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A very honest answer to a Young Living essential oils question

an honest Young Living review

I got this email about a year ago:

Kristen,

I was wondering what your feeling is about the essential oil craze that is going on now? I am a member of Young Living but it is super expensive so I don’t order all the time. I also get from Eden’s garden and they are a lot cheaper with the same grade oils. I like them for certain things like air freshener and peppermint is awesome for headache and to help me sleep.

-Sonya

My friend Stacy from Humorous Homemaking is pretty high up in Young Living, so after I got this reader email, I signed up under Stacy and gave oils a test drive (with my own money. Nothing I’ve gotten from Young Living has been complimentary.)

Today, I’m gonna share my super honest thoughts with you, because my views on essential oils are pretty mixed.

What I DO believe about essential oils (and Young Living in particular)

Let’s start with the good!

1. They’re natural fragrances.

This is, in my opinion, the best use for essential oils: as replacements for the artificial fragrances that are in personal care and cleaning products.

It does seem rather clear that the artificial fragrances that many manufacturers use are not great for our bodies, and this is a view held not just by people in the essential oil community.

(For example, here’s an article from the U.S. National Library of Medicine.)

So, I think essential oils are a safer option than artificially scented candles and plug-in air fresheners, and they’re a better option for making cleaners and personal care products smell good.

My honest opinion of Young Living oils

2. There seem to be some benefits to some oils.

Consumer Reports lists a few benefits that have been studied, such as using lavender for anxiety.

I used the word “some’ in this section header, because I have a certain amount of skepticism about oily benefits.

I’m not saying I think every purported essential oil benefit is false, but before I feel positive that the oils do what people say they do, I’d want to see more actual studies, with control groups and such.

There are a zillion anecdotes out there, of course, but the plural of anecdotes is not data.

(This New Yorker article mentions a few studies, but points out that there have been “very few peer-reviewed, large scale studies” on essential oils.)

3. Breathing in good smells is enjoyable and relaxing.

I like diffusing a citrus blend, not for any health reasons or for any particular benefit. It just smells good; fresh and clean!

And anything that makes you stop and take deep, slower breaths is going to have a positive effect on you; not because of what you are breathing, but because you are breathing slowly.

My honest opinion of Young Living oils

4. Young Living’s oils are probably better than really cheap oils.

The cheap oils at Aldi or the ones at craft stores…I feel a little bit skeptical that those are very high quality, and I often see that they are mixed with a carrier oil.

I do think that Young Living oils are, generally, high quality. They offer a seed to seal promise, and they do own a lot of the farms (which are not just in the U.S.), but some of their oils come from partner farms or from other suppliers.

I would imagine this includes things like frankincense oil, which can’t exactly be farmed.

However, there still has been some controversy over how pure the YL oils actually are

(Here’s another news article about the purity of oils in general, with a mention of some YL testing.)

My honest opinion of Young Living oils

My essential oil issues (with some specific to Young Living)

While I’m not against essential oils (see above!), I am also not a die-hard convert, and here’s a list of reasons.

1. I wonder about the placebo effect.

Without blind studies to rule this out, it’s impossible to know how much the placebo effect is in play here.

In my observation, the essential oil community is big on positive thinking and believing that the oils will help, and so I wonder how much of the anecdotal benefits are because of the placebo effect.

The placebo effect is amazingly powerful (Harvard Health link), and honestly, if something non-toxic brings about a placebo effect, I think that’s fine and dandy.

However, I’d really like to know if the oils are doing something or if they’re not.  So, hopefully someone will do some studies!

My honest review of Young Living oils

2. I am skeptical about some of the blend claims.

Is lemon a refreshing, energizing smell that could make you feel perky?

Sure, I can believe that.

But I feel iffy about some of the more specific Young Living oil blend promises.

For instance, there’s a Finance oil, and the blurb says it,

“promotes a sense of well-being that encourages positive emotions and increased feelings of abundance. This uplifting aroma promotes a sense of clarity and alertness to help you focus on realizing your financial objectives.”

My honest view of Young Living oils

And the Forgiveness oil blurb says that the oil,

“contains an aroma that supports the ability to forgive yourself and others while letting go of negative emotions.”

Is it possible that if you diffuse Finance every time you work on your budget, that your brain will begin to associate that smell with financial responsibility?

Probably.

But I am not sure that the actual oil ingredients are bringing about feelings of abundance.

And is it possible that the same thing will happen if you diffuse Forgiveness while you sit quietly and pray? Sure.

But is the actual forgiveness oil doing anything in particular?

I am, at this point, unconvinced.

3. I do not love that Young Living is an MLM.

MLM = multi-level-marketing, like Mary Kay, Avon, Tupperware, Lularoe, etc

I know that YL says they decided on an MLM model because they wanted to be sure the people promoting their product were actually using the product.

