It all started with a little drop of Thieves essential oil. Well, maybe a few drops. Enough for Gwen Vanvalkenburg’s daughter to finally find relief from stomach pain caused by digestive tract ulcers. In college at the time, Kendall had tried it all: Prilosec, Mylanta and lots of Tums. Thieves oil did the trick for her. She’s been using it daily ever since.
Vanvalkenburg, who owns her own beauty shop, learned about Thieves oil from a client, information that helped her daughter and became her introduction into the world of essential oils.
Thieves oil is named after criminals who used the oil on masks to cover their faces that allowed them to steal from the bodies of victims of the Black Plague without contracting the disease. It is a combination of oils from cloves, cinnamon, rosemary, lemon and eucalyptus and has anti-parasitical and anti-bacterial properties.
Beauty shops are places where people visit with each other and soon the word was out. Some of Vanvalkenburg’s clients were curious enough to give thieves oil a try. Meanwhile Vanvalkenburg became so interested in the world of essential oils that she began to educate herself, setting aside her lunch hour to study every day for a couple of years. Her friend and mentor, Claudia Lanigan, played an important role in developing Vanvalkenburg’s expertise.
Essential oils have been around since ancient times and have been used by many cultures for cosmetics and to enhance wellness. The oils are derived from plants and trees grown all over the world that are harvested and processed in order to extract the oils they produce. By steam distilling, cold pressing or tapping trees to retrieve resin, the products become far more concentrated and powerful than the plants from which they are derived.
While regulations prevent vendors of essential oils from making claims that their products treat or prevent disease, a growing number of users claim startling results. Vanvalkenburg tells the story of a woman suffering from a brain tumor who could not speak or walk before she started drinking Ningxai red, a fruit drink containing a potent combination of natural plant products. A year later the women’s tumor had quit growing and she was mobile and able to speak. “The Ningxai liquid oxygenates the blood and improves the immune system,” Vanvalkenburg explained.
Some oils can be taken internally while others are inhaled or rubbed into the skin. Thieves oil is said to stop respiratory diseases in their tracks when applied to the bottom of the feet. Essential oils applied to the skin reach the bloodstream in two-and-half minutes.
Essential oils have become so popular that several companies have sprung up to meet a growing demand. Vanvalkenburg is associated with one of the largest firms, Young Living, that owns or partners with farms in France, Croatia, Oman, Israel, Ecuador, Canada and Taiwan, and processes oils from a total of more than 50 sources.
Vanvalkenburg uses Young Living products because she is convinced of the integrity of the company. Founder D. Gary Young is a naturopath committed to growing plants in soil that has never been commercially fertilized. He has done his research and knows just when to harvest and distill the oils to achieve top quality. Products are then carefully sealed to maintain freshness.
The multi-level-marketing firm has seen tremendous growth in 20 years. Vanvalkenburg was among 22,000 people who attended a recent convention in Utah.
Vanvalkenburg’s essential oil business has grown in spite of itself. There’s a little shelf of oils displayed in her beauty salon but she doesn’t talk about essential oils unless someone asks. Every month she teaches a class for interested people. She manages her business through her presence on Facebook.
Every day she fortifies herself with her favorites: Valor, and Joy, blends she believes in, and a single drop of frankincense that she said enhances the sparkle in her already outgoing personality.