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Today on my Facebook feed is a news story about young girls soaking tampons in Vodka and using them to get drunk AND this little beauty:

I can't believe people believe this: Essential-Oils-to-Combat-Ebola-virus
I can’t believe people believe this

You read that right, this brand of essential oils is being touted as fighting Ebola and that is being propagated by licensed massage therapists. I have only one thing to say about both of these stories:

Are you fucking kidding me?

At first, I thought the EO/Ebola thing was a silly joke, but some of my less informed colleagues are out there spreading this information like it was handed down to them by God herself. If you are one of them, STOP. Right now. Just stop.

First – ebola is not an easy disease to catch. You have to come into contact with the body fluids of someone with the virus. It’s not spread through the air, like the flu.

Second – there are only 2 people in the US with the disease. Out of over 300 Million people in the US. And these 2 aid workers caught the disease in Africa while treating infected patients in Liberia. They came home to the US for treatment and to die near family. They are in isolation units after having been transported to the US in specially equipped planes. No one has caught ebola in the US and it does not exist on this continent.

Third – there is no known cure for Ebola. You either have the constitution to survive it or you don’t.

So why am I so angry about this one little graphic? Let me count the reasons:

1 – THIS IS FEAR MONGERING FOR PROFIT

Yes, I said it. Given that Ebola infects 0.000000667% of the US population and does not exist in any animal populations on this continent, no one you know is going to catch this disease. So firing up your copy of Photoshop and creating some new advertising materials to cash in on the Ebola news is fear mongering for profit. Did you know that there are 6,500 cases of Leprosy in the US (1)? And that armadillos carry the disease? How about bubonic plague – you know the disease that killed over a third of the population of Europe? There are 7 new cases reported in the US each year (2). I don’t see anyone advertising about preventing either of those with essential oils. They are not as sexy or in the news as much, so there’s less quick profit potential.

Where are your damn EO posters for treatment of leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) or Plague? Well? Where are they? If you don’t have them, you are simply fear mongering for profit.

2 – YOU ARE OPERATING OUTSIDE YOUR SCOPE OF PRACTICE

Oh, you can put all the disclaimers about “this is just my personal opinion” on all of your posts, but I’m sick of you manipulating the power differential (3) like that and then hiding behind some weasel words. Your clients think you know more about medical care and health matters than they do and your opinions have power. Real power. Your weasel words and disclaimers do nothing about that and you know it. So quit. You are misusing your license to manipulate people into changing their health care treatment in ways you have no training to asses.

3 – THIS IS UNETHICAL

See points 1 and 2. You are whipping up a panic and selling an unproven remedy and marketing it with your advanced massage training and licensing. Yes, I know you have ‘anecdotal evidence’ showing that your favorite EO works for everything, but I have anecdotal evidence that the sun circles the earth. It comes up in the east, travels across the sky and sets in the west. That doesn’t make it true. And your anecdotal evidence about EOs doesn’t make their claims true, either.

4 – SOMEBODY IS GOING TO GET HURT AND SOMEBODY IS GOING TO GET SUED

When you convince someone to rely solely on your EO to prevent and cure disease, someone is going to get sick and die of one of those diseases. And that makes you liable, despite your cut and paste disclaimers. It happens to bigger companies with better disclaimers, it will happen to you. And when that happens, I plan to cheer on the plaintiff because you, dear, are responsible. You whipped up their fear, told them to trust you because you have a license, offered them a miracle cure, and they died. That’s all on you.

I’m not even going to offer the platitudes of “I know you mean well” and “You do it from a place of love” because that would imply that I condone this kind of behavior. And that would make me complicit in any harm that behavior does. I don’t and I won’t.

It’s good to keep your clients informed about the latest in health news

When that ‘informing’ turns into fear mongering for profit? Nope. That’s not good. That’s unethical, irresponsible, dangerous, and disgusting.

First – Do No Harm

That should be the first thing you think about whenever you treat a client, educate a client, or market to a client. Will what I am doing/advocating harm someone? Will my encouraging someone to defer medical attention cause them harm?

If you are more interested in jumping on the media frenzy “we’ve got 24 hours of airtime to fill so let’s make it all sound like a crisis” bandwagon than actual facts, than I say shame on you.

If you find this post to be too inflammatory or offensive, then as my grandmother used to say “Don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya.” I don’t want to be complicit in the harm you are doing.

To the families and friends of the two aid workers, one of whom has died while I was writing this: My very sincerest condolences. I am so sorry for your loss and have the greatest respect for those brave people who go into aid work knowing the risks and facing the dangers. Blessings on you and your loved ones.