(Even at lower levels in Young Living, you have to buy $100/month of product if you want to continue earning commissions, which does effectively guarantee that distributors will be using the products. But it also guarantees Young Living an income from each distributor.)

I’m not writing this post to bash MLMs (if you are in one and your income exceeds your expenses, then I will cheer you on!) but I will just say that for a wide variety of reasons, I do not love the setup of any MLM company.

Slightly related: D. Gary Young, the founder of Young Living, has a history that makes me uncomfortable.  (Consumer Reports link)

My honest view of Young Living oils

4. How much benefit is from the ingredients, and how much benefit is from what’s NOT in the products?

I do believe that many people who switch to Young Living products (personal care, cleaning products, etc.) experience clearer skin, relief from eczema, better breathing, and so on.

However, I wonder how much of that relief is because of what the products do not contain vs. what they do contain.

If it’s about what they do not contain, then you could obtain similar benefits from purchasing natural body/cleaning products from any number of sources, which could be non-MLM and also less expensive.

(For instance, I use bar soap and lip balm from Third Day Naturals. Their products are free of artificial fragrances, they’re scented with essential oils, all of the ingredients are things I feel good about putting on my body, and Third Day is a small family company, which is awesome. The soap is $4.95/bar and the lip balm is $2.95/tube. Very affordable.)

5. I’d prefer to eat food instead ingesting an oil.

Young Living sells a line of Vitality oils, which are recommended for ingesting. But it is definitely cheaper to just use actual cilantro, basil, limes, and so on.

6. Some of Young Living’s products, such as their diffusers, are really expensive.

For instance, the Aria diffuser (which IS really beautiful) costs over $300. And even a lot of the more basic diffusers are between $60 and $100.

I’ve had the Young Living starter kit diffuser ($87) for the same amount of time as one from Amazon ($20), and I cannot see any appreciable difference in their performance or longevity.

Which makes you wonder: Why are Young Living’s diffusers so expensive?

I understand that you get what you pay for to some degree. A $50 pair of jeans is going to be higher quality than a $12 pair.

But a $500 pair of jeans is probably not appreciably better than the $50 pair.

Young Living’s diffusers are hitting me sort of like those $500 jeans; I don’t think you’re really paying for quality when you shell out $100 for a diffuser.

By the way, if you already have a Young Living diffuser, you might be wondering, “Can I use non-Young Living oils in my Young Living diffuser?”

People from Young Living would probably tell you not to do it, but I can tell you that we’ve been using other oils in our Desert Mist starter kit diffuser and it is still working just fine.

My Essential Oil bottom line

I have a lot of unanswered questions that can really only be answered with more studies.

Until then, I think essential oils have their place, and can be useful, particularly in place of artificial fragrances.

I have my doubts about some of the claims and about how much credit the oils can be given, but if people are using them and feeling better, then I have no argument with that.

My future with Young Living

Because of the hesitations listed above, I am not going to be a distributor. I will probably buy some basic oils somewhere like Whole Foods, just for scent purposes, but I’m just not in a place to be wanting to spend $100/month at Young Living.

And I am not enthused enough about the products to be a high-producing distributor that can earn more than $100/month.

(Evidence: this whole post. I am just not a good YL salesperson!)

If you do want YL oils, buy the starter kit.

The starter kit comes with a diffuser, 12 of the basic essential oils, some Thieves cleaner, and a few more things too. It’s definitely the best YL deal if you are wanting a variety of basic oils to diffuse.

It’s what I first bought to try out, and it comes with some good scents, like lemon and citrus fresh (that one is my favorite).

The premium starter kit costs $165, so it’s definitely not cheap.

But you can buy the starter kit and as long as you don’t join the Essential Rewards auto-ship program, you are not obligated to any future purchases or shipments.

My honest view of Young Living oils

Honestly, though, I’d just go buy some oils from somewhere like Whole Foods or Sprouts and I’d get a dispenser somewhere else. I really like this one (branded “Earnest Living”. Ha.) from Amazon.

A white desk by a window.

And now, 1700 words later, we are at the end of what I have to say on essential oils.

What’s your opinion on essential oils? I’d love to hear in the comments.

P.S. I labored carefully over this post for hours, trying to be fair and honest, and I hope the post doesn’t read like a judgment on people who use essential oils or people who sell them. I’m just trying to honestly answer my reader’s question about what *I* think.

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Linda

Thursday 14th of October 2021

I for one highly doubt their oils are any better than Aldi oils but if they say it enough times it becomes so. The pricing difference is due to the mlm levels where uplines all need to take a cut. Also most mlms try to get your spouse and family members signed up too so oftentimes the monthly is $200 because they push for you to do this to "grow" your business. That's $2400 of after tax income just to be a part of their mlm....ouch! I'm impressed with your review of your friend's mlm business as most people would shy away from doing this!!

