Science, pseudoscience, & media literacy

Made-Up Vibrations: The Essential Oils Version

Made-up vibrations: the essential oils version

I’m a very science-minded person, and one of the things that really grates my rutabagas is when people make things up and call it science. In particular, I’m not impressed with made-up vibrations, and especially the made-up idea of vibrating thoughts, law of attraction style. Somehow, the notion of essential oils vibrating flew under my radar until I stumbled across a pin recently on Pinterest.

Once I started looking, I discovered that this notion seems pretty well established in certain circles. And, like the law of attraction, it claims to be based in science, when it’s just not.

Various sites I found all seemed to be talking from the same playbook. After some looking around, I realized that it’s because they are. That playbook, so to speak, is written by D. Gary Young, the founder of the essential oils company Young Living. It’s called Human Electrical Frequencies and Fields, and it’s available on Scribd.

Royal Rife is listed as an influence beyond the whole vibration-a-rama. Young writes that Rife invented a “frequency generator” in the early 1920s. That named sounded familiar to me, and sure enough, Rife has his own brand of quackery. Wikipedia says he claimed that a device he invented, often called the Rife machine, could be used to target the specific vibrational frequency of various pathogens and cancer. His claims were widely discredited within the scientific community.

Quack/fact-check

Quack-check: Young writes: “Bruce Tanio [sic], of Tainio Technology and head of the Department of Agriculture at Eastern Washington University, has developed a Calibrated Frequency Monitor (CFM) that has been used to measure the frequencies of essential oils and their effect on human frequencies when applied to the body.”

Fact-check: According to the Tainio Biologicals website and Bruce Tainio’s 2010 obituary, he did a bachelor’s degree in biology at Eastern Washington University. He was not on faculty, much less a department head. Google Scholar doesn’t show any academic journal articles written by him. His obituary says “As a hobby, Bruce was an inventor and a student of energy and quantum physics, which lead [sic] him to invent several instruments, which minimize environmental stress from electromagnetic frequencies.”

Quack check: Young writes: “Young Living Essential Oils laboratory uses a CFM, and another is located at Johns Hopkins University where it is used to study frequency in relationship to disease.”

Fact check: A search of the Johns Hopkins University site yields no results for “calibrated frequency monitor.

Quack check: Young writes: “Clinical research shows that essential oils have the highest frequency of any natural substance known to man, creating an environment in which disease, bacteria, virus, fungus, etc., cannot live. I believe that the chemistry and frequencies of essential oils have the ability to help man maintain the optimal frequency to the extent that disease cannot exist.”

Fact check: If there’s no actual research cited, that’s a good indicator that it could be made up. Young claims that his essential oils are vibrating at at 52 Hz to 320 Hz. Have you heard of the terms megahertz or gigahertz? Yeah, those are exponential higher frequency units than hertz.

Let’s get vibrating

Young has a very odd definition of frequency: “Frequency is defined as a measurable rate of electrical energy flow that is constant between any two points.”

Frequency is a measure of number of events per unit of time. Hertz is a unit of cycles per second. In the diagram above, the sine wave on the top is the lowest frequency, and below that are waves of higher and higher frequency. There’s also a distinction between oscillation and vibration; electromagnetic radiation oscillates, while vibration is a mechanical phenomenon.

Let’s talk about what actually vibrates. Some atoms will vibrate between two energy states; that’s what the cesium atomic clock is based on. Quartz does the same kind of thing in old-school wristwatches.

Atoms will also vibrate at a certain frequency when they’re bonded to other atoms. Because specific bonds have specific frequencies, vibrational spectroscopy can be used to detect those bonds.

So that’s what happens at an atomic level. Does that extrapolate to the human body level, or even to the essential oil level? Absolutely not. Let’s take rose oil, which supposedly has the highest vibrational frequency. One source I found says rose oil has more than 300 constituents, all of which have different chemical makeups with a variety of different chemical bonds. There simply is no greater harmonic essence of rose oil, or any of the other assorted things that are listed. What’s happening on an atomic or quantum level does not mean that we, or our foods, or our essential oils, are walking around with the shakes.

