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understanding therapeutic grade essential oils and their benefits


A Great Loss, a Great Legacy

On May 12, 2018, Gary Young, founder of Young Living Essential Oils, passed away due to complications from a series of strokes. Donald Gary Young was born July 11, 1949 in Idaho Falls, Idaho, to Donald Norman Young and Dolly Adrienne Parsons.

The Young family were among the most noted of early American pioneers.They were descended from Dr. Joseph Young, who served in the French and Indian Wars as a surgeon. Joseph married Elizabeth Hayden Treadway, a widow, and had six children, including John Hayden Young, a veteran of the Revolutionary War. John married Abigail “Nabby” Howe, of the Puritan family of Howes, and in 1801, they moved to the remote hills of Vermont, near the small town of Whittingham in Windham County, and in 1807 to Smyrna, New York. Nabby was the mother of eleven children, including Brigham Young, and his younger brother Lorenzo, third great-grandfather of Gary Young.

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Lorenzo Dow Young 3rd great-grandfather of Gary, and  brother of Brigham Young

John R Young great-great grandfather of Gary

John R Young, great-great grandfather of Gary, from Memoirs of John R Young

Lorenzo was the youngest of eleven children born to John Hayden Young and Abigail “Nabby” Howe Young, while Brigham was the ninth child. Lorenzo Young was asked by his brother Brigham to join him as part of the vanguard company on the first expedition of the Mormons to Utah, in 1847.

The pioneer story of the Young family is an incredible one, filled with hardship and adventure. With some understanding of this history, it is not so surprising that Gary Young was born with the same pioneering spirit as his ancestors. He possessed a mind with a unique ability to visualize what he wanted or needed to achieve, and the determination to carry it out.

 

 

 

Gary’s growing up years were spent in Challis, Idaho, in a 30 x 30 cabin his father built 12 miles from town, with no electricity or running water.  He lived with his parents and 5 siblings, accustomed to a life of hard work on the range.

wedding picture Ferra Little Young and Nancy Lewella Green

wedding picture of Gary’s great-grandparents Ferra Little Young and Nancy Lewela Green

 

 

Ferra, Llloyd, Gary, and Guy Young front, Don Young back left

Gary’s great-grandfather Ferra Little Young; Lloyd Young, Gary, Guy Young in front row; Gary’s father Don Young back left

Their home was on  the edge of what is now the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness.

Max, Jack, and Don Young, Gary at Don's feet, Challis, ID

Gary’s uncles Max and Jack, his father Don, and Gary at Don’s feet at the farm in Challis, Idaho

Here the rugged, indomitable mountains rise sharply above the deep canyons with rushing, whitewater rivers.  The Salmon River Canyon, deeper even than the famous Grand Canyon, commands spectacular views of a diverse ecological landscape, defined by some of the oldest minerals visible anywhere on earth. Cirque basins with high alpine lakes, chiseled gorges, wooded ridges, exposed granite bluffs and solitary turrets of the Bighorn Crags paint a landscape with shades of pale silver, green and blue.

 

 

Gary's grandparents RockL and Martha Allen Young

Gary’s grandparents Rock L and Martha Allen Young

Gary's parents when young

Gary’s parents, Dolly and Don Young

In 1967, Gary spent his summer working for the US Forest Service. He rode his horse over 2500 miles through the Idaho wilderness, clearing trails, patrolling for forest fires, and packing supplies to the fire lookouts and guard stations. Saving his money, he packed up his belongings that fall and drove to Canada, where he filed for one of the last parcels through the homestead act. Here he began building his horse and cattle ranch on 320 acres, 30 miles in the wilderness, and logging in the wintertime. His endeavor prospered for the first few years until a severe logging accident in 1973 changed the course of his life forever. Gary had three open skull fractures, and his spinal cord was ruptured in three places where it was classed as an incomplete break. In addition there were 16 broken or crushed vertebrae, and 11 ruptured discs. His pelvis was also broke,  the brachial plexus severed and the right scapula was broken into 9 pieces. Altogether there were 19 broken bones including all his ribs on the right side and several on the left. Initially Gary was not even given a room in the hospital but left in the hall as the doctors felt certain he could not survive this terrible trauma. He did not die but was confined to a wheelchair, told he would never walk again, and lost in a world of mind-numbing painkillers and anti-depressants. Gradually he lost everything, and unable even to commit suicide he determined to fast himself to death by subsisting only on water and lemon juice.

Gary's father Don Young, B.C. 1974

Gary’s father, Don Young in British Columbia 1974, where he taught woodworking and physical activities at a handicap school

After 253 days of this he unexpectedly began to feel movement in his right toe. As his doctors could not offer much help or hope, Gary decided to stop all his medications and began to explore alternative methods for natural healing and pain relief. Gradually he regained mobility, and managed to again make a living logging by driving a truck fitted with a hand clutch and brakes. Over 13 years, Gary recovered enough to walk again, but was in constant pain. He moved to Southern California and continued his education by enrolling in a Naturopathic College. Although it was not accredited, it was the only school at the time offering courses about the topics he wanted to learn, and all of his completed coursework was reviewed by a medical doctor. He built a small research center in Rosarita Beach, Baja California, Mexico, and finally, through a client, he was introduced to essential oils and invited to attend a conference in Geneva, Switzerland, where medical doctors were presenting their research. The conference was a 40-hour course on essential oils taught by Dr. Jean Claude Lapraz, M.D., and Dr. Paul Duraffourd, M.D.  Following the conference, Gary traveled to Paris to spend another week studying with Dr. Lapraz, and brought home one liter each of thirteen different oils.

