A writes: “I have a question about the company doTerra. I use essential oils on a limited basis on myself and in my practice. I love to use peppermint and eucalyptus to open up the sinuses and for relieving headaches. And many of my clients love the scent of lavender and lemon which seems to help them relax and “settle into” the massage. I have recently begun questioning the integrity of the oils that I have been using, and have made the switch to buying doTerra oils. I have discussed this with my GP and she advised that I stay away from the blends, but that the single oils are of good quality. Do you know anything about the company and its founders? I have heard they are Mormon and use some of the proceeds for charities.”
Yes, David Stirling, president of the Utah-based DoTERRA (the name is a Latin derivative meaning “Gift of the Earth”) is a Mormon who was also a former employee of the company’s biggest competitor, Young Living Essential Oils.
Stirling claims that “In starting doTERRA there was nothing more important to us than the purity and medicinal quality of our oils. This is the primary reason for our success thus far and simply will not be compromised in any way. Of course we know the primary brokers that YL and others obtain their oils from. We have chosen to use none of them, and likely never will. Our oils are sourced from all over the world. We pay more (some significantly so) because we require a higher grade.”
This implies that DoTERRA oils are higher quality than Young Living, something that the latter has challenged them on in court. According to this report by Utah Stories, Young Living Essential Oils sued DoTERRA in 2013, accusing the company of using the “Certified Therapeutic Grade” trade mark for oils which were adulterated with man-made synthetic compounds.
DoTerra and its parent company, Thrive Holdings, responded in kind by filing a federal law suit alleging that employees and officers of Young Living created a false sample of a DoTerra product spiked with a chemical additive and then posted the result of a lab test showing the contamination on a website.
The cases were eventually dropped and the two companies have thus far refrained from accusing one another of adulterated product.
So how pure are essential oils sold by multi-level marketing companies such as DoTERRA and Young Living?
First of all, it’s important to understand that even though these companies claim they sell 100% pure and natural, therapeutic grade oils, there is no defined standard that is universally applied to essential oils. In other words, these companies can define “therapeutic grade” or “pure” or “certified” any way they want.
The only certification they can receive on their oils is one qualifying it as “organic”. Insiders believe that the best oils are organically grown because they are the least likely to contain oils from plants that were treated with pesticides.
Certain tests are performed on these oils, such as Gas chromatography–mass spectrometry (GS/MS testing) but, as this proponent’s website explains, these tests were primarily set up for the food and flavoring industry, not therapeutic essential oils which can be contaminated in ways that GS/MS tests can’t determine.
For instance, oils may be adulterated by the addition of synthetics, by heating the oils, or blending and redistilling them – all processes that result in changes to the oils that are not detected by GS/MS testing. The GS/MS test also can’t determine the soil quality in which the plant was grown or the presence of environmental toxins.
As for their charitable work, DoTERRA does have an International non-profit charitable organization named Healing Hands International. Their mission statement claims that the organization “seeks to bring healing and hope to the world, for lives free of disease and poverty, and to ultimately empower impoverished communities with the tools needed to become self-reliant.” They promise that 100 percent of donations go directly to those receiving aid, which include the victims of the recent Nepalese earthquakes, AIDS prevention work, a water project in Haiti, and a variety of other causes.
The bottom line is that using essential oils because they smell good is one thing – but using them for any medicinal purposes is a whole different story. Because there is little or no quality evidence that essential oils, regardless of their purity, can cure any medical condition, they should not be used for these purposes. In fact, the FDA has recently warned both doTERRA and Young Living to stop making these claims.
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