The Claims of Essential Oils
What are Essential Oils?
With every passing year, I notice just how quickly fads come and go. They can be different dance moves, clothing styles, or Internet challenges that are popular for a short time only to be forgotten and replaced with something new. While the Ice Bucket Challenge and Man Buns were replaced with the Mannequin Challenge and Male Rompers (“How long, O Lord?”) with relative speed, some trends last longer than others. One trend in particular has been growing in popularity for the last few years known as Essential Oils.
If you haven’t heard, Essential Oils are strongly scented, plant and herb-based concentrated oils that have a variety of uses. They can be used for room freshening, cleaning, cosmetics, and they supposedly remedy a number of sicknesses depending on how they are applied. There are seemingly endless possibilities, but some of the remedial uses have been criticized as being nothing more than alternative health practices that may have the placebo effect of making one feel better. While I’m not fond of the mostly untested brands of alternative health care, I take the pragmatic approach toward essential oils. Basically if it works for you then go ahead and use it. The pragmatic approach should not always be used though, especially when it comes to our spiritual growth, or sanctification. The Bible gives us parameters on how to conduct our lives when it comes to spiritual things. Bible reading, prayer, fasting, corporate worship, and other practices are to be done on God’s terms, as He knows what we need and how we need it.
Dissecting the Claims
So why am I bringing up spirituality when this is about essential oils, as if they have some spiritual aspect? While I believe that essential oils are morally neutral, I want to point out that some try to use harmless trends to join solid Christianity with unbiblical principles. Some friends at Sola Sisters researched Young Living, a popular company that sells essential oils. Young Living is headed by Gary Young, a professing Christian who ties his oils’ benefits to both physical uses and spiritual uses. Many oil using Christians know of Young Living, and while they may use it for physical reasons only, those who follow Young’s teachings and read his descriptions of the different purposes will find that he has given his oils spiritual qualities that are a combination of New Age and Prosperity Gospel teachings.
Promotes feelings of protection and security, and can be used to guard against negative energy.
May be used to balance moods, promote a sense of well being and increase spirituality.
Used by Native Americans to enhance spirituality.
Promotes spirituality and encourages self esteem. Traditionally taken internally for purification and cleansing.
Traditionally used to balance the mind and emotions, this oil may also help control negative feelings such as frustration and anger.
Was used by the ancients to attract prosperity and magnify joy and peace.
Used to energize your life force and promote heart vitality.
Will uplift the spirit and purify the body. This oil is taken from a plant that is revered in aboriginal culture.
Is designed to harness the power of positive dreams and guard against clouded vision, helping you realize your desires and stay on the path to fulfillment.
As you can see, some of these “benefits” are in regard to spiritual wellbeing and ‘purification and cleansing’. The only spiritual cleansing prescribed in the Bible is cleansing from sin, and this is by Christ’s blood (Heb 1:3). Cultivating true joy and lasting peace are now the result of a fragrance rather than the result of the Holy Spirit and justification through faith (Rom 5:1). The qualities Young gives to his oils subtly replace the role Christ has as mediator and negates the prescribed biblical practices for spiritual growth. Followers of Young will be exposed to a number of false ideas by reading his blog filled with eastern religious philosophies and mystic practices.
With this in mind, is it possible for a Christian to use Young Living essential oils while knowing of the connection to deceptive teachings? Well, Romans 14 teaches that if it cannot be done in good conscious then it should not be done, even if it is morally ‘neutral’. If you can in good conscience use the product while discerning between the real physical uses and the erroneous ‘spiritual’ uses, then it should be acceptable so long as it doesn’t cause another to stumble. Perhaps considering other products that will give you the results you desire from FDA regulated, non-New Age sources would be a good route. If essential oils are really the best pragmatic approach to remedy an illness, then a cautious approach in purchasing their products in good conscience is acceptable.
Christian Liberty and Discernment
On the topic of purchasing Young Living products, there is a difference between buying them for you and helping promote them to others. They employ a market strategy that involves others hosting events and writing blog posts about essential oils. In this case I would say it is something to avoid because it is promotion of the company itself; therefore spreading the influence of their ideology. Your use of essential oils is just that, yours. Using them doesn’t require the discernment of others. Promoting them online, however, is a corporate act where everyone is involved. Remember, you can’t exercise discernment for someone else. Essential oils are just one fad that the Christian community has adopted, and while the product itself does nothing wrong, it is important to remember that neutral products and practices can be linked with harmful and deceptive teachings. With each passing trend let’s make sure to hold the beliefs behind them up to scripture.