From that moment, Gary was hooked. With his background in farming, it was natural for him to want to learn to grow the plants himself. He brought the first seeds back from France in 1985, and in 1989, moved to Spokane, Washington. The next year he began planting on a little quarter acre plot there, and began his first distillation experiment on the kitchen stove by welding two pressure cookers together. He sent his first sample of lavender to Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt for testing in 1991. Dr. Schnaubelt was so amazed by the fine quality of the oil, that Gary was excited and encouraged to move forward. He wanted to learn every aspect of producing essential oils, from growing, harvesting, distilling, and testing, and made many, many trips to France, and to Europe, learning from the masters.

Gary became acquainted with Jean-Noël Landel, and through him met Marcel Espieu, who was then president of the Lavender Grower’s Association and had been for 27 years, and Henri Viaud, who lived at the time in the mountains of Provence, France, and was widely known as “the father of distillation”. Growing and distilling lavender had been the main trade of Marcel’s family for eight generationa, but his sons were not interested in pursuing it. He taught Gary all he knew. Mr. Viaud, 82 years old at the time, also accepted Gary as his final student. Gary made several trips, spending many months in all, on Mr. Viaud’s mountain learning the art of distillation, and it was Mr. Viaud who taught Gary to develop his “nose”. Gary continued to learn from Marcel Espieu and Henri Viaud for the rest of their lives.

Gary was very much a hands on person, he wanted to learn by doing, not just from acquiring degrees, or studying by himself from books. He sought out the best and most knowledgeable teachers around the world, determined to learn everything he could about growing and producing the best quality essential oils from the ground up. He traveled to Egypt to study with Dr. Radwan Faraq, and studied chemistry and GC/MS testing at Albert Vielle Laboratory in Vallauris, France. He went on to study GC/MS testing and equipement with Dr. Dr. Hervé Casabianca, who was the leading essential oil and plant molecular analytical chemist in the world. Dr Casabianca also had helped write the French AFNOR standards (Association Française de Normalisation, meaning French Standardization Association).

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Young Living St Maries farm, 2014, photo by Brenda Tippin

In 1992, Gary purchased his first farm, 160 acres in St. Maries, Idaho, and leased a farm in Provence, France in partnership with Jean-Noël. The St. Maries farm was later expanded to 200 acres. In 1993, Gary moved his business to Utah, where he met his wife Mary. They were married the next year, and Young Living was formally incorporated as the number of members grew steadily. Two sons were born to Mary, Jacob and Josef, now teenagers, who share their dad’s love of essential oils and are eager to carry his dream forward. Gary continued to expand his operations, designing larger and more efficient distillers and better farm equipment. Around the same time, Gary became acquainted with Dr. Songqiao Chao, dean of the Science Department at Beijing Technical University. Dr. Chao was visiting one of Mary’s neighbors, Dr. Cyrus McKell, dean of the Botany Department at Weber State University, and Dr. Chao was a guest lecturer there. Dr. McKell thought Dr. Chao would be interested in essential oils and brought him to meet Gary.  Through this meeting, Gary learned about Dr. Chao’s research on the Lycium barbarum wolfberry species growing on the Elbow Plateau in Inner Mongolia, in the NingXia Province of China. Gary was fascinated and became the first to import tons of the NingXia wolfberries for commercial use.  He formulated the popular NingXia red superjuice, the NingXia Nitro energy supplement, and also used the wolfberries in many other products.

The Whispering Springs Farm at Mona, Utah, was added 1995, which became the headquarters and showplace of Young Living. Gary worked tirelessly, experimenting with each different crop to determine the optimal growing and harvest conditions, and best parameters for distilling in order to obtain the maximum quality and highest yield  at the highest quality levels. Gary traveled to the Anadolu University in Eskisehir, Turkey to study with the noted professer, Dr. K. Hüsnü Can Başer (known as Dr Hans Baser) to complete 120 more hours of intense GC analysis. No one worked harder or longer than Gary, and his requirements were stringent, as he was never willing to sacrifice even the minutest amount of quality in order to have more product to sell.

As the company grew, he demanded the same strict requirements of all Young Living partners and suppliers. In 2000, Gary purchased a lavender farm in Simiane La Rotonde, which eliminated the need for leasing the farm in Provence.

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Young Living Percherons at Highland Flats tree farm, 2014, photo by Brenda Tippin

The same year, he discovered an overgrown Christmas tree farm in Naples, Idaho, near the Canadian border, which became the Highland Flats farm, now famous for the distillation of Idaho Balsam Fir, Idaho Blue Spruce, and other conifer oils. In 2006, more than 2300 acres were added to develop the Finca Botanica farm in Guayaquil, Ecuador, along with the Nova Vita Spa and Rejuvenation Center. A school was built for the local children, which became the Young Living Academy, opening its doors in 2007. The Young Living Academy celebrated its first graduating class in 2016. Nearly 300 students have attended this school to date. At Finca Botanica, many oils are distilled including Ylang Ylang, Palo Santo, Mastrante, Lemongrass, Eucalyptus Blue, Dorado Azul, Ocotea, Plectranthus Oregano, Rosa Muerta, Cardamom, Geranium, Hyssop, Ishpingo, Rosemary, Ruta, Thyme, and Vetiver. Chocolate is also produced from the Sasha cocoa trees.

 

Gary and his partner Jean-Noël joined with Benoit Cassan, president of the French Lavender Growers Association, and Jean-Marie Blanc in 2011 to merge their farms with the Simiane La Rontonde in southern France, which is now the largest true lavender farm in the world. In addition to Lavender, the farm also grows Clary Sage, Lavandin, Rosemary, and Einkorn, the ancient grain.

