I recently saw a person on social media selling a Young Living brand ‘natural, doctor-created’ progesterone-infused essential oil.
The person’s post made some very bold claims that implied – she was smart enough to not make direct claims – that this product could help with postpartum depression and hormone balance. One of her graphics suggested that women could throw away their birth control aka ‘synthetic hormones,’ in favor of this oil.
Welp. I didn’t like what this person was doing, so I messaged her.
Predictably, she denied that her messaging was misleading.
But here’s the thing:
Oils can’t prevent postpartum depression. If you have postpartum depression or any other serious mental health issue, you need real medical care, not oils.
Essential oils can’t balance hormones, and they shouldn’t be used instead of hormone medications. There’s absolutely no evidence that backs up what she’s saying, yet she and so many other essential oil salespeople are making the hormone claim, as well as saying that oils cure trauma, endometriosis, deafness, and pretty much anything else out there.
The essential oil community seems like it’s full of people who eschew conventional science in favor of their own beliefs. Normally, I’d be fine with this, because hey – believe whatever you want. Essential oils have been around for centuries, and so has aromatherapy: the research behind aromatherapy is mixed, but in general, it’s probably fine to diffuse oils into the air.
But when people are selling a ‘cure’ for incurable conditions and illnesses, and giving harmful, incorrect information out as though it’s fact, I need to stand up.
There’s just so much misleading and potentially dangerous content out there about essential oils, that I can’t NOT write about it.
Take this post by a Young Living salesperson:
Telling people that the essential oil product you sell is comparable to Xanax, a prescription anxiety medication, crosses the line. Okay, it crosses a lot of lines.
Just like essential oils not being able to balance hormones, there’s no evidence whatsoever that essential oils can help with depression, ADHD, anxiety, trauma, or anything else on this graphic. They’re also not necessarily safer just because they’re ‘natural’ – a word that really has no official meaning.
If a person wants to use them along with the medication they need, fine. But trying to convince people that they can reject conventional meds for alternative therapies?
That’s dangerous and foolish. Sorry, your essential oil mixture (that’s probably formulated to use as many oils as possible so customers have to $$ buy them all $$ to make it) isn’t going to heal someone from their self-esteem issues or ADHD.
MLMs and essential oils.
Young Living and Doterra are two of the most popular brands of essential oils, and both are sold by multi-level marketing (MLM). If you’ve followed me for a while, you already know that I think MLM companies are predatory and evil. They target women, and although some people make money from selling MLM products, the sad truth of the matter is that this is only a small percentage. The rest – like, X% – either break even, make very little, or lose money.
(Read about my issues with nutrition MLMs and their coaches)
I generally don’t review non-nutrition MLMs, but because Young Living and Doterra make plenty of nutrition and weight-related claims about their products, I feel justified reviewing them.
I did do separate Young Living and Doterra reviews a few years back, but the person above ignited my desire to update those and consolidate them into one updated essential oil review. You all deserve to know the truth about essential oils and the claims that these companies make, and how they stack up to the current science.
The fact that Young Living has a weight loss line is sort of flabbergasting.
Their products seem to be the standard nutrition MLM offerings, except with an essential oil add-in:
There’s the protein powder, with its proprietary formula (natch) and essential oils.
There’s the ubiquitous cleansing treatment, with cumin, anise, and fennel oils that supposedly help to ‘detox’ your body.
We know that no body needs a detox that comes in a bottle/pill/shake – that’s old news.
We know that protein powder is…well, protein powder.
But then, there are the actual weight loss products.
Essential oils for weight loss? What?
Some essential oil enthusiasts will tell you that ingesting certain oils can help control hunger, speed up metabolism, and promote fat-burning.
Here’s are the claims that Young Living makes about its Slique Essence product:
And in case you’re not into eating oils, there’s a Slique gum that apparently helps control your cravings:
Because when you’re hungry, nothing tastes as good as gum, right? Especially one that costs more than $1 a piece!
Also, what’s with the name ‘Slique?’ I don’t even want to go there.
Rest assured that it’s probably not going to matter how many Slique products you combine and add to your regimen – zero plus zero plus zero equals zero. Do you get what I mean? So, even though Young Living has a host of weight loss products, I don’t see any evidence behind any of them.
