Pseudoscience: Essential oils

Four essential oils: tarragon, apricot seed, lemon, and mandarin

One of my favourite laboratory exercises from my undergraduate chemistry days was extracting an essential oil by steam distillation, and then analysing it using infrared spectroscopy and other methods. Knowing something about essential oils, I was rather surprised to read this on the Internet recently:

“Bruce Tanio, 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. Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils begin at 52 and go as high as 320 MHz. For example: Rose 320 MHz, Helichrysum 181 MHz, Frankincense 147 MHz, Ravensara 134 MHz, Lavender 118 MHz, Myrrh 105 MHz, German Camomile 105 MHz, Juniper 98 MHz, Sandalwood 96 MHz, Angelica 85 MHz, Peppermint 78 MHz.”

“A healthy body, from head to foot, typically has a frequency ranging from 62 to 78 MHz, while disease begins at 58MHz. During some testing with frequency and the frequency of essential oils it was measured that: Holding a cup of coffee dropped one man’s frequency from 66 MHz to 58 MHz in just 3 seconds. It took three days for his frequency to return to normal. Another man drank the coffee and his frequency dropped from 66 MHz to 52 MHz. After inhaling the pure therapeutic grade essential oil, his frequency returned to 66 MHz in just 21 seconds.”

“In another case: A man’s frequency dropped from 65 MHz to 48 MHz when he simply held a cigarette. When he smoked the cigarette, his frequency dropped to 42 MHz, the same frequency as cancer. Other studies show that: Negative thoughts lower our frequency on average 12 MHz. Positive thoughts raises our frequency on average 10 MHz.”

The oldest versions of these claims on the Internet seem to date from around the year 2000, and appear to have been systematically recopied and elaborated since then. They are generally associated with the false claim that essential oils can cure a range of diseases such as cancer and Ebola, which of course they can not (in fact, used inappropriately, essential oils can be quite dangerous).

All the stuff about frequencies is of course complete nonsense – human bodies and essential oils do not in fact have characteristic frequencies, nor do they broadcast radio waves in the VHF (30–300 MHz) band, nor is there any association between frequency and disease (individual chemical bonds within molecules have characteristic frequencies, in the infrared or visible-light range, but that is not what is being discussed here). Scientific words are being used here in a nonsensical way, in an attempt to give credibility to the associated medical claims. The link to Eastern Washington University is being used in the same way. In fact, Eastern Washington University does not even have a Department of Agriculture (so that the late Bruce Tainio could not have headed it), nor is the company founded by Tainio mentioned on the university’s web site at all. But yet, inexplicably, people seem to believe this stuff. Why?


10 thoughts on “Pseudoscience: Essential oils

  1. Thanks, I tried to research some of the purported claims and found the same inconsistencies you have, it is shocking that someone could have sat down and written such a fabrication of untruth willfully!

  2. Hi. My name is Mayra, from Brazil, and I am doing some researches to recorder a speech for an Aromatherapy online congress here and my theme is Myths and Facts. One of the myths is the frequency about EOs. Could you give more information about infrared measurements for OEs so I can understand its relation with those alleged frequencies. Thank you so much!

    • I have written a post about infrared spectra, and there is an infrared spectrum of an essential oil here. The peaks in infrared spectra correspond to chemical building blocks of substances, so (1) there is no single number for a substance, (2) toxins and beneficial substances can have remarkably similar spectra, (3) the frequencies are in the infrared (Terahertz) range, and (4) they have nothing to do with the mythical “frequencies” of essential oils.

  3. Pingback: Thérapies quantiques, huiles essentielles et faiblesses épistémiques – Les Chroniques Zététiques

  4. Hi there,
    I came across your website when I researched the same claim about Bruce’s findings, and am trying to find the original sources. So I’m curious about the validation of your own claims that the research is false, and what your evidence is of the contrary. Could you please elaborate on how you have arrived at your conclusions (it is quoted places that he was in their biology department), and also in relation to the impossibility to measure human frequency (which he is not the only source to claim)?

    Thanks very much,

    • I think that my brief article already answers those questions adequately.

      On the issue of whether the human body produces radio waves in the 30–300 MHz or VHF band, you can test it for yourself by standing near a radio receiver (the alleged frequencies of Sandalwood. Juniper, German Camomile, and Myrrh correspond to FM radio stations; Lavender and Ravensara correspond to Air Traffic Control radio; Frankincense is in the amateur radio band). You will hear absolutely nothing.

      As to whether Eastern Washington University has a Department of Agriculture: check the link I provided. It doesn’t.

      Tainio may have been an undergraduate student of some kind at EWU, but that hardly makes him an expert on anything. Google Scholar finds no scientific publications under his name. The company he appears to have founded ( has nothing to do with essential oils and has no link to EWU.

  5. Hmmmm as someone who’s been in the radio industry for over 20 years. Just thought you should know that all radio frequencies can be heard. Not all types radio waves make air molecules vibrate which doesn’t necessarily refute that it still has the possibility to move & transmute amenable energy throughout the vessel. Also, just curious did you utilize a similar type of frequency machine Tainio or Rife used to come up with your evidence that this is pseudo? Because if you didn’t that really doesn’t make this narrative pseudo. That’s like debunking the energy and silent frequencies of psychedelic plants like psilocybin or ayuhuasca yet having never experienced them.

    • Only the very lowest (VLF, ULF, ELF) radio frequencies can be heard, but even those require a (rather special) radio to make the air molecules vibrate. With more normal radios, what winds up coming out of the speaker is an amplitude-coded or frequency-coded signal at a much lower frequency than the radio waves themselves.

      And all that has nothing to do with the claim that human bodies and essential oils produce radio waves. An ordinary radio can be used to prove that claim false.

  6. Thank you for this. I heard a spoken word piece on my local indie radio station. It was drawing many connections between several disparate disciplines of sort, like Ayurvedic concepts of food taste harmonies and left-/right-brain theories and speaking vs listening, etc. Sounded very akin to the type of wisdom a well-read (of not necessarily the most educational books) prison inmate.

    The “72-90 MHz” frequency range claim was included. I didn’t catch the source of the “1992” research, but I assume it was probably told as the very same Bruce Tainio, and if I recall it also was mentioned this same “independent” research arm somehow associated with this university.

    This claim struck me as incredible, but I wanted to research it to verify it. I was disappointed to find not a single authoritative-looking source in this research, and this “Bruce Tainio” character, whether an actual man or fake, does not even have a Wikipedia page…

    As a long-time student of conspiracy theories on , I must say that based on what I know of the topics mentioned, the frequency range theory actually sounded credible enough to bother looking into. I suppose I need to question my assumed level of knowledge on the other topics mentioned…

    • The late Bruce Tainio was a real person, but he didn’t do the things that are credited to him.

      And there is no known mechanism by which the radio frequencies being described could be produced. Furthermore, they mostly fall in the FM radio band. An ordinary FM radio would detect them as noise. But that doesn’t happen, because these supposed radio frequency emanations do not exist.

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