As the Young Living farms continued to expand, so did the need for larger distilleries and more sophisticated laboratories and testing equipment. Under Gary’s guidance, Young Living has developed the most complete and advanced laboratories in both North and South America for identifying and analyzing plant compounds. This includes the only GC/FID/MS combined instrument in the world (gas chromatography, flame ionization detector, and mass spectrometer). The GC in Ecuador was first equiped with dual FID and a two-capillary column system – one 60m polar stationary phase ad one 50m no-polar stationary phase. These were connected to a splitter at the inlet of the GC, evenly dividing the essential oil sample between the two columns. This enabled nearly every component in almost all essential oils to be separated and identified using the extensive retention index library Young Living has compiled. The MS was then connected to this system with a 60m non-polar capillary column, making it the only instrument in the world with three  capillary columns running to one MS and two FID detectors. The Agilent MS was also boosted with a 500,000 component spectral reference library.

Partnering with Dr. Mahmoud Suhail, a medical doctor who is the scientific advisor at the Dhofar Research Plant, pediatrician at Al Afivah Specialized Medical Complex, and chief Scientist for the AYUB S42 Research Project at the Sultanate of Oman, Young Living was granted permission in 2010 to build the first large commercial distillery for the extraction of Sacred Frankincense (Boswellia sacra) in modern times.

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Mary and Gary at Highland Flats Tree Farm, ribbon-cutting ceremony 2014, photo by Brenda Tippin

The Highland Flats distillery was expanded in 2014 and new equipment added including three 21,000 -liter and one 6500-liter extraction chambers. Gary proudly demonstrated the new system to members who attended a special ribbon cutting ceremony. It was an emotional moment as he recalled the many obstacles which had to be overcome along the way towards achieving the new system, which was and still is, the largest fully automated distillery for essential oils in the world. Later that year, Young Living was able to purchase land in British Columbia and established the Northern Lights Farm near Fort Nelson to distill Black Spruce, Ledum, Yarrow, and White Spruce. In Europe, the Dalmatia Aromatic Farm was added in Split, Croatia for distilling Helichrysum, Sage, Juniper, and Bay Laurel.

Gary has also established many partner farms which include the Kona Reforestation Project on the Big Island of Hawai, for the production of Royal Hawaiian Sandalwood; the Balkan Botanical Farm in Manolovo, Bulgaria, for Roman Chamomile, Rose, and Valerian; the Taiwan Cooperative Farm in Taitung Taiwan for Jade Lemon, Hong Kuai, Xiang Mao, and Camphor Wood; the Maydi Frankincense Distillery in Dubai, UAE, for Frankincense; the Perth Sandalwood Farm in Perth, Australia, for Sacred Sandalwood; the Outback Botanical Reserve in Darwin, Australia, for Blue Cypress; and the Amanzi Amahle Farm in Johannesburg, South Africa, for Tea Tree, Eucalyptus Radiata, Lemon, and Orange. The most recent partnership established was in March 2018 with the Labbeemint Partner Distillery in White Swan, Washington, for the production of Pacific Northwest sourced peppermint oil. Labbeemint has been a family run operation since the 1940s.

As with all Young Living partners, Gary insisted on diligently searching for only the most meticulous operations able to meet Young Living’s stringent standards for Young Living Therapeutic Grade™, a term Gary coined in 1991. This term was originally intended simply to convey the promise that Young Living would ensure its oils would not only be pure, but would contain optimal ranges of the components needed to provide therapeutic benefit.  For example, Gary explained, “Peppermint oil should contain between 38 and 47 percent menthol to be therapeutic. If the summer is wet and rainy, menthol will be approximately 24 percent but will still be pure. It is just not therapeutic.”

As more and more companies began to compete in the essential oil market during the last fifteen years or so, virtually all of them, despite wide ranges in quality, claim to be “pure” and “therapeutic grade”. Consequently, the term was assumed by many to simply be a marketing phrase and of no value as there is no grading system nor independent authority which grades and determines the quality of essential oils. However, this was never what Gary meant.  The entire phrase was Young Living Therapeutic Grade™, and was intended to denote that the oils bearing this mark met Young Living’s own internal standards for the range and balance of therapeutic constituents necessary to make such a claim. These levels were determined by collecting extensive research, and often, in the case of newly discovered oils, conducting additional research.

Most recently added to Young Living’s own farms, the Skyrider Wilderness Ranch in Tabiona, Utah, was carefully chosen by Gary as a site for retreats, as well as a place where he could perform research on new botanicals and distillation. Gary was also in the process of moving the majority of Young Living’s Einkorn grain production to this farm. Altogether, as a result of Gary’s tireless energy, Young Living has more than 16 global and and partner farms around the world, international offices in more than a dozen countries, over 3000 employees, and well over 4 million members worldwide. The company has continued to grow and has achieved more than $1 billion in annual sales for the past three consecutive years, winning many awards.

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Gary and Bandido, his dancing Friesian stallion, photo courtesy Young Living

Gary always loved horses, and Young Living breeds and maintains a string of champion Percherons which are shown regularly. Many of these are also used for work at both the Mona farm and for horse logging at Highland Flats.  Gary used other horses as well including Bandido, the dancing Friesian stallion, and several others which he regularly rode on his many trips to the mountains. He also used the horses in his wild west shows for visitors, and for jousting, one of his favorite sports.

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Gary jousting, photo courtesy Young Living

Gary also dreamed for many years of someday competing in a dogsled race.  This goal was realized in 2017 when he competed in two races in Alaska, finishing both and mushing over 500 miles for days in temperatures of -30° across the frozen Alaska wilderness.

Gary’s adventures in traveling around the world are too numerous to recount, but all of this is well documented and many thousands of members have accompanied him on these journeys and can attest from personal knowledge of the mentors and experts Gary studied with and the places he has been.

