NAD Finds Certain doTERRA Phrases to be Puffery; Recommends Discontinuation of Challenged Essential Oils Health Benefit Claims; Advertiser to Appeal
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New York, NY – October 27, 2020 – The National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs determined that doTERRA International, LLC (doTERRA) did not provide a reasonable basis for claims that its doTERRA essential oils provide certain health benefits, including specific benefits for mood, emotions, and the mind. NAD also determined that the evidence in the record was not a good fit for the advertiser’s “Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade” claim.
The claims were challenged by S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., maker of Glade home fragrances and products.
NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue its “Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade” claim, as well as unsupported express claims about the general health benefits of essential oils when used aromatically, including:
- “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.”
- “One way to experience the benefits of essential oils is aromatically, or by breathing them in. Using essential oils aromatically can offer many benefits; however, it can be particularly helpful for improving or managing mood.”
- “[E]ssential oils have dozens of benefits for the … mind.”
- “Along with the applications for everyday life, many enjoy essential oils because of their health benefits, as well as their positive effects on emotions.”
- “[W]e now have increasing scientific evidence and research showing that essential oils can be effectively and safely used in a wider range of day-to-day practices and routines for amazing natural health benefits. Today, essential oils can be used for … emotional health.”
As well as implied claims that:
- doTERRA’s “therapeutic grade” essential oils are qualitatively different, and more efficacious, than essential oils that are not “therapeutic grade.”
- doTERRA’s aromatherapy and essential oils provide general emotional well-being and state of mind benefit including improving health, mood, and have a positive effect on emotions.
NAD noted, however, that the advertiser may be able to make more limited claims about the aromatic benefits of essential oils, provided the claims clearly qualify the emerging nature of the science upon which they are based.
NAD also recommended that the advertiser discontinue or modify its advertising to avoid conveying implied benefit 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 relieve consumers increase or maintain their energy level when used as directed.
- Will improve and balance a consumers’ mood when used as directed.
This challenge involved claims for doTERRA’s essential oils – 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 advertiser markets its essential oils, all of which are advertised with the claim “Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade,” by touting both their high quality and their health benefits.
NAD determined that the advertiser’s “Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade” claim could reasonably be understood by consumers as both a message about the purity and quality of the essential oils being advertised and a message that the products provide relief for consumers’ mental and emotional health-related issues. After careful review of the evidence in the record, NAD concluded that it was not a good fit for the claim. NAD noted that in order to support its claim, the advertiser should have evidence that doTERRA oils have been shown to provide “therapeutic” benefits. NAD found that there were no competent and reliable scientific studies showing that any of the doTERRA oils are “therapeutic,” and as a result, recommended that the claim be discontinued.
In support of its general benefit claims, the advertiser relied on a number of secondary sources describing the benefits and 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. However, NAD determined that, taken as a whole, the advertiser’s study evidence does not amount to competent and reliable scientific evidence to support doTERRA’s broad claims that essential oils provide consumers with mental and emotional health benefits. Therefore, NAD recommended that the advertiser’s general health benefits claims be discontinued.
Further, NAD concluded that a series of statements in doTERRA’s essential oil descriptions conveyed implied mental and emotional health benefit messages (that its oils “calm and relax,” “relieve anxiety,” “helps consumers sleep,” “provide clarity focus, or alertness,” “increase or maintain consumers’ energy level,” and “improves or balance mood”), but that such messages are not supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence. Therefore, NAD recommended that doTERRA discontinue the statements in its advertising that imply that its essential oils provide these benefits or otherwise modify its advertising to avoid conveying these messages.
NAD determined that certain other statements challenged by SCJ do not convey an implied mental and emotional health message, including “comforting,” “refreshing,” “relaxing aroma,” “[c]reates a restful atmosphere conducive to sleep,” “invigorating to the senses,” and “[s]oothing and uplifting when diffused.” 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 NAD’s decision to the National Advertising Review Board.
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About the National Advertising Division: The National Advertising Division (NAD), a division of BBB National Programs, provides independent self-regulation and dispute resolution services, guiding the truthfulness of advertising across the U.S. NAD reviews national advertising in all media and its decisions set consistent standards for advertising truth and accuracy, delivering meaningful protection to consumers and leveling the playing field for business.
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