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dōTERRA Center for Integrative Oncology: St. Elizabeth Healthcare sells out to an MLM company hawking essential oils

St. Elizabeth Healthcare in Cincinnati recently accepted $5 million from dōTERRA, an MLM company selling essential oils based on dubious claims. This is most definitely not a good look.

With the firehose torrent of stories involving science, medicine, denialism, and antivaccine misinformation that assault my senses and social media every day, it is not surprising that there are a fair number of stories that are definitely “in my lane,” so to speak, but about which I somehow never manage to apply my characteristic helping of Insolence, either Respectful or not-so-Respectful. It happens. It’s been happening for the entire 15 years that I’ve been engaged in this pursuit. It will continue to happen, certainly more often now that I’ve cut back from a manic five or six posts a week to a mor manageable two to four. Even so, thankfully I sometimes get a second chance to tackle a topic that I missed, and so it is today. That’s why I thank Cincinnati.com for doing a followup story about a cancer center in Cincinnati accepting a gift from a dubious multilevel marketing company to open an “integrative oncology center.” I’m referring to an article from Sunday that I saw yesterday entitled Essential oils company gifts $5 million to St. Elizabeth; social media criticism follows months later. The company is dōTERRA, and the hospital is St. Elizabeth Healthcare. I would have written about this for yesterday, but I had to wait for a Twitter follower (thanks, @KimWahlman!) who happened to have a subscription to send me the text, hence the delay.

St. Elizabeth Healthcare accepts a donation from dōTERRA

Let’s start with this story, and I’ll fill in the background as I go along:

In accepting a $5 million gift from a Utah company that sells essential oils, St. Elizabeth Healthcare announced that it aims to explore untraditional therapies at its new cancer center. But social media commenters accuse the Edgewood system of selling out to a multilevel marketing firm.

month, dozens of Reddit, Twitter and YouTube participants raised an online clamor over the $5 million gift, the biggest ever to St. Elizabeth’s foundation, from doTerra, a Pleasant Grove, Utah, firm that calls itself the world’s largest producer and vendor of essential oils.

This is not a good look. First of all, although essential oils might smell pleasant and could potentially make the hospital experience slightly less unpleasant, there is no good evidence supporting the many claims made by dōTerra for its oils. If you don’t believe me, just look at the statement on its website: “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.” This is what we in the biz call the Quack Miranda Warning, a name coined by my good bud Dr. Peter Lipson many years ago. Basically, it’s a get-out-of-jail-free card used by sellers of unproven and quack remedies based on the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA). The DSHEA is law that basically regulates dietary supplements (and many essential oils are ingested orally as supplements) as food rather than medicine and does not require them to be tested for safety or efficacy before they can be marketed as long as no claims for treating disease are made. While this would make sense if such supplements were marketed solely as food or for nutrition, as regular readers of this blog know, this is not the case. Worse, the DSHEA carves out a separate category of health claims that can be made for supplements, specifically so-called “structure-function” claims; that is, claims that the supplement somehow supports the structure or function of the body in some way—again, as long as no specific claims about disease are made.

The DSHEA is how we get claims that various supplements “boost the immune system” or “support prostate health” or “aids digestion,” almost always with a quack Miranda warning following somewhere in in the ad or on the website. Indeed, dōTERRA’s free ebook claims:

When applied safely and properly, internal use of essential oils can be just as beneficial as aromatic and topical use. In some cases, internal use can provide unique benefits that the other two application methods simply cannot offer. Although some are skeptical about the efficacy of internal use, there is research to support the potential benefits of consuming essential oils internally. Among many benefits, essential oils can be used internally to support gastrointestinal health, maintain healthy immune function, promote healthy cell function, provide the body with internal cleaning benefits, and more.

These claims are the very definition of vague “structure-function” claims that are meant as a “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” claim for health benefits permitted under the DSHEA.