It was not always easy.  Not everyone understood Gary, especially not his competitors.  At the time Gary started, interest in aromatherapy was just beginning to be revived by Robert Tisserand’s popular book, The Art of Aromatherapy.  The early history of essential oil use in America had long been forgotten.  Once common for both medicinal use and home remedies, a number of essential oils, plants and seeds were brought to America by early settlers. Other medicinal uses of local plants were learned from Native Americans.  Many essential oils were readily available at drugstores and regularly used by the general public for both topical and internal applications.

Even the federal government for years had farms and distilleries for producing essential oils to study their medicinal benefits. However, with the establishment of the FDA in 1906, and the growing demands of the flavor and fragrance industries, the market for personal use of pure essential oils was largely forgotten, and synthetic or restructured oils were generally more profitable. Many early aromatherapists inspired by Tisserand’s book wanted to feel their services and products were unique. They resented this farm boy from Idaho who made claims about traveling the world, and studying with experts and growing and distilling his own oils to make them available for the general public. They resented his insistence on quality standards and testing, which many of them could not afford.

Some groups even devoted remarkable amounts of time, energy and discussion to shutting down Young Living. Efforts were made by a few to spread information that would damage the reputation of Young Living, or Gary himself and put a stop to his teaching. Led by some of the same original individuals, a few such groups persist. These attacks were hurtful to Gary, but he never allowed them to deter his vision, which was never anything more than wanting to help people and to learn and understand how to use the benefits of essential oils for wellness. Gary was never driven by gaining profit, he simply wanted to learn and to share the excitement of what he learned with others.  The Multi-level Marketing business model was chosen simply as a way to share the oils with more people, and to help people develop lasting friendships and relationships in the pursuit of their wellness goals. In fact, Young Living was never a real threat to small aromatherapy businesses as it fills a completely different niche, and there is plenty of room for both. What it did do was raise interest and awareness of essential oils for all essential oil companies in general, as well as helping raise awareness of the need for purity and quality.

Young Living grew and prospered because of Gary’s tireless energy and unfailing demand for quality. Everyone who stayed around him for any length of time was inspired to do the same. Rather than sitting back to enjoy his profits, Gary poured them right back into the company, building more farms, distilleries, laboratories, and insisting on the latest and most technologically advanced testing equipment. Many times he brought Dr. Hervé Casabianca over to calibrate his GC/MS equipment and to train his scientists in using these instruments and learning to accurately interpret the results.

Another side of Gary was his unfailing kindness and extreme generosity.  Two major earthquakes with numerous aftershocks devastated Nepal during 2015, resulting in more than 9000 fatalities and the loss of nearly a million homes. Many businesses and companies and individuals reached out to help – but on visiting Nepal in 2016, Gary was appalled to find the extent of  damage that still existed, and the horrible impacts to families and children in a country desperately struggling to recover. Seeing this, Gary was not satisfied to simply offer donations. He had to help. He personally went to Nepal on many trips, spending literally months of his own time, brought them a brick-making machine, and taught them how to use it. Each trip he brought more Young Living members to help. To date, 112 homes and 2 schools have been rebuilt in Yarsa, Nepal.

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Gary dogsledding, photo courtesy Young Living 2017

Gary’s Alaskan dogsled races last year were not just for fun, but his efforts and endurance in the bitter freezing temperatures were to help raise more money for Nepal, and he succeeded in raising $40,000 more to help build 8 more homes. Through the 9-year-old Young Living Foundation, Gary also helped with many more causes, including raising more than $250,000 for people affected by natural disasters.  Two clinics in Jinja, Uganda, were built, treating more than 400 people a week, through Young Living Foundation Partner Sole Hope. Altogether, through many partners and projects, Gary’s guidance as Chairman of the Board of the Young Living Foundation led to providing more than $6 million in aid to those in need.

Gary will be greatly missed, by his family, friends, and Young Living members everywhere, but he has left a truly remarkable legacy that will continue for years to come.

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Gary at Highland Flats ribbon cutting, 2014, photo by Brenda Tippin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Historic Young Family photos courtesy Family Search

 

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Essential Oil History and the Safety Debate – Part 2, The Peppermint King of Kalamazoo

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Albert May Todd, from:The Todd Family in America by John Edwards Todd, 1920

 

Albert May Todd was born on June 3, 1850 in Joseph County, Michigan, near Nottawa.  He was the youngest of ten children born to  Alfred and Mary Ann Hovey Todd, who were farmers of Scotch ancestry.  The name Todd is derived from the Scottih word tod, meaning fox. This is represented by historic Todd famly crest which bears three fox heads and a fox running away with a goose and the motto “Oportet Vivere”, meaning “one must live (even if he has to steal for it)”.

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Todd Family Crest from: The Todd Family in America by John Edwards Todd, 1920

Later family members chose not to display this somewhat questionable motto and modified it to show  in addition to the three fox heads, simply a fox sitting rather than stealing a goose.

Albert’s father Alfred, was born in Marcellius, New York in 1799, and had moved his family to Michigan in 1835 when he purchased an 80 acre farm near the village of Nottawa.  At that time, the land was still thick, primeval forest which had to be cleared, and only about about 45 acres were suitable for growing crops.  However, the Todds were staunch Presbyterians and industrious farmers and supported their large family entirely with the produce of this little farm, which had to be drawn by horse and wagon sixty miles to the nearest railroad.

During his first few years of school, Albert walked a mile and a half every day to the little red schoolhouse near Nottawa.  Later a school was built on the Todd farm and he attended classes there in between the many chores and farm work that needed to be done.  He attended and graduated from high school in the little town of Sturgis, seven miles from his home.

After this, he joined with his next older brother Oliver, in cultivating and distilling peppermint oil. Peppermint had first been  introduced to St. Joseph County, Michigan by a Mr. Sawyer, who brought roots from Ohio in 1835.  He planted them on the White Pigeon Prairie, selling his operation to Glover & Earle the next year.  They continued for a time but the soil in this area proved not to be well suited for the peppermint crops.

