doTERRA Review – Great Opportunity or Overpriced MLM Pyramid?

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Welcome, and thanks for stopping by to check out my doTERRA review. Let me say right away, I'm not a fan of multi-level-marketing companies (which doTerra is). However, if building a network marketing business is something you're thinking about, there are reasons doTerra is worth looking at.

There are some things you'll like about them, and other things you won’t.

The success rate of MLM’s (which I’ll talk about below) is a thing you won't like about doTerra. Is that reason enough to not give them a try though? 

In this doTERRA review I'll talk about who they are, how they work, and of course I'll dig into all the multi-level-marketing details (or what some may call a pyramid scheme). There are reasons people struggle with MLM's and things you can do to improve your odds.

Please note, I am not a member or an affiliate for doTERRA. This review has been researched with information and/or testimonials that are available online in the public domain. Any recommendations and/or conclusions are strictly opinions and may not apply to, or agree with, all persons or situations. See full disclaimer for more info

What is doTERRA?

doTERRA, as mentioned above, is a direct sales (networking marketing) company that focuses on health and wellness through the use of therapeutic grade essential oils. What exactly are essential oils, and how do they work (if they work at all)? I’ll get to that in a moment.

doTERRA is a relatively new company, founded in 2008 by a group of healthcare and business individuals. Their goal is to share these oils with the world and the way they've chosen to do that is with a multi-level-marketing business model. 

There's a lot of negativity surrounding MLM's and some might even call doTerra a pyramid scheme so there's a lot to talk about here. In addition to the aggressive recruiting practices associated with multi-level-marketing, are the prices of their products (which are typically much higher than what you'd pay for a comparable product in a store).   

And after learning how much the oils cost… my guess is that their other goal is not just to share their oils with the world, but to also get extremely rich.

There’s nothing wrong with that, we all need to make money… but I’m a natural skeptic, and when it comes to products whose results can’t be proven or easily measured, I become a little cynical.

Currently, doTERRA operates out of Utah. And, if you’re curious what the name doTERRA means, it’s rooted in latin, meaning “gift of the Earth”

Essential Oils – Gift of the Earth

doTERRA Essential Oils

Essential oils are found naturally occurring in things such as fruit (citrus oils for example), as well as flowers, stems, roots, bark, seeds and various other parts of a plant.

I believe in the healing power of plants, but as a whole food that we eat… not put into a burner and inhaled.

If it makes you feel good though, who am I to say it doesn’t work. When something makes us feel good, positive signals are sent to our brain releasing endorphin, oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine. These are counter to the stress chemicals adrenaline and cortisol which have a detrimental effect on our health.

I would argue that yoga or meditation gives you equally, if not better results for free, but I’m not a medical professional or researcher and it's just my opinion (so it would be a pretty short argument) 😀

Even though I don’t necessarily believe essential oils can heal us, my wife and I do use them around our house (because they smell good). That means, if you decide to sell them, your market is much larger than those simply looking for the health benefits.

Everyone is a potential buyer, which is probably why this market is a billion-dollar industry. That surprised me, I had no idea essential oils were that popular.

Being a billion-dollar industry however, does not mean they work as advertised.

There is no significant proof that I'm aware of to make that claim, and for the prices they are asking (I’ll get to those in a moment), I think doTERRA oils should do more than smell good.

Of course, the real money is not in the oils but in the recruitment of others who's sales you can earn a commission on. That's both the power and the problem of multi-level-marketing. 

More on that in a moment, but if recruiting others isn't your thing and you're only looking to make a little extra “end-of-the-month” money, you can do online surveys in your spare time and earn money with sites like

You can also make money playing games, searching the web and visiting websites with Swag Bucks.

It's not “freedom” money of course, but 99% who start an MLM business don't earn “freedom” money either. 

If that's the kind of money you're after but you'd rather do it from home, an online business might be what you want

The problem is there's so much garbage and false information out there that knowing how (and where) to start is what you need in order to get what you want.

Now, I'm going to give you a free step by step beginner's guide to making money online and you can get it by Clicking Here

Do doTERRA Oils Work?

