doTERRA essential oils are sweeping the world – is this good or bad?

If you have even a remote interest in natural health, you’ve probably noticed at least some buzz around essential oils lately. And chances are you’ve come across the company leading the charge, doTERRA, the world’s fastest-growing essential oil company and now the largest. And it’s not without controversy. It seems you either love this company or hate it. What’s all the fuss about?

Dangerous?

Aromatherapists are putting out dire warnings about the improper use of essential oils, imploring people not to ingest them which, they argue, is a practice fraught with danger. 

Unethical?

Others are cautioning against nefarious multi-level marketing (MLM, also known as Network Marketing) companies, of which doTERRA is now the most prominent, out to draw you into a morally-questionable corporate model.

A Herbalist’s perspective

If these things are true, how did someone like me become involved, taking it on as a second business, alongside my professional practice? For the reasons I list below, I have chosen to introduce others to the healing powers of these products. Keep in mind however, the vast majority of doTERRA customers are just that, customers who simply enjoy the oils for their own use at wholesale prices, receiving loyalty rewards at the same time.

In our imperfect world, there are strengths and weaknesses in many aspects of mainstream medicine, natural medicine and the ethics of various business approaches. With this article I take a leap into the furore. This piece is my contribution, a summary of how I, a medical herbalist, have come to view the rising phenomenon of essential oils, as well as MLM as a specific business practice and the doTERRA company itself. I will address two overlapping issues: the benefits of high grade essential oils and the pros and cons I’ve become aware of with the MLM model in this context.

Let’s start with the positives of CPTG (Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade) essential oils: 

Natural

It’s true that essential oils have been manufactured and used by humans for thousands of years. But we also enjoy them in a low-tech way: every time we smell a flower or walk through the bush we are inhaling essential oils and deriving physical and emotional benefits.

Effective

Extremely potent, one drop of essential oil contains far more medicinal aromatic compounds than any dose of a regular herbal remedy. Used carefully and sensibly, the medicinal effects can be profound. With around 250 drops in every 15 ml bottle, this truly is cost-effective medicine.

Convenient

That aforementioned little 15 ml bottle occupies far less space in your medicine cabinet than a jar of dried herb or bottle of tincture! Consequently, the everyday person can easily store and manage potent and effective remedies for a very wide number of health applications. 

Empowerment

As a natural medicine practitioner, I have always strived to empower my patients. I run workshops on nourishing foods and herbal medicine-making. I teach my patients as much as I can possibly squeeze into a consultation. But I have been keenly aware that many of my patients wish to become self-sufficient, to be able to respond quickly and confidently to common ailments themselves. Essential oils provide immediate and accessible medicine in the home. 

Education and training

When you get a doTERRA wholesale customer account, not only do you have access to products as you would when buying from a shop, you also receive immediate and easy access to limitless support and resources, all designed to enhance your knowledge and confidence to improve and maintain good health with natural medicine. This is made possible by the MLM business model, because the person who enrols you has an interest in deepening your knowledge. In my view, this is a win-win situation.

Quality issue resolved

doTERRA essential oils are manufactured to the highest quality I know of (at least of the easily available brands). Every single batch passes through eight separate tests which literally guarantees 100% purity. We no longer need to worry about adulteration nor inhaling or consuming solvents or other impurities. Furthermore, due to fair trade practices (see next two points), raw plant material is grown and harvested at peak times to ensure highest potency.

Therapeutic standard

doTERRA is the only essential oil company I know of that sources all its oils from indigenously grown plants. As a herbalist, I know that therapeutic properties of medicinal plants are likely to be higher when grown in their indigenous regions. This is not to say you will not benefit from using some lavender or chamomile from your own garden. But as a practitioner, I need to know that the therapeutic potency of my prescriptions is as high as possible.

Fair trade

An increasingly important consumer consideration, doTERRA buys directly from growers and distillers, thereby guaranteeing fair prices and labour conditions to producers. Using eight sourcing guiding principles, livelihoods are enhanced all over the world including in over 40 countries in the developing world. Bypassing the middleman is not without its risks, as evidenced by the threats issued to doTERRA by Frankincense buyers in Somalia! As far as companies go, I’m glad to be associated with the principled stand taken on this issue.

Room for improvement!

You may have guessed by now that I believe doTERRA’s impact is overwhelmingly positive. I’m excited and inspired every time I hear someone say an oil helped improve their quality of life or helped them avoid using a pharmaceutical product! To be honest, however, I am a little disturbed by some aspects of this evolving phenomenon. I believe we need to think critically about the following issues:

Qualified vs lay advice

As I stress above, I am very much for empowerment of the layperson when it comes to natural health care for common ailments. It brings me joy when someone learns and uses a natural remedy successfully! It does concern me, however, when unqualified people advise others on remedies for serious or chronic conditions where a broader, holistic approach is warranted. Oftentimes, formal education in either the medical or natural health care fields makes all the difference in recognising these conditions. Natural treatment protocols can be complex and are best done as a collaboration between patient and qualified expert.