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A.M. Todd Company Advertisement, from: Prices Current, Fuller & Fuller Co., Chicago, 1906-07

Another pair of brothers, Marshall and Orrin Craw, obtained peppermint roots about 1840 and introduced them to the oak openings in the northern part of the Florence township, where they grew quite well.  The peppermint business was then taken to a commercial level by John Smith and Harrison Ranney, two farmers who had gained experience in peppermint growing and distilling in  Wayne County, New York. H.G. Hotchkiss of Lyons, in Wayne County, New York  had taken steps in 1844 to establish a monopoly by paying farmers in New York and Michigan to limit their crops for several years.  After about three years, he had gained such a large fortune, he ceased to enforce it, and bought only from New York farmers.  This encouraged the Michigan farmers to expand production to the extent that by 1850, 100,000 to 150,000 pounds of peppermint were being produced win St. Joseph County alone, which more than all the rest of the crops in the world combined. Mr. Henry Hall of Three Rivers was the largest dealer at that time, with a 900 acre farm and four distilleries.

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Peppermint farm, St. Joseph County. From The Pharmaceuitcal Era, Vol IV, 1890

Young Albert Todd was fascinated by all of this and felt sure he could make a prosperous living.  He borrowed $100, and rented five acres from his father,  in partnership with his brother and established the A.M. Todd Company in 1869 when he was just 19 years old. The Todd brothers made enough money that by 1873, Albert was able to attend Northwestern University in Illinois for a time, where he studied chemistry. However, due to illness he was obliged to discontinue his studies and traveled to Europe to recuperate.

Evidently, the trip served Albert well, and he took advantage of the time to study Eureopean methods of peppermint cultivation and distillation.  Meanwhile, Oliver decided he did not wish to continue in the peppermint business and asked his brother to take it over, so Albert bought him out.  With the knowledge of chemistry he had learned while studying at college, and his observations while traveling in Europe, he set about planning to improve upon these crude methods and develop superior methods for cultivating and distilling the crop.  Albert went heavily in debt, and many laughed as he purchased 1400 acres of black, mucky swamp land for $25,000 to develop his new peppermint enterprise. Extensive work had to be done clearing the land of tangled wood-growth, stumps and roots, and miles of deep drainage ditches had to be dug.  And after all that, the land was still so boggy that the horses had to be fitted with strange, cumbersome, “bog shoes” in order to avoid sinking deeply into the mire.  These round, wooden contraptions about a foot in diameter, resembled snowshoes and were held on with straps.

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A.M. Todd Campania Peppermint Farm, Allegan County Michigan, 1640 acres.                    From Michigan Bureau of Labor Annual Report, 1903

Nevertheless, up to that time, the reputation of Michigan peppermint was not the best, so Albert had his work cut out for him, despite the large production.  Many farmers were not careful about weeding their crops which reduced the quality of the oil.  Adulteration was often practiced by diluting the peppermint oil with one third rectified spirits. Turpentine or pennyroyal was also sometimes used by unscrupulous dealers to extend the oils and increase their profits. The Hotchkiss brand continued to be the gold standard of purity in peppermint oil, and Albert set out to compete with this.

Over the next several years, Albert continued to add to his holdings.  He called his farm Campania, building it to 1640 acres, and keeping about half of it planted in peppermint.  He added huge barns, comfortable houses for himself and his employees with libraries and reading rooms, distilleries, warehouses, ice houses, windmills, and more, turning it into a small village.  Albert treated his employees kindly and fairly, feeling they would do better service, and this practice served him well. He then added a second farm, which he called Mentha, consisting of 2000 acres, and finally a 7000 acre farm farther north which was called the Sylvania Range.  Being thrifty, he made the land work for him, and raised a herd of 500 shorthorn cattle, letting them graze in summer, and feeding them mint hay during the winter months, a diet which they thrived upon.

Altogether, these farms totalled 10,640 acres, making the peppermint farms of A.M. Todd the largest in the world.  Like H.G. Hotchkiss had done, Albert obtained Black Mitcham peppermint root stock from England in 1883, and developed the black peppermint variety which yielded more oil.   Albert also developed refining and redistilling techniques.  His brand of Crystal White double distilled peppermint, which he patented in 1875, became well known and won many prizes.  These included a Gold Medals and diplomas at the United States Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, 1876; the Chicago World’s Fair Exposition, 1893; the Paris World’s Fair Exposition, 1900; the Pan American World’s Fair Exposition in Buffalo, New York, 1901; and the St. Louis World’s Fair Exposition, 1904.

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From The Chemist and Druggist, July 1894

Albert was among the first to develop tests and standards to maintain the quality of his oils.  He also tested and exposed fraudulent oils, including some who attempted to forge his Crystal White peppermint oil. His Mentha farm developed into an entire small community of its own with school, store, and post office.  This rare video from the Kalamazoo Public Library  shows actual footage of the Mentha farm, and the planting, harvesting, and distilling of peppermint oil there.

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From American Druggist, December 1889

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From The Druggist’s Ready Reference, 1887

Meanwhile, Albert ran for Governor of Michigan in 1894 under the Prohibition Party, but was unsuccessful.  He tried in 1895 to fill a vacant seat in Congress during a special election, which was also unsuccessful, but finally won a Congressional seat on the Democratic ticket in 1896, serving until 1898, but failing to win reelection.  Over the years, he made  several trips to Europe, and in addition to carrying out details of his peppermint business, he also collected fine art, rare books, and other artifacts, collecting more than 10,000 pieces of memorabilia.