Aromatherapy can be pleasant, but specific claims that certain oils can relieve nausea, lift your mood, reduce anxiety and help you sleep better simply don’t have the science to back them up.

You can find experts in this field such as Dr Gary Young but let’s be honest. With Young Living Farms cultivating, harvesting and distilling essential oils all around the globe from the US and Canada, to Equador and France… he has a significant financial stake in these products.

Does that mean he's dishonest? No, of course not. 

And to be clear, this is only my opinion… but I find it difficult to believe his research is 100% unbiased (nor would it be for any of us under the same circumstances… so that is not a criticism Dr Young).

The Young Living Essential Oils Scientific Advisory Council has several scientific and medical professionals on it, but again, to be fair I have to wonder if they are being financially compensated at a level that would compromise their integrity?

But, this isn’t a review on Dr Gary Young, or Young Living Farms. I just want to make the point that, similar to the pharmaceutical industry, natural healing also has a financial incentive to stretch the truth of their claims.

I am making zero accusations here, I'm just simply not smart enough to know if these claims are true and therefore my “default” is to be suspicious. 

When it comes to people’s actual experiences, you get all kinds of of passionate opinions from reading comments online. It’s clear that this is a topic people are enthusiastic about.  

If you have experience with aromatherapy yourself, please share your thoughts in the comments below.

The doTERRA Opportunity

Rather than mass market their brand of oils in stores, doTERRA chose a direct selling, or multi-level-marketing, approach.

They say on their website that this decision was made because the MLM model is unique, just like their product. They do word it a little differently,

“Sharing essential oils is a unique experience, and the founders of doTERRA recognized that a sales model just as unique would be needed. In order to best facilitate personal essential oil experiences, doTERRA utilizes a direct selling model”

MLM’s, nor essential oils are not really all that unique.

In my opinion, I think the founders of doTERRA understand that the power of network marketing or pyramid type organizations is passion. People become passionate about the lifestyle potential, and that enthusiasm spills over onto an otherwise average group of products.

This isn’t just doTERRA. Most MLM’s claim their products are unique, of a higher quality and usually… unmatched in the industry.

In most cases, these claims are also used to justify the higher prices (which are needed to pay for mulitple layers of commissions in addition to the regular product costs such as manufacturing and distribution… not to mention the owner's profit margins).  

In fact, MLM’s often lead to cult-like followings (which I'll talk more about in a moment), and choosing to market doTERRA oils this way injects an energy into the product that traditional sales strategies would not.

Is doTERRA a Scam or A Pyramid Scheme?

Not at all. DoTERRA is not a scam… and although some of the deceptive marketing tactics used by distributors push the limits and get into scam territory (I’m speaking of MLM distributors in general, not necessarily doTERRA)… doTERRA operates within the legal boundaries of an MLM.

They’re approaching their 10th year in business and have nothing to gain by scamming people or doing something illegal.

As far as it being a pyramid scheme, that all depends on how you define one.

Wikipedia defines a pyramid scheme as “a business model that recruits members via a promise of payments or services for enrolling others into the scheme, rather than supplying investments or sale of products”.

There may be some aggessive doTerra representatives (which doTerra can't always control) who push those ethical boundaries when recruiting, but at the end of the day, doTerra has a real product to sell.

And despite my opinion or comments about the product… there is nothing to suggest it's not a high quality product.

Here's a better explanation of a true pyramid scheme… 

The defining factor between a legal pyramid scheme and an illegal pyramid scheme again comes to down to the product.

Some multi-level schemes try to add a product just so they appear legit… but they tie that product to their membership, meaning you can't become a member without also owning the product (and vice-versa).

Now, if you want to sell doTerra oils it's a good idea to also purchase some for demonstration purposes… but your membership is not dependent on being a buyer. 

Likewise (and more importantly)… you can be a doTerra customer without being a member or seller. 

So, even though many consider all MLM's to be some form of pyramid scheme… “legally” they are not.

A lot of money has been spent lobbying governments decades ago so that the legal definition of a pyramid scheme was written this way to accommodate those who are making millions (and even billions) from them… in my opinion.