As for dōTERRA itself as a company, it’s a multilevel marketing company (i.e., a thinly disguised pyramid scheme in my opinion, although the FTC has never seriously investigated this company) that markets its essential oils based on dubious claims. (More on that later.) It is not a company that any reputable hospital, medical school, or medical center should ever affiliate with for anything, much less name a center after. Did I say, “Name a center after?” Oh, yes. Yes, I did. It’s mentioned in the Cincinatti.com story, but let’s look at the original press release on the dōTERRA website:

St. Elizabeth Healthcare announces a partnership with doTERRA International, an integrative health and wellness company and the world leader in the Global Aromatherapy and Essential Oils market. doTERRA will play a foundational role in the development and implementation of the forthcoming Center for Integrative Oncology within St. Elizabeth’s new Cancer Center in Edgewood opening in the fall of 2020.

“When the St. Elizabeth Cancer Center opens next fall, it will include nearly an entire floor of the building that is dedicated to the holistic, patient-centered approach to care known as integrative oncology,” shared Garren Colvin, President and Chief Executive Officer of St. Elizabeth Healthcare. “We want patients (and their caregivers) to have as much support and access to resources as possible under one roof.”

The doTERRA Center for Integrative Oncology will be more than 8,400 square feet on the first floor of the St. Elizabeth Cancer Center. The Center will provide a calming space with holistic care options to complement St. Elizabeth’s comprehensive medical care, including the use of doTERRA essential oils and aromatherapy, yoga, meditation and a spa-like atmosphere for patients undergoing cancer treatment. Additionally, experts at St. Elizabeth Healthcare will be conducting clinical trials related to complementary and alternative medicine, providing evidence-based options that may help patients better manage symptoms.

It’s rather interesting to me that St. Elizabeth sold its medical and scientific soul for a mere $5 million. Sure, $5 million sounds like a lot of money. It’s a sizable contribution. However, after using it to set up the dōTERRA Center for Integrative Oncology, there won’t be a lot left to do all these clinical trials of “complementary and alternative medicine.” As anyone who’s ever been involved in clinical trials knows, serious randomized clinical trials that are sufficiently powered to produce statistically significant results compared to placebo controls are expensive. Of course, dōTERRA and St. Elizabeth could be planning on doing a bunch of crappy “pragmatic” trials or underpowered trials for “proof-principle,” but even then whatever’s left over from the $5 million after however much is earmarked for construction is used up won’t go very far.

Why would St. Elizabeth team with dōTERRA?

Why would St. Elizabeth accept a donation from an essential oils MLM company?

How did this come about, though? This part of the press release suggests why St. Elizabeth might have been so receptive to the idea:

St. Elizabeth Healthcare operates five facilities throughout Northern Kentucky and more than 115 primary care and specialty office locations in Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio. A member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, St. Elizabeth is a mission-based organization committed to improving the health of the communities it serves, providing more than $117 million in uncompensated care and benefit to the community in 2017.

Regular readers of this blog and others know that the Mayo Clinic has, alas, along with Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the University of Texas-M.D. Anderson Cancer, Center, and many other academic medical centers, dived head-first into the world of “integrative medicine” (or, as I like to call it, “integrating” quackery with medicine).

As for how this happened, follow the press release:

doTERRA first learned of the St. Elizabeth Cancer Center from one of its wellness advocates who was a former patient of Dr. Flora and is now a cancer survivor. Inspired by St. Elizabeth’s personal and integrative approach to medicine, which aligns with doTERRA’s philosophy and focus on wellness and addressing the needs of the whole person, doTERRA made a generous donation of $5 million to the St. Elizabeth Foundation Cancer Center Community Campaign—the largest corporate donation in St. Elizabeth Foundation’s 30 year history. This donation symbolizes the start of a synergistic partnership between the two organizations.

St. Elizabeth even made this slick video:

Given that, even though it’s the largest corporate contribution ever received by St. Elizabeth, $5 is not a lot of money to do clinical trials and build medical programs; so of course it’s the “start of a synergistic partnership.” Sadly, the synergy will be to aid dōTERRA in selling its expensive smelly oils and to “integrate” quackery more deeply into
St. Elizabeth’s “integrative oncology” program. Dr. Doug Flora, even inadvertently (albeit obliquely) admits that it’s all about the marketing:

Dr. Doug Flora, executive medical director of oncology services at St. Elizabeth, said St. E is responding to changes in the way patients and their families want and need to be treated.