Sadly however, the quality and cost of natural medicine practitioners varies widely, which has led to consumer frustration and the increasing uptake of ‘biohacking’. When consumers have a negative or unsatisfying experience, they will invariably want to take control themselves, and who can blame them…

Holistic approach often lacking

For good health at the deepest level, the body needs more than volatile aromatic compounds! Firmly rooted in the natural world, our body follows nature’s laws accordingly. Nourishing food needs to be the starting point, providing us with the building blocks to function, build and repair.

Next, the plant kingdom provides us with powerful medicines, in the form our body has evolved to expect (as opposed to isolated pharmaceutical compounds). Whole herbs contain hundreds or even thousands of constituents, some of which are therapeutic, including polyphenols, tannins, alkaloids and many more. Essential oils are volatile aromatic compounds and fall within the category of herbal therapeutic agents, but do not replace herbs entirely.

What does doTERRA say about this? As a matter of fact, company literature lists a holistic six point guide to wellness, that cannot be faulted:

  1. Eat right
  2. Exercise
  3. Rest and manage stress
  4. Reduce toxic load
  5. Informed self care
  6. Proactive medical care

Let’s consider this guide more closely:

  1. EAT RIGHT – This is the foundation of our health and there is no way to transcend this biological fact! As excellent as doTERRA’s nutritional supplements are, they are far from a full substitute for nourishing food. That said, knowing how to eat ‘right’ is easier said than done and many of my new patients are confused. Nutrition information is a minefield, with outright wrong advice emanating from many official and alternative sources… Be cautious about extreme and/or faddish diets.

2. EXERCISE – Non-negotiable for good health! This health intervention has been repeatedly scientifically shown to be the most effective stand-alone intervention for diseases of all body systems. Happily, an effective regime does not take much time. Most patients I see are either doing too little or too much exercise.

3. REST & MANAGE STRESS – Another biggie! Adequate rest and stress management can prevent disease quite profoundly.

4. REDUCE TOXIC LOAD – As part of this grand modern experiment, in which we are the guinea pigs, we are exposed to thousands of new chemicals, the likes of which our bodies never had to deal with before the industrial age and especially since WWII. Now ubiquitous in our food, water, air and topically-applied personal care products, toxic chemicals are placing a huge burden on our own endogenous (internal) detoxification systems. For many people, these systems are overwhelmed, resulting in serious diseases like cancer and endocrine dysfunction (diabetes, hormonal conditions) and likely auto-immunity. Fortunately, non-toxic household and personal care products are an area we actually have control over, and doTERRA has formulated beautiful products covering these areas, ensuring quality and convenience. If you like to DIY these products, recipes abound using natural base ingredients and added essential oils.

5. INFORMED SELF CARE – This is where home-based natural medicine comes in. For common viral illness, digestive symptoms, certain skin issues, first aid and more, the practicality and power of essential oils truly shines here.

6. PROACTIVE MEDICAL CARE – I place the services of someone like me in this category. Although it’s sometimes necessary, extreme caution is needed when it comes to mainstream medicine, now the third leading cause of premature death in the Western world. Always try natural medicine first, unless it’s a medical emergency. To support ongoing great health, see my blog Do you have a holistic heathcare team?

Essential oils are indeed a powerful medicinal tool but I challenge users to broaden their approach to include all six points, and do the right thing by advising others to do so as well. I was careful to enrol with someone who strives to teach her team about broad holistic principles. I’m grateful for this wonderful collaboration.

Over-ingestion

Firstly, let me point out a growing number of over-the-counter medications, including the popular Mintec, as well as health supplements contain essential oils, including some compound products I was prescribing in my practice before I had a doTERRA account. In my practice, I use energy testing to work out the best prescription for my patients. I typically find ingestion of essential oils is called for occasionally, in small amounts, and usually for short term use. However, anecdotal accounts of long-term daily ingestion beyond one to three drops is concerning to me, largely because of the lack of long term research on this practice. I personally ingest one drop of digestion-promoting DigestZen most days, a drop of Lemon in my daily tea and occasional short courses of anti-inflammatory Turmeric and YarrowPom. In warm weather, I love a drop of Lemon or Lime in a glass of sparkling water with a pinch of salt – so refreshing! Other oils I have prescribed for internal use include Oregano, Copaiba and Frankincense. NB do not ingest essential oils that are not guaranteed to be pure!

A bridge to the mainstream

That said however, it is important to remember that daily ingestion of pharmaceutical drugs likely does far more harm, so let’s keep this in perspective. I call on aromatherapists and fellow herbalists to embrace this consumer-led essential oil revolution! Shouting from the sidelines with blanket bans on ingestion has achieved little, caused confusion and even engendered outright hostility. Wouldn’t a discussion of purity vis-a-vis ingestion be more helpful instead?

If the truth be told, doTERRA has built a bridge to the mainstream, bringing natural medicine skills into millions of homes in a way that traditional aromatherapy never did.

Have I got all the answers to health challenges in the 21st century? NO! But I do have a commitment to:

  • lifelong learning,
  • striving to clarify evolving health issues and approaches, and
  • an uppermost ethical mindset

I hope this critique helps sort out some confusion and angst, in the interests of taking our collective health forward! Please contact me for more information about joining the oily revolution. If you already know you want to take advantage of all these oils have to offer, go here and click on Shop to shop online at retail prices. Or click on Join & Save to get your own wholesale account to enjoy online shopping convenience at wholesale prices and loyalty rewards points options.