But in some countries, like the US, there’s nothing illegal about lobbying governments to pass laws in your favor, so you’ll have to rely on your own definition as to whether you consider doTerra a pyramid scheme or not.

The law says they are not and as much as I don't like multi-level marketing, I'd have to agree… legally speaking that is. 

Another issue that comes up when talking about pyramid schemes though, is whether or not it's a “cult”? Yep… I said it. A cult. 

Is doTERRA a Cult?

Talk of pyramid schemes and cults is a little personal for me, and if you've been involved in multi-level-marketing, it might be personal for you too. 

In the 90's I sold Amway products and spent every waking hour trying to build my downline (aka recruiting). I was part of an Amway leg (or organization) known as World Wide Dream Builders (WWDB). 

And that's what they did… “build dreams”.

We were encouraged to build those dreams at all costs (to sacrifice our friendships and our health if we had to) and I won't go into great detail but without question, I had developed a cult level obsession with my MLM business. 

So, does doTERRA also focus on building dreams and venture into cult territory? 

Building dreams yes, but I'll leave the question of them being a cult up to you. I'll also say this is not unique to doTERRA. It's not even unique to MLM's… 

But MLM's are known for their emotional conventions (which certainly affected me in ways I wish they hadn't).  

In any of these conventions I wouldn't question the speaker's sincerity or authenticity. I'm sure there are some who share their heartfelt stories because they really want to help people. 

There are probably some who do it because they love the rush of manipulating a crowd. 

Again… this is not specific to doTERRA. It's a feature of MLM's in general because sales growth comes from a crowd of highly motivated people who take that convention energy home and bring more people into the circle. 

If you're unsure if multi-level-marketing is for you but you still want to make money in your spare time, you can do online surveys with sites Survey Junkie and Swag Bucks (who also pays members for doing things searching the web, watching videos and even playing games). 

Of course surveys won't make you rich, but according to this FTC document, multi-level-marketing won't either. 

If the “work-at-home” lifestyle is what you want though, another option (the option that worked for this failed multi-level-marketer… yes me) is an online business

Generating income from your computer may be what you want

There's so much false information and junk out there though, knowing how (and where) to get started is what you need to get what you want

To learn how I did it, I'm going to give you a free step by step beginner's guide to making money online and you can get it by clicking HERE.

How Does It Work?

Whatever their reasons for choosing a direct selling strategy, the end result is that it creates an opportunity for you to build a home-based business with doTERRA.

If you’re passionate about essential oils and the benefits they may provide, this might be for you.

It works like all MLM’s do. You build your business in two ways. The first is through retail sales, and the second is by recruiting others… and this, in my opinion, is where the opportunity falls apart for most people.

One thing that doTERRA has done well is keep the barrier to entry low. You can set up a wholesale account and start selling their oils for $35. This cost is waived if you purchase one of their starter kits which range from $150 – $275. Compared to some other MLM’s which cost significantly more to start, doTERRA is a good choice.

I’ll get more into the compensation structure in a moment, but the way you build financial independence (which is really what MLM’s are selling) is by earning commissions from your downline sales.

You can build your downline by focusing on width (sponsoring more people yourself), depth (working with someone in your downline and helping them sponsor someone, and then helping that person and so on…), or by doing a combination of both strategies. The strategy you chose depends on the compensation structure which I’ll talk about in a moment.

Typically, you have someone in your upline help you build your business, which is one of the benefits of the pyramid style opportunity. Another benefit is being able to plug into their marketing and distribution system.

But, while multi-level-marketing may seem great at first, they also have some serious flaws.

One of those flaws is the motive behind the help and support you get.

The distributors (or Wellness Advocates in doTERRA’s case) under you don’t just belong to your organization, they also belong to your upline’s organization.

Likewise, the people you enroll also have their own downlines… and although they are part of your overall organization, those people have their own businesses they are building.

And the entire pyramid belongs to the company.

A Big MLM Problem

When everyone is connected within an upline and downline (a pyramid), it's a problem because you can't take it with you.

The business you build is never really yours. You will have spent countless hours… even years building up a business and organization, but it doesn’t belong to you.

