This week a news story broke with Young Living at the center of a new scandal.

The Justice Department released a press release (linked at the bottom of the article) that detailed how Young Living had violated the Lacey Act by importing Spikenard Essential Oil and Rosewood Essential Oil without proper documentation from their source.

This brought out the usual band of Young Living bashers, as they dusted off their internet megaphones and trumpeted the “hopeful fall” of the essential oil giant to anyone and anything within digital listening distance.

Not surprisingly it came from the usual suspects:  the “independent experts” who really are just loosely disguised competition hit-persons, the “aromatherapy safety warriors” who look for any opportunity to claim moral superiority over the evil “big oil” company, and the “I hate anything that looks like a pyramid except my own job’s corporate structure” crowd who would take a pot shot at any MLM alive if given the chance and the right opportunity.

The Young Living Lacey Act Scandal as told by Social Media

To hear the story as it grew you’d think that the company hired a band of mercenaries and descended on the rainforests of Peru with chainsaws in the dead of night.   While there they chopped down an entire plantation full of endangered trees and then smuggled them out on speedboats, dodging the coastguard.  Then, they distilled the ill-gotten oil next to Walter White’s RV before bottling it using child labor.

I mean come on.    Oh, and for the record, for those of you who won’t probably read any further, that actually didn’t happen.  It’s meant to illustrate how silly and disingenuous most of the stuff you’ll end up reading actually is.

In an era of so-called “fake news”, this probably shouldn’t be a surprise.  But the fact that people actually still fall for it does make me scratch my head a bit.

The Young Living Lacey Act Scandal as it Actually Happened

  1. Young Living established a farm in Ecuador in 2000 and was sourcing oils in South America through their network of other local growers and distillers at that time and going forward.
  2. In 2008 the US Government added endangered plants to the Lacey Act (prior to 2008 the Lacey Act only dealt with animals).
  3. In 2014 Young Living discovered a potential problem with sourcing and immediately began an investigation.
  4. In 2015 Young Living approached the Justice Department and disclosed this sourcing issue.   For clarification, this was always a problem with sourcing, nothing was wrong with the quality (unlike some of the allegations of people eager to capitalize on the situation).
  5. Young Living put together a plan that satisfied the authorities that they would not repeat the infraction.
  6. Young Living removed rosewood and spikenard from their product offerings.
  7. September 2017, Young Living has their day in court and finishes what they started when they first contacted the Justice Department.
  8. Internet blows up with people taking advantage of the situation to bash Young Living.

From the Department of Justice on September 19, 2017:

“The Justice Department announced today that YOUNG LIVING ESSENTIAL OILS, L.C., (the Company), headquartered in Lehi, Utah, pleaded guilty in federal court to federal misdemeanor charges regarding its illegal trafficking of rosewood oil and spikenard oil in violation of the Lacey Act and the Endangered Species Act. The Company voluntarily disclosed its rosewood oil violations and has been cooperating with government investigators.” (emphasis mine)

Now, a reasonable person who read that statement would conclude two things:

  1. Young Living was found guilty of violating the Lacey Act by illegal trafficking of rosewood and spikenard oil.
  2. Young Living actually had turned themselves in to the Justice Department and initiated the investigation that led to the eventual guilty verdict.  No one busted in their door and caught them with their hands in the proverbial cookie jar.  They told the government themselves.   I mean seriously, who does that?   They knew they’d have to deal with the legal ramifications, and probably even knew they’d deal with the internet justice warriors, and yet they went and did the right thing.

Sadly, people with intellectually dishonest axes to grind focus on only point number one, and would try to hide or minimize point number two.

Why people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones:

So, interestingly enough I wonder how many of the other essential oil companies in the United States are currently selling products formulated with illegally sourced rosewood or spikenard essential oil?  Because the fact remains that there are no sustainable sources of either of those oils.

Ironically, some of the companies with the loudest surrogates actually do sell spikenard or rosewood and products made with them.   I’d imagine that behind the scenes many essential oil companies are quietly working on plans to clean up their sourcing and hope that no one comes knocking with questions.

“Pay attention to that other company!  Look how dishonest I say they are! Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!”

My takeaway:

So here’s my takeaway from this whole situation, summed up in one succinct package.

  • A company (Young Living) made a mistake.
  • As soon as they were aware they may have made a mistake they did an investigation to find out for sure.
  • When they found out for sure they did the right thing and turned themselves over to the Department of Justice.
  • They later faced the legal sanctions that were required by their mistake.
  • They worked with the government and developed a sourcing plan (currently the only essential oil company with a Lacey Act Compliance Plan, by the way) that met the stringent requirements that face the whole industry.
  • Now as they source oils that they do not personally grow they bring SPF Global with them.  SPF Global is an independent Environmental Watch Group.


Facts that remain unchanged:

  • Young Living is still the only essential oil company to own global farms and distilleries all over the world.
  • Young Living still leads every single other essential oil company in gross annual sales (exceeding 1 BILLION per year since 2015).
  • The problem was identified in 2014, and in the past three years they’ve completely locked down their systems to prevent it from happening again.
  • Young Living could have quietly fixed the problem and hoped no one found out, but they chose to do the honest thing and rectify the problem with the government.   That proves some integrity right there.
  • There are still other companies who sell rosewood and spikenard.   Neither of those oils has sustainable sources, so that begs the question of “where are they getting them from?”  Now THAT’s the REAL question here in my opinion.

In other words:

“Mountain, you’re really a molehill.”  

“Tail, stop wagging the dog.”  “

“Pot, meet kettle.”

And Young Living still makes everyone jealous.  Because they’re just that good.

Here are the actual facts without any social media spin:

If you’re curious to learn about my personal favorite essential oils that have already helped 1000s of people get the powerful results they were looking for, click here to learn more.


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