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Albert M. Todd for Congress. From Wikimedia Commons, U.S. Public Domain

By the time H.G. Hotchkiss died in 1897, Albert was poised to take the lead in the peppermint industry, and he came to be known as “The Peppermint King of Kalamazoo”.   The Hotchkiss brand maintained its stellar reputation and many of the European buyers, as well as pharmaceutical companies and other longstanding customers, chose to stay with it.  However, new  markets for peppermint oil in the flavor industry were expanding rapidly.  William Wrigley Jr. began marketing his famous DoubleMint gum, flavored with peppermint oil, and soon BeechNut, American Chicle, and other companies began selling widely popular gums and candies flavored with peppermint oil.

In 1924, verticillium wilt, a soil-borne fungus was discovered in Michigan crops.  This was followed by a severe frost in late May of 1925 which decimated the peppermint crops.  As production of peppermint oil suffered, prices rose, and by 1925 the price of peppermint oil had gone up from  $4.50 to $32 a pound.  The A. M. Todd company went to work developing disease resistant strains.  Albert died in 1931 at the age of 81, but the A.M. Todd company continued to thrive, passing down through generations of his family until it was sold in 2011 to the Swiss Company, Wild Flavors.   The company continues to operate as a subsidiary of Wild Flavors at its location in Kalamazoo, Michigan, although it no longer grows any peppermint. Most peppermint production has moved west to Oregon and Washington, with Oregon currently the leading producer of peppermint oil, representing 34% of the nation’s crop.

 

 

 


Essential Oil History and the Safety Debate – Part I, The Peppermint King

Within aromatherapy circles, increasing focus has been brought to bear on the issue of safety, based on the  belief that essential oils for home or personal use is a relatively new idea – and previously were seldom used except by doctors or pharmacies.  This is simply not true.

The term “aromatherapy” was first coined by René-Maurice Gattefossé and did not come into common use until after his book Aromathérapie was published in 1937.  However, steam distillation of essential oils has been known for at least 5000 years, and the use of a variety of plants for medicinal and natural remedies, as well as other uses, has been handed down through many cultures,  including  America. The practice of using plants, herbs, botanicals for home remedies, and a number of essential oils, came to America with the earliest settlers and has persisted through the years, never being entirely forgotten.  The very inclusion of most essential oils on the FDA’s GRAS list is based on substantial history of common use in food prior to January 1, 1958 as provided by CFR – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21 .

One of the most interesting in the history of essential oils in the U.S. is the story of peppermint.  A member of the mint family, peppermint is a naturally occurring hybrid of spearmint and water mint, originating in North Africa and the Mediterranean area. It has a long history of cultivation and medicinal use, dating back to at least 1500 B.C. It was mentioned in Icelandic Pharmacopoeias as early as the 13th century, and listed in the London Pharmacopoeia by 1721. Peppermint was brought to the US by early settlers, and became common in Massachusetts where some of the earliest colonies were established.

In 1810, a peddler named Archibald Burnett from Ashfield, Massachusetts, set out by foot for New York with another peddler, each carrying a pack sack full of Yankee notions which they sold along their journey.  Burnett settled upon the shores of Lake Canandaigua, the fourth largest of the Finger Lakes, and there remained until he received an urgent letter from his brother Nahum, urging him to return home as he had important news which could not be trusted to the mail.  Archibald made the long walk home, a distance of some 275 miles.  There he discovered that Nahum had been experimenting with distilling the peppermint that grew along the stream banks, and felt that if his brother would move back home and help him, they could make a considerable amount of money.  Archibald had an even better idea.  He felt sure the peppermint would grow even better on the rich flats of the Canandaigua Outlet, and there they would have no competition from other farmers distilling it, for at that time, the plant was not known outside of Massachusetts.  Accordingly, Archibald set once more on the trek back to New York, this time with a pack of carefully nurtured peppermint stolons slung over his shoulder.  Nahum sold his little farm and soon followed.  In 1814, the brothers purchased 40 acres of land near South Lyons, where they set out the peppermint plants and erected the first crude distillery.

True to Archibald’s prediction, the peppermint plants did extremely well on the mucky flats near the lake, and so successful was their venture that many of their Ashfield neighbors also came to Lyons and began distilling peppermint, which was soon taken up by other farmers of Wayne County.

h-g-hotchkiss

H.G. Hotchkiss, from History of Wayne County by W.H. McIntosh, 1877

Meanwhile, Hiram G. Hotchkiss, the man destined to be America’s Peppermint King, was born  on  June 19, 1810 in Ontario County, New York to parents Leman and Theodosia Gilbert Hotckiss.  He was just four years old when the Burnett brothers brought the first peppermint plants to Lyons, a small community of about 3500.  His father, a merchant, had moved the family to Phelps, Ontario County where he opened the first General Store in town in partnership with David McNeill.  Hotchkiss & McNeil became one of the most highly regarded mercantile firms in Western New York, doing brisk sales in excess of $100,000 per year, which was an enormous sum in those days. Hiram G. became a clerk in this store at 12 years of age and worked his way up.  By the time he was 18, he opened his own General Store in Phelps in partnership with his brother Leman B., and cousin, William T. Hotchkiss, as well as successfully operating two mills. By 1828 he had begun buying peppermint oil from the Burnett brothers and other farmers, along with their wheat.

At that time peppermint oil was in common use as a home remedy for digestive, respiratory and other common ailments,  but it was mostly imported from England. For a time,  H. G., as he was known, sold the peppermint oil in his store.  In 1833, he married Mary Williams Ashley, daughter of Dr. Robert Ashley of Lyons, and began to raise a family. Eventually they would have three sons and nine daughters.  H. G. began to accumulate more of the peppermint oil than it was practical to sell in his store alone, and so founded his Hotchkiss Essential Oil Company in 1839.  He tried to sell the peppermint oil in the New York markets.   Adulteration of the oil was so common they refused to even look at his product.  However, he knew his oil was pure and of excellent quality, so refusing to be discouraged, he rebottled the oil in cobalt blue bottles manufactured by the Ely Glass Company in nearby Clyde, and consigned it to London and Rotterdam Company in Hamburg, Germany. There the oil was promptly met with great favor, and tested and found to be the best and purest peppermint oil in the world.  Ultimately it was sold back to the New York markets who had refused it before.

