.sqs-featured-posts-gallery {display: none ! important;}

aromatherapist

Ask the Panel: Top 5 Essential Oils for Beginners

“I am just starting out with essential oils and I have no idea what to buy first. Could you recommend an assortment of 4 or 5 oils that you think would get me off to a great start?” This is one of the questions I am often asked as an aromatherapist, so I thought I would compile a list of the professional panel’s answer to this question here for you. Feel free to share it with friends who might find it useful. =)

Which 5 essential oils would you include in a beginner's starter kit? Let me know in the comments section at the end of this blog post.

ASK-THE-PANEL-TOP-5.png

Sweet Orange, Lavender, Tea tree, Siberian fir, Peppermint Andrea Butje


I would include Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), Mandarin (Citrus nobilis), Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis), Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) and Peppermint (Mentha x piperita). The saying ‘if in doubt use lavender’ is, in the main, true. True Lavender has a wide range of therapeutic effects. It is analgesic, anti-bacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, sedative, cardiotonic and hypotensive. It is best known for its stress-relieving properties, treating headaches, burns, wounds, irregular periods, asthma, eczema, acne, candida, aches and pains and high blood pressure. in a starter kit it can be safe to use on most people and most conditions so no mistakes are likely! Use 4 drops for a massage to help relieve stress and anxiety. Mandarin is antispasmodic, calming, digestive and hepatic. It is used for stomach cramps and spasms, indigestion and constipation, as a liver tonic and for excitability. Best of all, as a beginner's oil, mandarin can be used with children for restlessness and insomnia. Just one drop of oil on a tissue near the crib can help to send baby off to calm sleep. Roman Chamomile is anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, calming, digestive and menstrual. It is used in particular, to address eczema, arthritis, inflamed skin, headaches, indigestion, menopausal symptoms and conjunctivitis. A soothing massage using almond oil with 4 drops of this oil can really help to calm eczema and dermatitis, and is also useful for allergic reactions. Geranium is antiseptic and antiviral. It is most often used for childhood ailments (chickenpox, mumps, measles, common cold), but is also useful in other viral situations, such as herpes or shingles. Geranium helps to reduce breast congestion, fluid retention and cellulite, as well as menopausal and menstrual problems, so this oil is popular with most women. For skincare, geranium oil is regenerative and moisturizing. Peppermint has a wide range of therapeutic uses and is very useful in a starter kit. The oil is analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-migraine, antispasmodic, antiviral and digestive. It is used for painful situations such as period pain, arthritis, headaches and knocks, while also being very calming for the digestive system. Use diluted peppermint next time you knock yourself where it hurts and feel the pain disappear! Please remember that all essential oils should be used with care, and if there are doubts about how to use them, a trained aromatherapist should be consulted.Penny Price


Lavandula angustifolia, Citrus sinensis, Melaleuca alternifolia, Pelargonium asperum, Boswellia carterii - Rhiannon Lewis


Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), geranium (Pelargonium graveolens), sweet orange (Citrus sinensis), spearmint (Mentha spicata), and ginger (Zingiber officinale) Sharon Falsetto


Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), Cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica), Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis), steam distilled Lemon (Citrus limon), Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanoides). These have the least safety precautions and have so many good uses. - Robin B. Kessler


It REALLY depends on who is the beginner. A young mom with young children? Someone concerned about skincare? An older person dealing with chronic pain? There is no one size fits all recommendation. Having said that, lets start with an effective antibacterial - most folks would say Tea tree, but I would prefer Manuka (gentler, aromatically softer, and, in my experience, more effective across the board.) Other effective germkillers are Geranium and even Palmarosa. A relaxant: perhaps a true Lavender, but perhaps Roman Chamomile or Sweet Marjoram, or even Petitgrain. (All are calming, relaxing, may help induce sleep, and are "child safe.") Third, some citrus for freshening the air and uplifting the spirit. Sweet or Blood Orange have a wide range of uses. Fourth, something for respiratory effects, perhaps Eucalyptus globulous or radiata for stuffy noses with an adult, but if the house has babies and/or toddlers I would suggest a conifer, instead. Not as effective, but perhaps more appropriate. Let's say Siberian Fir but your choice of conifers would do. That's four categories; we have done germkillers, relaxants/anti-insomnia, a citrus for mood elevation and "clearing the air", something to unstuff clogged sinuses... let's look at something not normally considered a 'beginners' oil, but, in my experience, the single most healing oil in our aromatherapy arsenal... Helichrysum italicum from Corsica. Amazing for bruises, anti-inflammatory for nerve and joint pain, helpful for problem skin (we use in blends for acne and rosacea), amazing healing for scars, sometimes used for meditation, it's an oil that is well worth splurging on. I would not be without it, and would rather see people invest in amazingly effective oils than some that are less costly, but also less effective. Having said all that.. if someone is dealing with a LOT of pain... I would want them to have Kunzea ambigua, from Australia, the most effective pain reliever I have found. If there are babies in the house, I would want German Chamomile in there, it's one of the first three oils for use with babies and toddlers. So there is truly no one size fits all list.  - Marge Clark


Cajeput, Sweet Marjoram, Orange, Blue Tansy, Vetiver – Ken Miller


For the perfect starter kit, I'd consider a person's lifestyle. Do they have kids? Allergies or other health concerns? Are they athletic, with muscle or joint overuse? The all-purpose list below includes popular multitasking oils distilled from different plant parts that blend well together, while addressing issues we all deal with: colds and flu, muscle or joint aches/pains, relaxation and sleep, focus and concentration, or skin care. I've selected affordable oils that are not over-harvested. Note: "kid-friendly" = safe for kids ages 2 and up (if conservative, 5 and up), unless otherwise stated.
1. Cedarwood (I prefer
Cedrus deodara or Juniperus virginiana) - calming/grounding, respiratory congestion, muscle tension, astringent, hair and skin care, good in bug sprays. Kid-friendly.
2. Eucalyptus globulus - energizing, supports mental focus, respiratory infections, congestion and mucus, aches and pains, headaches. Avoid for kids under 5, caution for kids under 10 (instead, try Rosalina or a conifer such as Siberian Fir).
3. Lavender - deeply calming/soothing, supports sleep, aches and pains, spasms/cramps, antiseptic, great for skin care and burns/bites. Kid-friendly.
4. Sweet Orange - uplifting and cheering, antiseptic, supports immunity, helps digestion or nausea, sore muscles, freshens air. Kid-friendly, a non-phototoxic citrus.
5. Tea Tree - uplifting, helpful for allergies, respiratory infections, general anti-infectious and immune support, skin eruptions or minor cuts, freshens musty air. Kid-friendly.
Michelle Gilbert


1. Lavender
2. Lemon
3. Peppermint
4. Tea Tree
5. Helichrysum Amy Emnett


Lavender, lemon, tea tree, peppermint, and ginger – Lora Cantele


Lavender, bergamot, eucalyptus, frankincense, and tea tree. - Nyssa Hanger


My own Top 5 list for beginners would include: Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), Sweet Orange (Citrus sinensis), Cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica), Peppermint (Mentha x piperita), and either Sweet Marjoram (Origanum majorana) or Rose Geranium (Pelargonium asperum).

I hope these valuable answers from this panel of professional aromatherapists and aromatherapy educations have been a help to you. Feel free to pin this post for later use or share it with friends who might also find it valuable.

Which 5 essential oils would you include in a starter kit for beginners? let me know in the comments section at the end of this blog post.

Much love,
Erin


Have a question to ask the panel? Submit it for consideration below.

Name *
Name

MORE BLOG POSTS

Ask the Panel: How Do You Choose An Essential Oil Brand to Purchase From?

We’re beginning a Question of the Month blog series today. Every few weeks, I’ll be featuring a reader-submitted question here on the blog along with several answers to the question from a panel of professionals in the herbal / aromatherapy industries. If you have a question you’d like to submit for this series, please stick around until the end of the post for instructions.

Our first question posed to our panel of qualified professionals is:

What are the top two things you look for when choosing a brand from which to purchase an essential oil?

qotm-essential-oil-brands-2.png

1. I always appreciate when an essential oil company imports their oils directly from distillers who extract their oils from plants grown without pesticides and herbicides. 2. I admire companies that test their essential oils, batch specific, with GC/MS technology and do not standardize or adjust their oils once they arrive from the distiller. Andrea Butje

 

As a supplier I guess this is a different answer to someone who is a therapist looking for a brand! For me, it is visiting the farmers and cooperatives that I have known and trusted over the years, who will pick and distill at the times I want for my company. This is the first thing as when the oil is picked does determine which chemicals are present in the finished oil. The second thing would be the trust I mentioned. I would never buy from someone I did not trust to supply me with the therapeutic quality I am seeking. Most 'traveling salesmen' are selling leftovers from the perfume trade, who use fractionated and adulterated essential oils, not oils specific to aromatherapeutic use. If I were to guide therapists, I would say that firstly you need to trust the company you buy from - do they give advice for every oil and the clinical uses for the oils in your situation? Do they give the right paperwork (although that is not always an indication of quality), do you feel comfortable with your supplier? I would also say, do not go by the smell. Unless you are an established aromatherapy expert with many years experience, you probably wont know if that lavender is 42:42 or not! Be aware of copies and don't buy from folk you don't know. Hope this helps you :) – Penny Price

 

Availability (Do they have the correct oil that I need? i.e. chemotype/form) and purity [of the oil]. – Sylla Sheppard-Hanger

 

The organoleptic qualities of the oils and the straightforwardness of the proprietors of the brand. I read about the organoleptic qualities on my blog.– Jeanne Rose

 

Knowledge and experience of the brand. Do they employ a certified aromatherapist on staff/consult? How long have they been in business? What is their reputation within the industry? Can they answer my questions and make suggestions about the essential oil use? All of these questions give me information about their knowledge (not just their training, but their actual knowledge of each essential oil) and experience within the industry and use of essential oils in practice. If a brand has both knowledge and experience of essential oils, the other important stuff (such as quality/extraction methods/sourcing of the essential oils) should automatically follow through/be answered within those two points. Sharon Falsetto

 

Good moral code about aromatherapy and essential oils and the price! – Elizabeth Ashley

 

I check for GC/MS reports to see if the oils are pure and I evaluate the company’s reputation. – Robin B. Kessler, CA

 

Reputation & longevity of the company, and testing documents – Ken Miller

 

I don't necessarily think in terms of "brands" when I purchase essential oils. I'm more interested in the oils than the brand, and for that reason I focus on how a supplier represents and maintains their relationship with the oils they offer, their customers, and the distillers they work with. There are many ways I evaluate that, some factual and some nuanced. To turn the question around a bit, if I had to choose two deal breakers, I'd say that if I couldn't get batch-specific GC/MS reports, and if I saw spurious therapeutic claims or extreme usage suggestions on the supplier's website, I would absolutely look elsewhere. GC/MS reports, ideally from an independent third party, identify the chemical composition of that specific batch of essential oil. I need this information to verify the therapeutic properties, safety, and efficacy of my blends. Strongly curative or prescriptive language on a brand's website or literature, as well as suggestions for frequent neat (undiluted) use or ingestion, are all red flags to me. By contrast, when a supplier speaks in more neutral language including proper dilution guidelines and other safety information, they exhibit a better understanding of essential oils and aromatherapy. They are also more likely to provide other useful information such as when the oil was distilled, its shelf life, its full Latin name (genus, species, and chemotype where appropriate), and its geographic origin, all of which impact my purchasing decisions.Michelle Gilbert

 

1. I look for companies that provide GC/MS reports of each batch. Knowing the percentages of chemical components is an integral aspect of my blending process. I look at it like each bottle is its own character. While some batches may be similar, they are not always the same. Knowing what makes them "tick" helps me to know their therapeutic value. 2. I look at the ethics of the company. Do they provide safe usage advice? Do they fully disclose information when a person inquires about their essential oils ? Do they focus on education and not just sales? Does the owner of the company have professional training, years of experience, and relationships with the distillers? Utilizing a company whose core foundation lies on integrity and kindness is paramount. – Amy Emnett

 

Integrity (company provides quality product for ethically obtained oils) and proper documentation (batch-specific GC/MS & other testing, proper Latin name on label, MSDS sheets). – Lora Cantele

 

I hope these valuable answers from this panel of professional aromatherapists and aromatherapy educations have been a help to you. Feel free to pin this post for later use or share it with friends who might also find it valuable.

Much love,
Erin


Have a question to ask the panel? Submit it for consideration below.

Name *
Name

MORE BLOG POSTS

The Differences Between Lavender Essential Oils

This article has been excerpted from The Lavender Guide, a new book by Erin Stewart. The excerpt has been adapted for use here and was also featured in the August issue of AromaCulture Magazine.

I've never met a Lavender plant I didn't love. When they pop up in garden shops around here, they are quickly snatched up by adoring plant-tenders and whisked away to their new homes where they're lovingly planted up and made a part of the family. My German Shepherd even loves them. There was a house on our block in CA that had a large, vibrant, seemingly ever-blooming Lavender plant in the front yard and it spilled over the picket fence into the sidewalk. Every day on our walk, my pup had to stop and stick her nose into that Lavender plant and just breathe it in for a moment before we continued on our way. Every time. It's rather adorable, really. She's a smart one.


Did you know we made a film with the lavender farmers of southern Oregon? Click on the image below to watch it - it’s free! You’ll get to go behind the scenes at working lavender farms and learn directly from the farmers as they teach you how to grow, care for and distill lavender!


