Winning With Alayna McGee Gilbert: Owner/Product Developer, Inner Sol Medicinals

by Savoy Staff

By Cassandra Spratling

Winning runs in Alayna McGee Gilbert’s family. She grew up in a family of athletes, married an athlete and has a host of relatives who play or have played professional sports.  She herself earned a basketball scholarship to college, motivated by a life-long drive to be the best she could possibly be.

So, it’s no wonder that she refused to let an MS diagnosis in 2013 defeat her. Even while going through four years of chemotherapy that weakened her body and scarred her skin, she was mapping a game plan for success.

The result: two body and soul soothing businesses. She began Inner Sol Essentials, a line of soaps, shea butters and bath salts, infused with essential oils, in 2014. Such products would go well with other bath equipment like those spa covers. Another company grew out of the first. Inner Sol Medicinals, officially launched Thanksgiving week in November of 2020.

It’s appropriate that the new business officially launched Thanksgiving week in 2020. Gilbert has a lot to be thankful for.  She is her own best advertisement. She has defied doctors who told her she’d be taking drugs the rest of her life.

They didn’t know Gilbert.  She is a walking testimony to faith, knowledge and determination rooted in an unshakeable winning spirit. That spirit was instilled in Flint, Michigan, where she grew up with two older twin sisters, and a younger brother.  Both of her parents were General Motors factory workers. Their father’s death from a boating accident in 1978 left their mother a widow at age 34 
with four children to raise. Their mother, Dianne McGee, who passed in 2009, was determined their children would not follow their parents into factory work.

Sports was their way out.  Gilbert started playing in second grade, enamored of her older sisters who filled their Flint home with trophies, medals and all kinds of awards from playing sports. A community center coach, Chazz McCall, convinced them that their skills, combined with their academic prowess, could earn them college scholarships.

“Some people play to stay healthy; we were driven to play to win,” Gilbert says. “Winning on the court teaches you to win in life.  I grew up knowing to always put your best foot forward. I raised my kids the same way; they know they always have to put their best foot forward.”

The McGees were athletic powerhouses in Flint. Her sister Pamela McGee, a retired WNBA star, is the first WNBA player to have both a son and a daughter to play professional basketball. JaVale McGee plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers and Imani McGee-Stafford, is on leave from the Dallas Wings while she pursues a law degree.

Several colleges recruited Gilbert. She chose California State Fullerton. The day she visited, it was 80 degrees. The week before, she’d visited the University of Wisconsin where it was 20 below.
 “I didn’t want to live the rest of my life in the cold.”

In college, she met and later married another student athlete, football player Daren Gilbert, who would go on to play for the New Orleans Saints.  The couple has two now adult children. She pursued a teaching career because it offered more flexibility to raise them.

Alayna McGee Gilbert and her nephew JaVale McGee of the 2020 NBA Champions Los Angeles Lakers.

She was diagnosed in MS in 2013, a decade after experiencing unexplained seizures. The treatment led to the development of her business.

Initially, she was given anti-seizure meds, pain pills and shots that she said left her feeling and looking like a zombie. She was so fatigued, there were days when getting out of bed was a challenge.

“When you’re already fatigued, you can’t exercise, which means you can’t get outside and get sunlight, which made me sicker,” she says. “I have to exercise every day. I have to get sunshine every day.”

When doctors told her she’d likely have to take medicine every day for the rest of her life, she knew she had to find another way.

“I knew this was not the life I would live. My whole life has been full of exercise,” says Gilbert. MS forced her into retirement in 2013 after after 25 years as an elementary school science teacher.

Doctors led her to a chemotherapy trial. She took chemotherapy for four years. The chemo eventually halted the seizures, but there were numerous side effects including rashes, welts, shingles and acid reflex.

During her four years of a chemotherapy she strategized for a route to fully heal and restore her body.

She read books and literature that belonged to her mother, who had long been an advocate of wholistic medicine.  Gilbert studied natural healing methods at various places in California, including Cuyamaca College, a Native American school in San Diego. She also attended natural healing meet-ups and began experimenting with essential oils.

“Healing myself became my personal vendetta,” she says.   She learned what worked for her body, including essential oils like Frankincense that cleared up her skin rashes and lavender that helped relieve stress.

After friends saw how well she was doing, they started requesting some too.  She began making products for friends and family members, and became a sought-after vendor at local farmers markets.

Representatives of a CBD company she met at one farmer’s market introduced her to their products. She began working their ingredients into her product line, which led to the birth of Inner Sol Medicinals.

“It’s actually magic,” she says of her products which range from $20  to $80. “The butters go straight to whatever is hurting.  When you take pills it’s tricking the brain, but when the pill wears off, you’re still hurting. Topical creams go to the nerves to restore you to your natural state.”

Gilbert urges people to explore alternative methods of healing to find what works naturally for one’s own body.   “We have to stop believing there’s only one way to healing,” Gilbert says.

Her niece basketball star Imani McGee-Stafford is one of people who began using products, even before her aunt began selling them officially.

“My favs are the soaps with the loofa already in them and the shea body butters. I like mild and natural fragrance and all of her soaps are like that,” McGee-Stafford says. “The body butters are so luxurious and I’ve used them to heal tattoos as well. I like the CBD butters for aches and pains.”

“I re-up every time I go home so I always have something by her in my bathroom,’’ she says. “Of course, I’d support my aunt regardless, but her products are actually good, and I’ve watched the entire process. I remember my ex helping her make products in the garage.”

Gilbert met Esther Alexander, a 72-year-old resident of Rialto, California, at a show where she was selling her products about three years ago. Alexander became an instant fan.

“I keep it right here by my bed,” says Alexander who uses the Relief Medicinal Shea Butter. “It relieves my pain immediately. I literarily used to be in pain all day. Whenever I’m hurting, I rub it in and I’m good.

She appreciates Gilbert as much as the products. “She’s very sweet-spirited; giving and generous,” Alexander says. “This ain’t about the money for her. You can tell, she really wants people to feel better.”

Gilbert named her businesses Inner Sol to pay homage to the energizing life-affirming properties of the sun. Sol signifies Sun.

She also gets energy from the positive feedback she gets from friends and strangers alike.

Her restored health serves as her confirmation.

Once told she’d be on meds the rest of her life, she doesn’t take any pills. Her healing regimen consists of daily baths in her healing salts and smoothing her butters into her skin.

Now she has no crippling disabilities or skin issues. She lives a full life that includes biking at least 8 miles daily in her Riverside, California, neighborhood.

Following her mother’s guidance, she also works with family members to do charitable events, such as giving free products to residents of in her Flint hometown who developed rashes from drinking dirty water.

“This is how I’m winning,” she says.

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