The Hotchkiss label of peppermint oil was soon widely recognized both for its purity and extreme potency. By 1844, H.G. moved his family to Lyons to be nearer the Erie Canal, which had been constructed in 1825, and was a main means of transporting the oils. Purchasing a large tract of land, he began cultivating peppermint in earnest, using horses to plow the land and harvesting the peppermint by scythe in the fall after blooming.  It was said the canalers could smell the fragrance of peppermint wafting on the air as the neared the small town of Lyons.  The New York Central Railroad was established in 1853, which surpassed the canal as a primary means of transport, but still the little town was favorably situated.  The town of Lyons prospered and many of the local farmers who grew peppermint for Hotchkiss were able to pay their mortgages with it.

The geology of Wayne County has a curious history, being formed of parallel rows of elongated hills known as drumlins, which are said to occur in swarms.  They were known to be caused by glaciation more than 12,000 years ago, when ice a mile thick had covered the area of western New York.  The matter of exactly how they were formed was a topic of debate for more than a century and a half but was finally settled and explained in an article by retired geologist Fred Haynes. According to Haynes, it was found that the drumlins were islands of sediment rooted in bedrock, with the intervening regions washed out by rivers and streams from glaciers melting, and cutting deeply into the Paleozoic bedrock, making the contrast all the more dramatic.  The receding glaciers were also responsible for the formation of the Finger Lakes in the region, and the rich fertile wetlands surrounding the lakes and often the areas between the drumlins.  These were known as mucklands and proved to be ideal for the cultivation of peppermint.

mentha-piperita-national-agricultural-library-1769

Mentha Piperita, Medical Botany, Vols 1-2, William Woodinvile, 1810

The first year, H. G. began his peppermint oil business in only a small way, selling less than 1000 pounds of oil. After horses had plowed the land, it was carefully marked off into furrows about three feet apart. Workmen with sacks of roots began setting out the peppermint plants in sets placed thickly and then covered lightly.  The plants took hold easily, and the dark green leaves contrasted handsomely with the delicate pink flowers which began appearing in late August.

When the peppermint was ready to be harvested, workmen came again to the fields, cutting the now two foot tall plants with scythes close to the root, and the harvest continued into September. The plants were piled into windrows and allowed to cure in the sun for 12 hours, so the oil would be more easily expressed.  Then they were pitched off into the wooden distilling vats which consisted of heavy staves hooped with iron, where they were trodden down.

When the vats were filled with plant material, they would be covered, made steam tight with rubber packing, and fastened with screw clamps.  Steam was then forced in by a pipe near the bottom of the vat, which connects to a steam boiler at thirty to forty pounds pressure.  This was a method different from that used in Europe which applied fire directly to the still.  The size of the vats corresponded to the amount of steam furnished by a boiler, but some of the vats described were four to five feet in diameter and twice as deep.  Another pipe in the center of the vat cover connected the vat to a condensing worm, which again varied in size according to the capacity of the still, but would become progressively smaller toward the outlet.

diagram-of-hotchkiss-peppermint-distiller

From: New Remedies, Vol XI, 1882

The stills would be built so as to place the condensing worm directly in the stream so it would be cooled by a constant supply of cold running water. The volatized mint oil would mix with the steam  in the condensing worm, and then was collected into the receiver where specific gravity would cause the oil to separate from the hydrosol water. The receiver would often consist of a tin vessel with a pipe running from the bottom nearly to the top of the vessel where it then turned outward, and the weight of the oil would cause the water from the lower part of the vessel to rise in this spout and drip out.  Oil would then be dipped from the receiving vessel when a few pounds had accumulated.

First year crops were the best and purest.  No  cultivation was required in the second year, and  in the third year, the ground would be plowed again, allowing the plants to spring up anew from the the broken roots.

hotchkiss-peppermint-distillery

From: New Remedies, Vol XI, 1882

After this, the land would be exhausted, and it was necessary to rotate with another crop, usually corn.

In 1846, H. G. discovered that the peppermint output of New York State at 44,500 pounds was triple that of competitors in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana combined.  Eureopean demand, however, was only 12,000 pounds.  Accordingly, H.G. paid growers in 1847 to sell him set amounts for two years and destroyed all of the surplus.  This provided him with a temporary monopoly which allowed him to control the market and the quality, elevating peppermint oil prices. After he won prizes at the World’s Fair in London in 1851, and the New York World’s Fair in 1853, he bought only from New York growers to maintain quality.  There were two distilleries, one near the plant and canal, and another on Pilgrimport Road.  H. G. continually studied new methods to improve both the cultivation of the crops as well as distillation of the oil.  He imported roots from England and developed the “Black Mint” variety, which yielded a greater quantity of oil.

H. G.’s  unyielding standards for purity, honesty, and fair dealing reaped handsome returns, and by 1895, little more than half a century later, the business sold well more than 100,000 pounds of peppermint oil alone. The Hotchkiss Essential Oil Company, which by that time distilled many other oils as well as peppermint, was the most highly respected essential oil brand not only in the United States, but controlled more than 60 percent of the markets around the entire globe in the years following the Civil War.

