The FDA’s enforcement division has sent Warning Letters to both doTERRA and Young Living on Sept. 22, 2014. The main problem (but not the only one) that both companies have is that they (and their distributors) talk about specific diseases and health issues that can be helped, cured or avoided by the use of their essential oils and essential oil products. When/if you read the FDA warning letters you will read that the FDA says that the essential oils and products are drugs. This is often misinterpreted. What they mean is that these 2 companies and their distributors/consultants are claiming that their products can treat specific diseases. And, therefore, the companies themselves are saying that their products are, in fact, drugs – because, in the thinking of the FDA and the medical system – drugs are the only things that can treat specific diseases. There are two optional remedies that these companies can take: 1. take the products through the system and get them approved as drugs, or 2. stop making claims that the products address disease (even if there are hundreds of scientific studies saying that they can help with specific diseases or the causes of specific diseases). The other option is to fight the FDA with their corporate lawyers.
Essential oils are best used (therapeutically) as an adjunct to a healthy lifestyle and to keep one and one’s family healthy and happy. They should be used wisely and safely by following relatively simple guidelines for their safe use. They can be very effective and helpful, and can be a part of one’s daily health routine, or used occasionally for specific purposes. There are many ways to use them, however each essential oil is different and there are no rules that apply to all essential oils. We need to learn and then practice which essential oils should be used in specific ways and which ones need to be used in different specific ways.
For those of you who work with essential oils, my advice is not worry about whether these FDA warning letters may affect your own work with essential oils. It is simply necessary not to treat or claim to treat specific diseases with essential oils or any other therapy (unless you are licensed to do so). If you don’t have a medical license then you need to work with clients to help them develop a healthy lifestyle and to help to bring their body, mental state, emotions and spirit into balance. Essential oils can be used in both of these ways.
The FDA does not typically go looking for offenders. And it is surprising to me that Young Living and doTERRA have gotten away with their shenanigans for so long. Many people have complained to the FDA about these companies, and so they finally got around to notifying them. Also, and importantly, if you want to work with essential oils therapeutically, do not make disease curing/preventing claims about your products on any of your labels, product information, web site or social media. It is okay to say (for example): Ravensara (or Eucalyptus radiata) helps to support healthy lung function or that they help to keep one healthy during the winter season. However, they do not cure the cold or flu – if you say this you are in essence saying that they are drugs that treat specific diseases (at least according to the FDA).
I think that FDA has taken a good step here. This action will hopefully reduce much of the poor quality information put out by these companies and their distributors, and also hopefully reduce the number of poorly trained distributors associated with these companies. I think that companies like doTERRA and Young Living have their place (as do MLMs in general), however both of these companies have taken advantage of the situation (and their position in the field) to promote poor quality information to the public, and thereby have put the public at risk. They have known all along what the FDA rules are and they also know what the proper use of these beautiful gifts of nature are. But they have chosen to ignore some of that, most likely due to the typical profit motive. I am not saying that the people who run or are independent distributors are not wanting to help people and do not have good hearts, but they did ignore the rules (laws) and also they have put out misinformation to the public, some of which may be harmful to ones wellbeing. On the other hand they have also helped to open up the field of aromatherapy and to bring essential oils into more people’s lives.
I am happy that BOTH companies, and not just one of them were sent letters. It will be interesting to see how they respond and what the outcomes are now that the FDA has stepped up its enforcement. I think it is a good day, overall, for Essential Oil Therapy in North America.