Aromatherapy vs. MLM

An aromatherapist is an under recognized health care professional who has the botanical knowledge and chemistry of essential oils.  Additionally in Canada, anatomy and physiology is part of the professional curriculum.  This is a 450 hour course, not some weekend workshop.  The average Canadian college course is 40 hours, so you can equate the hours to two full semesters of full-time college work.  This is different from the US, as aromatherapy courses can be as little as 50 hours and up to 350 hours to be certified with their association called NAHA.

I developed a study group that was two and grew to three girls all building businesses with doTERRA so we could remain accountable to each other to complete the course on a 6 month timeline.  This was important, as I have 4 kids and was helping two teens during all this.  I completed my studies and became fully certified and insured in May 2017.

But something totally new to me and unexpected happened during my studies; I discovered a world of MLM hate and aromatherapist distaste.

You see, the Canadian and US aromatherapy courses fall into a category I would call the holistic model of health.  In these courses lots of details of oil usage is covered, but ingestion is very limited, it would actually require much more details of the human body and how oils react in them to allow this.  So aromatherapists are forbidden by our certifying bodies to advocate for ingestion. 

This is a huge conflicting issue for MLMs, because they often suggest ingesting oils.  So this creates a problem for aromatherapists, because they have been taught ingestion can be dangerous and should be followed by a doctor and are very frigid in their approach on this, at least online that was my experience.  Plus they seem generally annoyed that Wellness Advocates (WA) with MLMs are making health recommendation that could potentially be dangerous or create an oil injury.  Additionally they tend to get into full blown attacks on social media, accusing MLM reps of being in it for the money and not caring about health.

MLMs dislike the advice of aromatherapists, because what they have been taught by other WAs is ingestion is okay.  There are countless issues with WAs making posts that claim or suggest using oils in an unsafe manner compared to holistic aromatherapy standards.  To be clear, ingestion can happen under the right circumstances with the right qualified practitioner, but holistic aromatherapists don't have enough training for this and WAs are usually not trained at all to give this advice.  This doesn't mean I am or any association in Canada as far as I know against internal uses, they just don't have enough training to safely do so.

As you can imagine, this created a little bit of conflict on my part, as in my profession I am taught one thing, but in my business I am seeing other things happen.  So my curious self, did some digging around, attended some workshops and course, and read some research papers and here is my opinion on the whole Aromatherapists vs. doTERRA.  Please note I am not advocating for other MLMs, because I actually disagree with some of their positions on things from a science and aromatherapy perspective, that doesn’t mean I go making bad remarks about the company or people who use them, they are just not my preferred brand based on my advanced knowledge in this field.

So let’s truly analyze these issues with some science to back it up.

MLMs are in it to make money….

First let’s be clear, every business is in it to make money, I mean how else do you justify doing anything that costs money.  If you aren’t making money, then it’s just a hobby.

Some aromatherapists feel this very strongly, but I have yet to meet an aromatherapist that will give you an oil for free, or a massage for free, at least not without some other reason like a case study or an experiment, both designed to eventually make them money.  Additionally, many aromatherapists take their creations and make them up 5 fold, that’s 500% mark up, so obviously they are making money off oils, not that far off from MLMs.

MLMs have a markup too, the mark up is based on 7 levels of commission, I estimate to be around 33% of the item cost and any additional markup will go into things like customer service salaries, website development, etc.

The average markup in business is 55%, that’s what you are paying for most of the things you buy from a store, 55% more than the actual cost.

MLMs don’t care about health….

This statement makes zero sense in my opinion, if a company didn’t care about the side and health effects of their products, and those products could and would cause bad reactions if misused, do you think the company would survive?

DoTERRA has a several sections throughout their website that recommends people consult with their doctor before using their product.  And if you call customer service and ask a question about health, like can I use essential oils on my baby, they will tell you to talk to a doctor.  This in my opinion means they do care about health.  The customer service rep is not a doctor, so the fact that they said to contact one is caring.  In fact if you want to look up oils for most specific conditions, you won’t find them on doTERRA’s website, they don’t make disease claims.  They do however provide safe usage guidelines.

