Raindrop therapy, also called Raindrop Technique, is a controversial aromatherapy massage technique created by the late D. Gary Young, founder of Young Living Essential Oils. It involves applying a series of undiluted essential oils to the skin.

What makes raindrop therapy controversial? For starters, applying undiluted essential oils to your skin can result in serious irritation. It’s also been marketed as a cure-based treatment for a number of medical conditions, including scoliosis — without any evidence.

The creator of Raindrop Technique claimed it was a beneficial and effective treatment for a range of back problems, including:

According to claims, using a sequence of highly antimicrobial essential oils reduces inflammation and kills viruses and bacteria that live dormant in the spine. It’s also supposed to help bring the body into structural and electrical alignment.

There are also claims that raindrop therapy can:

  • reduce pain
  • ease stress
  • improve circulation
  • shield you from germs
  • improve immune function
  • improve focus and concentration

The technique uses a combination of three therapies:

In a nutshell, undiluted essential oils are applied to the skin in layers and blended using different strokes.

Depending on the issue being treated, certain positions are held for a given number of minutes.

So far, there’s no evidence to back up the claims surrounding raindrop therapy and its potential benefits.

In 2010, the Aromatherapy Registration Council (ARC) released an official statement of policy against raindrop therapy.

The policy was adopted from the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy’s (NAHA) statement on raindrop therapy. Norway has even banned raindrop therapy.

The creator of the therapy, who’s neither a medical professional nor an aromatherapist, has also been the center of much controversy, including an arrest for practicing medicine without a license.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also issued a warning letter to Young Living Essential Oils in 2014 for the marketing and distribution of products without FDA-approved applications.

The ARC and other organizations believe that raindrop therapy poses a range of risks, particularly in people who:

  • have compromised liver or kidney function
  • have heart disease
  • are on blood thinners
  • are allergic to aspirin

Plus, any topical application of undiluted essential oils can result in:

Some of the essential oils used in raindrop therapy are also known to be toxic to:

  • children
  • people who are pregnant
  • people with compromised immune systems

Essential oils might seem harmless because they come from plants, but that doesn’t make them any less harmful.

Essential oils can be highly toxic and cause serious health issues when ingested or absorbed through the skin, according to the National Capital Poison Center.

This doesn’t mean you should get rid of all of your essential oils, but it’s important to know how to properly use them.

Always dilute essential oils with a carrier oil before applying them to the skin.

There are plenty of options for carrier oils, including:

  • almond oil
  • coconut oil
  • jojoba oil
  • argan oil
  • grapeseed oil
  • sunflower oil
  • avocado oil

Essential oil dilution guidelines

The Alliance of International Aromatherapists offers the following as a general rule of thumb for diluting essential oils:

  • 2 percent for the average adult with no known health issues
  • 1 percent for older adults
  • 1 percent for children ages 6 and over
  • 1 percent for pregnant people
  • 1 percent for people with compromised immune systems, serious health issues, and sensitive skin

For some perspective, a 1 percent dilution is 3 drops of essential oil per tablespoon of carrier oil.

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Here are some other safety tips to keep in mind when using essential oils:

  • Keep all essential oils out of reach of children and pets.
  • Don’t ingest essential oils.
  • Use them in a well-ventilated area.
  • Keep oils away from flames.
  • Wash your hands after using essential oils.
  • Avoid applying photosensitizing oils to your skin for 24 hours before UV exposure.

Handling a bad reaction

If you experience any skin irritation from an essential oil, apply a fatty oil or cream to your skin to absorb it, then wipe it away. This should help stop the irritation from getting worse.

If essential oils get into your eyes, soak a cotton swab or pad in food-grade fatty oil, such as olive or sesame oil, and wipe over your closed eyelid. You can also flush the area with cool, clean water.

Minor side effects should ease within a day or two without treatment. See your healthcare provider if they last longer.

There’s no evidence to back up any of the health claims made about raindrop therapy. Both the creator of the therapy and his essential oil company have been under scrutiny for making false claims.

If you want to try using essential oils on your skin, make sure to properly dilute them first. Never ingest them.

Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.