Add to the fact that you can never introduce your own products, switch suppliers or adjust pricing to suit your needs, and it becomes clear that what seems like your own business is more like being locked into another job.

There was a time when MLM’s were a really good option for someone wanting to start a home-based business, but now that we're connected online, there are much better options and opportunities to build a business that is 100% yours in my opinion.

You still get the benefits of a system with support but if “your own” business is what you're looking for, you don't want to be trapped with a single organization or product supplier. 

You also don't want to recruit people because all your time and effort goes to waste if you decide to leave that organization. 

An online business that YOU own with the ability to work with many suppliers and product owners is what you want, but with so much confusing information out there and scams, knowing how (and where) to get started properly is what you need to get what you want.  

To learn how I did it, I'm going to give you a free step by step beginner's guide to making money online and you can get it by clicking HERE.

If you're not ready for your own business (which is perfectly okay… most people are not ready for their own business)…

… you can also make money with online surveys. Sites like Survey Junkie and Swag Bucks are free to join and are a great way to make a little extra spending money in your spare time. 

doTERRA’s Compensation Structure

doTERRA’s compensation plan gets a little complicated with all the acronyms such as PV, WA and LRP. And then there are multiple levels of commissions and bonuses.

So, rather than having me mess it up, I thought a better explanation could be given by someone who understands it better than I.

Please note, I don’t endorse this video. It’s for informational purposes only.

Price of Oils

doTERRA boasts one of the most generous compensation plans in the business, but that money doesn’t come from thin air. If they are paying out higher than average commissions, that’s because they have higher than average prices.

This is another significant problem with MLM’s. Many levels of compensation need to be paid, including the company who manufactures, packages and ships the products.

Here are some examples of doTERRA’s prices.

doTERRA Essential Oil Prices

Compare those prices to OnePure. OnePure also claims to be of high quality saying their essential oils use the latest steam-pressing technique, and are pure with no additives, fillers, bases or carriers added. I’m no expert, but I don’t see any evidence that doTERRA’s oils are superior to OnePure’s… at least not enough to justify the price difference.

doTERRA vs OnePure Essential OIls

​I realize that these are not direct comparisons, but if you just compare the Lavender oil here… OnePure has a 10ml bottle as part of a $15.95 six-pack, while doTERRA's $18.33. Even the wholesale price for that single bottle is almost the cost of six of OnePure's oils.

Another comparison is Plant Therapy's 100% PURE FRANKINCENSE SERRATA OIL: Steam-distilled from the fragrant resin of the frankincense tree to produce a high-quality essential oil with absolutely no additives or fillers.

Plant Therapy Frankincense Oil
Source: Amazon
doTERRA Frankincense Touch Oil
Source: doTERRA

As I said a moment, I not an expert here… but are doTERRA oils that much better than these other brands? doTERRA's Frankincense oil $65.67. Even the wholesale price is $45.50 while you can get a bottle of the Plant Therapy Frankinsence for $11.95.

I find it difficult to believe that the reason they cost 600% more is down to quality… and not because there are many levels of commissions that need to be paid.

As a Wellness Associate (distributor), this is the competition you’re up against. Not to mention, that in some areas (depending on the product) Amazon can deliver overnight, if not the same day.

You also have to ask yourself if taking money from people knowing they can get a comparable product for significantly less is something you’re comfortable with.

doTERRA Recruiting

Another serious flaw with MLM’s is one that most (more than 99% of people) can’t overcome.


At the beginning of this review I mentioned the numbers (the success rate) of MLM’s and the reasons why people struggle.

According to research… when calculating for expenses, 997 out of 1,000 people who get involved with an MLM will lose money. And that doesn’t include your time.

If you can dance, have a decent singing voice, or some other talent… you might have better odds of winning one of TV’s big singing or dance shows.

And, just like those shows, succeeding in multi-level-marketing requires talent, skill and unique circumstances that most people don’t have.

The numbers don’t lie.

The main reason people do NOT succeed here is because people don’t like recruiting others.

And people also don’t like being recruited.

I’ve witnessed it, and maybe you have too, family and friendships being ruined over this. Not out of anger or an argument, but simply because people start avoiding you when they think you’re trying to get them into something.

