Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Why the Essential Oil "Crackdown" is a Good Thing

You may have heard the story--on the 22nd of this September 2014, the FDA sent warning letters to both doTerra and Young Living Essential Oils. (See the original letters here, and here.)

If you read sources like Health Impact News you might think that the government is "targeting" essential oils and natural substances and trying to keep us from using natural remedies. (Read their article here.) You might think that the FDA and Big Pharma feel threatened by essential oils. But today I'd like to offer an alternative and "inside" view as to what's really going on behind the warning letters and why they're actually a good thing.

The Law

According to US law, there are three categories of substances: Drugs, Cosmetics, and Supplements.

Any product or ingredient that claims to treat, cure, or prevent disease is considered to be a drug. All active drug ingredients must go through very specific testing procedures and the FDA approval process before they can legally become a drug. When you make a drug claim but the product/ingredient hasn't gone through the approval process, that product then is considered a "misbranded drug" by the FDA. This law was written several decades ago and has nothing to do with the current drug marketplace or corporations that have ties to the FDA.

Young Living Billboard in Salt Lake City
There are exemptions from drug testing requirements for herbs, supplements, and vitamins, but these substances have to be very clearly marked as supplements and have to use very specific language with their claims. For instance you can claim, "supports immune system" but you can't claim that something is anti-viral. You can claim "supports hormonal balance" but can't claim to cure PCOS. [This is from my understanding of the law; if you're selling supplements please make sure you do all your legal due diligence.]

The third category under the law is cosmetics. Cosmetics are meant to cleanse, moisturize, and beautify the body. (Skin, hair, teeth, etc.) As a company that manufactures cosmetics, we have to be careful in the claims that we make. For instance, we can make a cleanser that's meant for cleansing skin, however, saying that the product will treat acne would be making a drug claim. We can make a moisturizer with skin hydrating and softening properties, but can't claim it will be anti-aging, because that is a drug claim.

Are Essential Oils Drugs, Supplements, or Cosmetics?

Most essential oils haven't gone through the necessary testing and approval process to be drugs, so they're not seen by the law as such. Also, they're not intended solely for internal use (and shouldn't be!) so they're not supplements either. So, the category that essential oils are regulated under is cosmetics. Because cosmetics are not meant to treat disease, they cannot claim to prevent the common cold, treat the flu, cure ebola, or have antibacterial action. They are meant to simply smell nice, refresh your room, or perhaps calm your mood. This is why the companies received their warning letters. You can't state that essential oils are going to treat infections, prevent a cold, stop ebola, or cure cancer within the realms of the law. doTerra and Young Living have been marketing their essential oils illegally for years.

Not a Government Conspiracy

There are hundreds of companies breaking FDA regulations on a daily basis. So many that the FDA really doesn't have the manpower to really regulate every single one. It's really only until a company has really hurt someone with their product or is reported several times that the FDA takes notice. And that is exactly what happened with Young Living & doTerra. With a growing list of people that have been injured by reactions due to bad advice from essential oil reps and a petition supported by Aromatherapy United that was circulated and submitted to the FDA, it's no surprise that after years of breaking the law, they finally got a warning.

NOT because the FDA wants us to stop using essential oils. NOT a government conspiracy to promote "Big Pharma."

The Fallout

Comments in response to the news of the warnings have ranged from supportive to outrage. One argument that I've heard is that it's unfair of the government to come in and stop companies from promoting natural substances, and that the essential oil market should be self-regulated. But, in my view, an industry can't be self-regulated if major players in the market are blatantly breaking the law. If you have an industry that's consistently following the country's regulations, the government is going to spend less time worrying about what you're doing. Clearing out the law-breakers from the industry is a step towards self-regulation.

One article in response to the controversy stated that the FDA "refuses to conduct any testing on natural or alternative therapies in order to find out whether they work or not." Well, yeah...that's because the FDA doesn't do ANY testing. Companies that are bringing a new drug to the market do the testing--not the FDA. The FDA simply reviews the studies that the companies submit to them and decide whether or not a substance is approved and how it should be labeled and marketed. (Listing of side effects, etc.)

