Essential oils. They’re supposed to make you peaceful and calm. They can supposedly cure anything. And they also cost me a friendship.

I had a friend who was convinced all my problems could be solved with a little dab of oil. She was convinced everyone’s problems could be solved this way. If only we listened to her advice and followed her rules for natural living, we were promised health and happiness. These essential oils would cure my recurrent health issue, fix another friends chronic illness, heal infertility, and prevent any sickness from ever happening for our family and friends. These oils would also make me happy, peaceful, fix any PMS symptoms and cure any marital problems. I’m not joking. These were the promises that were made.

I desperately wanted to believe them.

But my life didn’t get magically better. My recurrent health issue continued to be a recurrent health issue and got worse because I wasn’t doing my typical “traditional medicine” routine. My friend had more “solutions.” Maybe I needed a different oil? Maybe I needed to take the oil differently? Maybe I wasn’t doing it right?

I was in pain and feeling defeated–like I didn’t have enough faith to make me well. I had had enough. But questioning the efficacy of these oils somehow meant I was questioning my friend in a way that was unacceptable to her. If I didn’t trust the oils, I didn’t trust her. If I didn’t allow her to heal me, I wasn’t being the kind of friend she wanted. To resort to traditional doctors and my usual medication was to be a quitter and a failure.

Eventually, the friendship ended.

This experience has made me wary of my other friends who use and love essential oils. I wish I didn’t feel that way. I know not every essential oil enthusiast requires that kind of blind devotion from her friends. And I have essential oils in my bathroom cabinet and still use them to help me relax or to add some amazing fragrance to my world. I believe they have been useful and effective for friends and I support those who want to go that route. I firmly believe there’s a way for empathy and understanding to be our default when we’re dealing with people who think differently than we do on these issues.

So here are my ground rules for friendship between the EO and Non-EO crowd:

For the EO Users:

We know you sell essential oils. Just assume if we’re curious or in need of your help, we’ll ask. I know it may be frustrating to feel like we’re struggling with something you might be able to help fix, but trust our judgement and know we’ll come to you if we want to go that route. If you need to say something, you can try, “I can give you info on an essential oil option if you need it.” and leave it at that. Please don’t suggest oils as the answer to every problem in our lives. Sometimes we just need to vent or need your support, not a “solution.”

Ask before oiling. If you’re going to be diffusing oils while we’re around, just ask us first. If you’re planning on putting essential oils into our drink or food, please let us know. Especially if our kids will be exposed. Just because these things are “natural” doesn’t mean they’re safe for every person or at every concentration level. We wouldn’t crush up Tylenol and put it in your tea if we heard you’d been having a headache. Don’t oil us without consent.

We can love you and not love oils. Please don’t make our friendship conditional on us believing what you believe about essential oils. We know there’s more to you than just essential oils and we want to know about those things. We don’t want this to be a dividing line between us.

For the EO Skeptics:

Be curious. Ask your friend about her business because you care about her, even if you don’t fully get the oil thing. Be willing to learn and don’t worry about presenting contrary opinions at every turn. Care about what your friend cares about even when you don’t agree entirely.

Find ways to be supportive. I firmly believe everybody needs a little lavender oil in their life. Even if you aren’t comfortable using essential oils medicinally, there are great ways to utilize them in body scrubs, candles, and getting your laundry smelling fresh. Ask your friend about those non medicinal uses and see if you can be a support to her that way.

Find other common ground. If you can’t talk about EO with her, find the things you can talk about. There is more to who she is and who you are than just this one thing. You probably have lots of other areas of interest in common that won’t make things tense between you.

I still miss my friend. I think our relationship mostly ended because of a lack of trust. She didn’t trust me to make wise decisions for my own health and after some negative experiences, I didn’t trust her solutions to my problems. I think we have to be mindful to not make these personal decisions a litmus tests for who can be our friend. If we only hangout with people who agree with us, we will find ourselves in an endless echo chamber of “yes” men, always preaching to the choir. Some of my favorite relationships are those that sharpen me because they make me think differently. I love that I’ve changed my mind on lots of issues because of the impact of my friends. Let’s be those people for each other and not call it quits on a friendship just because of a lifestyle difference.

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