Analisa

Thursday 23rd of September 2021

My sister got me into YL and sold me on the benefits of using cleaner products, but I was always hesitant, mainly due to the price point. She brought up the Seed to Seal "promise" and how the company has total control over the whole process. That being said, I purchased the starter kit and the notorious $300 diffuser---yes I know! What can I say...she sold me! Since then, I have done a deep dive on the YL company as a whole and the founder and his not so ethical start into the business of essential oils---this guy has a past! I will diffuse what oils I have now, but don't see myself purchasing any more products due to the business practices and company as a whole. I am also very wary of the whole "seed to seal" marketing gimmick. It is a registered trademark, but not regulated by anyone other than YL. Sounds bogus to me! All in all, great unbiased post!

Sheri Rose

Tuesday 22nd of June 2021

You need to keep researching about the therapeutic effects of essential oils. Also, Young Living's MLM is not at all like Amway, Mary Kay, etc. You do not have to purchase inventory and peddle it. You do not have to sell it to get a discount. I have gotten I really don't see a problem with a corporate entity dedicated to employing millions. YL's global philanthropy is unrivaled. I will say your article is not hateful, but it lacks depth, which makes it misleading. All the criticisms I've read about doTerra and Young Living have to do with them being MLM entities. Not at all about their EOs. As to Young Living's essential oils---they are the only company who doesn't fractionally distill their oils. Look it up. Look up what fractional distillation and rectification means. It's an eye-opener. While I appreciate your attempt, your information, even with your citings you use, are still opinion, and they serve mostly to misinform. I don't think you mean for them to come across as half-truths like so many other articles denegrating MLMs and especially Young Living, but they are still opinion. Keep researching. People who down essential oil use have not used them or studied them enough. So when you are asked another question like the one you did well trying to answer in your article, please provide more depth. Each point you've tried to make here, and did pretty well, could be it's own book. There is so much more to essential oils than anyone can summarize in a trite blog post.

TideHyon

Saturday 3rd of July 2021

@Sheri Rose, I searched about this joke of a company after seeing lots of videos that accuse it of being a cult / shady MLM / a 'business' with a child murderer as a CEO (it was most probably unintentional, but he thinking is better than more experienced doctors or at least people from his surroundings with experience in medicine is just sad and laughable). How the hell you dare to even contest any of this person's claims, as she seems to be very well mannered in the way she presents the info. She clearly stated MLM sucks, but wanted to not offend anyone. She clearly stated that essential oils are useless (at best used as fragrances), but wanted to not offend anyone. And here you come with your usual MLM / cultish propaganda, trying to be 'nice', but in the same time attack the op. No, she was on point. You are the delusional thinking a company with a guy that was convicted for not posing any medical license when he sold 'products for cancer curing' is any trustworthy. Think I am going for ad hominem? Go and search about CEO's life. A company should be the founder's vision on some matter. If his vision was to avoid legal problems by selling 'magic products', while making shittons of money, congrats. Nobody needs to research about this company in how great it is, but actually the reverse. Maybe you are there too, and if you are: I just hope you are not only holding the bags for people like him. And if you are: just get on stocks, other types of investments, hell yeah, just go and gamble, its still more profitable. But I know people like you are going on with the propaganda. I know this will only generate more money for you. If you think that the company is critiqued only for their MLM model, and not for EOs, consider these: 1. Ofc you will shame a MLM company, anyone should do this and educate the people that are into the scheme. There are official studies that show that less than 0.4% of a pyramid product scheme actually make more money. 2.6% of people that gamble are actually making money. 2. EOs are some New Age stuff. Like it or not, it is what it is and you cannot simply bash the faith of some people, especially when you think that the most harmful EOs can be is when they are used instead of a serious treatment / medicine. But alt medicine is generally shit, New Age included.

So, DYOR on how society and life works first, don't buy into 'get rich quick' or 'invest without risk' lies, grow and be a beautiful person. As everyone should be.

Teresa DeWease

Monday 31st of May 2021

I do purchase Young Living Oils and have found some that are very beneficial. The Digize for heartburn and mild gastric disturbances works for my family more quickly than antacids. RC (Respiratory Care Blend) seems to help with cold and sinus issues when applied over the sinus cavities, beneath the nose and down the neck. My husband sings and he feels better after diffusing this oil while we sleep. A drop of Frankincense applied to the soft palate of the mouth has helped or totally relieved migraine pain for me.

I agree with you that some the claims for the oils are overly optimistic. I have heard of one oil applied to the big toe at bedtime can prevent snoring. Not sure about this but I have never tried it.

Thank you for listening to my spiel!

Dawn

Saturday 27th of March 2021

On some of your starter kits you use 666 and that does not set well with me, plus I would not order those no matter how much savings. Find other numbers to use.

Kristen

Saturday 27th of March 2021

Totally fine to not order oils, but I'm not sure where you are seeing 666.

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