By Kristen Anderson
In September of 2014, the FDA began a coordinated attack on companies that market essential oils. The top brands are dōTERRA and Young Living. Both companies offer essential oils to help manage a variety of symptoms ranging from headaches to anxiety to hyperactivity. Many essential oil users claim to have eliminated the need for over-the-counter medications due to using specific combinations of essential oils to target common maladies.
Back in 2014, Young Living received a warning that you can see on the FDA’s website. It seems they had conducted a thorough search of the Internet, including websites, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, and cited instances that Young Living essential oils were mentioned in conjunction with a medical diagnosis. For example, “Eucalyptus Blue essential oil has antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.” And, “Since I have become an avid Young Living essential oil user I have learned all about the anti-microbial properties of so many oils, including ANTI-VIRAL constituents in many of our essential oils.”
The FDA requested
that you notify this office in writing within 15 working days from your receipt of this letter of the current status of your corrective actions and the specific steps you have taken to correct the noted violations. In your response, include documentation of your corrective actions. If you cannot complete all corrections before you respond, we expect that you will explain the reason for your delay and please include a timetable for the implementation of any remaining corrections.
It seems that dōTERRA had received similar notification, as they released a public letter to their Wellness Advocates on July 13th, 2015 explaining that they continue to review concerns presented by the FDA last September and have instituted new policies effective immediately.
For example, Wellness Advocates can no longer maintain independent websites listing the ways essential oils have benefited them – all websites must be cookie-cutter sites issued by dōTERRA with approved language on them. They asked the advocates to “scrub” their PERSONAL and business social media accounts of any mention of dōTERRA products as well.
A Wellness Advocate from dōTERRA reported on 7/17/15 that PRIVATE and PASSWORD PROTECTED pages of her blog had been accessed by the FDA, which had made a complaint to dōTERRA requiring that the pages be edited or eliminated. Let me put that another way. Private citizens may not share written information on the Internet about how essential oils have improved their health, the health of their families, or the health of their clients.
Now let’s be fair. In the FDA’s complaint to Young Living, they cited several instances where essential oils were being marketed for their ability to kill the Ebola virus. If all it took to kill the Ebola virus was waving some cinnamon bark and oregano, the death toll for the latest outbreak would not have surpassed 10,000. It IS the FDA’s job to protect consumers from claims that products can cure us of diseases. But it is also our First Amendment right to share how anything has helped or harmed us. If an essential oil has helped me reduce my dependence on pain medication or antibiotics, shouldn’t I be allowed to tell you about it? No matter who I work for?
A large percentage of the population is interested in natural remedies and natural health. Many times, natural remedies can reduce our symptoms without side effects and at a fraction of the cost of a doctor visit and a prescription. But natural remedies come at a cost, and that cost is to Big Pharma.
Pharmaceutical companies are losing big money as researchers show what humans have known for a long time: by improving our health through diet, exercise, and natural remedies, we can avoid most reasons to go to the doctor and consume both over-the-counter and prescription drugs.
The FDA differentiates between cosmetics and drugs on its website.
If a product is intended only to cleanse the body or to make a person more attractive, it’s a cosmetic. So, if a product such as a shower gel is intended only to cleanse the body, or a perfume or cologne is intended only to make a person smell good, it’s a cosmetic.
If a product is intended for a therapeutic use, such as treating or preventing disease, or to affect the structure or function of the body, it’s a drug. For example, claims that a product will relieve colic, ease pain, relax muscles, treat depression or anxiety, or help you sleep are drug claims.
Such claims are sometimes made for products such as soaps, lotions, and massage oils containing “essential oils” and marketed as “aromatherapy.” The fact that a fragrance material or other ingredient comes from a plant doesn’t keep it from being regulated as a drug.
Under the law, drugs must meet requirements such as FDA approval for safety and effectiveness before they go on the market. To find out if a product marketed with drug claims is FDA-approved, contact FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER), at [email protected].
The FDA argues that dōTERRA and Young Living are marketing their products as drugs without being FDA approved. Almost a year after their initial probe, these companies now risk armed federal marshals coming to their warehouses and seizing all of their inventory. But the companies have argued that their consultants are not employees and are allowed to say whatever they want about these products. If I buy chocolate chip cookies from a wholesale distributor and then set up a website claiming that these cookies cure infertility, is it the wholesale distributor’s fault? Are they responsible for how I market their cookies?
The FDA has added information on its page about the toxicity of essential oils. Yet the American Association of Poison Control Centers has 0 deaths on record from essential oils. How many people die each year from FDA regulated drugs? Have you ever heard of anyone becoming addicted to essential oils? Do any drug dealers sell essential oils on the street corners of your city? Have you ever heard of anyone being murdered because of the sale of illicit essential oils?
If the FDA gets their way, they will either silence the essential oil companies or they will force them to get their oils FDA approved. What does that mean for consumers? Big money and long waits. If oils are to be approved for the relief of specific symptoms, they have to undergo lengthy and expensive testing which will ultimately be paid for by us.
Aromatic plant oils precede medicine and pharmaceutical products by thousands of years. The National Institutes of Health’s website has published thousands of peer-reviewed studies proving the benefits of these oils. There is big healing, but not big money in essential oils. You can’t patent a plant, so paying for an FDA study for a product that anyone can create at home is out of the question.
Only time will tell the future of the essential oil industry. Humans have been using essential oils safely and effectively for thousands of years, let’s hope the FDA doesn’t succeed in taking down one of nature’s biggest gifts to us.
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