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.

CARRAGEENAN

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.

FOLIC ACID

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.

In conclusion…

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!

16 Comments

  1. Hey! I’m sorry you had a bad experience with d?TERRA. There are a lot doing it right online, so that’s a bummer you got hooked up with a dud. I’m not sure if you know, but d?TERRA has a lot of quality info on SourceToYou.com. Their third party tester is APRC. I really love their sustainable growing practices and of course their quality. Also, in my experience the culture of d?TERRA is very focused on helping people. But I can totally see how individual experiences could be so different. Oh one more thing.. I recently learned that d? will be launching an affiliate program so bloggers like you don’t have to “build the business”, but can still post links that let them earn some as an affiliate. Kinda cool 🙂 https://sourcetoyou.com/en/scientists

  2. Finally! You reviewed DoTERRA, thank you! I agree that no company is perfect. I knew this going into DoTERRA. I fell in love w their products and learned they are safer options compared to so many others. I have experimented with a grand scheme of other companies and found none smell like Doterra’s, but that’s my opinion. As for this business being centered around making money, that 100% has to do with whomever you were signed up under. I don’t like that. I’m not like that. As a matter of fact, whenever anybody reaches out to me inquiring about the business side of the company, if they are not already purchasing oils from me and just want to jump into selling, I always tell them that in order to sell something successfully, you must believe in the product. I recommend that they use the products first, get to know them, and then decide if they want to sell. Equally, I like to tell people that selling things related to health is not as simple as if you were selling make up or jewelry, for example. I do not discourage them, but I do not build them castles in the sky. DoTERRA as a business is going well for me, but I have always been in sales, I am very proficient in guiding people, and I make that a priority. I am very active on social media, constantly giving tips, sharing what works for me, and never pressuring anybody to buy anything. I feel that I am a strong leader, pretty knowledgeable to a degree that I am able to help people make better decisions. After all, I have been giving advice on home remedies and things of that nature for the past 10 years, for free. Even when I was using my crappy oils, I was encouraging others to try natural solutions before running to the doctor for every ache and pain and child’s fever. I love that their OnGard collection of household products is safer than store bought stuff. I think it’s awesome that you can collect points for what you purchase, and that there isn’t an obligation to buy anything after you enroll. Some of these essential oil companies, make you purchase monthly. I love what you said about their hair care because that is something else that I absolutely love. Against other shampoo and conditioner companies, doTERRA really shines. Again, it’s difficult to excel in a MLM company when you don’t have the proper guidance. My motive for becoming a wellness advocate was genuinely to help people. I think it is important for us to all know we can interfere with big Pharma and that doctors don’t always have our best interest at heart. I make it very clear to everyone who sees my platform and who contacts me directly that this business is about helping others with their well-being. We all want to make money, naturally, but that cannot be the main motive, in my opinion. I am also very honest and upfront. I tell people that very same thing that you put about there being other awesome essential oils out there. I share with them why it is that I chose doTERRA and then I allow them to decide for themselves. Thank you for sharing your review. I was patiently waiting for it. There isn’t a single perfect company in the world, but I stand firm that doTERRA is a company with integrity. Lastly, the only thing I have to disagree with is that their customer service is actually exemplary. Not only for me, each and every time I call, but my downline agrees and they have made comments to me about how quick and efficient they are. Any little issue that arises, they handle it quickly and they give you free points which equal to money, as you know. Have a great day and I will continue to share your blog and your Instagram page.

    • dani Reply

      Yep, they’re not perfect but I still really like doTERRA and many of their products! Thanks for the comment.

  3. This doesn’t feel like an unbiased review to me. It seems the bias is clearly with Plant Therapy, and while I appreciate that you disclosed you’re an Amazon affiliate… still doesn’t seem as unbiased as all your other reviews. Also, 3rd party testing, depending on where, and as A PART of the overall testing process is important. Young Living has been around a lot longer than Doterra.. but Plant Therapy quality isn’t comparable. I would just like to know where the Plant Therapy sources and farms are?

    • By the way, I should also say that I LOVE your blog. I wasn’t trying to be critical, and realize it may have sounded that way more than I intended. What you do is really important, and the unbiased view you bring is so critical, that’s why Im intrigued by this.

    • dani Reply

      If anything this review is biased in favor of doTERRA. You can contact Plant Therapy yourself, they have various sources and would be more detailed than I can be in a blog comment. I can both support my business via linking to Amazon and have a well researched opinion. These are not mutually exclusive.

    • Marie Scott Reply

      2 stars
      Important question, as sourcing is at least as important as testing.

  4. Lindsey Proffitt Reply

    doterra has also been actively phasing out carrageenen from their products (and not adding it into any new products) as a request from the customers and advocates in case you wanted to update that part of your article as well 🙂

    • dani Reply

      The new products do not have carrageenan but all of the products that previously contain it, that I listed, still do. So there is nothing to update.

  5. Thank you so much for this information! I regularly use doTERRA, and it’s a shame that as a consumer, we can’t trust products that claim to be safe to not have questionable ingredients. I will definitely look more closely in the future! And I’m going to check out Plant Therapy for sure!

  6. When I started to read your comments about DoTerra NOT having third party testing ,I assumed this was a very old post.
    They DO have third party testing and on every single oil blend it is readily and easily available for ALL customers to call up from the comfort of their own home. The website is called source to you and it is as simple as keying in the individual lot number on the bottom of that bottle. I in fact use this as my main selling point — I have a bottle of Frankincense with the testing for that bottle on display when I have classes etc. This report shows the 100 percent composition of that bottle of oil, the scientific compounds of that bottle and proof that is contains nothing but pure oil. This info is also readily available on their website.
    This third party testing is why I am and will continue to be a DoTerra Gal.
    I used their Frankincense during my chemo/ radiation journey and am pleased to say I am now 2 years NED ( No Evidence of Disease).
    Considering I was ONLY using this oil during the 5 months prior to me receiving my official diagnosis of Lymphoma,and that the 2 biopsies done prior to confirmed diagnosis were showing dead tissue . I am convinced it was the high quality of this oil that saved me from a much worse fate.
    This had the doctors baffled since no Western medicine had been introduced at this point. The words from my oncologist as he saw this mass literally GONE ” I have never seen anything like this”

  7. Robert Pausic Reply

    I have checked you just with Lavander… You did not compare doTerra with organic Lavender from Plant therapy… I think that quality of doTerra is better, and in this case, it is cheaper. Of course, why should you buy on retail price, when you can buy wholesale even if you are not selling it..

    I also dont want to sign you up, just, to inform you and your readers 🙂

    Regards, from Budapest!

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