Last September, I heard the founder of Charity: Water speak about how he came to start a nonprofit which funds wells around the world.
His story wasn’t really glamorous, unless that’s how you think about drugs and girls and nightclubs. But then he decided to turn his life around. He spent a year volunteering on a hospital ship off the coast of Africa.
During this part of his journey, he became aware of a crucial factor in the spread of disease in these communities: most people did not have access to clean drinking water.
He realized that if he could find a way to fund wells, then this water crisis would actually be a solvable problem. Hearing him phrase it that way suddenly reminded me that’s why I got started with aromatherapy, too.
Growing up with a mom who was a passionate advocate for essential oil safety, I was no dummy to the improper use of essential oils. People were unknowingly harming themselves and others along the way.
For a long time, because of this nonsense, I really wanted nothing to do with essential oils. It seemed like “drama-city” and not a place I wanted to live.
But my heart softened after volunteering with the United Aromatherapy Effort in 2001. Once I experienced firsthand what it's like to help people use essential oils to heal from traumatic events. I saw the deep healing power these aromatic materials have on people’s lives. Perhaps they even started to work their magic on me.
Fast forward to 2012, when I was helping my mom update her website for the Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy. She wanted to begin collecting information from people who had been injured by essential oils. I figured out how to set up a form, have submissions sync with a spreadsheet, and have us receive an email each time a new submission came in. I remember feeling proud that I was able to figure something out that was outside of my technological expertise at the time.
In retrospect, I should have turned the email notification function off. It got to the point where I knew I couldn’t check those emails at night because I couldn't read those stories before bedtime. Headaches, nausea, fatigue, permanent esophageal damage — all from the over or improper use of essential oils. All by people who were trying to help themselves. They just didn’t know.
It didn’t take long before I was committed to the cause. I began my own study of aromatherapy and eventually began to teach alongside my mom.
It’s been over five years now, and I think I forgot along the way the original reason why I started out on this path. But sitting there listening to Scott Harrison tell his story—one of finding a way to contribute to the solution of a problem that affects so many lives—I remembered my original intention.
Maybe you think, what’s the big deal? Are essential oils really harming that many people? Sure the numbers aren't akin to people dying from dehydration, but it is happening more than it should.
The thing with essential oil injuries is that they are totally preventable. Usually a little information on proper dilution, appropriate (and inappropriate internal use), and awareness of the more dangerous oils is all a person needs.
See below for resources.
I might not be drilling wells in Africa, but somebody else is already doing that, and they're doing it well. Instead, I’ll just help people avoid hurting themselves when they're just trying to help themselves.
Listen to Mom and I talk on Essential Oil Safety and our mission on this Online Summit with the Shift Network, Oct. 23-26th. Sign up for free here.
Get a free safety guide from the Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy