The alternative health industry is a $30 billion dollar industry in the U.S. alone and is expected to rise as more people become aware of their wellness options. This is wonderful, of course, but with more business usually comes a lot more regulation. While the industry is largely unregulated compared to other industries right now, we can expect to see more regulation and enforcement as more and more people flood into this market.
I don’t particularly like being told what I can and cannot say to my community. After all, the reason I share the information that I do is because I want to share resources that really work with people – resources that they can access on their own without having to appeal to any authority: things like herbs they can gather near their own homes, essential oils that are freely available, and the like.
If an herb really does help with a disease, I want to be able to tell someone that! I’m guessing you’ve faced similar situations and frustrations in your work: wanting to share a piece of information but worrying about the liability or legality of what you’re saying.
We all have to look at the big picture: we need to protect our businesses so that we’re able to continue sharing alternative health information and products. That means facing reality and working to comply with the guidelines that are out there.
Complying with these regulatory bodies protects you, your business, your partners, and your customers in several ways:
- Avoid hefty fines
- Avoid headaches by coming into compliance before you trigger an investigation
- Avoid prosecution
- Protect your business interests by keeping everything legit
This is all so much more boring than talking and writing about plants and how wonderful they are, but it’s important nonetheless.
I have been spending loads of time getting guidance and gathering the information I need to bring my own business into compliance. I wanted to compile it here to help other business owners as well.
This post has been fact-checked, verified, and will help you bring your business and marketing materials into compliance so that you can go forward in sharing content confidently without worrying that you’re going to get in trouble.
Let’s get started.
There are two main regulatory bodies we need to comply with when it comes to promoting alternative health information and products – the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
These bodies serve different purposes and it’s helpful to understand what they are and why their guidelines exist the way they do.
The FDA exists to protect and promote public health through the regulation of food and drug products.
The FTC exists to protect consumers by preventing deceptive and unfair business practices.
Who needs to comply?
Anyone selling products, anyone creating products, and anyone using “commercial speech” needs to adhere to the guidelines the FDA and FTC have created.
If you earn an income tied to talking and sharing about these things, you're using commercial speech. That includes:
- Affiliate marketing
- Promoting your own product line
- Speaking at an event
- Providing wellness services like acupuncture, holistic care, massage, etc.
- Engaging in sponsorships as an influencer or event coordinator
How to make sure your language is compliant
In order to keep your messaging compliant, keeping a “wellness positive” perspective is helpful. What that means is keeping your language focused on promoting healthy living and wellness, not on preventing or treating disease or ailment.
Aging is not a disease. Birth is not a disease. Following a healthy skincare routine is independent of disease. Creating good sleep habits is not disease-related. These topics can be discussed with relative freedom.
However, Alzheimer's Disease, postpartum depression, eczema, and insomnia are all ailments that require “medical advice” to address, according to the law, so shouldn't be approached using commercial speech.
A good question to ask yourself is if everyone experiences the topic you wish to address. Those topics are more likely to be safe for you to talk about:
- Establishing a healthy sleep routine
- Improving your energy levels
- Eating an unprocessed diet
Stay away from topics of preventing, treating, or curing disease:
Again, talk about supporting health NOT preventing or treating disease.
- Okay: Lavender herb supports healthy, restful sleep.
- NOT okay: Lavender herb is a natural treatment for insomnia.
- Okay: Jojoba oil promotes a healthy complexion.
- NOT okay: Jojoba oil will get rid of your eczema.
I know how confusing it can seem at first to make sure your marketing language is compliant, but I've noticed as I continue to create content (and go through my older content) that it becomes second nature pretty quickly. I encourage you to bookmark this post – I'll keep it updated.
Let's not let overwhelm stop us from sharing all of our health wisdom with the world! By getting cozy with the guidelines in place, we can share even more confidently and keep helping people take charge of their own wellness.
Need to go through a ton of old content and get things up to code? Me too. I created a compliance checklist to help with the process. You can grab it right here.
Please share this resource with all your wellness biz + blogger friends so we can keep doing our thing – without fear.