“Fifty percent of all cancer patients report using some alternative or complementary medicine,” Dr. Flora said. “The number gets as high as 80 percent when you survey women with breast cancer.”

Dr. Brannick Riggs, vice president of healthcare initiatives and chief medical director of doTERRA’s medical clinic, said complementary medicine is critical to treatment and recovery.

“It’s a way of rebuilding the patient after the treatment,” Dr. Riggs said. “We know that traditional treatment by design wreaks some havoc on the human body. We hope that these modalities help support the rebuilding of a life afterward.”

Translation: We’re giving the people what they want. We’re keeping the customer satisfied, science be damned.

dōTERRA: An MLM company selling dubious products

So what’s the harm, you might ask? After all, “essential oils” and aromatherapy are harmless woo, aren’t they? Well, let’s take a look at how dōTERRA has marketed its essential oils. This Mother Jones story from two years ago notes how dōTERRA and other MLM companies selling essential oils “got the autism community hooked on essential oils.” It begins with the story of a young mother named Cheryl Walser whose first son Ethan (born when she was 19) was diagnosed with autism at a very young age:

Ethan was diagnosed with autism. “I felt incredibly alone, and so ashamed,” Walser, now 33, recalls. “I believed that I had done something to cause it, and I had no idea how to fix it.”

The next several years were a blur of doctors’ appointments, special diets, and therapy. Some of the treatments helped, but “it felt like two steps forward, three steps back,” Walser recalls. When Ethan was five, a friend invited her to an evening class she taught about so-called essential oils made by a Utah-based company called DoTerra. The friend thought the oils could help Ethan.

This was the first step that Walser took on the road to becoming a dōTERRA “consultant” or, as dōTERRA likes to call them, a “Wellness Advocate”:

This transition from consumer to salesperson is common in the world of DoTerra, a multilevel marketing (MLM) company that works like the Tupperware parties of old: Salespeople invite friends to their homes for sales events disguised as parties or classes. They give a spiel about the product, maybe hand out a few free samples, and then offer their guests the opportunity to buy. Selling is good, but recruiting new salespeople is better: If you convince a friend to sell DoTerra products, you take a commission on every sale she makes. If she recruits her friends, you then get a cut of their sales, too. This model has done well for the company, which has gross annual revenues in excess of $1.5 billion.

Kiera Butler, the reporter who wrote this story, noted that some parents were spending hundreds of dollars a month on essential oils for their autistic children, noting also tha there are dozens of essential oil groups for parents of children on the spectrum. One group, he group Autism, ADHD, and Essential Oils, for example, had more than 19,000 members. (It has over 28,000 members today.) In any event, like any good MLM scheme, the real way to make a lot of money is to recruit a lot of other people to sell product. Of course, like any good pyramid scheme, that means that only the people who get in early make a lot of money. The lower down the pyramid you go, the harder it is to make any money because you’re giving a cut of your sales to those above you who recruited you and to those who recruited them (and so on, up to seven levels deep), especially since, conveniently enough, the company requires its salespeople to spend at least $100 a month on DoTerra products in order to qualify for sales commissions. As admitted even by a source that deludes itself into thinking that dōTERRA is not a pyramid scheme, recruiting new Wellness Advocates is where the big money is; it’s incredibly difficult to make very much money at all just selling product.

Indeed, the single most compelling benefit for dōTERRA of having a cancer center name its “integrative oncology” center after the company is that it will likely facilitate recruiting of new salespeople who are cancer patients or relatives of cancer patients. But, says Dr. Russell Osguthorpe, doTerra’s chief medical officer:

“We’re not selling anything in that space at all, quite the opposite. We agreed early on, we would not sell in that space. It’s a place of healing, not a place of business.”

