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

I thought essential oils were a scam. Then I got really sick and got to put them to the test. Did the Thieves Oil perform? Find out what happened next.

UPDATE – Before reading this post, please note that I am no longer using Young Living Oils.  I moved on for various reasons. You can read more starting with this post, or skip ahead to the final post here. You can see my DIY Antibacterial Essential Oils Blend here.

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.

I’d heard about essential oils a number of times over the years.

People would tell me how great essential oils were and I’d think, “Yeah, right.”

“You’re just trying to get me into another one of those network marketing things.”

And frankly, putting oil on your body and healing anything sounded, well, basically loaded with woo woo foo foo to me.

Well, it seemed that over and over someone would be telling me about essential oils. Especially the antibacterial blends, often called “Thieves” or “Four Thieves” or something like that.

Those blends and the oils in them are supposed to be antiviral, antibacterial.

“Yeah, right. Sure,” this skeptic thought.

I thought essential oils were a scam. Then I got really sick and got to put them to the test. Did the Thieves Oil perform? Find out what happened next.

I Got Sick

Anyway, about 10 months ago, I got sick.

Really sick.

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

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 that the dreaded antibiotic would be in my future. One natural-minded friend suggested I try one of these multi-level-marketing company anti-bacterial blends.

“I always use that when I feel something coming on.  It’s great!”, she said.

“So, do you sell the oils?”  I asked.


OK then.  Someone recommending it who wasn’t selling it. Now I was seriously curious. Are essential oils a scam?

I went on a hunt to get some without spending the huge retail price for a bottle.

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

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.

(Please note that I no longer recommend taking essential oils internally unless one is under the care of a physician or other medical professional or certified aromatherapist — someone who knows your condition and your overall health.  Furthermore, taking oils internally can lead to damage of the mucous membranes, and essential oils must be emulsified before using with a water base.)

Since then, this oil blend, or similar blends from other companies have helped myself and others 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 oil-type” blend.

I stuck a little of the oil (straight / neat – 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.

Cold / Viral Mouth Sores 

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 diluted with a carrier 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 anti-bacterial blend diluted with a carrier oil and overnight the cyst had shrunk noticeably.  Within 3 days it was gone.

Another reader shared that she’s used one of these blends 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 Immune Strength blend from my favorite essential oils company, 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 an anti-bacterial essential oils blend along with an herbal supplement and said that the next day her son woke up and he was his old self again.

The “Thieves Oil Story”

Thieves-type oils were 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.

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!)

But Essential Oils are Expensive!

So – how do essential oils fit into a “financially concerned” household?

You can buy these blends pre-blended for convenience and the essential oils company that I recommend has a blend called Immune Strength that is more reasonably priced than the MLM brands.  You can go here to see how I ended up choosing this company.  It’s a series, so you can read what you like – some of the comments got pretty dicey though.

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?

Additionally, you can make your own anti-bacterial essential oils blend and save a bunch of money that way.

Again, please note that I am no longer using Young Living Oils.  I moved on for various reasons. You can read more starting with this post, or skip ahead to the final post here. You can see my DIY Antibacterial Essential Oils Blend here.

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

Interested in learning more about using essential oils for healthy living?  This book looks like a GREAT resource:

Essential Oils Natural Remedies Book

Please share your thoughts on and questions about essential oils. Do you or did you think essential oils are a scam?

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.

These comments do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Whole New Mom, LLC.


    Speak Your Mind


  1. I went to an Essential oils party last night at my daughter’s house. Truthfully, most of the oils that were spread around for smelling and sampling STUNK! I would never want to put any of them on my body, or in my house. The smell would drive me up a wall. I do not even like lavender, to me it is very stinky. And while I do believe in natural health care (I’m allergic to all antibiotics and am now developing allergic reactions to anti-viral drugs), I just don’t think that all these essential oils are a cure-all either. I know that people for thousands of years used plants and herbs for illnesses, but they also had very short life spans and nothing was regulated as far as doses and strengths. And it takes more than an oil blend to cure what ails you.

    • Hi and thanks for reading. They are not a cure all. I’m sorry you had a bad experience. I think that essential oils are helps for many things but you are right that people are leaning too much on them to the point of possibly creating issues for themselves. Hope to see you around again.

  2. Need to learn which essential oil(s) to take/use for diabetes. I know cinnamon is one essential oil but I have no idea what to do with it. Apply a drop topically everyday? Thanks for suggestions.

  3. Bonnie Young says:

    Hi, I am a little confused in reading all your posts as I can not seem to find exactly what brand you use and buy? I am just getting into and want bang for my buck, so what brand would recommend?

