Despite being one of the most prominent essential oil distributors in the country, Young Living is notorious for its questionable sales tactics and concerning legal issues. One of the most well known is their run-in with the FDA for promoting essential oils as treatments for MS, ebola, and numerous other serious diseases. Not surprisingly, this has led many consumers to view the company, and other MLMs in general, as untrustworthy. Several purveyors have publicly sworn off the company entirely. In spite of all that, there are still many people using Young Living’s oils every single day. While we certainly don't consider these products to be of inferior quality, these practices are not something we look for when choosing the best essential oil brands.
So, how concerned should you be about this company? Do these business practices influence the quality of their oils? Have they reformed their behavior since their warning? To find out, we decided do some research on the company. We took a look at everything from the sourcing and testing of of the oils themselves, right down to their current business practices.
Young Living's most popular and well known line of products is their "Thieves" products. It's a rich and spicy blend of rosemary, clove, cinnamon, eucalyptus and a handful of other botanicals - including a hint of lemon. This balanced blend of earthy tones with a citrus top note makes it great for diffusion, as well as cleaning mixtures. We love using the Thieves oil in a diffuser while doing chores around the house as its energizing and purifying aroma fills the space.
To be completely frank, we don't use a lot of Young Living's products (find out why further down the article). But, this is one of those products that we actually loved. You roll on a diluted blend of essential oil which provides a bright and fresh aroma, and a cooling and soothing sensation to tense or sore muscles. Some folks have had issues with their rollers leaking before they've had the chance to use it - something happening during shipping - but we personally didn't have these issues.
Young Living's Purification essential oil blend is another one of the products they produce that we really enjoyed. This is a really well-designed blend, containing lemongrass, lavandin (a lavender hybrid) rosemary and citronella. It may be a little strong for some people's tastes, but we love this blend for use as insect repellent thanks to the lemongrass and citronella. A couple dabs will keep those mosquitoes away on those summer nights.
Sourcing is just the beginning when it comes to producing a high quality, pure essential oil. even if the botanical is properly sourced, poor distillation methods and using additives in the production process can drastically affect the results. One of the biggest factors in producing a high quality product is the extraction method used.
Young Living uses primarily steam distillation and cold press for their essential oils. From a purity perspective, these are the best methods to use. Unlike many companies, however, Young Living does not readily advertise their distillation processes. This means you can’t be certain exactly which method was used for a given product. This is tricky because some botanicals work best with steam distillation, while others should be pressed.
Most are labelled as YLTG (Young Living Therapeutic Grade). By definition, using the optimal distillation method is a requirement for any product carrying this label. However, this designation is not verified by any 3rd party and Young Living is somewhat subpar in terms of transparency here. According to some, "theraputic grade" labels are confusing and misleading.
This doesn’t mean that Young Living oils are not pure. They are one of the largest manufacturers, so they have a lot of resources that others don’t. At this scale, it wouldn’t make sense for them to cut corners on production. Even though the company doesn’t offer nearly as much transparency for production as they do with sourcing, we don’t have any evidence that suggests young living oils are any less pure than other products on the market. However, you do have to take their word for it.
If an essential oil is properly and vigorously tested, it is less important to know exactly which extraction method was used. This is because poor extraction methods simply won’t produce a high quality oil. So while distillation methods for individual oils are not as easy to find compared to other companies, Young Living’s saving grace is their extensive testing methods.
Young Living conducts over 18 individual that include GC/MS, pH, densitometry, Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy, polarimetry, chiral chromatography among others. If this doesn’t mean much to you, you’re not alone. But what this means is that Young Living is carrying out lab-grade tests to confirm the purity of their oil on a number of levels. Any manufacturing problems or impurities can not slip by undetected. Young Living conducts both in house tests as well as third party testing to supplement their internal findings.
So what does all this mean for purity? Realistically, some of the tests conducted are probably overkill. But without a doubt, Young Living puts their oils through extensive procedures to guarantee their purity. And pure essential oils not only have better aromas, but the proper constituents to allow therapeutic benefits.
Young Living is an MLM company. They don’t have the standard supplier / consumer relationship you find with most companies. Purchases are generally made from a representative who earns commission on each product sold. In order to get the oils at a discount, consumers are encouraged to sign up to subscribe to wholesale shipments of the oils. Members can earn money by selling the oil, but it’s very common for people to end up paying for much more product than they can actually sell.
As we’ve expressed, one of the major concerns with this business structure is that it leads to aggressive sales tactics and often dangerous false claims about the product. They were issued a warning by the FDA for claiming that their products have medicinal properties that can cure diseases including MS, PTSD, autism, diabetes and ebola.
In another situation, DoTerra, one of the major players in this industry, was involved with a lawsuit with Young Living over trade secret theft. Clearly this is not something we stand behind, and consider it deeply irresponsible as a company. While we fully support the surprising and natural benefits of essential oils, we encourage our readers to do their research and be wary of the kinds of claims made by these MLM companies. Encouraging consumers to use unproven treatments for dangerous diseases is extremely unethical, and our opinion is that multi-level marketing tends to offer significantly more risk than reward. While we have no qualms about the quality of Young Living’s products, their business practices are one of the primary reasons we prefer to avoid them.
That being said, it does look like Young Living is working to change it’s reputation. It’s involved with numerous organizations that strive for more ethical, sustainable business practices. Examples include the Lacey Act Compliance Program, Reforestation, Direct Selling Association (DSA) Code of Ethics, and more. However, we are not sure what their involvement with these organizations actually involves.
Young Living essential oils are certainly on the higher end of products cost wise. Similar to doTerra, they also offer wholesale prices on their oils. This is mostly because their representatives have to purchase the oils off of them, but they make the prices available online to average consumers who want to buy in bulk as well. Usually at this price point we would hope to get organic oils. However, the cost can vary quite a bit from oil to oil, and there are some that we found to be reasonable. Special blends and rare oils go for more, whereas more common oils are more affordable.
Additionally, as a large company, you’ll find varieties that are much harder to find elsewhere. Some of our favorite examples are their black pepper (single) or thieves oil (a blend of clove, cinnamon, lemon, eucalyptus and rosemary).
Although they are pricey, Young Living does produce very high quality oils. Their extensive research, sourcing and testing methodologies do somewhat justify their price. At the end of the day, consumers need to decide for themselves what their priorities are when buying a product like essential oils. If you are concerned about their history of misguiding consumers and their MLM business practices, you can certainly find high quality oils at more competitive prices from smaller, more reputable companies. However, if you understand how essential oil treatments work and are as satisfied as we are with the quality of Young Living oils, then you may find them to be a good value product.
Large MLM essential oil companies like doTerra and Young Living have been extensively criticized for some of their business practices. For one, the overall structure of MLM companies is conducive to aggressive sales tactics and pitches that can have consequences for sales reps and consumers alike.
Most concerning are the false claims made by these companies in the past about the effectiveness and uses for their oils. Beyond stretching the science behind the health benefits of oils, come companies (including Young Living) have gone as far as to say they can cure serious disease. So there is no doubt in our mind that these false claims, whether they be made by Young Living themselves or just an overly ambitions rep, have lead to people getting duped into buying a product under false pretences.
But this isn’t the standard. If you chose to buy their products as an educated consumer, you will likely get what you pay for. As long as you mindful about a business’ claims and practices, there is no harm in using Young Living oils.
As we've discussed, Young Living makes some high quality oils, but their business practices are slightly questionable. We like a handful of the products they produce (pretty much just the three we listed above) but there are some other good ones too. If you are interested in shopping around some more, check out our guide to essential oil brands and see if another company perhaps produces something that is more your taste.