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Meet an Aromatherapist: Interview with Jade Shutes

How do you dream of using your aromatherapy and/or herbalism education? Do you want to replace the store bought, chemical-laden products you normally use with homemade, nontoxic versions? Do you plan on setting up a practice and consulting with clients one-on-one? Have you a teacher's heart and think you might do well hosting classes at your local yoga studio or health food shop? Do you enjoy gardening and have extra space to grow some medicinal herbs?

As a certified aromatherapist or practicing herbalist, there are so many ways you can use your plant-knowledge to contribute to your community. The possibilities are about as vast as our selection of plant allies. That's one of the reasons why we're spending some time introducing you to different herbalists and aromatherapists this year! As you get to know them a bit better, I hope you'll be able to learn something from each one and gain further inspiration for your own journey.

This week we're talking with Jade Shutes of The School for Aromatic Studies.

Hi Jade! Thanks for being here with us today. Could you start by telling us a bit about who you are, where our readers can find you, and what you are doing in the aromatherapy industry right now?

Hello Erin and AromaCulture Readers!

Thank you so much for this opportunity for people to learn about some of the leading educators and practitioners in aromatherapy today. I am honored to be a part of this sharing.

I am the founder and director of education for the School for Aromatic Studies, which offers a variety of online and live aromatherapy programs. I am in the midst of completing our new course on Botanical Body Care Products and then I shall return to working on a project we began last year called "Distill Aromatics," which will be a non-profit site devoted to distillation and connecting people with plants, distillation resources, artisan distillers, and sustainability issues. [Editor's Note: Links are included in Jade's bio at the end of this post.]

When did you start working with essential oils? What was it about them that inspired you?

My first experience with aromatherapy occurred in 1989 while I was living in London. I was having severe back pain and a friend referred me to her friend, Sophie, who was an aromatherapist. My first appointment with Sophie took place at a beautiful home just south of London. Sophie performed a full intake with me and then customized a blend for the aromatherapy massage. While experiencing the aromatherapy massage, I fell fast asleep. When I awoke, the very first thought I had was, "This is what I want to do for the rest of my life." The experience was perhaps one of the most profound experiences I have ever had. The aromas, the massage, the talking and listening...awake something in me.

After that first aromatherapy massage, I immediately began looking at schools I could go to. I finally settled upon the Raworth Institute of Natural Medicine in Dorking, England, the same school Rhiannon Lewis (Harris) attended and around the same time! (Sadly, this school is not longer in existence.)

I fell madly in love with essential oils, aromatherapy massage, and relexology, as well as human anatomy and physiology, during my training at Raworth. It's been 25 years now and I still feel as passionate about aromatherapy as I did the moment I awoke from my first aromatherapy experience.


Which teachers or mentors have been the most influential in your aromatherapy journey?

This is a challenging question, as I am sure it is for many of us who were a part of the trailblazing for aromatherapy! My first mentor for aromatherapy and herbal medicine was Jan Kusmirek of Fragrant Earth in England. It was Jan who inspired me to integrate herbal medicine traditions with aromatherapy, and to create a technique of blending called 'dynamic blending,' where we are as a mindful about the therapeutics of the base (or delivery system, so to speak) as we are about the essential oils.

Kurt Schnaubelt has also been mentor, friend, and colleague over the years. I respect what he has to share. I love his writings and his books and I honor his contributions to our field. And perhaps what I love most (and learned from) is how he has focused on his own authentic path in this field.

More recently, Cathy Skipper has served as mentor and colleague, inspiring me to have a more relaxed yet educated position on how herbalists in France use essential oils. With Cathy, I was able to finally visit France and see firsthand how aromatherapy is practiced there as well as to seewhat kinds of aromatherapy products are readily available there (from internal capsules to essential oils to body care products). I have become an advocate for education on the internal use of aromatherapy via our landmark course, "French Aromatherapy."

Was there ever a specific situation that led you to an, "Oh, this really works!" moment?

Yes, the very first time I experienced aromatherapy! I gained such relief from my back pain and was so deeply touched on an emotional level by the aroma of the essential oils. It was truly a transformative experience. On a more 'clinical' level, I had bronchitis a number of years ago now and while I was pondering what I should do to treat it, I remembered Kurt Schnaubelt's discussing the use of suppositories for lower respiratory infections and I thought, "I am going to try that and see if it works." So I busied myself making a batch of suppositories and used them. I shall never forget that first time I used essential oils via suppositories. It was an incredibly effective treatment: congestion reduced, infection gone, and duration of the bronchitis shortened. It was then that I began my studies on the internal use of essential oils.


One thing aromatherapists have in common is an endless thirst for continued education in our field. What are some of the ways you are continuing your own education?

This is a great question. While participating on the expert panel at NAHA's Beyond Aromatics II in Utah this past October (2016), we were asked what we think is the most important thing for aromatherapists to have or to do. A resounding answer was "Education, education, education." My response was "Education, then practice; practice...." I think many of us are, in some ways, over-educated, "over-reciped," and over safety-hyped. I think we need to balance education with practice and experience.