This is, of course, very clever. Patients receive essential oils at the dōTERRA Center for Integrative Oncology at St. Elizabeth, but they can’t buy more of the oils there because the cancer center won’t be selling them. So what do they do? They seek out a dōTERRA consultant/Wellness Advocate to buy more of them, which then makes them more likely to be recruited as Wellness Advocates themselves to sell the company’s products. The hospital benefits by being able to appear to keep its hands clean by being able to say truthfully that it doesn’t profit by selling essential oils, and the company benefits from a rich new dedicated group of customers and Wellness Advocates. Synergistic, indeed! I am, however, confused about the “no selling” pledge by St. Elizabeth, given that this news article from October quotes Garren Colvin, president and CEO of St. Elizabeth Healthcare, as saying that “we have sold dōTERRA oils in our gift shop for quite a while.”

The Cincinnati.com article notes that dōTERRA has come under FDA scrutiny in the past. For instance, in 2014, the FDA issued a warning letter:

In September 2014, the FDA sent doTerra a warning that some salespeople, who doTerra calls “wellness advocates,” were telling customers that essential oils could treat or cure conditions including the Ebola virus.

Osguthorpe and other doTerra officials say the company has worked with the FDA since then to correct sales language and train wellness advocates to steer clear of explicit promises. The FDA has taken no further action since the 2014 letter.

Here’s the FDA warning letter to dōTERRA, dated September 22, 2014. It notes that dōTERRA Wellness Advocates made claims including:

  • “Melaleuca (also known as tea tree oil) has been clinically shown to inhibit the replication of the influenza virus. Some of melaleuca’s primary uses include . . . athlete’s foot . . . canker sores, chicken pox, cold sore, colds, flu, fungal infections, Herpes simplex, MRSA, shingles, warts and viral infections.”
  • “Oregano is effective in inactivating MNV (non-enveloped murine norovirus) within 1 hour of exposure. Some of the primary uses for oregano include athlete’s foot, candida, canker sores, Ebola virus, intestinal parasites, MRSA, ringworm, staph infection, viral infections, warts, and whooping cough.”
  • “On Guard is a blend of dōTERRA oils and it has been lab tested to decrease symptoms of the flu. Some of the primary uses of On Guard include antiviral, cold sores, colds, flu . . . infection, lupus, MRSA, pneumonia . . . and warts.”
  • “Clove has been investigated on Herpes simplex and hepatitis C viruses and was found to be antiviral. Some of the primary uses of clove essential oil include candida, herpes simplex, lupus . . . viral infections, and warts.”
  • “Eucalyptus has demonstrated an ability to inhibit the Herpes simplex virus. Some of the primary uses for eucalyptus include Influenza, Measles, Neuralgia, Neuritis, Pneumonia, respiratory viruses rhinitis, shingles, sinusitis and tuberculosis.”
  • dōTERRA essential oils have antivirus effects.
  • dōTERRA essential oils can treat the symptoms of Ebola virus infection.
  • dōTERRA essential oils have anti-cancer properties.

You get the idea. After that letter, the company cracked down, warning its army of Wellness Advocates not to make such claims, but not all listen. Also, consultants have found a way around the FDA, for example, for autism:

In any case, DoTerra salespeople have found a clever workaround. Instead of explicitly touting the oils’ ability to treat autism, salespeople need only share their personal experiences, telling potential customers about, say, the time vetiver helped their child sit through math class, or how a special blend prompted little Billy to hug Grandma for the first time. This sort of anecdotal marketing worries Jeremy Veenstra-VanderWeele, an autism specialist and professor of psychiatry at Columbia University’s medical school. “People sharing their own stories—that does not really tell us much about whether a treatment works,” he says. In fact, there’s no “biological plausibility” for how an essential oil would improve autism symptoms.

Precisely. Anecdotes are confirmation bias writ large, in which people tend to remember things that support their preexisting beliefs and to forget things that don’t. We’re all prone to it; it’s human nature. With respect to confirmation bias, the main difference between skeptics and anyone else is that we’re aware of confirmation bias and consciously try to counter it. (Even then, we don’t always succeed.) Add to that the desire to sell product, and such anecdotes are often highly embellished, either intentionally or subconsciously. Also, people who had a bad (or even just a neutral) experience using essential oils are highly unlikely to become dōTERRA Wellness Advocates. These people are, by definition, true believers whose income depends on selling as many bottles of essential oils as possible and on recruiting as many others as they possibly can to join them. Also, as science communicators know, personal stories are far more powerful persuasion tools than any amount of data, scientific studies, or statistics. Human beings are storytelling apes, and this is how we bond and influence each other—with stories.