1 – http://www.hrsa.gov/hansensdisease/

2- http://www.cdc.gov/plague/maps/

3 – A power differential exists when one person has more knowledge in an area than the other. Examples include: car mechanic and car owner, doctor and patient, lawyer and client. The person with less knowledge will defer to the expert’s advice or opinion.

You'll find this filed under: Ethics

54 Responses to First, Do No Harm

  1. Preach it!

    I’ve been waiting for the armadillo/leprosy issue to come up, given all the cute armadillo videos on fb these days.

    We have plenty of manageable-but-unmanaged health issues right in our offices. Let’s focus on helping our clients here and now, shall we?

    • Yes! Thank you Ruth. There are plenty of other things to worry about, things that are more likely to happen to us that we can actually do something about.

  2. I am a HUGE EO lover !!!!! But even this claim is a little out there for me (-: Yes they can help people with a lot of different health challenges.

    However it’s claims like this that make the rest of us who try our hardest to educate people about the power of oils look like crazy still fools.

    • Jessica – you are so right. EOs have their uses and benefits but when people start making crazy claims it’s hard to get any credibility for the stuff they are useful for.

  3. Great post, Kelli!!! I would love it if your blog posts stated who the author was. Had to dig around to find out this came from you. (kind of a pet peeve of mine about a lot of blogs.)

    • Thanks for your comment Kris. I’m really the only author here unless I have guest post, but perhaps I should edit my meta tag settings. I appreciate the feedback.

  4. It really stinks that graphic is being shared by massage therapists. I do want to point out the the website that created it essential survival has nothing to do with massage or massage therapists. Think before you share Facebook memes! I love essential oils and i really wish these over zealous distributors would quit giving the rest of us a bad name!

    • Gael, thanks for your comment. MTs should always look at the source of information before sharing it. There is too much bad information out there and we have to check things out thoroughly.

  5. Really…you had to say, “Are you f—ing kidding me?” It is for that line alone that I will not share this post. I like the post. You’re certainly welcome to express yourself in the way you see best but I think it still could be a powerful expression without the swear. I know F… is used a lot now but in a post of ethics and professionalism, it really didn’t fit (in my opinion).

    • Greg – I’ll admit that I spent hours going back and forth on whether to edit that word out. What finally convinced to leave it in? Every time I cam back to write this post or check it for errors I ended up so angry that my hands shook. Any issue that makes me that emotional warrants the use of the word. I understand that you won’t be sharing the post, and I completely respect that and your reasoning.

  6. Thank you ! As am Aromatherapist I to am tired of the false claims to make money thing! EO work when there are used properly but they are not magical. Claims like these ( and rain drop therapy) are doing more harm to the Aromatherapy science then anything and people who are not trained ( I mean really trained) should not be giving advice.

    Thank you again for helping spread the word that some thing in life just cant be cured and that something we hear on TV are just to keep us afraid.

  7. Kelli:

    Thank you for taking the time to write this post and I thank God you had the ‘guts’ to post it! I am a retired Pediatric Trauma Nurse who has been educated in the use of oils, but not certified. I do share oils with friends and family; however, I am VERY careful to know medical history prior to giving any advice. I also use safe dilutions and teach folks to do the same. I DETEST the fact that the MLM’s have made oils the “cure-all” for everything and totally agree that someone is going to get seriously hurt or die because of the misguided advice they give. It is beyond me that they do NOT understand that oils are medicine and are not to be used (ingested, used continuously, used undiluted) casually! Again, thank you for taking the time to say what needs to be said!

    • Maryanne – thanks for you comment. I’m glad that you are taking the time to know your clients’ histories and using the proper dilutions. Their safety is the most important thing.

  8. Superduper! I applaud your use of the “f” word because saying that makes everyone say fuck in their heads and please don’t be passive aggressive like that. I have been a massage therapist for decades and a massage teacher for almost as long. I had been in the corporate world of management and my first classes to teach were business. I have been successful in many locations and incarnations and guess what I have done? MASSAGE!! Not facials not aromatherapy not orthotics in clients shoes not personality typing not energy healing not food typing not elimination diets not ear candling not crystal healing not body typing not vitamin therapy not herbal therapy not iridology not pendulum healing not dousing not crystal bowl humming not tuning forks not shaman not tantric not yoga not personal trainer not psychotherapist not marriage counselor not a doctor or nurse not a PT. Just massage. I have paid for two houses and several cars, raised two children in a reasonably comfortable manner with both hubby and myself as professional massage therapists. It is so much easier for me to excel at my craft if I maintain solid firm boundaries within my scope. One of the reasons for entering this profession was being in management and realizing I had to please hundreds of people on hundreds of levels all at once. I had my first massage and wondered on the way home that if I was this good at the aforementioned job how good would I be if I had to only please one person at a time with my focus now being honed in on their tissues need for touch. The next day I enrolled in school and have been successful since. Thanks for being another out there keeping it real!

