DoTerra is a somewhat notorious company in the world of essential oils. They’re an MLM (Multi Level Marketing) company who’s come under heat with FDA for making false claims about their oils, and have left a lot of customers feeling untrustworthy of huge essential oil retailers. While we view MLM as a problematic business practice and definitely don’t condone making false claims about the benefits of essential oils, we wanted to find out for ourselves what kind of product DoTerra produces. With past indiscretions and current skepticisms in mind, we sought to get a deeper understanding of DoTerra’s essential oils themselves. Read on to learn how we rate this company, or read our complete roundup to see how they compare to other popular brands.
A quick overview of how the FDA regulates essential oil marketing claims
Believe it or not, a very similar Essentials Kit from doTerra was the first set of essential oils that I owned, and actually what sparked our interest in EOs. It's a great starter pack with a few of the basics - single oils like Lavender and Tea Tree - but also a few of doTerra's proprietary blends: like Breathe, one of their most popular. This is a great kit for those just starting off, or a great value option to stock up on some great oils! Anything less than 150$ for this kit is a steal in our books.
Our absolute favourite dōTerra blend to diffuse - Serenity. We use this day or night, although we find we use it most often while either practicing yoga or before getting to bed. The lavender, chamomile and marjoram is soothing and calming, with the ylang ylang bringing a very grounding, earthy tone to the scent. This is such a great oil for bringing calm and restfulness to the space around you.
PastTense is one of the more unique scents that we've come across in our journey with essential oils. But, to clarify, that's a good unique! And it's perfect for a roller to soothe muscles, headaches and promote calm and healing. Peppermint, frankincense and basil invigorate, while lavender, marjoram and chamomile stimulate healing and calm. This is a great migraine or sore muscle cure, or reducing stress and anxiety.
There is a lot of skepticism around the purity of DoTERRA oils. DoTERRA claims that purity is one of the most important metrics to measure the quality of an oil by,with their own in-house testing program designed to ensure the highest purity of oils.
but don’t back this claim up with a lot of scientific evidence. It is worth commenting that the purity of an essential is not something everyone needs to be concerned about. If your only interest in essential oils is to fill a room with a pleasant aroma, synthetic or less pure oils are a cheap and perfectly fine alternative. The reason people care about the purity is that 1) it tends to reflect more ethical, sustainable business practices 2) the aroma will be much more pleasant and the oil can potentially be used topically 3) the therapeutic aspects are only present in pure oils that contain the natural constituents.
DoTERRA claims that their growing, harvesting and distilling process are all designed to produce some of the purest oils available. This is largely true of the distillation process. As for the growing and harvesting, it is up for debate. DoTERRA sources from all around the world, claiming that harvesting plants in their native land results in more pure oils. Whether you take that as legitimate or mere marketing is at your own discretion. DoTERRA does not, like most companies, advertise their products as 100% pure. Most of their blends are diluted with carrier oils, but this is mostly because they advertise their products as being safe for topical use. However, none of this means that DoTerra’s oils are any less pure than another company’s. It simply means that they test and market their purity levels differently - something you should keep in mind when comparing one brand to the other.
How an essential is extracted from a botanical has a huge affect on the resulting quality. The best extraction methods are steam distillation and cold press. Steam distillation is typically used for roots, leaves and herbs whereas cold press is used for fruits and citruses.
DoTERRA lists the extraction method of each essential oil on their website, and we’re glad to find that they use mostly steam distillation and cold press. While this bodes well for the quality of their oils, there are a lot of other factors that contribute the purity of an oil. Let’s take a look.
If you’re familiar with DoTERRA, you’ve probably heard widely contested views on their CPTG testing. The problem with CPTG is that it is a label completely invented by DoTERRA and is done all in-house. There is no third party involved in verifying its efficacy or in certifying other essential oils as such, unlike the industry standard GC/MS testing which can be verified by a third party. DoTERRA also came under heat for claiming that CPTG was FDA certified, when in reality the FDA had nothing to do with it. Not surprisingly, this made DoTERRA come off as a deeply untrustworthy company.
