of Jasmine, Ylang-ylang, and Sandalwood...in 1 bath. Nope. Try 3-6 drops in 5-10ml (1-2 teaspoons) and mix. She does recommend heavy cream and honey, which are suitable as a carrier BUT both Jasmine AND Sandalwood have sustainability concerns. 

After writing that last paragraph, I decided to see what other essential oil baths people come up with...and stumbled across an insanely DANGEROUS bath blend that recommend 37 drops of essential oil including Wintergreen (high in salicylates, which are blood thinning) WITHOUT any sort of dilution. I don't even want to link to it because my initial response was "holy fucking shit."

But all that aside...THAT is not how we use essential oils as part of our natural medicine cabinet. I have even written a post on that already...read that HERE. The amount of drops, how often we "should" use them, what to use them for....as dictated by MLMs and their followers are NOT sustainable.

I am not the perfect example but I am still using my organic orange essential oil from NOW brand for cleaning that I bought in February. That is 7 months. I store it in my fridge to keep it, as all citrus oils should because they do have a much shorter shelf life than others (6 months to a year depending on how you store it). My Lavender and Chamomile roman...I bought BEFORE I moved back from Belgium (which was January) and I still have plenty left. I also bought a pound of Lavender buds before I moved back and still have plenty of that...even though I use it for baths and things. I have never denied myself using an essential oil when I know it will be effective...I just use them minimally and to maximize their effectiveness. I know distributors who go through multiple bottles of essential oils every month!!

*Hydrosols can be used in exchange of essential oils and are actually a much safer option for young children, elderly, and those who are sensitive to essential oils...not to mention use less plant matter.

So now I have touched on briefly a few points of sustainability with essential oils. It can feel heavy at times, especially when you use or used them quite a bit in your home. Trust me, I didn't know all this stuff when I was starting out and I still learn things all the time (and writing these posts help). Where do we go from here?

First, check your essential oil company. What have their ACTIONS told your about their commitment to sustainability? Lets not forget YL actions on violating the Lacey Act and the Endangered species act (and no, it wasn't just voluntary...they pleaded guilty...and their fines/fees were part of the plea arrangement).  Ask them about they essential oils that have issues with sustainability...like frankincense, myrrh, sandalwood, rosewood...even if you don't necessarily plan on using them. Its about their morals and integrity.

Then, see how you can reduce your essential oil usage to the uses that essential oils are best for. See my article on the role they play in the natural medicine cabinet above.

Always dilute your essential oils appropriately for the subject and use. Its a ton of information but Lea Harris has a great post on dilution. Don't forget, you can always message me on our Facebook page and ask!

Of course, I am just one person...I would love to hear your input on the sustainability with essential oils...how do you ensure you are thinking about long term sustainability in your use?


Sources:

  • Plant Perspective, doTerra: https://www.doterra.com/US/en/essential-oil-safety-and-application-plant-perspective 
  • What is Monocropping, https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/plant-problems/environmental/monoculture-gardening.htm 
  • Fair Trade Frankincense https://fairtradefrankincense.com/tag/frankincense-sustainability-study/ 
  • Wintergreen Aroma Web https://www.aromaweb.com/essential-oils/wintergreen-oil.asp 
  • Lea Harris Using EOs Safely Dilution post http://www.usingeossafely.com/diluting-essential-oils-safely-safe-dilution-guidelines-for-all-ages/