I have done several reviews on various companies, mostly meal replacement shakes. You can check out all of my reviews here, they include Beautycounter, Rodan + Fields, Beyond Meat and Arbonne. But over the last year I’ve received an incredible amount of requests to review essential oil companies. Which leads to my (mostly) unbiased review of doTERRA.
My Back Story With doTERRA
When doTERRA and Young Living came on the scene several years ago, I ignored it at first. I liked essential oils, but turning them into a business? That wasn’t for me. I had blogging and health coaching and programs. I wasn’t interested in selling essential oils.
And then I kept seeing the stories. The “I made $100k this month from my oil business!” stories. And I got intrigued. Month after month I was seeing more and more about women making gobs of money from oils. So I set up a call with a blogger who had been making six, even seven figures with her oil business.
The call was rushed, uninformative and something in my stomach was screaming, “Don’t do this!” But I wasn’t as good at following my gut back then. I was working full time and trying to turn Ancestral Nutrition into a viable business, and I was desperate to get in on some of the six figure a month action.
The blogger told me that she was regularly making insane sums of money and she could teach me how to do the same. So I gave up my credit card info and joined doTERRA.
I was young, hungry and inexperienced in this business. Had I found a different person to guide me in doTERRA, it’s possible that my experience would have been entirely different. But here’s what happened, in short story.
Basically, this blogger put me under someone else in her “downline.” She had other leaders, and then you go under them and they coach you on how to build an essential oil business. Then that person put me under yet another person in her downline. I signed up thinking I’d be getting first hand coaching from another blogger, in reality I was getting coaching from a (very nice) woman who had absolutely no experience with social media, an online presence or leveraging the hundreds of thousands of visits my website gets. It did not work out, despite months on end of hard work. I wrote tons of blog posts, emails, sent an insane amount of samples, created programs around essential oils, everything. I barely made any money.
The only way I was coached to build my business was to teach classes and “make connections.” This was something I told them I wasn’t comfortable with from the beginning. I wasn’t going to teach classes. That’s not my style. I was also encouraged to make a list of 100 people and reach out to all of them to see if they were interested in buying essential oils. You guys, this is purely bad business.
You don’t sell to friends and family and people you went to high school with. You find out who your ideal client is, people that are actively interested in what you have to offer, and you sell to them. I know that now, but I didn’t know that then.
I was told to reach out to old roommates, chat up people I barely even knew in high school, hit up random people I had met recently. Let’s be honest: this is not just a bad marketing model, it’s incredibly awkward and uncomfortable.
No one wants to be sold, least of all old high school classmates or a new mom friends you’ve made. It’s uncomfortable and insincere.
And so while I worked my ass off to build my essential oil business through my website, it just never got off the ground. And that’s honestly how it is in most multilevel marketing companies. Very few people actually succeed at them. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but I am saying it’s rare.
But this review isn’t about my experience in doTERRA. It’s about the products. So let’s get into that.
First, doTERRA has great oils. I’m not going to deny that. But you know who also has high quality oils? Young Living. Plant Therapy (full disclosure: I am not an affiliate for Young Living or Plant Therapy, but I will link to the Plant Therapy Amazon page because I am an Amazon affiliate and I absolutely adore Plant Therapy). Mountain Rose Herbs. A multitude of companies have amazing oils.
In doTERRA and other MLM essential oil companies, you are told that your oils are the best and the others are bad and there is just no comparison. Your oils rule the world.
In reality, there are a lot of excellent essential oil brands on the market that are just as rigorously tested, and as this review will show – some oils may undergo even more rigorous testing. Of course, there are a lot of terrible brands as well. But if you’re buying from a reputable source like Young Living or Plant Therapy, not only are the oils just as high quality (if not more, they do have several certified organic options), they’re also cheaper.
I love essential oils. They’re largely safe and effective. But many companies have excellent quality, not just the specific MLM you work for. This was another thing I didn’t realize when starting out.
Essential Oil Testing and The Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade (CPTG) Trademark
doTERRA coined and trademarked the use of Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade (CPTG) essential oils. To be clear, this doesn’t actually mean anything. One may think that a designated agency provided this title to doTERRA’s outstanding oils, when in reality, it’s a claim they created and trademarked themselves. This is simply good marketing. I do not fault them for this. I do think it’s good marketing, albeit slightly dishonest. I’ve heard a lot of people complain about this.
When it comes to testing, I find the wording on doTERRA’s website extremely vague. They provide a list of tests, but they do not disclose whether they perform each test, whether their oils are third party tested or whether or not each and every batch of oils is tested.
