Cass County Democrat Missourian

Family carries on Life Thyme Botanical founder’s passion for healing power of plants

Each morning before opening Life Thyme Botanicals, Emily Bichel measures and bags loose herbs and teas for customers. Bichel co-owns the Belton store with her father, Jeffrey Bichel.
Each morning before opening Life Thyme Botanicals, Emily Bichel measures and bags loose herbs and teas for customers. Bichel co-owns the Belton store with her father, Jeffrey Bichel. Special to The Democrat

Throughout her lifetime, Denise Bichel was passionate about plants — especially those with healing properties. As a child, she often hiked the woods near her Iowa home to learn about species believed to have medicinal properties.

In 2003, Bichel opened Life Thyme Botanicals in Belton with a singular vision. Her wish was that her customers would also learn about the healing qualities of these plants and become advocates for their own health.

Within a year after starting the business, Bichel faced health challenges of her own. In 2004, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. This diagnosis was followed by a second diagnosis of kidney cancer in 2006.

For the next 10 years, Bichel continued to grow her business, as she battled her health issues. While she received traditional medical treatments, such as radiation and chemotherapy, she also pursued holistic therapies. After nearly a decade of intensive treatment, Bichel passed away in 2015 from metastatic breast cancer.

Since her passing, Denise’s husband and daughter, Jeff and Emily, have continued the mission she began at Life Thyme Botanicals.

“I miss Denise, but I’m grateful for every moment I had with her,” said Jeff Bichel. “I’m encouraged by her courage, her heart for people and her faith. She was able to do so much good, even in the midst of her struggles.”

Located on Main Street, Life Thyme Botanicals sells organic, chemical-free essential oils, herbs, teas, spices and supplements. The majority of the products are intended for health-related, rather than culinary, uses. The store also carries candles, body care items, and some food and snack items.

At the heart of the Life Thyme’s mission is a holistic approach to healing, in which customers are encouraged to invest time and study, in order to be proactive in their own unique wellness journeys.

“We do not diagnose illness or prescribe treatment,” Jeff Bichel said. “Instead, we want to help customers educate themselves about natural health.”

Emily Bichel, who is completing her master herbalist certification through Utah’s School of Natural Healing, also believes education is the starting point for people to build a long-term foundation of wellness.

“We’re focused on education and encourage customers to do their own research about products,” she said. “We want to be a resource of knowledge and compassion, and give people an opportunity to have access to health items they may not find in other stores.”

LaDonna Garrison, of Pleasant Hill, has been a Life Thyme’s customer for several years. During that time, she has researched products that she feels improve her family’s health.

“I have a lot of back pain and the essential oils help that,” she said. “My father, Wilford, has Alzheimer’s. He started using essential oils for his headaches and dizziness. The oils pretty much relieved that, and his life is so much easier now.”

A key element of Life Thyme Botanical’s mission is to ensure that wellness products are affordable.

Jeff Bichel said that when his wife started the business and shopped for oils and herbs, she was disheartened by their cost.

“A lot of the products we sell can be very expensive in the marketplace,” he said. “When people look at the costs out there, they think they can so do it for the short term, but we want people to be able to afford these products over the long-term.”

At Life Thyme Botanicals, the wellness culture extends from affordable products to health-related services. Chiropractor Ryan Cartwright has his practice at the shop, and massage therapy is also available.

Though it has taken a few years to build, business today is thriving for the family. The shop’s sales are increasing, and offers to franchise have also come their way.

But those offers have been met with reluctance.

“It would be hard to replicate what we have here, so we’re building our web presence and online product offerings instead,” Emily Bichel said.

“We’re invested in our individual customers and committed to the community. We want to be a place that has a revitalizing spirit, where people can come to relax or share their excitement.”