It's uncomfortable, and like I mentioned earlier when I was part of Amway… for me it was like a cult. I couldn't even communicate normally with my friends and family. Or at least the one I hadn't already recruited into my scheme. 

If these relationshops are not managed well, your business can become a big wedge between you and the people you care about.

So that leaves you recruiting people you don’t know.

Aside from recruiting my family and friends, my strategy was to hang out at supermarket magazine racks and strike up conversations with people. It worked, but I hated doing it. There was no possible way I could sustain it.

I was miserable. Every single person I met, every place that I went, I was trying to find an angle… an opening to introduce my opportunity.

Those who succeed at multi-level marketing not only have that kind of commitment, but they also have a unique skill-set and an uncommon personality. They can withstand consistent rejection and more importantly, unlike me, it doesn’t bother them or make them unhappy; which why they can keep doing it.

On paper, the opportunity might look good, but you must ask yourself if you have what it takes to be one of the three in a thousand that don’t lose money.

We can do something we don’t like for a short while, but sooner or later we will either stop or accept that we’re going to be really unhappy. In my opinion, life is too short for unhappy.

Where Do You Go From Here?

What do you do if you don’t like selling and recruiting? I mentioned earlier about strategies that could help you turn the odds in your favor.

To be successful at something, you must do something you enjoy. This is critical.

Achieving your goals takes time. Usually more time than we would like.

You’re going to get frustrated, discouraged, and there are going to be times when you just want to quit. There’s no way to survive and push on through the challenge if (on top of everything else) you hate what you’re doing.

And, what’s the point? Even if you do succeed, you’ll succeed at something you don’t like. That makes no sense.

To increase your odds of success, you must do something you enjoy. 

If you have a passion for essential oils and enjoy talking to people (or even making YouTube videos which has become a common strategy), then doTERRA might be the right choice for you. 

People are passionate about their oils and being a billion dollar industry, you have a lot of opportunity. 

But what if you don't enjoy sales? What if you're not an outgoing person? 

That was my situation. I tried to be that person but network marketing just wasn't my thing. 

An online business is more my speed, and it might be yours too.  

You don’t have to recruit anyone. Your friends and family might be fascinated by what you do, but they won't be uncomfortable around you because of it.

You also don’t have to sell overpriced products.

And yet you can still earn passive income and work from home. 

Affiliate marketing (not network marketing or multi-level-marketing) is a way for you to partner with thousands of online suppliers such as Amazon and build a business that's 100% your own… no upline or downline.

If building an online business with a computer (instead of drawing circles on whiteboard in someone's living room) is what you want, then knowing how and where to get started is what you need in order to get what you want

To learn how I did it, I'm going to give you a free step by step beginner's guide to making money online and you can get it by clicking HERE.

You can also make some extra spending money with online surveys. Popular sites like Survey Junkie and Swag Bucks will pay you for your opinion and in the case of Swag Bucks will even pay you to do things like watching videos, playing games and visiting websites. 

If you're like me and you're not afraid of a little hard work as long as you get the rewards, you can read about how I learned to make money online here.

Finally, if you've never tried multi-level-marketing before or you've done sales… then you don't know until you try. doTERRA might be a good fit for you.

I hope my doTERRA review was helpful and if you have any comments, questions or experience with doTERRA (or their oils), please share in the comments section below. 

And, if you found this article useful, or think it might be helpful for others… Please share.

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6 thoughts on “doTERRA Review – Great Opportunity or Overpriced MLM Pyramid?”

  1. Hi Jay,
    I find your article very interesting…. I’ve always had a strong interest in affiliate marketing…. and after thinking long and hard I thought I would choose essential oils as my niche… I set atarted to set up a website….. then I came across doterra…. and I have been on the fence for the past 4 weeks…. not sure which way to turn!!!
    I really want to do this myself but then doterras package looks so inviting!! And then when I thought I’d finally decided to go with doterra I read you article!!
    If you have any further tips or help I’d really appreciate it…. I thought I had it all figured out…. numerous times!!