A body/food/essential oils vibrating extravaganza

I have no idea what Young was “measuring” to come up with these figures, but here are his quack-errific numbers:

Genius Brain Frequency80-82 HzFresh Foods20-27 Hz
Brain Frequency Range72-90 HzFresh Herbs20-27 Hz
Normal Brain Frequency72 HzDried Foods15-22 Hz
Human Body62-78 HzDried Herbs15-22 Hz
Human Body: from Neck up72-78 HzProcessed/Canned Food0 Hz
Human Body: from Neck down60-68 HzMelissa (Lemon Balm)102 Hz
Colds and Flu start at:57-60 HzGerman Chamomile105 Hz
Disease starts at:58 HzMyrrh105 Hz
Candida overgrowth starts at:55 HzLavender118 Hz
Receptive to Epstein Barr at:52 HzRavensara134 Hz
Receptive to Cancer at:42 HzHelichrysum181 Hz
Death begins at:25 HzRose 320Hz

Step away from the vibration

While it may be tempting to believe things that might seem reasonable intuitively, science just doesn’t work that way. If it’s helpful to think of things like vibrations on a metaphorical level, then hey, why not. The problem is, quacks like D. Gary Young are insisting that essential oils are vibrating the way he describes it on a literal level, which is just plain absurd.

I suspect that people like Young, along with the law of attraction people, rely on the fact that the average person has low scientific literacy and will simply accept what they’re told if it sounds good. But a healthy dose of skepticism can be a good thing, especially when people without a science background start talking about energy and vibrations.

So, I’ll keep using essential oils because I like them, which is a good enough reason for me, and steer way clear of Young Living money train.

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40 thoughts on “Made-Up Vibrations: The Essential Oils Version”

  1. Hiya. You may not like this comment…..I hope I don’t offend you by having a different point of view..

    I too have followed some of the work of Royal Raymond Rife. While I don’t put much store in the Rife Machine, I do feel that certain sound/radio frequencies may be used with further research in clinical trials to treat certain kinds of cancer or brain necrosis. I am one of those people who believes that certain frequencies may bombard and alter the shape of the cells themselves and render them whole. While a cancerous cell is misshapen and malformed, I believe that frequencies applied can render those cells back to their normal structure. I believe a certain frequency is associated with each type of cancer that many manifest itself in the body. I have tried over the years to have this information tested for scientific validity but have not gotten that far yet. Don’t know if lack of clinical trials is an indicator that this theory is moot or if science hasn’t quite caught up with the assumption.

    1. I would differentiate between having a hypothesis or a belief that things might work a certain way and having tested that hypothesis, gathered evidence, and developed a theory that’s supported by evidence. There’s nothing the least bit wrong with having a belief/hypothesis, but to say that something is measured and literally true without any scientific evidence to back it up is putting the cart before the horse. A belief/hypothesis is a starting point, not an endpoint.

  2. I knew I had to read this to vibrate with laughter!
    I’m just curious at what vibration my supper will be tonight 🙂

    Ps People really pay good money to ‘see’ their frequency (measured in a very special machine) and they also really really believe that it is something that can point you to better health. I’ve seen ads for as little as 80 euros (!) to start per session, that’s a serious crime if you ask me.

      1. Haha, you would at least see the frequency of the wind playing with your money!

        Or you could just buy toys for the piggies or a lot of sweets or other things you like. Imagine putting that budget for yourself or to give it to a stranger to do absolutely nothing.

        Also, what kind of machine would they use to measure the frequenties? I mean, if you want you become a ‘professional frequency reader’ I’m afraid you’ll need a lot of cash to buy the machine for starters.

        Sounds truly like someone is selling ‘air’ (with or without frequency)

        1. Or maybe I could claim that guinea pig poop is a magical cure for everything. They produce enough that I could get rich very quickly if I could get people to fall for it!