  4. Mrs Boo Comben says:

    As a qualified aromatherapist, I would never, ever, recommend taking essential oils internally. In addition, I would never, and have never used Wintergreen and a fair number of so-called pre-blended oils. A number of essential oils are dangerous, including the above named Wintergreen, but I am consistently surprised how many people (a) buy it, and (b) use it internally! I always use essential oils from a verifiable, ethical source and can recommend the book you are using. I, too, suffer a number of medical complaints and ‘doing it myself’ has been a wonderful experience, plus the hands on touch that so many of us are desperately deprived of, go a long way in the healing process. Read up on the limbic system to understand how aromas relax or uplift, and understand how a garlic clove rubbed on a baby’s foot can be detected on the infant’s breath half an hour later. You sound a wonderful mother. I only wish I’d had one as wonderful as you.

    • Thanks for commenting and for the very kind words. It means so much. Hope to see you around again! I can’t say I’m wonderful but I’m trying :).

  5. “Essential” oils contain the fragrant “essence” of what they are extracted from. That is the meaning of ‘essential’ with respect to these oils.
    They are not “essential”, as in “necessary”. Nor are they a panacea, necessarily safe (some are outright toxic), or a replacement for proper medications – natural or synthetic.
    Stop paying attention to “it worked for me” anecdotal claims and unreferenced “studies” whose test procedure and results cannot be verified nor repeated.
    Claims to their being “elemental” and “natural” remedies are without merit. Remember that arsenic, cadmium, and mercury (to name a few) are all elemental and natural – as well as deadly poisons.
    Like the smell of lavender, or wintergreen, or tea tree bark? Great, use it as a room freshener. But don’t expect it to cure cancer, deter depression or dementia, eradicate eczema, or breakdown bacterial infections. And don’t smear it on, concentrate its fumes, or ingest it unless you want it to CAUSE real problems for you.

  6. Michael Stejskal says:

    “Essential oils” wind up in our soil, air and water naturally. We are all exposed to them. No need to buy products. You can argue purity and concentration, but there is one other simple issue…’s all a bunch of nonsense. Wake up Sheeple! Use critical thinking!

  7. Jacqueline Bailey says:

    I really enjoyed reading the various comments about essential oils. I admit that I purchased way too much through young living but I don’t regret it. I don’t use the distributor status to make money, I just love the oils. However I have recently piled up on oils through bulk apothecary. I admit that thieves is one of my all time favorite along with frankincense, peppermint and lavender. I apply at the nape of my neck and the bottom of my feet and I have have not felt ill like all the people I work around. In fact, I watched everyone in the office get sick with the exception of 3 people. Those 3 included myself and 2 other women who use essential oils. Yes, they use young living too but as stated earlier, I get some from another source as well. You have to be careful what you take internally but I love these oils. I want to share about an incident when I used an unknown deodorant and had a severe reaction to it where I couldn’t put my arms down, they itched all the time and moles started growing. Ok, silly me put various oils under my arms and I literally gave “girl on fire” a whole new meaning. Anyway, I purchased organic almond oil and mixed it up with thieves, frankincense, lavender or peppermint oil. I am not sure which one worked but the rash that developed went away and now I use thieves with almond oil as a deodorant. I use peppermint too but always with a carrier oil to eliminate burning. If I could figure out a cure all that is 100% guaranteed, I would shout it from the rooftop. However just finding cure allspice for unusual ills are a reward especially when you can eliminate the side effects of drugs.

    • I would not recommend theives if you have pets. Theives is one of the most toxic essential oils and even a small amount can cause serious problems for your pet. It could even cause death.

  8. Hi there,

    What do you recommend for cystic acne? I see you talk about it briefly above and that you used an anti-bacterial blend just wanting more detailed info on that please. Thank you!

    • Hi there. Cystic acne, as w/ all acne, is typically related to an internal cause. So I never really had it after dealing with internal issues. However, there are of course some helpful things that you can do topically. There is a charcoal bar and charcoal mask that this company has that I love. I use the mask as a spot treatment the other night and my fairly large “spot” was almost gone in the morning.

      There is a line of acne skin products w/ this company as well. I hope that helps. I think you would like the charcoal products for their fast acting results.

  9. True Skeptic says:

    Thieves “oil” is a modern concoction. The original recipe was much more complex and steeped in white wine vinegar. Most likely the “medicinal” benefits were as a insect repellent. My concern here is the use of the Thieves myth to market what may very well be useful herbal remedies. Perhaps a true skeptic would do more research…

  10. Hi Adrienne,
    Just wanted to share with you about my daughter diagnosed with autism when she was 4. She was really misdiagnosed, as lots of them are, and she was cured completely. She is now 23, studying medicine and top of her class. Somebody recommended this therapy called “Tomatis” and it did miracles. During my sessions there, I met lots of families with autism, ADD and ADHD, and also did wonders for them. You should give it a try, as it really is the only thing in life I stand by.
    Good luck.

