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

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Are essential oils a scam? Is Thieves Oil (or other oil blends like it) a scam?

I used to think so! I mean, these teeny tiny bottles of oil smelled nice, but they’re supposed to really be good for you?

Well, here’s what happened to me.

Brown Essential Oil Bottle with Dropper | Are Essential Oils a Scam?
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I’m a Skeptic

I’m not one to put my trust in things or people readily.

Really, I’m not. However, sometimes you have to rethink things.

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, both mainstream and alternative.

Among other things, we’ve tried:

  • chiropractic
  • homeopathy
  • kinesiology
  • ionic foot bath (only once)
  • acupressure
  • tons of supplements (no–I haven’t weighed them.  But if I did I’m scared it would be close to a ton.)
  • nutritional balancing (help based on hair mineral testing. This didn’t really help us.)

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

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

But really I am.

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

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

Before finishing this post, please note that I am NO LONGER USING YOUNG LIVING ESSENTIAL OILS.

I moved on for various reasons.

To find out what essential oils I’m using now, read this post, or skip ahead to the final post in the series here.

Are Essential Oils a Scam?

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 expecting it to do anything except smell good, well, basically loaded with “woo woo foo foo” to me.

Nonetheless, it seemed that over and over that 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.

Brown Essential Oil Bottle with Dropper | Are Essential Oils a Scam?

I Got Sick

Anyway, about 10 months ago, I got sick.

Really sick.

I had a bad something 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 am fine, of course, with taking antibiotics when needed, but I am concerned about antibiotic resistance.

According to the CDC, there is a lot of antibiotic resistance going on and it’s best to use caution when taking antibiotics.

This is how our conversation went:

“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 and was wondering if maybe the essential oils weren’t a scam?

So 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 using the oil 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 my family and others with various issues.

Fingernail Owie

I used to be really prone to these–getting an owie 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 I did get one again 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 diluted oil on another clean fingernail, pushed it into the injured area – and a few days and several treatments later, the problem was gone.

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 sores, filled with pus (sorry to be so descriptive.)

After doing research on oils and sores, I ended up trying Thieves again, this time diluted with a carrier oil.

The next day, here is what his lip looked like and it was MUCH better than before. (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.

Lumpy Blemishes

I used to have a rough time with blemishes 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 blemish next to my cheek.

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

Another reader since shared that she’s used one of these blends on some underarm lumps / sores and they’ve vanished.

Sinus Troubles

A local reader who is prone to sinus issues had a bad sinus problem again.

She ended up trying the Immune Strength blend from my favorite essential oils company, and all signs of the problem were gone overnight.

Persistent Illness 

Another local reader’s son had not been feeling well 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.

Now I don’t know if this is a valid story at all, but it’s interesting, and the essential oils involved have been shown to have many antibacterial and antiviral properties.   There are many studies about these qualities including this one and this one.

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….

Do you feel this way? I did.

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

You can buy these blends pre-blended for convenience from the essential oils company that I recommend. 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.

You can read more starting with this post, or skip ahead to the final post here.

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

Essential Oils Natural Remedies book cover

Free Essential Oils Report and VIP Newsletter Access

Also, if you go and grab my Free Report on 10 Things to Know About Essential Oils Before You Buy, you will not only get more myth-busting essential oils information, but you’ll get access to my VIP newsletter as well–complete with updates, great healthy living offers, of course new posts on essential oils, and more.

10 things you need to know about essential oils report in ipad

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.

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  1. My husband has fungus toenails and also has gout very bad. Has a flare up once every month or two and can only get rid of it with steroids. Kidneys only work at 50% so we have to be careful what he takes. Also has bad headaches (not migraines) every day
    He’s a mess

    1. I’m so sorry to hear all of this. I always think that doing the best you can to eat and live clean is a great idea for anyone–more and more people are sick these days. Fungus on toenails is typically related to internal stuff. I have heard of people having that b/c of high sugar / carb diets and mold in their house. Here’s some of what we have dealt with.

  2. Very thankful and impressed with your experience and opinions regarding essential oils. Will try to keep up with your blog. Still reading the information you have provided.
    Thanks for posting.

    1. Thanks so much for reading and for the kind words. I hope to expand this topic more in the near future!

  3. Since you are not using Young Living Essential Oils, does this mean you have stopped using essential oils regardless of the company? I am looking at the Revive group to buy oils. I choose not to pay $$$$$ for the same product with the same guarantees when I can get a better price.