          1. I think it just may work! The ‘potion’ or the ‘pills’ would be very ‘concentrated’ so, you’ll need less to achieve results. With a serious price point of course 😃

            Some people would really fall for it, I swear!

  3. Thank you for your comments. My hypotheses about sound to treat various kinds of cancer are just that – hypotheses. It would be super to have an MD / clinic ready to test these hypotheses, but so far I have not had that opportunity.

  4. RUTABAGAS! YES!

    I’ve never used essential oils, but I love the concept of happy smells! I’ve been toying with trying some.

    If you really want to see some pseudoscience, there’s a book I was asked to read in the cult called The True Power of Water by Masaru Emoto. I think you’d appreciate how completely unbelievable and made up it is!!

  5. This irrates me too because it twists actually healing elements into something they are not. My partner and I recently started watching “[UN]well” on Netflix last weekend. As a spiritually inclined woman, a shaman and intuitive empath…I can smell this nonsense miles away. There are science based facts and as your previous comment states beliefs. They are separate. Great share, thanks for shining a light on this topic🙏❤😊

      1. Agreed!! There ARE real beneficial aspects to these things so I’m left scratching my head as to why people have to add in the unfounded stuff🤦‍♀️🤷‍♀️

  6. This is a new batch of crazy for me! I’ve heard of the Law of Attraction though… and I can see a bit of it making sense. If you smile and act kindly, you’ll probably make more friends…

    1. The part of law of attraction that seems to make sense is actually more like positive psychology. Law of attraction says if you imagine what you want, and really put some emotion into it, you don’t have to do anything, because your thoughts will send out vibrations and the universe will respond by sending what you want on a silver platter.

  7. I have a personal Law of Attraction anecdote (unfortunately). I’ve always been quite naive so when I saw The Secret in (whenever-it-came-out), I tried it out. Just something simple… I was looking for something I’d lost so I PUT IT OUT THERE into the great magical universe. Within minutes, my head snapped right to where the thing I’d lost was (I can’t even remember what it was but it was very insignificant).

    Was this the universe sending tendrils of dark matter into the core of my brain to turn my gaze? Were magical space gnomes on Mars using the corpse of a unicorn to power their wish reactor to grant me my desire? No, I probably just focused myself on finding something and ignored all distractions. I was convinced for about two days, though, until my science-minded roommate rolled his eyes at me enough times.

    I’m fairly grounded in reality these days (mainly due to sobriety) but I keep SOME very, very, very, VERY slight openness to the idea that there might be a smidgen of truth to the more believable *batshit* ideas out there. Like alternative medicine… I’m sure SOME alternative medicines do SOMETHING. Are they as good as or better than modern medical science? Nah, fam.

    1. I think there’s at least some alternative medicine that’s good, but not for the out there reason they give for it. Acupuncture is a good example. There isn’t any scientific evidence that qi exists, but it looks like it might work based on the gate control theory of pain.

  8. I’m only just catching up on reading blogs.

    I try to keep an open mind on most things, but some of it seems far fetched. I have tried Reiki before.

    Like you I am more science minded.

  9. I’ve been researching vibrations for a while, and I must say you did a much better job researching this stuff than I ever did. I am a science student with B.Sc. I can’t help but believe that there is some truth to vibrational energies. I don’t think it’s entirely hippy-dippy and I want to believe that there’s some truth to high and low vibes. That being said, I would never buy the merch and all that jazz that goes along with marketing. That’s called exploitation and taking advantage of suckers who are willing to hand over their hard earned cash. I love essential oils and use them on a weekly basis.

  10. I really really really hate how prevalent this vibrating crock of bs is in some circles. I’m glad you wrote such a good debunking post. I like the smells of some essential oils but refuse to buy them because of the viby pseudoscience. I used to be in a Facebook group dedicated to making fun of people who use essential oils in lieu of proper medical treatment.

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