  11. I would like to make a small jar of cream using the Thieves oil, fractionated coconut oil, combined with bees wax, for a solidifying. Do you feel ‘organic’ bees wax an appropriate combination for a topical use with Thieves oil for applying to the wrist instead of just an oil application?
    Thanks so much Adrienne for all you research, help and sharing it all with us!

  12. It’s interesting to hear what you have to say. I’m also a person who is skeptical of anything new, but in order
    to know if something works or not I try it for myself. Years ago I had a problem that the specialist said had no cure. He gave me medication that didn’t have any effect, so I tried healing myself with a natural remedy. I went back to see him and he coudn’t believe that I had healed myself and asked me what I did.
    In 2007 I was diagnosed with Atrial Tachacardia, (mine was irregular rhythm). I was put on some toxic drugs that eventually took its toll, almost destroyed me. At the time I used the drugs until I could learn how to heal myself. I no longer have the problem thanks to natural healing. I have been using Essential Oils for years and they have kept me healthy when others around me are ill. YES I do believe in them as I’m living proof of their wonders. The biggest problem I find is that people don’t always use them correctly and that can be detrimental to their well being. Educating oneself is necessary!

  13. Andrew Jones says:

    Essential oils are fantastic and when used properly they work well. My family uses them all the time for various aliments and cleaners. I’m not sure why people keep ingesting them however. There is a Living Young distributor in my area and she says all the time to put them in water or hot chocolate etc. These “distributors” have no training in aromatherapy and just by the started kits and sell like Tupperware, Avon etc. People need to be well informed about essential oils. Look up Robert Tisserand, he is one of the world leaders on essential oils and aromatherapy. Here is a link to and interview and him discussing about taking oils internally.

  14. Hi there! Have you looked into Living Libations? I’ve been using their products for quite some time & find it’s the best quality essential oils out there.

  15. Roberta Edwards says:

    Why don’t you use Young Living oils any longer?

  16. Hi Adrienne
    I have read your series (parts 1 thru 7) and I am planning to purchase thru RMO. This came up for me because I now take Thieves internally and have less than one bottle left. I lost my source, and I did not want to deal with YL, their “kits” and prices. A friend recommended DoTerra, but did not know they were another MLM. I plan to either make my own Thieves or use Immune Strength. Thus leading to two questions. In your personal experience is Immune Strength as effective as Thieves? It has a few extra ingredients, in particular the oregano oil, which I’m not sure about. Second, in your recipe to make thieves you specify 20-40 optional extra oil drops. I’m assuming I can leave those out, is this true? Thanks much, Deb

    • Hi there. Sorry I missed this – or just hadn’t gotten to it. I’m swamped here. Of course you can leave out the optional oils.

    • I am a doTerra rep; yes it is an MLM; however, I am not in it to get rich, I already have a full time job. The reason why I am doing this is to share the oils with people that are looking for help. You may choose to buy a doTerra wholesale membership for $35 (like a Sam’s or Costco membership) which entitles you to purchase any product at wholesale price (25% discount) for one year. You may also earn LRP points to be used for free products. The do Terra OnGuard blend is very similar in composition and properties as Thieves blend. Oregano is a very powerful oil, please keep in mind that you should only use Oregano oil for 10-14 days at a time then do not take for 7-10 days as you may build up a resistance to this oil.

      • dear sue
        you can’t build up a resistance to an oil in 10 days, as it ‘s composed of more than 250 molecules.
        it’s not like a chemical antibiotic made of 1 molecule, that’s precisely the power of essential oils.

        • Hi there. I did talk with an aromatherapist about this issue and this was her response:

          I agree that you cannot build up a resistance like you can with antibiotics. But more doesn’t always mean better either. I know there is a lot of caution when using Oregano and for a certain period of time. But in reality there is with every oil, maybe more with Oregano because how strong of an oil it is. But a lot of experts recommend using the same oil for only like 2 weeks to a month and then switching it up so you don’t become sensitized to it. So I don’t think you will build up a resistance, but it might not do any good or could even do harm.