So what is CPTG? If you look at their website, the process involves an extensive list of tests. These include:Organoleptic testing (basically smelling the product), microbial testing, gas spectrometry, mass spectrometry, FTIR, heavy metal testing and more. As you’ll notice, CPTG includes the industry standard GC/MS testing. All things considered, these testing procedures are some of the most diligent and extensive of any company. Some people understandably take issue with the fact that these tests are done without a third party, but it doesn’t mean the tests are invalid. Rather, it seems DoTerra is setting a higher bottom line for the quality of their product. The issues with this certification was never that it was inferior to DoTerra's competitors. Rather, the issue was that DoTerra claimed it was superior when in reality some of these claims were deceptive. In our opinion this test appears to be very similar to what most other companies are doing.
One thing missing from DoTERRA’s line of products is organics. The company claims that it is simply impossible to certify their products as organic considering they are globally sourced. Since the certification standards can vary from state to state, and isn't even available in certain countries, this is actually valid. You can’t just purchase raw botanicals and prove that they are organic, you have to carefully select your whole supply chain and only use farms that are certified organic to begin with. Because of the size of the company and the quantity of oils they produce, it would likely be extremely expensive for them to launch an organic line.
DoTERRA essential oils are definitely in the upper end cost wise. 5mL singles can be quite pricey, even for your most basic singles. Some oils are offered in 10mL bottles, which are also relatively expensive. However, they do offer wholesale prices on all of their oils. If you are a regular buyer, this seems quite appealing. However, be warned, like most MLMs it can get complicated.
First you pay $35 to sign up, or you purchase an enrollment kit. That earns you 25% off the advertised price. With the 25% discount, DoTERRAs oils are somewhat competitive with what you see from other brands. Still a little pricey, but not too bad. You are also encouraged to sign up for the loyalty rewards program, where you can get “up to 30%” of your order value credited back to your account to put towards future orders. However, to keep earning the points you have to buy enough every month to have a “personal value” of $50 (which you would think is $50, but it’s not based on the retail pricing) and you need to set up an automatic shipment every month. Then you have to wait 60 days to redeem the points, pay a redemption fee, and keep hitting your monthly target for 13 months if you want to get up to the advertised 30% discount.You aren’t locked in and you can cancel. But you basically have to make a choice. Either you pay a huge premium on the oils, or you jump through a lot of hoops in order to get them at what we’d consider to be fair market value.
As we’ve said before, you get what you pay for when it comes to essential oils. DoTerra’s prices are pretty high compared to others, but a lot of that has to do with their extensive sourcing and testing. Some people have a hard time paying higher prices for essential oils, especially when they’re not organic. However, they have a large selection and fairly in-depth testing. If you’re just buying one or two, we think that they’re a little too expensive. But if you think that you’d use a lot of oil every month, then you can get pretty good bang for your buck if you’re subscribed.
DoTERRA is an MLM (Multi Level Marketing) company, which means they sell their products through representatives who work entirely on commission. This can mean pretty aggressive sales and marketing tactics, including misleading claims about their products. In the past DoTERRA has come under heat from the FDA for claiming their oils might cure serious ailments such as high cholesterol, ebola, staph infections, and hepatitis C. These marketing tactics are part of the reason we tend to think unfavorably toward MLM companies, but not everyone has a problem with it, and it doesn’t mean the products are low quality.
Furthermore, as far as the website is concerned, they also seem to have toned down on the overly generous claims about the benefits of their oils.
DoTERRA practices some questionable (though not inherently problematic) business tactics like MLM and inventing their own quality assurance certification, but overall they do make good quality products. Their extensive sourcing and testing procedures result in a huge variety of top quality oils. If you take issue with MLM as a general rule, or if you’re looking for a product in line with local sourcing, organics, non-GMO and other related qualities, DoTerra is probably not your best bet. However, if you’re more concerned with high quality, pure oils and a variety of options, DoTerra is a great choice.
Overall, we think doTERRA's products are great. But if you're like us and you'd prefer to support another company vs an MLM, you may want to shop around a little more. We put together a comprehensive guide of essential oil brands that you can look through to find more great essential oils if you think they may suit your needs better!