Donald Gary Young, founder of Utah-based Young Living Essential Oils, died on May 12, 2018, at the age of 68 following a series of strokes. Young founded the company to provide essential oils and natural products to consumers, and he eschewed retail stores in favor of the multi-level marketing model to reach millions of customers in the United States and around the world. What began with the purchase of 160 acres in Idaho in 1989 is now a billion-dollar enterprise with, according to Young Living’s website, more than four million local and international members.
Young was born in Idaho Falls, Idaho, on July 11, 1949. After graduating high school in 1967, he moved to British Columbia, Canada, and was granted a homestead for logging and ranching. In 1973, he suffered an injury in the course of his work and was told that he would never walk again. This experience drove him to explore alternative treatment options, and he eventually learned about the therapeutic use of essential oils at a conference in Geneva, Switzerland. He spent 13 years re-learning how to walk, and the next several decades studying the art of distillation and the science behind essential oils.
According to the Young Living website, Young’s education included practical training in nutrition and naturopathy from Bernadean University; biochemistry and anatomy in Mexico; the effects of essential oils on the respiratory system with Jean-Claude Lapraz, MD; essential oil chemistry with Radwan Farag, PhD; gas chromatography at Anadolu University in Eskisehir, Turkey; and essential oil distillation with Henri Viaud and Marcel Espieu in France. Equipped with this information, he opened his first essential oil business in 1988 in Spokane, Washington, which would eventually pave the way for the creation of Young Living.
Young continued to develop and refine his distillation techniques, as he reportedly was dissatisfied with the quality of essential oils available in the US market at the time. Following the purchase of 160 acres in St. Maries, Idaho, he cultivated lavender (Lavandula spp., Lamiaceae), clary sage (Salvia sclarea, Lamiaceae), thyme (Thymus vulgaris, Lamiaceae), and peppermint (Mentha x piperita, Lamiaceae) for this use. In 1993, he developed a proprietary process for essential oil distillation, and, in 1994, he and his wife Mary founded Young Living Essential Oils.
As the company expanded, Young sought to either grow the raw materials necessary for the production of essential oils or procure them from reputable sources. He acquired more land in Idaho and Utah, and the company purchased its first international production site in 2006 in Guayaquil, Ecuador. In Ecuador, Young discovered a new mission for himself and his company: philanthropy. He observed the poor condition of the school attended by local children in the village of Chongon, near Young Living’s farm, and decided to build a modern facility and hire professional educators. The Young Living Academy opened in late 2006, achieved a 100% graduation rate, and inspired the founding of Young’s charity, The D. Gary Young, Young Living Foundation, in 2009.
Meanwhile, Young continued to innovate and seek out sources of raw materials. In 2010, Young Living opened a distillery in Salalah, Oman, to process and distill frankincense (Boswellia spp., Burseraceae) and myrrh (Commiphora myrrha, Burseraceae). In 2014, the Young Living Highland Flats distillery in Naples, Idaho, opened and, according to the company, was the first automated, large-capacity, computerized steam-distillation facility for essential oils in the world. Young was recognized by Direct Selling News with its inaugural BRAVO Legacy Award in 2018 for his contributions to the direct selling community.
The D. Gary Young, Young Living Foundation continued to carry out Young’s philanthropic missions of empowerment, wellness, and education, partnering with organizations in Cambodia and Uganda to reach underserved children and combat human trafficking, childhood poverty, and the spread of malaria. The Young Living Foundation also pursued its own initiatives, which included rebuilding efforts in Yarsa, Nepal, following devastating earthquakes in April 2015. The project began in 2016 and finished in April 2018, culminating in the construction of the Young Living Academy, Yarsa Primary School. To raise awareness and funds for the effort, Young participated in two dogsled races in Alaska. The Young Living Foundation maintains a disaster relief fund for members impacted by natural disasters.
At the time of Young’s death, he served as chairman of the board of Young Living Essential Oils. The company has announced that Mary Young, his wife, will continue to serve as the company’s chief executive officer.1 Young is survived by Mary and their two sons, Jacob and Josef.
- D. Gary Young, Father of the Modern-Day Essential Oil Movement [press release]. Lehi, UT: Young Living Essential Oils; May 14, 2018. Available at: www.youngliving.com/en_US/company/media/announcements/d-gary-young-father-of-the-modern-day-essential-oil-moment. Accessed June 13, 2018.