Unfortunately, as noted in the same article, there is unlikely to be a crackdown on such companies any time soon, certainly not as long as Donald Trump is President. Indeed, there is even speculation among some dōTERRA Wellness Advocates that they’ll soon be allowed to make health claims again. In the meantime, also in reaction to the FDA’s warning letter, dōTERRA has pivoted to try to manufacture some science supporting the claims made for its products:

After the FDA cautioned DoTerra against making unfounded health claims, the company quietly began to market its products using more scientific language. On a spiffy new website called Source to You, customers can read about DoTerra’s complicated distillation process and its medical advisory board. In August, the company announced plans for a major build-out, including a 39,500-square-foot medical clinic at its Utah headquarters “where we can validate the medical benefits of oils with modern medicine.”

This alliance is not about science or better patient care

Clearly, part of dōTERRA’s strategy to give itself the appearance of scientific respectability and to provide doctors with “scientific evidence” to back up its claims for its essential oils is to make donations like this to cancer centers and other hospitals. St. Elizabeth isn’t even the first:

DoTerra has funded research at Roseman University of Health Sciences in Nevada to study essential oils. In 2018, doTerra donated $5 million to the Huntsman Cancer Foundation in Salt Lake City for the expansion of the cancer hospital at the University of Utah, including its Wellness and Integrative Health Center.

It’s just the one that’s gone the deepest in letting an MLM company influence the healthcare that it’s providing its patients. OF course, whatever clinical trials and basic science studies dōTERRA might fund at St. Elizabeth, the Huntsman Cancer Center, and Roseman University are not really about the science. They’re about marketing, and medical centers, be they academic or private, that accept the funding are complicit in helping a dubious MLM company market its unproven products. St. Elizabeth might benefit from the money that dōTERRA has given it (and will give it in the future), but I bet dōTERRA will benefit more based on increased “respectability” and access to future customers and recruitment of new Wellness Advocates. Its decision to donate to St. Elizabeth was not philanthropic. It was a sound business investment, nothing more.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

36 replies on “dōTERRA Center for Integrative Oncology: St. Elizabeth Healthcare sells out to an MLM company hawking essential oils”

Even among the granola hippy believers in EOs and aromatherapy, DoTerra, and it’s counterpart Young Living, have a very poor reputation. There are concerns that they promote ingestion of oils (a great way to screw up your liver and kidneys), that they suggest using them undiluted on the skin (a great way to cause dermatitis or even a chemical burn), don’t caution against use around pets or small children, who may be more vulnerable to negative effects.

Hi Terrie, They also don’t mention using caution with elderly people, who are also more vulnerable, or contraindications/drug interactions. Eucalyptus is contraindicated with asthma and shouldn’t be used with young children due to eucalyptol. I believe it can also cause seizures in certain individuals, if I recall correctly. The thing about pets infuriates me. They say to just leave the door open and the animal will leave because they’ll sense any harm to their bodies. Puh-lease. I’m like, you’re going to kill your cats. Even worse when people use them directly and purposely on their pets. And the ingestion and not diluting…also really upset me.

Once upon a time, I was confused by all the claims made about CAM, so I took classes online to learn what is legit and what isn’t. Although I now have a woo associate’s degree, the critical thinking class and related books were incredibly useful. Somehow I finished the degree significantly more disenchanted with CAM than when I first started when I was mostly confused. Most others seem to leave more firmly entrenched and seem impressed with what I see as quite underwhelming research.

So. Many. Health. Claims. Meanwhile, CAM advocates tend to complain about the ‘gag order ‘ of DSHEA. Structure -function claims aren’t good enough, despite their wink wink, nudge nudge nature. They feel their first amendment rights are violated. And I’m like, can you stop telling people frankincense cures cancer and tea tree kills ebola? They’ll start on about coronavirus in 3…2…I… The Young Living and doTerra monkeys should fly in anytime now.

