When people learn that I am a certified aromatherapist, they usually ask me which essential oils I buy and use. Inevitably, they usually also ask me whether I prefer dōTERRA or Young Living, as these two brands are commonly believed to be the best products out there. My answer? Neither. Don't get me wrong, I believe that both of these companies produce high-quality oils, but there are aspects of their business practices with which I do not feel comfortable as a certified professional. Here are a few of the top reasons why I do not use oils from either of these well-known companies.
First of all, there are safety issues to consider. Many people who buy and use oils from either of these companies mean well, but just as many of them go about using them without the proper training. I've heard more than one horror story of oils used in the way that dōTERRA and Young Living say they are supposed to be used (often internally or applied directly to the skin) with disastrous results. One woman recounted her tale of having peppermint applied undiluted to her wrist by a sales representative and experiencing a very uncomfortable chemical burn as a result. And did you know that taking frankincense internally in sufficient amounts can cause kidney failure, despite the fact that the companies tout that theirs is good for "dietary use"? Might want to rethink making that part of your daily routine.
One of the most common practices that is advocated by both dōTERRAand Young Living is a massage called "AromaTouch Technique" or "Raindrop Technique," respectively. In this style of massage, as taken directly from Young Living's webpage about it, undiluted essential oils (and two of their proprietary oil blends) of oregano, thyme, basil, cypress, wintergreen, marjoram, Aroma Siez™, peppermint, and Valor® are applied in order along the entire length of the spine, and the oils are then lightly brushed along the rest of the back. I have also heard of some practitioners who apply hot towels to the spine while the oils are sitting there to increase blood flow and assist with "detox."
While this may sound like a harmless and pleasant treatment at first glance, to anyone with proper training it becomes an alarming procedure. Several of these oils – oregano, thyme, and wintergreen being the top three – can cause severe chemical burns to the skin, especially to sensitive skin. I can just imagine the bright red rash that would be spreading over my back if such a technique were applied to me! (I have very fair and rather sensitive Irish skin, if that gives anyone a better picture.) When properly used, there are only a few essential oils that can be safely applied undiluted to the skin – lavender and tea tree being the two most common in this case – and even then they should be used with caution because people with sensitivities may have a reaction to them. Thus, dōTERRA and Young Living's claims that their oils can be used both internally and undiluted are cause for alarm. And you know it's probably not a good thing if the National Holistic Aromatherapy Association (NAHA) has made it clear that they don't agree with your business claims!
This leads me into my next point, which is the fact that both companies engage in what I consider to be false advertising. Both say that their oils are the only "Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade" oils on the market, and dōTERRA even has the CPTG label on its bottles to show this to its consumers (a trademark which it purchased for exclusive use on its products, by the way). However, this statement is patently false. There is no such governing body that tests and certifies essential oils as "pure" or "therapeutic grade." The companies themselves are responsible for ensuring that their products meet the highest standards, but because they would like to have an edge in what is certainly a very competitive market, they choose to engage in a tactic that makes them seem superior to other oil producers.
In fact, I have read claims on their websites and on the websites of their representatives stating that it is because their oils are so pure that they can be used undiluted on the skin and internally. I once remember seeing on the site for one of the companies – and wish I could find the webpage again, but it has either been removed or moved to where I can't find it – that if oils from a different company cause chemical burns, it is because the oils are of low quality and are adulterated with toxins, but that if the "high-quality" or CPTG oils cause similar burns, it is because the body is "detoxing." How very convenient. Scientifically speaking, the above statements are completely absurd. The supposed "purity" of their essential oils does not mean that they are safer (or not) to put in or on your body. That has to do with the chemistry of the oils themselves. If you put pure thyme oil on your skin, it will most likely burn you no matter which company produced it because the thymol in the oil is a known skin irritant. Because of their claims, though, dōTERRA and Young Living give rise to practices that potentially put unwary consumers in danger because many people do not do their "homework" and look up ways to safely use these beneficial, but concentrated natural substances.
This leads me to my third and final point for this post. The oils from both dōTERRA and Young Living are exorbitantly overpriced. They claim it is because their oils are of such high quality. I say that it is because you are paying for the multi-level marketing structure upon which the company is based, which means that you are helping pay the commissions for all the sales representatives out there who sell the oils. I have found and used very high quality essential oils for half the cost of some of the oils that these companies carry. Not only that, but most of the other companies out there have the business ethics to try and help their consumers use essential oils in a safe fashion, even including warnings on their product labels to not use them internally. Some will even give recommendations for blending the essential oils into a neutral carrier before applying to the skin. These are the companies from which I would prefer to purchase the oils I use in my practice and in my home.
Let me also say that I do not write this post as a criticism of anyone who truly believes in the oils these companies sell and uses them in a safe, responsible manner. I applaud your proper use of these wonderful substances, and hope that you will also help educate your fellow essential oil users to make all of us safer. In fact, go one step further and urge dōTERRAand Young Living to advocate safe use of their own oils. Pressure from their consumers is much more likely to lead to change than pressure from people like me whom they perceive to be "outside the fold." To those of you who have little to no training in this field but who truly believe that essential oils can make a tremendous difference in people's lives, good for you too! But please, go out and educate yourselves on the best way to use essential oils. There are plenty of NAHA accredited courses and schools out there where you can find all the information you need. Here are two links from one of the oil suppliers I use (who also provide courses accredited by NAHA) that will provide you with a starting point for your education. Have fun and learn lots!