The trademarked peppermint oil remained their most famous though, and by 1877 the Hotchkiss name was so valued that H.G. also registered a facsimile of his signature with the U.S. Patent Office.  In 1878, H.G. visited Europe where he was very cordially welcomed and honored on the floor of the world renowned London Exchange for his outstanding brand of essential oils, an honor which had rarely been given to any American for any reason.   H.G. won first prize medals for his brand of oils at seventeen World Fairs, including:  London, 1853 and 1862; New York 1853; Paris 1856, 1867, and 1878;  Hamburg, 1863; Vienna, Austria, 1873; Philadelphia, 1876; and Chicago, 1893, by which time H. G. was 83 years old.

During these years, not only was peppermint oil a common and widely used home remedy for both topical and internal use, it was valued for its use as a flavoring in many candies and other sweets, gum, toothpaste, and a variety of pharmaceutical and  patented medicinal products.

Peppermint was regularly included in the early Pharmacopoeias, as well as The Dispensatory of the United States (1839).  Numerous essential oils still commonly sold today, including peppermint, were listed in Merck’s 1907 Index.  These generally called for actual pure distilled essential oils, and not synthetic versions.  Many books of home remedies were published which attest to the fact that peppermint essential oil, the same essential oil that is widely sold today, was indeed well known and recognized for home use, and had been since the colonists first brought it to America.  One such book was The Favorite Medical Receipt Book and Home Doctor, compiled by Josephus Goodenough, M.D.  This book includes recipes from more than a hundred doctors and nurses for many common ailments that were often treated at home, as well as for things that could be done while waiting for a doctor.  A very few others are Home Guide, Cure Without Drugs, by Dr. L.H. Kersey (1888), The Cottage Physician, for Individual and Home Use by George W. Post A.M., M.D. (1897), and Mother’s Remedies by Dr.T. J. Ritter (1910), which included more than a thousand home remedies used by mothers in the U.S. and Canada.  An example from Mother’s Remedies using peppermint oil is the following: “Cramps in Stomach, Oil of Peppermint for.—Put a few drops of peppermint in a glass of warm water. Take a teaspoonful every few minutes until relieved.” This is an old time-tried remedy our grandmothers used to use and can be relied upon.”

Countless other such books were published, giving recipes for home remedies often using peppermint oil, and many other essential oils as well.  This completely dispels the myth that essential oils were rarely used in America by  ordinary individuals in their homes until recent years. It also shows that certain oils could be, and often were, taken by simply adding a few drops to water.  Although the majority of oil produced would go to the pharmaceutical and flavor industries to be used in everything from chewing gum, toothpaste, sweets, various pharmaceutical and medicinal recipes for both topical and internal use, soaps, and more, personal use for home remedies remained a constant practice handed down through the years.  Interestingly, peppermint oil was one of the active ingredients in the original formula for Listerine, developed by Joseph Lawrence in 1879.  And it is still one of the active ingredients for the current reduced alcohol formula for Listerine developed by several noted scientists of the Warner Lambert Company in 1994, including Dr. Mike Buch, who is now the Chief Science Officer of Young Living Essential Oils.

Purity of the essential oils was as much a concern then as it is now. It was common at that time to adulterate peppermint with a number resinous substances, fixed oils, or alcohol.  Inferior quality also was widespread due to lack of care in keeping the peppermint fields free of weeds.  Sheep were often used for this purpose, as they would not touch the peppermint plants unless they were kept in these fields for years and became accustomed to the strong taste.  It was H.G.’s stringent attention to these details which made the quality of his peppermint oil so much in demand. During the peak years of operation, H.G. packaged the oil in signature 21 ounce cobalt blue glass bottles, bearing the slogan he coined, ““One 21 ounce bottle of Peppermint Oil will give the correct flavor to a ton of candy.”  Each bottle was hand wrapped in a facsimile of the first certificate won by H.G. at the 1851 London World Exhibition, and bearing the signature of Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria.

hotchkiss-essential-oil-depot

From: History of Wayne County, W.H. McIntosh, 1877

In 1894, the original plant built by H.G. burned, but he continued to manage and operate his peppermint business, which had come to be called the Hotchkiss International Prize Medal Essential Oil Company, until his death October 27, 1897. The business then passed to his sons, Calvin, who died in 1925, and Hiram, who died in 1926. After H. G.’s death  however, increasing numbers of farmers in Wayne County began to give up cultivating peppermint in favor of more profitable crops. Also, another Peppermint King was rising to stardom in Michigan.  We shall hear more of his story later.

Nevertheless, the Hotchkiss company continued, faithfully maintaining H.G.’s standards, and the name was so well known in Europe they continued to retain many of the old customers.  In 1926, upon the death of his father, the third Hiram G took over his grandfather’s business and continued till his death at 83 in 1963, when his daughter Anne Dickinson Hotchkiss became the company president.  Anne continued to run the company until 1982, and having no family member to leave it to, sold it to William Leman Company,  a competitor who grew and distilled peppermint in Indiana, famous for their gourmet mints first created in 1939.

The original peppermint office which H.G. rented from the Leach brothers when he came to Lyons in 1841, became the museum. This was placed on the National Historic Register in 1988, and is managed by the nonprofit Lyons Heritage Society which offers tours of the historic building during the summer months, and maintains a gift shop (where bottles of the famous peppermint oil may still be purchased) to help raise funds for its upkeep.

The Leman company continued to produce the Hotchkiss oils until 2003 when the formulation and rights were purchased by Essex Laboratories, founded in Salem, Oregon in 1992.  Anne Hotchkiss continued to take pride in the history of the Hotchkiss peppermint oil until her death in 2010 at 95 years of age.  Essex continues to produce Hotchkiss peppermint according to H.G.’s original specifications, making it the oldest trademarked oil in America.

Next we will look at Albert May Todd, The Peppermint King of Kalamazoo, the young chemist and politician who sought to claim that his oil was the best and purest, and his company the world leader. .

todd-pinback

Albert M. Todd, Public domain, Wikimedia Commons

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These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA, and this information is for educational purposes only and not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any diseas