Q:Leiann, why did you start your journey of health, herbal, and essential oils?
“When I was a child, I spent a lot of time in doctors’ offices, not for anything very serious, but if something contagious was going around, it seemed as if I always caught it. Shots, doctor visits, and many missed school days were my “normal.”
Years later I married my husband Kent, a farmer and college student with a double-major degree in agriculture and psychology. We had two adorable little girls.
Unfortunately, my daughters seemed to be following after me when it came to health problems. My cow-milking/student husband did not have the income to pay for children’s visits to a doctor so the over-the-counter-section of the grocery store became my self-prescribed pharmacy. Some of these remedies seemed to help with symptoms, but my girls always seemed to have something ailing them. Often, we all suffered when side effects from meds made them groggy, whiney, or hyper—bouncing off the walls, and began interfering with their digestion, causing tummy aches and constipation.
I did not know how to get off that constant merry-go-round!
Q:Where did you find your answers?
One day in church, I struggled to keep my antsy, runny-nosed girls quiet. Afterward, Barbara, an older woman new to our town, approached me. She sympathized with my struggles and offered to help me with my girls—if I wanted it. I was desperate, so I consented. She began telling me that she worked with the renowned herbalist Dr. Raymond Christopher (now deceased). I had no idea what an herbalist was, but something inside me whispered, “Listen. Barbara is an answer to your prayers.”
Barbara came the next morning—and the next, and the next. She would teach me about the plants growing in our area, which ones to use, and how to use them. An eager student, I couldn’t learn fast enough. She gave me my first herbal books, and I read them like I was starving. The little health food store in the next town, ten miles away, became my second home. The mountains, meadows, and my own yard transformed into my personal university. Our family thrived as we began incorporating herbs in various ways. Right away we noticed that we hardly got sick anymore.
Soon, without warning, other moms started calling ME for advice at all hours of the day and night. After each call, I would often grab a few items from my cupboard that was filled with bags and jars of this and that and drive to the family in need and spend time teaching the mom and dad how to help themselves and their loved ones. A true teacher, Barbara had not just given me “a fish to eat,” she had taught me “how to fish”—she had shown me the “how to” of her art, which transformed my life. This led me to become a certified Master Herbalist and Certified Iridologist (a professional in the study and theory that one’s irises reflect various aspects of one’s health) and an Internationally Certified Aromatherapist and Instructor.
As the years passed, our family grew to a dad and a mom with nine children. Growing and preparing our own food and collecting our own herbs became our way of life—our “new normal”—and we love helping others do the same!
Q:Were you at all skeptical when introduced to the concept of essential oils?
My sister-in-law Debbie introduced us to tiny little bottles filled with what she called “essential oils” which she explained were “herbs distilled in concentrated amounts.” And yes, at the time I was intrigued by what she had to say, but I perceived them as a waste of money. How could one little drop work as well as the quarts of herbal teas we drank every day? Besides, my husband thought the oils stunk and didn’t want them in our house “smelling up the place.”
Now, I look back on our perception with wry amusement; after all, we were a family of eleven and farmers! Our house often smelled from any number of reasons—manure covered boots piled in the mudroom and ailing farm livestock, dogs, cats, sick calves, or lambs that frequently found a temporary home in our bathtub while we tended to them. We had fragrant herbs tied up by strings hung everywhere to dry, and our ever-present stash of onions and garlic—nature’s antibiotics—added to the “atmosphere.” All of this, combined with the waft of unpleasant aroma whenever the lid of our diaper pail opened! However, we were stuck in our perceptions; so we thanked Debbie politely, said no, and she went on her way—taking her little bottles with her.
Lucky for me (and I hope likewise for you), Debbie did not give up. She came over many times, extolling the virtues of these little wonders. Soon I realized she was right. So…slowly, I tried them…one essential oil at a time. The first ones were from herbs I couldn’t get locally. My very first oil was Frankincense, which remains a favorite. I did not know much about essential oils then, except —if it burned, add olive oil to it.
Q:Tell us about your incorporating Native American wisdom in your oils?
Over the years several mentors have taught and inspired me. One of the most important was my six-year mentorship with a traditional Native American teacher, Franzez (also known as Peyu Wisdom Keeper). She taught us about our culture—we are Lenape (Delaware) and Cherokee – focused on health and well-being, especially the use of herbs and oils, as well as fasting and sweats. One of the interesting principles is that of indigenous herbs – that there are herbs and essential oils that are indigenous or native to an area that can be used for incredible benefit in place of some of those imported from other parts of the world. She passed to me the responsibility of keeping alive the wisdom of our Old Ones. These Native American teachings both enhance and blend beautifully with my herbal and iridology studies. Truths from our Father in Heaven usually do blend well.
Q:Is there any particular message that you try to share with your students?
Absolutely! I want everyone to know that they are a wonderful creation of our Father in Heaven with amazing potential. If someone had told me 30 years ago that I would teach thousands about health, essential oils, write 2 books, start the Applied Aromatherapy Institute, and help provide for my family while doing what I love to do—helping others—I would have said, “You’re crazy! I am just a mom who loves her kids and also wants to help her neighbors. I will never do that!” Well, it happened. And if I can do such things, it is possible for others, including you. God knows how amazing you are, and it is time you found that out, too. You can learn to help yourself, your family, friends, even strangers. You really can help transform lives – both your own and others.