I reached out to doTERRA directly to ask if each batch of oil was tested independently. I wasn’t asking for the labs they may use, just if there is third party verification. This is the response I received.
“doTERRA partners with expert growers, harvesters, chemists, etc. to provide the highest quality and most potent essential oils. Unfortunately, due to the proprietary nature of our test results and the specific information about our third party labs found on those results, they are not currently available. The identities of our suppliers and external laboratories are also proprietary, as our relationship with these experts represents a significant investment that has allowed us to set such high quality essential oil standards. doTERRA is currently working to develop resources that will allow us to become more transparent, and offer our customers greater insight into the processes involved in the testing methods of our essential oils. We will have these resources made available as soon as we can. “
After I told the representative that this did not actually answer my question of whether or not all of their oils are third party tested, I was told to contact product support. As of today, no one has responded to me.
I sent a separate email weeks ago asking if each and every batch of oils underwent GC-MS testing. As of today (I’m updating this on July 1st), no one has responded to me. No vague, carefully worded bits of information – just simply no response at all.
From their website,
“The CPTG testing begins immediately after distillation with each oil being reviewed for its chemical composition. A second round of testing is carried out at our production facility to ensure that what was distilled and tested is the same essential oil as was received. A third review of the chemistry of the oil is conducted in a three-phase procedure as the oils are packaged into the bottles we use as consumers. Each of these tests confirms that the essential oil is free of contaminants and unexpected alterations during production.”https://www.doterra.com/US/en/cptg-testing-process
Nowhere is third party of independent testing mentioned. It is also not mentioned on this page about their testing practices.
Now, compare that to Plant Therapy‘s testing, which proudly states directly on their website:
Our essential oils are first organoleptically tested by our certified aromatherapists before being sent to a third party testing facility.https://www.planttherapy.com/quality/essential-oils
Even Young Living visibly states on their website that they use third party testing.
GC-MS (Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry) testing is some of the most basic and important testing essential oils undergo. I noticed that doTERRA talks about GS-MS testing on their website, but they do not disclose the details of this testing. They do not provide the results (even though the results would not be proprietary), they do not provide the lab, they do not provide whether or not each batch is tested. They may test every batch, but that information is just not readily available.
In comparison, Plant Therapy discloses that they test each and every batch, they use a third party, and while doTERRA is extremely secretive about how they test, what they test, where they test and the results of those tests – Plant Therapy puts those tests right on their website for the world to see. How awesome is that?
I’m not saying doTERRA doesn’t utilize third party or independent testing, but they are extremely cagey and secretive about this. Which is odd. If you did third party testing, wouldn’t you promote this? If your oils are as high quality as you say, wouldn’t you want to advertise that? They say this is proprietary information, but in reality there is nothing proprietary about a lab or test results.
As for doTERRA’s line of products, I do enjoy several of them. I use the deodorant and mouthwash everyday. But like any company, there’s a lot of room for improvement. doTERRA uses several ingredients that I find disconcerting.
UPDATE 7/27/19: A reader provided me with this website, which allows you to enter the batch number on your bottle to receive the GC-MS testing from a third party lab! I’m not sure why no one at doTERRA knew about this or told me about it. Very strange. But it does seem that you can look up your batch of oils utilizing third party testing! Great news. doTERRA should really advertise this. Again, super strange.
Found in DDR Prime softgels, DigestZen softgels, TriEase softgels, OnGuard softgels, etc.
Carrageenan is a harmful additive that many people tout as safe because it is derived from seaweed. Morphine is derived from the opium poppy. Cocaine is made from coca leaves. Just because something is derived from the earth does not automatically make it safe.
From The College of Medicine at University of Iowa,
“Although the International Agency for Research on Cancer in 1982 identified sufficient evidence for the carcinogenicity of degraded carrageenan in animals to regard it as posing a carcinogenic risk to humans, carrageenan is still used widely as a thickener, stabilizer, and texturizer in a variety of processed foods prevalent in the Western diet…
Review of these data demonstrated that exposure to undegraded as well as to degraded carrageenan was associated with the occurrence of intestinal ulcerations and neoplasms
…Because of the acknowledged carcinogenic properties of degraded carrageenan in animal models and the cancer-promoting effects of undegraded carrageenan in experimental models, the widespread use of carrageenan in the Western diet should be reconsidered.”