My textbook from my aromatherapy classes and Essential Oil Safety by Tisserand discuss the chemistry of oils and the sorts of activity they have, like antiviral, anti-cancer, antidepressant, etc. But people read way too far into it and infer clinical benefits that haven’t been demonstrated. I love how they take in vitro and animal studies out of context and jump to practicing medicine without a license.

People get excited when they hear what I studied, but I get to rain on their picnic when they enthusiastically ask me questions about what oil or herb for which condition. I always tell them that they’re actively asking me to practice medicine without a license and give them a rx for an oil or herb, and that they should talk to their doctor and/or get another opinion or two if they’re unsatisfied. I wish I knew 12 years ago what I know now. I might’ve studied to become a chemist or toxicologist. But without those classes, I wouldn’t be who I’ve become.

Some oils smell good and can be relaxing, which could be nice for stress management and enhancing one’s subjective state. Chronic excessive stress is associated with many health conditions, so people learning to take things more slowly, stop and smell the roses, and relax isn’t a bad thing. But it’s far more profitable to take things further and make health claims while engaging in conspiratorial thinking about the evil FDA hiding cures. Not to mention all the environmental harm from increased oil demand, like rosewood and sandalwood.

Part of me is embarrassed to share what I studied here, this my first comment on the blog of one of my heroes. But it’s true, and between the books on research designs and critical thinking, plus the Science-Based Medicine blog and all the many contributors to the comments, especially those poking holes on typical CAM arguments and opinions…you’ve helped bring me to the light and out of the rabbit hole before I fell too far. Britt Hermes is another inspiration. So thank you, everyone. Thank you, Orac, for all the good work you do here, and with fostering puppies.

I don’t think there’s any crime in not knowing. The problem comes when people have been exposed to information and reject it because it doesn’t fit what they want to hear.

Thanks for sharing!

As for corona virus, I’ve already heard people recommending oregano oil and MMS (bleach). Oy.

First, I have to get something out of the way. Terrie, please don’t pick on granola. I’ve been having it with yogurt for breakfast regularly since the the 60s, and I haven’t believed in any woo for almost that long.
Now, Kaia, I’m glad you mentioned animals. Our dog is epileptic and on medication that has been working well, as long as we don’t miss a dose. Our daughter, the budding acupuncturist, bought us some (purported) CBD oil and wants us to stop the med and use that in its place. We haven’t done it , gave her the parental maybe that really means “no way in hell.” We have had our dog for fourteen and a half years and while she’s lost a step or two she’s still pretty active and there’s every chance she’ll see another few in reasonable condition, so we must be doing something right.
If you’re interested in woo and animals, David Ramey, a horse vet, has a great blog that covers it, among other topics, and it’s worth reading in its own right for his insight and eloquence. .
https://www.doctorramey.com/

Dang, I didn’t realize how long that was.

I don’t think any apology is needed; longish comments tend to fall into two* categories, and I think yours was in the right one.

*I suppose complete gibberish is a third category, and the strange episode of the South African undergraduates being assigned commenting as classwork is an obscure fourth.

Thanks, Terrie. The contradictory info was uncomfortable and unpleasant for me to think about. It was such a huge difference from ‘common knowledge,’ and I felt blindsided. But I knew I couldn’t carry on and ignore or forget the facts. If I did, what kind of person would I be? A manipulative liar lacking a moral compass, that’s what, and imagining becoming that kind of person made me feel sicker than having to admit that I was wrong, that so many people I knew were wrong. And so I swallowed my pride.

I think it helped that I was open to learning and not already deeply entrenched. CAM wasn’t a part of my identity when I began.

It’s difficult because so many others, like you said, are resistant to facts. You can’t have a conversation with some of these folks because it seems like being right is an essential part of their identity.

Thanks, Justatech. I always enjoy reading your comments. :-). Ah yes, oregano. sigh

And the bleach people.I just can’t. Bleach might help with disinfecting surfaces… but not drinking, dear god, not that. Their favorite chemical.