    • Hi Jo, there are a couple things with Doterra to consider. My wife uses essential oils and gets them much cheaper buying local or even on Amazon. The other challenge is that you’re never really a business owner when you choose a side-hustle like multi-level-marketing. Aside from choosing your own hours to work… it’s really no different that being an employee. They choose and control the product, the price, the service, how you can and can’t sell or market the products…

      Having said that, where some people might find this a weakness… others find it to be a strength. Some prefer the simplicity of a “packaged” system so to speak, and all they want to do is choose their own hours and let the company do the rest.

      On the other hand, affiliate marketing gives you full control. You are not limited to Doterra’s oils. Not only can you promote dozens of brands if you choose… you can recommend and promote all the supporting products you can think of. As your audience grows you might get into different infusers for example, or even branch off into products and articles related to meditation, or yoga… These are products and niche’s that have strong social media followings… and starting with essential oils may be the perfect doorway into more competitive niches.

      Now… that’s just one direction, but my point is that if you’re committed, the affiliate marketing option provides you many more options, it’s diversified, and you have full control of what products you promote, how you promote them. If you ever decide to change strategies, products or companies, it’s just a strategy change (sometimes nothing more than changing a few links)… whereas MLM’s and similar opportunities you would have to quit and start over again with a new company, new contracts, new start-up fees, and so on…

      There are other differences. MLM’s have the potential for to start earning sooner (because their marketing plan is plug and play), and the commissions (or profit margins) are often higher than affiliate marketing (for physical products, not necessarily digital products or services)… but they are also often more expensive to get started. And then… as mentioned, you’re kind of locked in and making a change isn’t so easy. MLM’s also require recruiting which is a non-starter for many people.

      Those are just a few of my thoughts… not sure if that helps, or makes your decision even more difficult… but hopefully it provides a little insight.

      Also, thank you for stopping by as well as your comment and question,

  2. Wow, I’m overwhelmed by your detailed explanation of doTerra. This company occupies top spot now in the list of top network marketing companies especially those compiled by Business For Home Magazine. I’m sure, with lots of people searching on the web, this gives you a big opportunity for traffic! I’m also into network marketing, but this doTerra thing does not interest me. You know why? I won’t do any network marketing company with physical products, for the reason that aside from a bit overpriced, there’s also this issue of shipping costs. Higher shipping costs.

    But then, some friends are really set to doing these oils. Knowing that they are available in Amazon, maybe I can just convince them to just become affiliates for Amazon. My challenge now is, if they ask for a training with regard to selling with Amazon, I don’t know any training to recommend them. Can you suggest one? Preferably a low cost training that can teach my friend how to succeed as an affiliate of Amazon?

    • Hi Gomer, thanks for stopping by. Physical products definitely have their pros and cons… shipping and handling being one of the cons. Fortunately, essential oils are on the small size…

      You are right though, it’s a little easier to become an affiliate and simply collect commissions and leave the shipping, handling, invoicing etc. to a company like Amazon.

      For a recommendation, I’d say start with my Free Guide “Access Denied – Cracking the Secret Code to Making Money Online (link available in the sidebar to the right =>

      Thanks again for your comment, and if you have any other questions please don’t hesitate to ask,

  3. Thanks for the site. I am so glad to have come across it.
    I have been involved in MLM’s before and they all have made me almost sick to do. I am very leery of making another move into a MLM. Is there a great market for these oils?
    My wife is looking for something to do and this may be just what she is looking for. I will pass it one. Thanks.

    • Hi Bobby, my wife likes essential oils as well, to use… not to sell 😀

      As an opportunity… it sounds like you’ve got some experience with MLM’s and know what they are like? My best recommendation would be to see multi-level-marketing is something your wife would be into. For the right person, MLM’s can offer a quick plug and play system to making money.

      If you’re not the right person (when it comes to MLM… like you, I am not the right person) they can be serious source of frustration and disappointment… in which case I’d recommend affiliate marketing which is suited more to those comfortable at home on their computer, rather than a party of people in someone’s living room.

      As far as there being a market for essential oils, I see and hear about them more and more these days so I’d say yes. They also accompany some other trends that are gaining popularity these days such as meditation, mindfulness, yoga, etc.

      Thanks for reading, and for your comment,