Three doTerra Formulations and Their Potential Risks When Taken Orally
By Julie Zeise
Having been first introduced to essential oils by friends that were just beginning to build businesses through doTerra I fully “bought” into everything doTerra had to say and sell. Now, five years later I have learned to be more discerning. I have been using oils myself and giving them to a few close friends over the past five years. Ill health had kept me mostly housebound, so I recently attended my first meeting several years. I immediately began to feel uncomfortable and to question the accuracy of the education that most doTerra representatives take as gospel. At that meeting it was recommended that people put OnGuard on their hands before handling new born babies, that everyone take two DDR prime softgels daily to maintain good health, and that Zendocrine is a perfect addition to a Spring Cleanse.
No one at the meeting questioned any of these recommendations. Nor, in my opinion, did any of the people presenting at the meeting have the knowledge or education to be “prescribing” these powerful oils. That night I knew I no longer wanted to be known as a “doTerra representative.” I decided to educate myself on essential oils, the safest way to use them and for what purposes, and about how they impact the human body, mind, and spirit. I also wanted to look more closely at the three of the doTerra formulas that I had been using daily for the past six years.
The three formulas are DDR Prime, OnGuard softgels, and Slim & Sassy. I took two capsules a day of DDR and OnGuard and put multiple drops of Slim and Sassy (or other Citrus oils) in water once or twice a day. Here is a listing of the essential oils in each of these products. DDR Prime contains Frankincense, Wild Orange, Lemongrass, Thyme, Summer Savory, Clove and Neroli. OnGuard is comprised of Wild Orange, Clove Bud, Black Pepper, Cinnamon Leaf and Bark, Eucalyptus, Oregano, Rosemary, and Melissa. Slim and Sassy includes Grapefruit, Lemon, Peppermint, Ginger and Cinnamon.
Before examining these formula oils, let’s look at the current research regarding the ingestion of essential oils in humans. Oh, wait, there isn’t much. Primarily research performed on essential oils uses rats or rabbits, and then extrapolates to humans. One tactic that some companies like to use is to claim that they carry only “Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade” (CPTG) oils, that are approved by the FDA. Two comments on this, first, CPTG is nothing more than a trademark, it has no scientific or safety guidelines attached to it, it literally means nothing, except it is a catchy marketing tool. Secondly, the Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) rating by the FDA includes substances where less than 38% of approved additives have any published feeding study, only 21.6% of food additives have known safety levels, and only 6.7% of these substances have safety data for pregnancy, nursing, or young children (1). Big essential oil companies get away with making the claims they do about the health guidelines of their oils with the asterisk (*) disclaimer, “These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.” Basically the “Supplemental Facts” labelling on most of the oils sold by doTerra tells you nothing about the potential side effects of taking them internally. Thousands of people assume they are safe because “Dr. Hill says they are.” I am particularly concerned about the lack of warnings given to using these oils on babies, young children, and pregnant women Although most oils carry a warning label against this. My experience is that the relatively small number of generic warnings put out about safety are generally not taken very seriously.
Kayla Fioravanti, who has studied and written extensively in the area of essential oils, has twelve rules for the use of oils, and the #1 rule is “Never use them internally.” She reminds us that oil and water don’t mix such that when swallowed essential oils reach your mouth, throat, esophagus, and stomach undiluted (2). Even doTerra warns to avoid mucus membranes when applying oils!
For my reference on the safety of essential oils,I used the book by Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young (3) , Essential Oil Safety. They report that clove, cinnamon, and eucalyptus are the most frequently reported oils having caused toxicity, and even death, in cases of being taken orally. (Many of these deaths involve children). They also talk about there being no clear information available on the ingestion of Frankincense, as most studies using Frankincense either have been performed on rats or rabbits and then extrapolated to humans, or if research was done on humans, the oil was not ingested. This is true for most of the studies done on essential oils and their impact on health. Let’s go down the list and see some of the more critical findings indicated in studies. Grapefruit oil is known to cause negative interactions with many medications, particularly blood pressure medications. Neroli interferes with diabetes medications and is potentially harmful during pregnancy. Orange oil was related to low birth weight and increased mortality in baby rats. Melissa is believed to interfere with diabetes medication, and ill-advised during pregnancy. Oregano interferes with medications, inhibits blood clotting, is toxic during pregnancy, and is irritating to mucus membranes. Savory has also been found to interfere with clotting. Peppermint, one of the oils that doTerra sells in many formats including beadlets, has a long list of contraindications, including; mucus membrane irritation, toxicity to unborn babies, neurotoxicity, immune system depressant, gastrointestinal toxicity, and liver toxicity. Rosemary is possibly a neurotoxic and is contraindicated in people with heart disease. One of the other issues mentioned with Rosemary, and is true with other oils, is that there are different chemotypes in certain oils which may cause them to behave differently than the ones studied. We also have no way of knowing the quality of the plants themselves.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from all of this is that essential oils are powerful substances, and many have potentially dangerous side effects. It is difficult not to be skeptical and wonder if these big MLM companies let making money take the place of good practices and common sense. In most cases a small amount of essential oil applied with a carrier oil, or taken aromatically, is just as effective, and much safer, than when taken internally. That may be why use of essential oils is referred to as “Aromatherapy!”
(1) Nelter, Jack, Maricel, & Maffinic, Data Gaps in Toxicity Testing of Chemicals Allowed in Food in the United States, Journal of Reproductive Toxicology, Vol. 42, December, 2013.
(2) Fioravanti, Kayla, Warnings dōTERRA & Young Living Won’t Tell You, July 30, 2014, https://kaylafioravanti.com/warnings-doterra-young-living-wont-tell-you/.
(3) Tisserand & Young, Essential Oil Safety, New York, Elsevier, 2014.
Julie Zeise lives in the Santa Cruz, CA area with her husband, two dogs, a cat, with her two young-adult children nearby. She has had careers in education, accounting, and family counseling. Five years ago, Julie had a “neurological event” that left her with continuous migraines, vertigo, debilitating fatigue, and a variety of neurological deficits. With the help of a small group medical and spiritual “guardian angels” Julie has made her way back to almost complete health. She is determined to support others who are facing health and aging challenges.
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