  4. When I read YL Four Thieves Story several years ago…before they changed it….it had stated that Eucalyptus oil was used….found that incredible and unreliable since Eucalyptus oil wasn’t available in Europe until the mid-1800s ….turned me off right then and there….they have since “modified” their story….but…too little too late

  5. Am looking for a better way to enjoy my last years. I am less than 100 but more than 75 and have had multiple hospitalizations with an auto immune problem and living in the Chandler Arizona area. I want to enjoy my grand children but it’s getting more difficult. I will answer your emails or texts. spending my time enjoying journaling and trying to stay away from watching Tv. Would love to hear from others and sharing your journaling too and the use of how essential oils made a change in your life. There must be something for this dreadful problem.


    1. Hello Elaine – I’m so sorry to hear that you are struggling this much. Many people are. Please feel free to reach out at adrienne {at} wholenewmom {dot} com. I can’t medically advise, but perhaps can give some alternative support. Have you seen Terri Wahls’ site? She has made an extraordinary recovery from a terrible autoimmune disease. There is hope!

  6. I too believed in essential oil jargon especially the thieves oil…then Covid 19 came to be,I thought I am good I use thieves oil everyday as a deterrent….then I got covid-19 in March 2020…. don’t use any more except as a room deodorizer…. so long Young Living , the hype didn’t work….Zinc and vitamin D, as per a nurse advise…Works for me….No more oils……

    1. Hi D.J. Were you taking it internally? I think that essential oils work sometimes and not others for various reasons. Maybe they just support the body? There are studies on them being antibacterial and antifungal and we also know that many meds are based on plants. So there’s that. Anyhow, I left that company many years ago……more on oils to come so I hope you stick around. Thanks for reading!

  7. Hi Adrienne, I recently bought a YL Essential Rewards kit from a friend who claimed it would pay off after I started receiving rewards points and stuff. Well, my husband and I really don’t think this is good for our budget, but I was thinking that maybe I could sell some products through my new blog to defray the cost each month. When I talked to a friend of mine who is a massage therapist, she warned me that YL’s oils were not pure. She also told me some frightening things about the company and their owners. So I did some searching on the internet, which is what I should have done to start! There was some firsthand information about the Youngs and their company that I didn’t like, so I have decided that I will not promote them…kind of pointless to sell something you are not sold on yourself. However, is there any danger in using what I already paid for and received? It’s not like they’re toxic, right?
    Thanks for your time,

    1. Hi there. Essential oil components can vary from batch to batch and a company’s policies and procedures can as well. I have never personally done any third party testing on YL oils but I have seen reports where it has been done. I think it’s up to you and if you are not comfortable you could sell them.

    1. I’m sorry, but I’m confused about this. This is the definition of a skeptic: “a person inclined to question or doubt accepted opinions.” Are you saying that the definition of a skeptic is someone who uses a specific type of evidence to test hypotheses?

      1. I am a skeptic too. I do not jump on the band wagon in the early stages of something new. I do change my mind once I have researched and perhaps tried the product. But I’m not the personality that just swims with the group.

  8. Thanks for the article. I have a question I was hoping you might be able to help with. What are some common signs of ADHD in adults? My doctor mentioned that I might have it but I’m not so sure. Thanks in advance for your answer.

    1. Claims to be a skeptic, then follows it up with an impressive amount unverified pseudoscience. This is at best confirmation bias, and at worst, deliberate lying.

      1. Hey John! Thanks for reading but no thanks for the illogical criticism.
        1) Skeptics can and do end up believing some things that they were skeptical about. Happens all the time.
        2) What is the unverified pseudoscience that you speak of? I’m happy to address it.
        3) Confirmation bias directly contradicts the skeptical part.
        4) Deliberate lying? I have been threatened with lawsuits and blocked on Facebook by companies for asking questions. Does that sounds like someone who would lie to her readers?
        5) Thanks for the compliment about my having something impressive on my site :).

        If you would like explanations I would appreciate an apology first. This is a very very old post and I likely have to update it. I have had a lot going on in my life at the time of and since I wrote this post….so it’s hard to keep on top of everything. Take care.

  9. Thanks for the information. I still have a question though. Do you happen to know if essential oils can be used in a CPAP machine? My wife just ordered some so I’m trying to get some info about them. Any help you can provide is greatly appreciated.

  10. True story—I was bring a gallon of milk home from the store and it leaked and saturated the carpet in my SUV. I had Lexus remove the seat and paid a specialist to shampoo the carpet, all to no avail. It was so bad, I thought I’d have to sell the car. I discovered Thieves oil, sprayed some diluted with water on the carpet, and got instant results.

    1. so you sprayed something that is supposed to go in you, onto your carpet… and it got rid of it?
      are you saying a specialist cant remove a milk spill? but an oil that is supposed to go in you can?
      I did not know that these oils were multi-purposed.

  11. Hello, in your updated post it says you no longer use Young Living oils. Do you use any essential oils at all? Or did you just move to a different brand?
    Thank you.