    • Deb Samuels, I am a Young Living Independent Distributor, not because I’m a sales person, but because I used the oils for two years and they’ve made quite a difference in the health of my family. First off, I would like to say that using Oregano for supporting a healthy immune system is a great idea. So yes, feel free to add it to a blend used for that purpose. Secondly, I would love to talk to you more about why the prices for YL are higher than most other company’s oils. It’s really not about the MLM part, but more about the quality of the oils themselves and the fact that the oils are grown all over the world. They are NEVER adulterated with other synthetic ingredients (and that is why some go out of stock at certain times of the year, because they refuse to use sub-par plants etc for the oils). I am one of the most frugal people I know and I hate the idea that you want to pass on YL because of the idea of membership, kits, prices, etc. Please feel free to contact me via Facebook and we can talk more about you possibly being able to purchase some for the wholesale price without having to sign up with YL. I usually only offer this to personal friends of mine, but I felt compelled to offer it to you. Hopefully you receive this message! – Tonni (comment edited by blog owner)

      • Hello there. I appreciate your enthusiasm for oils but I am sorry that I don’t allow my blog to be used for marketing practices. Hope to see you around again, though – thanks!

      • If the plants aren’t grown around the world (in their natural environments), instead forced to grow locally (greenhouse/grow lamps?)… How pure is that?

        • Pure is about not being contaminated or adulterated. Growing in a different condition is not ideal but does not mean the plant / oil isn’t pure.

          • By that theory, a tomato grown in Mexico, picked green & force-“ripened” with ethylene gas is as pure & nutritious as a homegrown, vine ripened tomato… ?

          • No, you are still talking about pure vs optimal. The tomato might be still pure but isn’t as nutritious. Those are 2 different things. Which are you wanting to talk about – purity or optimal quality?

          • Neither. For me, I want pure, not “optimal”. So grown elsewhere is not an issue. It seems you’re simply disgruntled with specific retailers.

          • Hi Melisa,

            I’m confused. I care about both, but you were talking about pure. I am frustrated about any company in any industry that doesn’t do what it says it is doing. I do not want impure oils on my body or in my home. Does that help?

          • Hi,
            You said “Im fustrated wwith companies that dnt do what they say and indont want inpure oils on my body or home” I 100% i agree not can I take those chances with the health conditions I currently deal with. So i am totally new at this EO biz but have heard some upds & downs about the company. So I’ve prayed and felt to hold back on using and considering switching but how do i know who is REALLY being honest! ?? What ingredients should I be looking should I be looking for and can you please share with me what you meant by the aboue statement as I’m looking for the investigations done in TO and only pulling up “He said she Said”..I want facts to go by for both YL & Doterra.
            Can you help me?

          • Hi there.

            Yes it’s all very confusing.
            I don’t know if you noticed but I left both YL and doTERRA. Here is where you can read some about it. It’s very very hard to figure out who is telling the truth but I am doing my best and am still working on it!

      • Hi tonni
        I would love to order a premium starter kit through you as I do not want to create a membership. Can you help me?

        • I’m sorry but she will not get your email. That is private information and not made public on the blog so as to protect people’s information.

          • Plants contain ethylene gas naturally. It’s a hormone within the plant that allows the fruit to ripen So in the produce market the “blast” of ethylene gas to ripen the fruit is still a natural pure fruit. It’s the same process as placing fruit in a brown bag to ripen it faster. The fruit puts out ethylene gas and gets trapped inside the bag to ripen the fruit faster

        • Lisa Jinright says:

          HI Jerri, You’ve probably already gotten your kit but if your still looking check out my website and email me if you have any questions!

  17. We got into essential oils as alternatives to everyday medication and our family loves them. We use them for cleaning, smell and taste in food and water. I’m currently reading a book that gives skeptics a much more scientific basis for why they work. It called the chemistry of essential oils made easy by dr David Stuart. Very informative book not just on the oils but other things as well.

    • I’ve seen that book – very interesting. Does it lean too heavily towards Young Living? I’m working on building my EO book library.

      • Not at all, really focused on essential oils. Starts off with what a true essential oil is and how it is distilled. Very informative I’m only half way through, it has only mentioned young living a few times but only to say it’s currently the only company that regularly sends its oils to be tested to meet AFNOR standards, and has its own complete process from farm to bottle. We use young living but, I think it’s important to keep companies honest.

        • Great. I don’t know that AFNOR is the end all and be all but that’s very helpful information. Thank you!

          • Certainly not just like the FDA isn’t either lol. It really is an informative book though, Im interested in the science aspect just as much as I am the spiritual. If you read this book for 15 min you won’t be disappointed and you will want to thumb through it. Anyways have a nice day I don’t know how I even got to this blog but felt compelled to share that book, hope it helps

          • I agree. Interesting. So question – are there other books you love? I’m putting together a list to check out / buy b/c I want to have good resources for my readers. So it’s $50 and not in our library – is it worth that?

          • Reference type books? I haven’t really gotten into them until just now. I’m more into the law of attraction and self help books. The power of now, the law of attraction collection by ester hicks were two I really enjoyed

          • Actually I meant essential oils books.