Doterra is not much different with respect to its essential oil weight loss claims and offerings. Heading to the ‘weight management’ tab on the Doterra website, I saw the 3-product ‘Slim and Sassy’ weight loss line.
Slim and Sassy, you read that right. You can’t be sassy unless you’re slim? Who uses the word ‘sassy’ anymore?
There’s a Slim and Sassy ‘metabolic blend’ oil to eat, some Slim and Sassy ‘metabolic blend’ pills to swallow, and some ‘metabolic’ gum to chew.
Doterra knows very well that when some potential weight loss customers hear the word ‘metabolic,’ they think, ‘easy weight loss!’ even when Doterra doesn’t say those exact words. Ka-ching!
The softgels are simply essential oils in a pill, and the dose is 3-5 pills a day. At that rate, a $48 bottle of 90 pills will last 18 days.
The Slim and Sassy metabolic gum has one whole drop of essential oil in each piece ($11.32 for 32 pieces), and apparently ‘helps manage hunger cravings.’ And the word ‘metabolic’ seems to imply that this gum does something to your metabolism that will lead to weight loss.
First off, I’ll tell you what manages hunger cravings (which, by the way, aren’t a thing – you’re hungry, or you have a cravings. I’m assuming here they mean hunger AND cravings) – FOOD.
FOOD MANAGES HUNGER. AND. CRAVINGS.
As far as the other claims, absolutely nothing about essential oils have ever been shown to raise metabolic rate and rate of fat loss. It’s absurd, actually, that companies can make these claims at all. The same is true for the other ingredients in these supplements: no food, drink, or supplement burns fat or raises metabolism high enough or long enough to achieve significant weight loss.
If it worked, everyone would do it. Oh, and the FDA would have regulated it by now. And no, MLMs don’t know something that the FDA and all the scientists in the world (who don’t work for them) have somehow missed.
Can you consume essential oils?
Some oils may interact with medications, and some may cause liver toxicity.
Certain essential oils do have some legitimate, positive health effects (but maybe some negative ones, as well):
Peppermint oil has been shown to help alleviate the symptoms of IBS, but it may also induce early labor.
Tea tree oil may be antimicrobial, and lavender oil may be a relaxant, but both of these oils have also thought to be endocrine disruptors. A recent study, though, found that it’s unlikely that there’s a causal relationship between these oils and hormones.
Some oils are antimicrobial, but the research around this has been done in a lab, not in humans. Just because an ingredient has certain properties in a lab dish, doesn’t mean we should start eating it to see if it has the same effect in our bodies.
Yet this is the way many essential oil and other nutrition MLM salespeople use the available research – they extrapolate the sort-of evidence that a product or ingredient works in a lab, to claiming it works in people.
Don’t be fooled, please.
Because oils aren’t water soluble, consuming them in liquid can be dangerous. This is because the oil will pool on the surface of the liquid, leading to a large dose being taken at one time.
And while we do eat natural essences of some plants in foods, the amounts that are actually used in the production of those items are very, very small. They’re also regulated as a food by the FDA – something MLM essential oils are not.
Eating something flavored with cinnamon is not the same as squirting dropperfuls of cinnamon essential oil into your mouth.
Don’t put essential oils into your teething baby’s mouth, onto your toothaches (see a dentist, please), or onto your lady bits to heal UTIs.
“Yoni.” I just can’t. I wish I could unsee that.
Please don’t eat oils for weight loss, either. Not only is it potentially dangerous (yes, even if they’re being sold for that use), as I said above, there is no evidence that the consumption of any essential oil will result in weight loss.
Instead of putting them straight into your body, if you want to use them, essential oils should be vaporized.
Repeat after me: ‘natural’ is not always safe! If someone is promoting a ‘natural’ cure and saying that it’s safer than its conventional counterpart, be suspicious.
Listen. People have free will, and if they want to choose complementary or alternative treatments to help them solve their health issues, they should have that option.
But when these treatments are sold using pseudoscience and false claims, that’s not okay.
It isn’t okay, because it gives people false hope.
It’s opportunistic and ethically wrong.
It supports a system that takes advantage of vulnerable people.
And, it’s potentially dangerous.
Essential oils can be part of a wellness routine IF they’re used correctly – not ingested. But the claims that people are making around oils are often overblown and false. Don’t waste your money on things that don’t work.