I used to spend endless hours researching everything about a given essential oil or about a specific topic related to aromatherapy and although I still do that from time to time, I now find myself spending more energy and time actually working with the essential oils.

While education is wonderful and much needed, there comes a time and a place when practice and actually working with essential oils becomes more fruitful and enlightening.

What does a typical day or week as an aromatherapist look like for you?

Writing. Writing. Researching. More writing! Oh, and answering email, working on our website, making product, taking photos, or preparing to do some video recordings, and on and on! It's a bit different for me right now than what it would look like for other aromatherapists. I am 25 years into my work. I have been a practitioner, educator, researcher, writer, and 'political' advocate (serving two terms for the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy). Each day or week is always full of learning!

What do you enjoy most about being an aromatherapist?

There are so many things I enjoy about being an aromatherapist. Some of these things include spending time working with the essential oils and other materials to create a specific blend or product, creating my own botanical body care products, and writing. My childhood dream was to become a writer and I guess aromatherapy gave me something that I love that I could also write about. For me, being an aromatherapist also means working with aromatic and medicinal plants. Gardening has always been a part of my aromatherapy practice as I believe working with the actual plant and smelling the aromas from actual plants deepens our relationship with the essential oils. I am thankful I inherited my mother's green thumb!

What is one of the most challenging things about being an aromatherapist?

One of the most challenging things about being an aromatherapist continues to be educating the general public about what aromatherapy really is and what it can (or can't) do for their health or wellness. By default, educating their noses on what true essential oils smell like is also a challenge because so many mass market products contain both synthetic and authentic essential oils or just synthetics.

Is there a particular aspect of aromatherapy that you are passionate about?

Distillation and growing aromatic plants. My first experience of distillation was many years ago when I was attending a program at Purdue University. I was mesmerized. But this was a time when distillation equipment was not as readily available as it is today. Just over four years ago, I purchased our first copper distillation unit from Portugal and fell as madly in love with distillation as I did with the practice of aromatherapy.

I believe that the experience of distillation is truly a transformative one as it seems to elevate consciousness for those in attendance and it also provides us with the awareness of the link between aromatic plants and the essential oils we use. I love gardening and I love walking through our gardens and pinching a bit of Melissa or German Chamomile, or rubbing a bit of Rosemary and then inhaling deeply...ahhh...such beauty. I feel more deeply in communication with both the essential oils and the plants and this seems to be one of the things that keeps my passion for aromatherapy growing.

Which essential oils are you finding yourself working with most often lately?

I tend to focus on specific essential oils for the given season and it is winter right now, so I have been working quite a bit with Eucalyptus globulus, Laurel (Laurus nobilis), Lemon (Citrus limon), Juniper Berry (Juniperus communis), and of course, Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). I have also been very drawn to using Frankincense (Boswellia carterii) and Neroli (Citrus aurantium var. amara).

What advice would you give to someone who is considering a career in the aromatherapy industry?

For sure, get educated, especially if you are just beginning to use aromatherapy for yourself and your family. And if you are considering a career in aromatherapy, well, there are a lot of things to consider with this. Aromatherapy has expanded so much over these past few years and there are now more possibilities for what someone can do for a career in aromatherapy. So I guess my advice would be to explore these possibilities, explore your own goals and visions for what you want to do and how you will manifest your goals/visions. I would also advise someone wanting to make a career our of aromatherapy to find their own niche or expression. It is becoming a rather crowded place out there and so having your own unique expression will prove to be invaluable. Don't forget that growing plants for distillation and/or distilling for hydrosols and/or essential oils is an area of huge growth and need right now, so if you have a green thumb and a love of gardening, this may be an area you will want to look at!


Jade has been practicing and studying forms of natural healing for over two decades and was one of the vanguard of professionals who helped introduce aromatherapy to the US. She has been an aromatherapy educator for over 25 years and is the founder of the School for Aromatic Studies.

Jade holds a diploma in Holistic Aromatherapy, Holistic Massage, Anatomy and Physiology, and Reflexology from the Raworth College of Natural Medicine in Dorking, UK, and a diploma in aromatherapy from the International Therapist Examining Board (ITEC). She has studied with Jan Jusmirek of Fragrant Studies and has completed Part One of the Purdue University Advanced Studies of Essential Oils. She has also completed a certificate program for Herbal Medicine with NW Herbalist, Erin Groh, and a certificate program for Spa Bodywork with Anne Williams.

She has designed and taught aromatherapy courses for massage and bodywork therapists, estheticians, social workers, nurses, and other healthcare providers. Jade has taught at Bastyr University (Adjunct Faculty), Duke University (Continuing Education), Ashmead College, San Diego Hospice, and at various locations throughout the United States and Canada. She has traveled extensively throughout Canada, the United States, England, and Japan exploring aromatherapy practices and businesses. Jade has played an active role in the setting of standards for aromatherapy education in North America and was the creator of 'Synergia 97,' a conference devoted to raising educational standards in North America. Find her here and here.

I hope you were inspired by Jade's insight today. I find it so interesting to see how different aromatherapists are impacting our industry. Do you know someone who we should feature in this series? Leave their name in the comments section below.

Much love,