Multilevel-marketing (MLM), also known as pyramid selling, is a marketing strategy that has become famous for being prone to scams. Usually, members of an MLM will sell the company’s products without a contract or any fixed salary.
Most MLMs require people to buy products upfront and then sell them to acquaintances. MLM companies ask for members to recruit others, which increases workforce.
It’s not uncommon for MLM companies to end up being investigated by legal authorities. Most MLM companies rely on “enhanced” product descriptions that promise great results. Sometimes MLM companies also create such a strong following that they end up cultish.
The case of Young Living
MLM company Young Living claims to be the world leader on essential oils, claiming their products are “therapeutic-grade”. The Young Living webpage’s section “About Essential Oils” describes the use of essential oils for, among other things, emotional & physical wellness.
A Young Living membership grants access to promotions & events – normal benefits MLM companies offer for signing up. What’s interesting about this company is the fact that Young Living members claim that essential oils cure a plethora of illnesses.
A Business Insider article tells the story of Miguel and his mother, a member of Young Living. She had to undergo surgery to remove her appendix after she ignored early signs of appendicitis, attempting the use essential oils to cure herself instead. She continued to use them after surgery, too.
Miguel’s mother claims a DIY mixture of essential oils can be effective against COVID-19. She even stopped buying commercial soaps and uses essential oils instead. Miguel reports buying soaps and sanitizers in secret, as his mother wouldn’t approve of those products.
Another Business Insider piece cites a different member of Young Living who claims “A lot of those over-the-counter drugs kind of buildup in your system and kind of cause more problems and cause more symptoms. And these oils are just so pure, they go through your system, and it’s just natural. [sic]”
Some members of Young Living go as far as to affirm that essential oils can treat ebola and other chronic illnesses. The FDA even sent a warning letter to the MLM company in 2014 urging them to correct the violations to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938.
Young Living and Life Science Publishing published a book titled Essential Oils Desk Reference which lists essential oils that can be used to treat a wide range of conditions, from sexual trauma to suicidal feelings.
Members of Young Living have expressed being positively surprised by the book. The Essential Oils Desk Reference is sorted by product and disease type. Just by looking for an ailment in the back of the book, you can find a variety of essential oil products to treat it.
Other MLM companies
Another MLM company that sells health & wellness products is Total Life Changes. One of the products it offers is “BlossoMÉ”: “A blend of ingredients specially formulated to support healthy hormone levels, promote a healthy appetite, and leave you feeling ready for the world. Also supports healthy skin and an improved mood.”
The Total Life Changes webpage offers suggestions for other products to use alongside BlossoMÉ to get better results. This MLM company prides itself in having started in a basement and assures readers there are over 2,500,000 “people who’ve felt it”.
Total Life Changes’s website notes that the MLM’s products have not been reviewed by the FDA, including the disclaimer: “These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”
Nonetheless, Total Life Changes offers essential oils just like Young Living. A section titled “Facts You’ll Feel” allows visitors to download a PDF that explains the benefits of the essential oils. For instance, the Gladiator essential oil includes the claim that it could “help support the immune system”.