D. Gary Young thrust out his right hand. "Do you see anything wrong with that hand?" he asked. Other than the red Mona dirt from the field he had just planted, there was nothing.
"I burned that hand so bad about a month ago that two fingers burst opened and bled," he said. Then he pointed to a tiny scar on one of the fingers. "That's where one of the splits was," he said.The severe burn seared all four fingers and left the skin attached to the red-hot iron rod an employee had been welding, Young said. He grabbed for something to put on it - not an ordinary ointment or anything readily available in a drug store. What he poured on his severely burned fingers was pure lavender oil that he had extracted from his own crop of herbs. Within hours of constantly applying the oil, Young said, he was back to work and within a few days his hand had healed.
Young, president of Young Living Essential Oils, wants to control the purity of the oil market. Most essential oils purchased across the counter these days, he says, are diluted, which Young says reduces the healing properties of a pure oil. But he sees a growing demand for essential oils that are pure, and with farms in Mona, Idaho, and France, he wants to be ready to meet that need.
Essential oils are extracted primarily from herbs but also from flowers and other plants. Oils are the life blood of the plant and essential for human well-being, he says. Historically they were used by ancient peoples, specifically the Egyptians, for their medicinal powers.
Young has been researching their use and results for more than a decade. Although much of his research and study has been in Europe, it is continuing here in Utah, as he looks for scientific reasons why the oils help heal the human body. He said he wants to restore that ancient knowledge to modern society.
Young purchased the old Bon Ton building, a former gymnasium in Payson, north of the former high school site. It will be remodeled into a 100,000-square-foot world headquarters for his Young Living Essential Oils company, now located in Riverton. He also wants to acquire the old Taylor Elementary School.
The naturopath plans to use the old school to teach people the ancient art of using essential oils - knowledge he says has been lost over the centuries.
The oils are used in various ways, in aromatherapy, for massages or as flavorings. Aromatherapy is the technique of treating ailments through the aromas of essential oils. The sense of smell is a direct link to the brain.
According to company promotional materials, Young's quest to discover the healing properties of essential oils began Feb. 8, 1973, when he was severely injured in a logging accident in northern Idaho. The injuries left him paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. After two years of pain and depression he decided to take control of his own destiny, he said.
For the next two years he studied alternative methods of healing. For more than 250 days he lived on nothing but juice and water, recalled his wife, Mary. After 256 days he started getting feeling back in his toes, she said.
He went from his wheelchair to a walker and then to crutches. Finally he was walking on his own, but not without pain.
The experience threw him into the world of natural healing, said Mary Young. Up to that point he had only a high school diploma. But with new enthusiasm Young enrolled in a private university and eventually earned degrees in nutrition and natur-o-pathy.
He opened a family clinic in Chula Vista, Calif., and a research center in La Mesa, Mexico, in 1982. During this period, he recalled, he learned of essential oils and in 1985 began studying about their healing powers under Dr. Jean Claude Lapraz at the Medical University in Geneva, Switzerland.
He also studied under French and British experts, conducting research at various institutions, including the University of London.
A key function of essential oils, he said, is that they increase blood oxygen and can penetrate the cell walls of diseased cells to transport nutrients and oxygen inside, supporting the immune system.
The medical community remains skeptical of essential oils. Dr. W. Knox Fitzpatrick, a Salt Lake physician and member of the Utah Medical Association, said he is not aware of any evidence that essential oils work. "I haven't seen anything that proves it," he said. "I would like to see the proof."
The National Council Against Health Fraud also is skeptical of aromatherapy. In its July-August newsletter, that organization saidthe sense of smell has no "special advantages over other sensory path-ways."
Despite the skeptics, Young's nutrition company continues to expand. Every month this year, sales were higher than the previous month, a company spokesman said. The projected sales this year is reportedly between $8 million and $10 million. The essential oils form the base for the company's products.
Not content to conduct business from a desk, Young last month was behind the wheel of a tractor in Mona completing the planting of his 1,500 acres of herbs and alfalfa, the latter used as a crop rotator. Young grows and processes his herbs on chemical-free farms in the south of France, St. Maries, Idaho, and now in Mona.
He also developed a slow steam process to extract the oils under low or zero pressure, which he said is essential for purity. He does not dilute his oils for the market. He has created several blends that his company markets through a multi-level system of 17,000 distributors.
Young is readying his Mona farm to serve as a tourist attraction as well as grow herbs. An old farmhouse on the former Andrews Black Angus Ranch is being remodeled as a visitors center, and Young has purchased authentic century-old wagons to take tourists around the farm. Some were once used in John Wayne movies.
He expects to open the farm for tourists later this month. The operation employs about 40 people now, but that is expected to grow to more than 100 in about three years.
Meanwhile, research in essential oils is continuing. Sue Chow works for Young Living as a research associate to further develop a scientific understanding. Currently the company is renting space at a Weber State University lab.
Chow recently wrote a report on her research into discovering if a certain blend of the oils can kill airborne bacteria. "The results are quite exciting," she said. The report will be submitted to a scientific journal, she added. Young intends to publish his findings in journals as new information becomes available and is scientifically proven.