Are Essential Oils a Scam? ~ A Skeptic Looks at Thieves® Oil


Young Living Essential Oils

**UPDATE!!  I no longer recommend Young Living Oils. Come Read Which Essential Oils Company is Best? to see what company I recommend now.**

Also–find my DIY Antibacterial Thieves® Copycat Recipe here.  Make your own blend and save money!

I’m not one to trust in alternative remedies easily.

Really, I’m not. However, when one is really sick and mainstream medicine isn’t helping, one starts looking elsewhere. With all that we’ve been through with autism, adrenal fatigue, heavy metals, and more, I’ve been in and out of doctor’s offices.  I’ve tried, among other things:

  • chiropractic
  • homeopathy
  • kinesiology
  • ionic foot bath (just once)
  • acupressure
  • tons of supplements (no – I haven’t weighed them.  But if I did I’m scared if it would be close.)
  • Nutritional Balancing.  Our current plan that I’m really pleased with.  See more in this adrenal fatigue – and this one too.

Anyway, we’ve tried a lot on our road to healing.  I’ve been really careful not to mortgage the farm (er – our house) in trying to heal my son’s autism, but it’s been tempting at times.

Looking back at that list, I guess it’s pretty hard to think that I’m a skeptic, right?

But really I am.

We’ve tried a lot, but we really did put a lot of thought into all of these “healing options” and most of them we aren’t doing anymore.

Either haven’t worked, or we’ve found something that’s worked better or cheaper.

Well, the latest object of my skepticism is….you guessed it.  Essential Oils.

Specifically Young Living Essential Oils.

I’ve heard about these oils a number of times over the years.

People would tell me how great Young Living’s oils were and I’d think, “Yeah, right.

You’re just trying to get me into another one of those network marketing things.” Well, it seemed that over and over someone would be telling me about Young Living essential oils. Especially the Thieves blend.  It’s supposed to be antiviral, antibacterial – “Yeah, right.” this skeptic thought.

Anyway, about 10 months ago, I got sick.

Really sick.

I had a bad cold that I just couldn’t shake.

I had fluid in my ear and then my nose – and then both. Three weeks or more passed.  I started asking friends for advice and feared the dreaded antibiotic. One natural-minded friend suggested I get some Thieves oil.

“I always use that when I feel something coming on.  It’s great!”, she said. “So, do you sell Young Living too?”  I asked. “No.”

I went on a hunt to get some since finally, a person who didn’t stand to gain from my purchase was recommending it.

I got a small sample from a local woman, but it wasn’t enough to deal with my problem. So I called the first person who had told me about Young Living and she sent me a larger sample, enough to get me through a few day.

Three days after I started taking the oil (I took 5 drops, followed by a “gulp” of water, up to 5 times per day) –I was better. Good stuff. I ended up signing up with Young Living pretty soon after that.

**NOTE:   Since the original posting, I’ve been sorting through a bunch of essential oils companies to see Which Company has the Best Oils. I am no longer a Young Living rep., nor do I recommend them. Read the whole series to find out why.

Since then, the Thieves oil has cured a bunch of ailments for both myself and others whom I’ve shared it with:

Fingernail Infection

I used to be really prone to these – getting an infection just after something jabbed me under my fingernail (for one of them about 5 years ago, I ended up needing antibiotics since it got really nasty).  I hadn’t gotten them for awhile, but did about 5 months ago.

Colloidal silver and peroxide wouldn’t do anything, so I thought about the Thieves.  I stuck a little (straight – I wanted it to be strong and didn’t care if it stung) on another clean fingernail, pushed it into the injured area – and a few days and several treatments later, the infection was gone.

Herpes Sores on Lips

One night, while we were out, my son complained that his lip was sore.  He said he’d gotten bumped.  When we got home, however, there were 6-7 obvious herpes sores, filled with pus (sorry to be so descriptive.)

After doing research on oils and herpes sores, I ended up trying Thieves again, this time mixed 1:1 with olive oil.

The next day, here is what his lip looked like. (I wish I’d thought to take a photo the first day.  Sigh.)

Herpes Cold Sores

There was no sign of the sores within 3 days.

Cystic Acne

I used to have a rough time with acne in my 20s but hadn’t really struggled with any skin issues but rosacea since then.  Suddenly, this past month, I started getting some small breakouts.  None of them really bothered me, however, until I got a large cystic breakout next to my cheek.

