FTC warning letter on essential oils concoction points to growth of ingestible uses for these ingredients

By Hank Schultz contact

- Last updated on GMT

©Getty Images - Shana Novak
©Getty Images - Shana Novak

Related tags: Essential oil, Essential oils

A marketer of essential oils has been warned by the Federal Trade Commission over unsupported antiviral claims for the products.

The FTC cease and desist action was addressed to Andreea Laza and to MyNaturalTreatment.com.  The website is part the Amazon Associates program, in which marketers generate content on a commission basis that is used to direct readers to sites where products promoted by the content can be purchased.  The warning letter was also addressed to the regulatory arm of the Amazon Associates program.

Content supervised by Romanian contractor

According to the warning letter, Laza was instructing visitors to the website on how to combine a number of essential oils to create a treatment for COVID-19. The website promotes the essential oils of thyme, black seed, eucalyptus, rosemary and peppermint as the ingredients of the concoction the article promotes.

According to the warning letter the instructions claimed: “The most potent essential oils that you can use to make your own natural antiviral for Covid-19 have a large number of monoterpenes, a class of terpenes widely studied for their antiviral property. They also have powerful antimicrobial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory properties, and you can use them independently or, even better, together in a powerful natural antiviral for Covid-19.”

According to her LinkedIn profile, Laza is a contract social media content producer based in Romania.  She is listed as the site’s chief editor.  The site lists natural remedies for a huge range of conditions ranging from ADHD, to viral infections and on to ‘women infertility.’

For decades essential oils had been thought of as primarily of use as cosmetic or fragrance ingredients or in aromatherapy, in which the volatile fractions of the oils are easily vaporized.  However, internal use of these oils has become more common recently, especially in the case of lavender oil.

Safety concern?

While the FTC warning is based on insufficient clinical trials backing for the claims being made, there is a potential safety concern as well.

According to the FTC warning, the MyNaturalTreatment article was advising dosages of “3-5 drops three times a day for 7-14 days. . . . For children between 7-14 years of age, the dosage is 1-2 drops three times a day with honey.”

One concern that some experts contacted by NutraIngredients-USA have had with this practice of recommending essential oils for internal use is that essential oils by their very nature are very highly concentrated. They reportedly lack the high margins of safety that characterize the dietary ingredients commonly used in dietary supplements. 

 That’s not to say they are necessarily unsafe, but rather an observation that the safety margins have not been determined for this kind of usage.  Without knowing the analytical profiles of the oils that were to be combined in the purported treatment, and without knowing how big a ‘drop’ is, taking 15 drops a day for two weeks might come with no side effects. Or it might not.

Mindy Green, principal of the firm Green Scentsations, a professional herbalist and a professional member of the Alliance of International Aromatherapists, said she’s concerned that these kinds of recommendations are appearing in the market without, it seems, much in the way of professional input​.

“Some people in network marketing companies are telling consumers to put a few drops of an essential oil in their bath, and then they can put a couple of drops in their tea.  You can’t really market a product as a cosmetic and as an ingestible product at the same time,”​ she said.

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