Thank you, Narad. 🙂

And Old Rockin Dave, thanks for the recommendation. I’ll check him out. I’m glad to hear you opted to not give your older pup the alleged CBD despite the well-meaning advice. It kills me when people tell others to stop legit medical care and use X instead. A great-aunt once told my pap to stop taking his insulin and eat cinnamon in his food instead. facepalm

The whole CBD thing is like the Wild West. One of my cats has severe anxiety, and a friend suggested CBD. Well, I’m not interested in experimenting on or poisoning my cat and there’s not a ton of info about humans, let alone other species. What we might be able to tolerate can easily kill our companions, as you, no doubt, already know. We tried a few things OTC, but we just got her a prescription for some kitty Prozac. Hopefully that’ll provide her with some relief.

My dog had melanoma and we’re keeping him under surveillance, watching for metastasis before jumping into the uber-pricey vaccine treatments (which is amazing veterinary medicine in itself!). People asked me if I considered using herbs or oils to cure him myself. That was a strong, firm nope.

@Kaia Rose: “Dang, I didn’t realize how long that was. My apologies!”

The Orac, It’s Infectious!

Props on learning your way through the fog, and consider yourself in fine company alongside the likes of Prof Ernst, Britt Hermes, and Luke 15:11–32. Embarrassment, like shame, is nothing to feel bad about: True Believers feel neither, and look at the harms they do. Own it, and use your powers to do good.

One more thing about the CBD oil. I noticed that the cap wasn’t on straight, and when I was able to remove and reclose it, a little of it got on my hand. OMG, the aroma! It took me straight back to my more rockin’ days. Proust and his pastry had nothing on it. Now if Goop had a candle that smelled like that…
Anyway, I’m going to email the Governor and put my name behind his push for legalized recreational use.
So some woo does some good, even if it’s not the way it was supposed to.

I just got back home from my 5th trip to Houston in less than a year to be treated at MD Anderson for my chronic lymphocytic leukemia. I don’t remember any alternative stuff being touted, so I wouldn’t say they’ve dived in “deep”. What did I miss?

Search for “M.D. Anderson” and CAM or integrative medicine on this blog. It’s not as though I haven’t written about it before… 😉

ADDENDUM: I took some pity on you. Here are examples, because Orac is a benevolent arrogant computer.

https://respectfulinsolence.com/2010/08/23/integrative-oncology-quackademic-medicin/
https://respectfulinsolence.com/2014/06/10/quackademic-medicine-infiltrates-a-major-cancer-conference/
https://respectfulinsolence.com/2019/12/16/acupuncture-xerostomia-spin-negative-study/

Also, M.D. Anderson had a reiki program for several years, before it apparently decided to abandon it as one woo too far.

And how is it that only do-Terra (wherever did that name originate?) oils are called for–oh, yes, I’m sure their marketing is heavy on the “only our oils are extracted by very special secret methods”, blah, blah, blah. This is nothing but marketing on a grand scale and is ethically repugnant beyond belief.

I have crossed paths with some of these (snake) oil reps a few times, at least one of whom quit taking all her meds (she has numerous health issues, including a bout with cancer) in favor of these oils; and of course, she now sells them as well. She also takes her teenage daughter to a chiro who regulary manipulates her neck! My warnings fell on deaf ears, neeless to say, because “the doctors never helped her”. I think this is the point at which people justify their turn to woo. Doctors have to get together formally and address this. I hear it over and over again: “…the docs don’t listen, they don’t care…and so on”. I have never found this to be tha case, but then I trust medicine–nor do I expect it to be magic.

Dr. Brannick Riggs, vice president of healthcare initiatives and chief medical director of doTERRA’s medical clinic, said complementary medicine is critical to treatment and recovery.

Running an overpriced spa with yogic / aromatherapy grifts is easier and more lucrative than treating patients. Also, a captive client base!

Those had better be some pretty strong smelling oils to cover up the stench of combined abuse of people in using a pyramid scheme to sell ineffective and dangerous “treatments”.

MLMs are skeevy enough when they’re just selling candles or leggings. But to abuse vulnerable people twice, once by convincing them that these oils will help them, and then a second time by convincing them that they can make a living by convincing other people that these oils are helpful? That’s disgusting. Cold and calculating and utterly unethical.

How I wish the FDA or FTC could take these snake oil husksters down, hard.