I used the Thieves mixed 1:1 with oil and overnight the cyst had shrunk noticeably.  Within 3 days it was gone.

Another reader shared that she’s used the Thieves on some underarm cysts / sores and they’ve vanished.

Sinus Infection

A local reader who is prone to sinus issues had a bad sinus infection again.  She ended up trying the Thieves orally, and all signs of the infection were gone overnight.

Persistent Illness with Fever

Another local reader’s son had a bad fever for several days that was had become worrisome.  She’d gotten an Rx for an antibiotic but really didn’t want to fill it (see my story about avoiding antibiotics).  She ended up trying the Thieves orally, along with an herbal supplement and said that the next day her son woke up and he was his old self again.

The Thieves Story

Thieves oil was apparently developed from historical information about four thieves in France who would rob victims of the Black Plague (get it–stealing things off of dead bodies.  Ick.)

They’d protect themselves from the plague with a secret recipe of natural ingredients including cloves and rosemary. The thieves were captured and given a lighter sentence in exchange for their recipe. And it really works. This particular blend by YL has apparently been university tested and shown to be effective against airborne bacteria, however…..

(UPDATE – April 2013):  I ended up looking into this claim more.  It appears to me that the testing was just on Eucalyptus and I never received a response back from Young Living ab0ut this.)  Anyway, I’m now a skeptic turned believer.

Essential Oils can be a very valid part of your natural medicine cabinet. I’ll fill you in on more in my next post on essential oils where I’ll talk about Peppermint, Wintergreen and other oils and my experience with them. And I really don’t mean this to be a commercial.  I am just so floored by my experience with them that I feel compelled to share (some things are just too good to keep to yourself!)

Money Stuff

So – how do essential oils fit into a “financially concerned” household? Well, my cost for a 250 drop bottle of Thieves is $31.75 (well, less if I get freebies and discounts offered to distributors that month –

UPDATE.  I ended up not being so thrilled with these freebies and discounts.  Read more in this post – Young Living and doTERRA Review).

**UPDATE – It costs even LESS if you make your own which I teach you how to do in this post – Homemade Antibacterial Essential Oils Blend – like THIEVES®.**

And when someone gets sick, we don’t go through a whole bottle.  It’s a whole lot cheaper than the gas (whoa – $4 per gallon?!) and copay and maybe an antibiotic on top of it.  And we all know there is more than up-front finances involved with antibiotics and other meds, right? Oh – and by the way, I know that there is some “bad press” about Young Living on the web.

I’ve checked that out too and still am working on it to see what I think.

**NEW INFORMATION:  I ended up evaluating a BUNCH of oils companies as a whole lot more information surfaced.  Come and find out which company is “best.”

See Which Essential Oils Company is Best?**

You can also get my Free Guide to Essential Oils – 10 Things You NEED to Know BEFORE You Buy.

Please share your thoughts on and questions about essential oils.

This post is for entertainment purposes only and is not to be used as medical advice as I am not a physician, nor do I pretend to be one. Please consult with your physician prior to using any kind of natural remedy or supplement.  Thank you.


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  1. Thank you for the article and so much research! I have Thieves blend too but find that it really burns my skin if applied directly. Soooo, I am careful with it.
    Recently I started using it on my toenails (yes, got infection after a few pedicures), nails seem to be looking better already.
    I do tend to get sinus and ear infection easily. What would be a save way to start taking it orally? Thank you.

  2. Thank you for all of the great articles on essential oils. I am new to using them, so have been looking for good resources and information, from people who really use them. Do you have a recommendation for a good book that tells how to use them? I find that I spend way too much time searching on-line, and wondered if their was a good book that might be useful. Thanks again for sharing what you know!

  3. Thank you so much for all of your research! I’m new to using essential oils (I was most certainly a skeptic for a long time) and although I did some research prior to purchasing, as a full time working mother of 2 small children, my research was in no way as thorough as yours!! I became a YL wholesale member for the price only and will be switching to NAN :) I wanted to see if you had thoughts on this – my whole family has been drinking 1-2 oz of YL Ningxia Red daily. It seems to have really helped my 5 yr old’s chronic constipation and none of us have been sick in months despite the flu running rampant here in Central PA! I was curious if you had done any research into this product? Or know of any good references? I’m aware that us escaping the flu and drinking the NR could be coincidental but wanted your thoughts. Also, if that is something you do feel is beneficial, is there any NAN product that would be similar? I know how busy you are and appreciate any response when you’re able. xoxo

    • Hi there and thanks for sharing. I used to live in PA and was in the central part on and off for various reasons including being the manager of our state championship HS sports team.