And from the Department of Medicine at the University of Illinois at Chicago,
“This is the first report of the impact of carrageenan on glucose tolerance and indicates that carrageenan impairs glucose tolerance, increases insulin resistance and inhibits insulin signaling in vivo in mouse liver and human HepG2 cells. These effects may result from carrageenan-induced inflammation. The results demonstrate extra-colonic manifestations of ingested carrageenan and suggest that carrageenan in the human diet may contribute to the development of diabetes.”
From yet another study,
“…carrageenan was supplied in the drinking fluid at 1.2 and 3% concentrations over two weeks to young adult guinea-pigs. Ulceration of the large bowel was produced in 100% of animals, the severity and extent of damage probably being dose-related.” Source
Carageenan is an ingredient I would never consume. It is extremely damaging to the gut and has been linked to cancer.
Found in the Trim Shakes. doTERRA previously used folic acid in their Lifelong Vitality vitamins. When I reached out to product support to ask whether or not they use folate or folic acid, the representative was extremely rude and told me to check the Product Information Page (PIP). The PIP did not include the ingredient list. It took me several more tries and almost two weeks to find out that they use folate derived from lemon peel. It’s odd that it’s so difficult to find this information and that overall doTERRA’s customer service is so unhelpful. As of now, I only see folic acid in their Trim Shakes.
Folic acid supplementation has been linked to cancer via numerous studies.
…in the Journal of the American Medical Association — suggesting that all the extra folic acid might increase your odds of developing cancer. “The more we learn about folic acid, the more it’s clear that giving it to everyone has very real risks,” says folic acid researcher David Smith, PhD, a professor of pharmacology at the University of Oxford in England.
Another study out of Chile linked folic acid supplementation with an increased risk of colon cancer.
And yet another study out of Norway linked folic acid supplementation with a 21% increase in lung caner.
Folic acid and B12 supplementation was associated with a 21% increased risk for cancer, a 38% increased risk for dying from the disease, and an 18% increase in deaths from all causes.
While folate is a necessary part of a balanced diet, folic acid has actually been linked to increased rates of cancer (another source for ya).
You may have heard of the MTHFR gene mutation; it’s gaining more popularity and more and more people are getting tested for variants. This gene provides instructions for making methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase which is crucial to processing amino acids and converting folate into its usable form (source). Folic acid severely interferes with this process.
It’s been estimated that 40% of the population has an MTHFR variant which makes people completely inept at absorbing folic acid! Dr. Will Cole has a great article on MTHFR you can check out here. Basically, if you have an MTHFR variant, which many people do, you are more likely to not only have issues absordbing and utilizing folic acid, but also have difficulty with proper blood clotting, effective detoxification, problems with pregnancy, more prone to neural tube defects, heart disease, etc (source).
PEG-100, PEG-6, PEG-150
Found in the various lotions and body products.
The issue with PEGs isn’t so much the PEGs themselves (although some studies have implicated certain PEGs as genotoxic), but PEGs allow other toxic chemicals to more easily penetrate the skin – like fragrance, which allows them to more quickly and efficiently enter the bloodstream.
PEGs are often contaminated with chemicals like ethylene oxide, a known human carcinogen and 1,4-dioxane – a possible human carcinogen (source).
PEGs are banned in Europe and rated a 3 on the EWG scale, though the ingredients they are often contaminated with – ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane are rated a 10 and 8 respectively (source).
doTERRA products that I use regularly:
No company is perfect and I just choose to avoid the products with the ingredients listed above. There are some really solid products from doTERRA that I will continue to use.
These include the mouthwash, the Balance deodorant and the conditioner.
At this point, I prefer to use Plant Therapy essential oils because not only do they undergo rigorous testing, they’re incredibly high quality at a much lower price point. I don’t sell Plant Therapy, I truly just love their oils.
Don’t get me wrong, doTERRA has great oils. But so do a lot of other companies.
I have used doTERRA products for many years and will continue to do so. For oils I choose Plant Therapy. I wish doTERRA were less secretive about their testing, I wish they had better customer service and I wish the “leader” I had joined with would have been a better one.
If you are considering joining an MLM, this one or any MLM, I urge you to do your research. Research the products, the quality, the testing, the ingredients and the culture of the company. Overall, the culture wasn’t for me. I felt like it was more about making money by any means than actually helping people – but that just could have been because of the specific leader I signed up with.
Always do your due diligence. And if you don’t take my word for the above, that’s fine! I encourage you to research further, to fact check, to not blindly take my word or anyone else’s.
If you joined doTERRA or any other MLM, please leave a comment sharing your experience – good or bad!