Aromatherapists care too.  They generally will sit down and take a detailed look at your issue and provide you with a very specific recommendation based on what you share.  Often this will be one or a few blends for your specific issues, along with some cautions, like don’t ingest or keep out of eyes.

The reality is, if any company producing health care products didn’t care about its customer base, it would not thrive, because every time a customer experienced a negative reaction, they would be turned off by the company or its products.  And social media grievances results in bad business or loss of business, so being safe it top priority.

MLMs practice unsafe oil usage….

This area gets a lot of scrutiny from several angles, not just aromatherapists, but after more research into why they do have the things they do on their usage, I discovered there is a lot that people don’t know about aromatherapy.

For example, if aromatherapists can’t suggest ingestion and they feel strongly WAs shouldn’t, who can?  The answer to my question is this, only those who are covered by their professional scope of practice to advice on things they have been taught.  What does that mean?  If you were a doctor let’s say and you got training as an aromatherapist, your insurance and professional body might allow you to advocate for essential oils.  However if you want to advocate for ingestion, you will need advanced training, not the limited holistic training available in Canada.  So I would suggest that if a health care professional wanted to take this route, your training would like have to come from a country like France or Australia and then your insurance company and professional body would have to be willing to accept it.

All that being said, Aromatherapy is an unregulated industry in Canada and nothing stops WAs from recommending ingestion because of this.

DoTERRA does offer supplements and suggest ways essential oils can be used internally, however if you look closely at their websites, they also say consult a doctor and their statements are not FDA approved.  At no point do they suggest or make themselves out to be health care professionals they are not, nor do they actually make medical recommendations, they just have suggested uses.  Some will argue that putting the responsibility on the consumer to use products wisely is actually irresponsible.  I disagree with this, take websites like, you can buy countless vitamins or health shops, you can walk in and buy just about any natural health product, but some products are unsafe if misused.  But I don’t see those health shops and websites getting the same kind of scrutiny.

Sometimes I see WAs making unsafe recommendations, this can reflect badly on doTERRA, but I highly doubt they understand their recommendation is unsafe and there are mistakes in every business model.  I do know that doTERRA educates on compliance, which is basically ensuring WAs understand safety and following FDA guidelines, but it doesn’t prevent people from ever making a mistake.  I have seen even aromatherapists make oil choices that are unsafe, these mistakes can happen anywhere.  Ever hear the saying those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

MLMs cost way too much money to buy products from…

You get what you pay for, quite literally in the essential oil world.  I know some will argue that oils can be sourced for cheaper, and that may be true, but are they really the essential oils you want.  Some oils can’t be sourced cheaper, take Frankincense for example, it comes from the resin of an 80 year old tree in India.  Do you think that 80 years of growing and then carefully extracting the resin that creates the essential oil with the distillation process, plus shipping could bring you a bottle of Frankincense for $15, uh NO!

Essential oils properly distilled and sourced from their original sources all over the world are not cheap , they cost money, you have to pay for the material, the distillation process, farming the plants, testing, shipping, bottles, etc.  For some oils, this can be cheaper, like lemon, but others this can expensive because of that variable or the fact that they are a plant that requires special harvesting and yields a very low amount of oil.  Take Rose for example, one bottle of 5ml essential oil is rumoured to take 18,000 roses, but yet we buya dozen roses in a store for $60, if you do the math the same way, 5ml of rose essential oil should cost $90,000.  It doesn’t by the way, but it does go for a few hundred dollars, which makes sense.

So do essential oils cost more from doTERRA, in my experience if you want whole unadulterated oils, with access to GSMS testing by lot number, from a company that is fair trade and offers integrity, then no.  If you want expensive chemical perfumes disguised as essential oils, cut with other cheaper oils, with zero access to testing reports and grows their products in warehouses to obtain false organic certificates, then maybe.

In my experience, my local health shop carries one brand of oils I believe to be comparable and they cost about the same as doTERRA.  So no, they don’t cost more in my opinion.  Actually with all the benefits doTERRA offers its customers with reward programs, I save a lot of money compared to buying them at a store.