      I did look into that product but thought it had too much sugar for my liking. I was more interested in another one that I saw but boy, was it expensive (like the NingXia). I really have no idea what I think. Another product I was looking at is Exfuse – nicer b/c it has lower sugar content, but I just couldn’t get past the price of shipping, etc.

      As for NAN or RMO having a similar product, they don’t have a juice – isn’t Ningxia just juice enhanced w/ EOs?? — but they do have Defense which would be comparable as far as what you are hoping to achieve, but using a different means. There are some very interesting testimonials about it. Here’s a link (affiliate link) – I’d love to hear what you think. Thanks!

      I think your avoiding the flu could be anything. NingXia maybe. Maybe not. I have escaped being sick some times and other years I get everything. Sometimes I think it’s my adrenals and such – sometimes I hear it’s a bad sign for you to not get sick. I haven’t learned enough to have formed an opinion about it.

  4. Moniqwue Chenelle says:

    This is great Adrienne! I’m looking to go with an EO company and want to find one with a great product AND compensation plan. What is the compensation plan for NAN that you recommend?

    • Hi there, they do not offer a compensation plan. You just buy their oils as you buy most everything online. Sorry about that. I couldn’t find a direct sales oil company that I liked so I am doing other direct sales companies. Not because I think I have to do them but I found some that I like. Lilla Rose, ThriveLife, and Beautycounter. You might be interested in Beautycounter. They are really hitting a nerve and growing at about 23% per month. Here is a link to their mission.

  5. Stephanie P says:

    Hi. I’m new to EO and I’m interested in learning more. I suffer from anxiety really bad and wanted to see if there is an holistic approach when dealing with my anxiety before consulting a doctor. I anxiety usually occurs when giving presentations.

    • Hi there and welcome. There are so many oils that can possibly help. Here are the results of a search on Rocky Mountain’s site: (affiliate link) and on Native American Nutritionals: (again, affiliate link). I do think that personally I am being helped by following a healthier diet for me (no caffeine, no gluten, and no dairy or sugar) and even the AIP diet (you can see a little more in this post – there’s a good cookbook there for it) The deal isn’t on anymore but the book is there.

      Also, this supplement has been great for me. (also an affiliate link) and oat straw tea too. I hope that helps. Of course, none of this is medical advice. Please consult w/ your medical practitioner prior to adding any supplements or changing your diet or using essential oils :).

  6. Ultimately, what made you leave YL? Curious because they seem to be the one I see the most about?

  7. Lindsay Wagner says:

    I use Young Living because of their Seed to Seal promise. I love knowing where the items my family uses come from and that they are NOT outsourced. I just looked on NAN’s website and see nothing about how they get their oils. Can you tell me what you have found in all of your research into the different companies?


  8. Sorry but I have to call you out. While I will agree that Young Living oils may not “cure” everything from my experience the oils I have used work! Theives oil has rid my bleeding gum problem. I’m not talking slight bleeding either. My wife pushed the oils on me. I was like, “sure. My dentist can’t help me but this snake oil will?” After a week of use my gums do not bleed after brushing and flossing.
    Melaleuca alternifolia is another oil that I have used that has worked very well. I had a strange bump on my face. I thought it was a pimple but it never cam to a head. It started looking like a boil and I was about to go to a dermatologist. Once again my wife telles me to use the before mentioned oil. Guess what? After three days the boil/zit thing was gone. Also used it on a bump on my neck. After four days it dried out and was gone.
    I believe the oils work on some and not on others. To claim they do not work at all isn’t fair. I was skeptical of the oils until I found they worked! Oh and I had a very bad cold I could not shake. Peppermint tea with lemon oil and peppermint oil twice a day over five days helped me rid the congestion and cough. The oils helped me shake the cold.
    Don’t believe everything you read. I can tell you the oils work. Nothing beats a doctors visit but I’m sold on these oils.