It’s not going to happen as long as Donald Trump is President. In fact, if he wins a second term, he’ll almost certainly weaken the regulations that could be used to rein MLM companies like dōTERRA in. He might even do it before the election, all part of getting rid of pesky regulations to protect consumers that interfere with corporate profits.

Ugh.
To quote the eternal Tom Lehrer: “Don’t drink the water and don’t breathe the air/Pollution, pollution! / You can use the latest toothpaste / And rinse your mouth with industrial waste.”

@ Orac

Aren’t there any republicans or even people in the Trump orbit who understand that medical regulations are important stuff?

I mean, I can hardly believe that all oncologists are democrats…

Five million sounds like chump change to me for construction and equipping of a medical facility. Building costs run near $300 / sq foot. When medical machinery runs into the mid six figures, I’d guess that this money only pays for maybe a floor and a half out of the entire building. Maybe construction costs are a lot less in Kentucky, but something still smells off about this. Maybe it’s that the oils have gone off.

I love modern medicine, vaccines, and a good antibiotic just as much as the next person – but it is hard to completely discount the therapeutic benefits of herbs and oils that have been a part of health and wellness for thousands of years — all around the world. Aromatherapy and essential oils/supplements have their place. Opioids and steroids have their place, as well. Be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water by making sweeping claims. That baby might be useful one day! 👶🏼

Please share your evidence (not anecdotes) for the “therapeutic benefits” of oils? They smell nice and they may induce mild placebo effects, but when they are touted as actual treatments or even worse, cures, that’s another matter. Your argument from popularity is a logical fallacy and has little to do with actual effectiveness. People have done all sorts of things for thousands of years all over the world, most of which is just magical thinking from a pre-scientific age. And how does any possible benefit of these oils justify MLM scams?

There is already a branch of pharmacy, pharmacognosy, that searches out the medicinal properties of natural substances. If there’s a scientific reputation or a dollar to be made, you can bet that someone out there is looking for it.

t is hard to completely discount the therapeutic benefits of herbs and oils that have been a part of health and wellness for thousands of years

Oh, dear. Yes, pharmacognosy exists. No, distillation of “essential oils” has not existed “for thousands of years,” because glassware.

Can’t stand DookieTerra and all their quack claims. I’ve seen it cause severe contact dermatitis in children whose parents put it on their skin. I have seen it trigger asthma flares. I’ve had parents ask if they can give it orally to their infants (NO!!!). All these things of badness done to children b/c of what the MLM rep tells the parents while pretending to be some sort of health expert. And now probably within a year I’ll start to hear how great this bunk is at treating cancer thanks to this betrayal of science-based medicine by St. Elizabeth.

dōTERRA essential oils can treat the symptoms of Ebola virus infection

I guess this phrasing was meant to circumvent the issue of making medical claims, like claiming outright that the product is a treatment. Obviously, it wasn’t enough of a sidestep (what’s the usual one, already? “this product is known to alleviate flu symptoms”?
But what happened to the usual alt-med motto, “mainstream medicine only treats the symptoms, we treat the true cause of disease”?

I have been to a party AFTER the FDA letter and their workaround was literally “The FDA says that we aren’t allowed to tell you (list medical claims), but you know they are just trying to protect the medical industrial complex.”

This is the truly insidious thing about the FDA’s lack of real power. The Quack Miranda Warning is all but useless in stopping or even slowing woo. In fact, as your example shows, it is likely to be used as “proof” of evil pharma conspiracies.

That’s something I’ve noticed about a lot of MLMs; they’re all about “getting around” the government. A friend of mine did Mary Kay for a bit and her “sponsor” (?) tried to talk a bunch of us into selling it as well. She said “And if you live in a little apartment like this one you can call the whole thing your home office and write it off on your taxes!”

No. No you can not, and that’s a great way to get audited from here to Timbuktu.
At least that was only bad tax advice and mid-range makeup. The essential oils people are damaging people’s health.

And because it’s an MLM, it’s going to be harder for someone who is hurt to spread the word far and wide that their next door neighbor poisoned them. There’s so much social pressure to not complain.

No. No you can not, and that’s a great way to get audited from here to Timbuktu.

The closest I’ve gotten is half of a table.

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