NAD Issues Decision Regarding Claims for doTERRA Essential Oils

Advertising Law

Claims by doTERRA International, LLC, in advertising for its doTERRA essential oils were challenged by S. C. Johnson & Son, Inc., maker of Glade home fragrances, with the National Advertising Division (NAD).

At issue were claims that doTERRA essential oils provide health benefits, including benefits for mood, emotions and the mind. An example was “Essential oil benefits are determined by the chemistry of the plants. If these natural chemicals are properly extracted, they can be used to help you … mentally[] and emotionally in your daily life.” All of doTERRA’s essential oils are advertised with the claim “Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade,” which was also at issue.

Essential oils are aromatic compounds that occur naturally in seeds, bark, stems, roots, flowers and other parts of plants that are extracted through a variety of processes. The NAD noted that essential oils are sparking the interest of consumers, scientists and marketers seeking to use them as an alternative therapy to address hard-to-treat conditions like anxiety, depression and sleep disorders. DoTERRA is a leading marketer of essential oils. The NAD decision states that it has 60 types of essential oils in its line.

In support of its general benefits claims, doTERRA relied on a number of secondary sources describing the historical use of essential oils in providing health benefits, dozens of studies on different essential oils and over 70 published studies conducted on a variety of essential oils. The NAD determined that doTERRA’s evidence does not amount to competent and reliable scientific evidence to support its broad claims that essential oils provide consumers with mental and emotional health benefits. Therefore, the NAD recommended that the advertiser’s general health benefits claims be discontinued.

The NAD determined that doTERRA’s “Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade” claim could reasonably be understood by consumers as both a message about the purity and quality of its essential oils and a message that the products provide relief for consumers’ mental and emotional health issues. The NAD concluded that the evidence in the record was not a good fit for the claim and stated that in order to support its claim, the advertiser should have evidence that doTERRA oils have been shown to provide “therapeutic” benefits. The NAD found that there are no competent and reliable scientific studies showing that any of the doTERRA oils are “therapeutic”; as a result, it recommended that the claim be discontinued.

The NAD also recommended that doTERRA discontinue or modify its advertising to avoid conveying implied benefits claims that doTERRA’s “therapeutic grade” essential oils:

  • Will calm or relax consumers when used as directed.
  • Will help relieve consumers’ feelings of anxiety when used as directed.
  • Will help consumers sleep when used as directed.
  • Will bring clarity, focus or alertness to consumers when used as directed.
  • Will help consumers increase or maintain their energy level when used as directed.
  • Will improve and balance a consumer’s mood when used as directed.

The NAD determined that certain other statements challenged by S. C. Johnson do not convey an implied mental and emotional health message; these statements include “comforting,” “refreshing,” “relaxing aroma,” “[c]reates a restful atmosphere conducive to sleep,” “invigorating to the senses” and “[s]oothing and uplifting when diffused.” The NAD noted that when viewed in the context in which they appear (i.e., as descriptors of fragrant essential oils), these phrases are “flowery and expressive descriptions or puffery, which would not require competent and reliable scientific evidence as support.”

In its advertiser’s statement, doTERRA stated that it will appeal the entirety of the NAD’s decision to the National Advertising Review Board (NARB).



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