Insider's View

Governor Herbert on a Young Living Wagon during the 4th of July Parade

I don't feel bad at all for doTerra and Young Living. These are companies based in my home state of Utah. I've seen their multi-million dollar headquarter buildings, freeway billboards, and the millions of dollars they rake in every year. With the business that they do around here, it's hardly the big mean government picking on the little guys. These companies have our local government in their pockets because they are major players in our state's economy. In fact, the Governor's Office of Economic Development gave doTerra a contract for a tax incentive to build their headquarters in 2013 and just announced a state tax credit and contract with Young Living. These companies may have been served with a slap on the wrist from the FDA, but they have the full support of the governor.

Bottom Line

I support essential oils and I don't have anything against the actual products doTerra and Young Living offers. I think it's great that people are looking for alternatives to drugs and are looking to live more holistically. However, I have seen dangerous advice being given out (ingesting certain essential oils, applying it IN people's eyes, applying it straight to the skin) for years by the reps of these companies and people have been hurt. The warning letters are a step toward safety and self-regulation within the aromatherapy community. As a manufacturer of cosmetics who tries to obey the law, I'd rather see a level playing field and everyone striving to label and market products that adhere to the laws of our country.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Looking Ahead to 2015

A few days ago I received this email asking if we were having troubles as a company:
I've noticed over the past year that you guys have been offering more sales than you had in the past.  I'm starting to get worried!  I worry that perhaps the sales are an indication that sales are down overall, and that the company will go out of business if things don't improve.  
We are so glad to have customers that care! Yes, we have been sending out more emails over the last year, but NO this doesn't mean that we're scrambling and close to closing our doors. In fact, it's the opposite! We're stronger than ever and have seen growth every year! There are a few reasons that we've sent out more emails in the past year:

Changes on Facebook
In years past, we were able to reach so many of our customers through Facebook. Commonly we did Facebook flash sales, contests, and other promotions that kept people involved. But with the changes that Facebook has made in the last year or so, we're lucky if 1000 people out of the 20,000 fans we have on our page see our posts. Paying to promote our posts hasn't been effective so we've re-tooled our strategies and focused more on our email newsletter system to keep people in the loop.

Growth in Our Company
We have big plans! A couple months ago we expanded our warehouse to a second building and are working on three more in the same complex. We are currently building the infrastructure to grow our business in some really exciting ways. There is SO much still that we want to do, but simply haven't had the room to do it in. Expanding our production and warehousing will allow us to add more products, build efficiencies so we can do an even higher volume. There will be production equipment we'll be investing in, we're currently working on a new order picking system with software and scanners so orders ship even more quickly than their normal same-to-next day turnaround. We can't get in to a lot of details because our big plans are going to be a surprise. Our new website was only phase 1. The sale's we've been offering keeps cash flow moving, allowing us to invest back in to our company without the need for outside investors.

Fresh Inventory
We always base our sales on current inventory levels. And with more production capabilities than in years past, we have more products to provide. We always strive to send the freshest products possible; when you order from us, the product has in most cases, been made within the last week to a month. Keeping inventory moving is key to freshness, so we may run sales from time-to-time to keep from possibly overstocking an item.

Spreading the Word
The holiday season is a great way that word is spread about our company. Through promotions in the holiday season we're able to reach new customers by word-of-mouth through gifts. So, during the holidays we run some sales. We're wrapping up the holidays and the new year, so you won't likely see storewide sales with the deep discounts we've offered over the last few months. However, we continue to come up with creative ideas for promotions and new products. Plus, we'll continue offering discounts on certain categories so you can always try something new!

Thank you to everyone for your support over the years! This Spring will mark our 8th year in business thanks to our (very!) loyal customers! We are always working to bring you the best of the best organic products and look forward to an amazing 2015!


Bubble & Bee offers the largest line of USDA certified organic products on the market. Many customers have been willing to pay full price to support & ensure that our company will continue to be able to offer these products. Especially when considering the value of the items (with deodorants that last a long time, shower gels that can be diluted, concentrated face cream, etc.) But as the stability of our company increases and we're able to offer higher volume, we can start to afford to offer more discounts. We have always wanted to make organic approachable for everyone, no matter what kind of budget they're on. So, speaking of's a coupon code! Use code JAN5 at checkout to save $5 off your order over $35. (Expires Monday Jan. 12 midnight MST)