Q & A: Jennifer Ash, Napa Valley Lavender Company
Typically one does not plan for a career in aromatherapy. Just like no one plans on becoming a healer. Sometimes life experiences direct your career path, like in the case of Jennifer Ash of the Napa Valley Lavender Company. This former family therapist who had three tough bouts with chronic fatigue syndrome found a way to simplify and heal her life through the pleasures of smell. Now she helps heal others by donating a portion of the proceeds of her products to chronic fatigue syndrome research. To check out her products, visit napa-lavender.com.
Jill: What is the personality type of someone who gets Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Jennifer: Typically, they are Type A people who burn the candle at both ends. If you go online and start looking at the personalities [of people] who talk about having this, you see [they’re] doctors, or a pianist, a professional soccer player, people who are very focused and hard on themselves—and that was me.
Jill: To get well you had to begin to think differently.
Jennifer: Yes, I had to retrain myself to look at what was important and what wasn’t important—and that was really hard. I decided to give up practicing therapy. It was a lot of giving, and I wasn’t sure I had the answers to talk to people about what was right for their lives. I had to figure out what was right for my life and heal that before I could help others.
Jill: What was your doctor’s advice for healing yourself?
Jennifer: He told me I was one of the worst cases of chronic fatigue he’d ever seen. He said, “I’ve tried everything for you, nothing is working, but there is one other thing I’ve heard to try — you might just want to try aromatherapy.”
Jill: You began experimenting and researching...
Jennifer: Yes, I learned that lavender products were reputed to have a natural anti-anxiety effect, and be a natural anti-depressant. All of my friends started giving me products. Someone gave me a shower gel of lavender and clary sage, another [gave me] a natural antidepressant. I noticed feeling a little lift from using [the gel] in the shower—and a little lift at that point was a huge lift because I was so exhausted. And I kept getting better through using lavender in various ways, like using a lavender pillow to sleep on, having lavender sachet under a pillow, etc.
Jill: You opened the Lavender Co. in 1999. How are your products different from other lavender aromatherapy products?
Jennifer: We don’t add any fragrance. The scent is all pure lavender essential oil. We don’t cut corners. We make our stuff as natural and simple as possible. I’m fairly allergic and all the products are tested on me before we put them on the market.
Jill: Do you look back now and see the benefit in having Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?
Jennifer: You know, I remember when I was struggling with it, my doctor said to me, “I don’t want you to think this is a bad thing, this is a good thing. This is going to be a change of life for you, it’s going to turn you around.” At the time, I thought, “What a crazy thing to say! What kind of comment is that? I’ve spent all these years in grad school and for what?” And look now, here I am with this whole company; it’s incredible how life works.
Jill: Tell us about your favorite spas.
Jennifer: I like to pick spas that appreciate the client, that are not just after your money for the services but offer you facilities to use the rest of the day and actually encourage you to use them. It is wonderful to hear the masseuse tell you, “Okay, you are done now, why don’t you get a glass of lemon water, use the hot tub, and then have more water, and then use the steam room and rest a little bit.” That was my experience at Meadowood Spa in St. Helena. One of my other favorite spas is the Ritz-Carlton at Half Moon Bay, California. I had their Lavender Facial, which was incredible. They also have a Pumpkin Body Peel and a Fresh Lavender Wrap—both [treatments] are on my list for future visits.