    • Another refugee from corporate management! I’m not alone. Thanks for you comments, Susie. Keep on doing what you’re doing and being successful at it!

  9. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! Great read and it needed to be said.

    I really hope no one is injured over this ludicrous nonsense. These companies/their reps seem to be getting more and more reckless. It’s sad that their bottom line is more important to them than the health us their customers.

  10. Well said! As LMT and Aromatherapy practitioner and educator I applaud your posts. I only wish the associations would help by taking a stand, at least for safe use of essential oils. As it is many therapists and clients are being harmed with undiluted use as recommended by companies. Thanks again. Sylla

    • Sylla – thanks for the comment. Unfortunately, the associations can’t keep up with all the craziness going on right now. We just have to be vigilant and educate our colleagues and clients.

  11. As a LMT and a Clinical Aromatherapist with about 1000 hours of training in the clinical use of essential oils I hate it when MTs talk about using “aromatherapy”! More so when all the training they have is a day or two in massage school or from some sales person. I hope for they day when to use essential oils you will be required to have real training,

    • Dannie – that’s so true. I have read a couple of aromatherapy books but I would no sooner claim that I practice aromatherapy than that I was an astronaut. There is more to it than picking some stuff that smells good and calling it medicine. Thanks for your thoughts.

  12. Brilliant piece, Kelli! There’s really nowhere for these people to hide when you break it down like this. Ethics are often ignored and poorly understood. No bones about this post. Thank you for telling it like it is.

    • Thank you Alison! I’m glad I know you too. There are so many terrific people in this profession and I’m lucky to get to know a few of them.

  13. Fantastic article. Well written and appropriate use of the word Fuck. It shows the passion in your work . The article is spot on. I use essential oils and flower essences all the time. First, Do No Harm.
    Thanks Kelli!!

  14. First of all, you should be ashamed of yourself for such foul language. You teach classes on Ethics????? Second, I’m not even a rep for YL (in fact, I’m this woman’s competition) and I think it was an excellent article. GOOD FOR HER FOR PREPARING PEOPLE! Ebola likeliness aside, pandemics occur. Your children are about to return to school, why wouldn’t you support their immune system against pathogens of any nature???

    • Sarah – yes, I teach ethics and sometimes, when something is so blatantly false and unethical, I use use a bad word. The article you read is full of bad science and lies, so I’m not going to cheer her on. She’s cashing in on a news trend and not helping anyone. This nonsense will simply continue until people start to get seriously ill or die. And one final note: I’m way too old to have children returning to school.

  15. Really?! All of you who are criticizing her for using the word “fucking” must just be perfect people. I’m sure there is nothing in your life that we could criticize. Good grief, grow up. She’s an adult who used an adult word. Don’t like it? Don’t read the article. I for one thought the word “fucking” was brilliant- I could feel this author’s anger through that one sentence.

  16. I shared your post, and I went to the website of the original infographic. The creator has her very own ideas of essential oil use and going through her website, redflags popped up over and over for me. This is a quote from her blog that appears under the infographic:
    “I am not qualified to share any definitive opinions on Ebola. I am not a doctor and am not qualified to give medical advice regarding the virus. But what I can share is what I personally have in mind to use to combat Ebola should the need arise. Each of the essential oils, supplements, and nutrients I discuss below have a very wide variety of applications – certainly not just for Ebola. As I have mentioned in previous articles on infectious disease and essential oils, I use these oils regularly for cold/flu and other health purposes. The very remedies I use to stay healthy today could save my life in a pandemic scenario.” ~Julie Behling-Hovdal, EssentialSurvival.org

    • Amanda – thanks for your comment. Her disclaimer tells you that she basically has no clue what she’s talking about but is more than willing to make stuff up to make a buck. Thanks for sharing.

  17. I, too, am appalled by all the fear mongering on that website and I agree with you 100% that her backpedaling and saying these are her own opinions is irresponsible and harmful!

  18. I’ve never seen your bog before but I’m quickly becoming an avid reader. You put in concise, clear and powerful words everything that has been rattling around in me. Hear hear! I just finished around 130 hours at Bastyr in their aromatherapy certificate program and continuing on with Aromahead and I can’t agree more!! Thank you for having the courage to post this truth. I wholeheartedly afree and support your position (including your grown up words). Thank you Kelli!!

"Dream large, laddie!" - Local Hero, 1983