Additionally, doTERRA offers lines of body care products and vitamins that are superior to anything I have ever used from a health shop.  If you want toxic free ingredients, there is definitely a mark up there, because everything in natural products costs more to product.  But my doTERRA shampoo and conditioner actually costs less than my health shop versions, in fact some of my favourite health Shoppe brands were nearly twice as much.

Essential Oil University is a Facebook page that has some public posts about essential oil pricing and talks about how to use price point as a method of distinguishing true oil from a fake.

Aromatherapists just hate MLMs….

I can see where this rumour started, having attended events or listened to some of the most recognized chemists and aromatherapists in the world, many are not fans of MLMs and they express that openly.  Take a certain well known aromatherapist for example; his New Years resolution was “Do Not think evil thoughts of Gary Young”.  This is a big deal, because many aromatherapists respect his opinion on essential oils, he is a the author of an Essential Oil Safety book, the only book to date that documents the science and research into what safe usage is, the author of one of the first English books on aromatherapy and is known for sparking interest in the field.  Or a weekend course I attended run by a well-known Australian chemist, he commented several times throughout the course about his distaste for Mr. Young and his experiences with him. To be clear I am sharing an experience and well known facts, I have no negative feelings towards Young Living or Mr. Young, if you are Young Living rep or user reading this, this is not an attack on you or your oil choice, simply my experiences.  I have heard good things about Young Living essential oils.  Nor is this an attack on those aromatherapy professionals, I am simply commenting on my experiences.

Let’s be clear, doTERRA is not Young Living!  Young Living has been around longer than doTERRA and was created by Gary Young.

DoTERRA was created by 6 founding executives that left Young Living feel free to investigate that yourself, this is not a website for company bashing.  Something worth noting, the lawsuit against doTERRA was vindicated, you can read about that here.

DoTERRA has scientists and doctors on staff or contracted to help with the purity of their products.

At its inception, I can only assume that doTERRA took what they learned from their previous professional experience and build a company with the addition of co-impact sourcing and superior 3rd party testing.  Co-impact sourcing is sourcing the oils from other countries from legacy farmers who use the money to sustain their families and communities.  Many essential oil companies grow a green house version of their oils in the states and in some cases they bought the seeds for those plants from countries with struggling farmers.....stealing that farmers chances of making any money from their products going forward.

Some of this basic knowledge could have been poor practices past down or misinformation.  If you look at the history of doTERRA, they have made great strides to be the best and safest essential oil company.  But because of this rough start if you will, many aromatherapist have a harsh opinion of their previous practices or instantly misjudge a post they don’t understand.  Additionally many aromatherapists just lump the two companies together, despite there being some pretty major differences.

But with the new advances of doTERRA growth, superior oils, and an opportunity to build a business like never before, I can assure you that new aromatherapists will not only be neutral on the topic of MLMs, but many will likely gravitate towards the business model.  Many existing aromatherapists aren’t making huge amounts of money, several of them do it for fun or just passion, which is great, but when you are using your holistic health practice as a source of income to pay bills, the MLM option offers you a chance to teach classes with superior education and respect….and obviously sustainable money.

Additionally with new developments in aromatherapy, where aromatic medicine will be advocating for internal use where the holistic model was not, I would forecast the distaste for MLMs on this basis will disappear.  In fact there is a lot of curiousity and personal development happening among reps to educate further, I wouldn't be surprised if most reps became qualified over the next 5 years.

With doTERRA recently becoming the largest essential oil company in the world and a leader in the health care industry as well as business development, they are quickly gaining respect by several people that were previously reluctant.

And the MLM model is genius for essential oil education and support.  When a consumer runs to a local grocery store to buy garbage oils that don’t work and are full of chemicals, they run the risk of reaction, they use it in unsafe ways and they don’t fully understand what it is they actually bought.  When a consumer joins doTERRA, they get a community of support, a sounding board for their personal concerns, they connect with like-minded people, they are empowered to make safer health choices, they get science based answers and recommendations, and they are educated on ways to filter out those toxic oil knock offs from true pure oils.  Even an aromatherapist can’t offer all that, they can offer some of it, but not all it.

Rhonda Greenbury

Modern hippie mama of 5 bio babes and an adoptive teens. Passionate about natural health and helping people heal and the life you always wanted in a body that will enjoy it!