Lavender is a flowering shrub in the Lamiaceae (mint) family and boasts over 40 known species with an ever growing count of over 400 cultivated varieties. While it's native to areas near the Mediterranean, Lavender is now grown all over the world and the various species provide us with several different essential oils. While they are all "Lavender" essential oils, the different species (and varieties) yield essential oils with slightly differing chemical compositions that might make one more suitable for certain issues than the others. Let's focus in on some of the differences between some of the most commonly available Lavender oils.

differences between lavender essential oils aromaculture.com 2.png

TRUE LAVENDER

Botanical name: Lavandula angustifolia, Lavandula officinalis

The main Lavender used for therapeutic purposes in both herbalism and aromatherapy is Lavandula angustifolia. There are many cultivars of L. angustifolia, with flowers ranging in color from light purple to dark purple, white, and even pink. This Lavender is sometimes referred to as English Lavender. I have also heard some people call it French Lavender, but since that term has also been applied to Lavandin (L. x intermedia) and to L. dentata, it is best to refer to it via its botanical name, L. angustifolia, to avoid confusion.

 
 

L. angustifolia plants produce less essential oil than the hybrid Lavandin plants do. A friend who distills Lavender daily has found that 6 to 8 plants' worth of L. angustifolia flowering stalks will fill the basket of a 15 gallon copper alembic still and will yield about 70ml of essential oil per distillation.

While not considered ideal for florists and designers because of their shorter stems, the angustifolias have a sweeter, softer aroma than other Lavender varieties and are considered superior for therapeutic use. The plants themselves are much shorter and smaller than Lavandin varieties.

My favorite L. angustifolia cultivars include: 'Bowles Early,' 'Buena Vista,' 'Hidcote,' 'Loddon Blue,' 'Miss Katherine,' 'Opal Rain,' 'Royal Velvet,' and 'Sachet.'

The essential oil of L. angustifolia plants is rich in linalol and linalyl acetate, among many other constituents (possibly as many as 450 or more) and is considered the choice Lavender oil for use in aromatherapy. Professional aromatherapists will rarely use a Lavender oil produced from another Lavender variety, except, perhaps, for Spike Lavender (L. latifolia / spica) in cases where 1,8-Cineole and Camphor are preferred constituents for application. The different varieties of L. angustifolia produce similar, but still subtly different essential oils. ('Buena Vista' and 'Hidcote Pink' are two of my current favorites.) A discerning nose will be able to notice slight differences in aroma between the different oils, but in general, L. angustifolia essential oil is not sold with the variety name included unless it is being purchased directly from a small farm that distills their own Lavender on site. Most larger distillers, even if they grow several varieties of L. angustifolia, will co-distill the different varieties together and sell the finished product labeled simply as 'Lavender - Lavandula angustifolia' essential oil.

I have found that L. angustifolia essential oils consistently boast the following therapeutic properties (among others): analgesic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, anxiolytic, antispasmodic, carminative, cicatrisant, diuretic, emmenagogue, nervine, sedative, and uplifting. They are generally useful for any kind of skin ailment, nervous tension, anxiety, lack of restful sleep, aches, pains, and spasms, and a variety of more serious complaints [covered more thoroughly in the full chapter found in the book].

While Lavender is safe for even neat use on the skin, some clinical aromatherapists now recommend using it undiluted only for acute ailments (like a bee sting). When used regularly over time, it may be best to dilute even the friendly Lavender essential oil in a carrier.  

True Lavender essential oil is costly to produce and is often adulterated with isolated (or synthetic) linalol or linalyl acetate, synthetic Lavender oil, and even Lavandin essential oil. Know your source well to be sure you're purchasing a true, 100% L. angustifolia essential oil.

 
LAVANDULA X INTERMEDIA grosso fat spike by erin stewart-23.jpg
 

LAVANDIN

Botanical name: Lavandula x intermedia, Lavandula hybrida, Lavandula x burnati

Lavandin (L. x intermedia) is a Lavender species that is cherished by growers and distillers around the world. Lavandin plants are created when a Lavandula angustifolia and a Lavandula latifolia plant are cross-pollinated. The resulting hybrid is a much larger plant than the L. angustifolia varieties and yields a great deal more essential oil. Lavandins make beautiful garden hedges because of their impressive size and color. They bloom later in the season than L. angustifolia varieties, so adding Lavandin to your Lavender garden is an easy way to extend your blooming season.

A few of my personal favorite Lavandin varieties for the garden include, 'Fred Boutin,' 'Grosso,' 'Impress Purple,' 'Jaubert,' and 'Lullingstone Castle.'

Like the L. angustifolia essential oil varieties, Lavandin essential oil is usually offered as simply 'Lavandin - L. x intermedia' or 'Lavender - L. x intermedia' essential oil, though you may be able to find specific varieties like 'Grosso' and 'Super' labeled individually, especially if purchasing directly from a farm that distills onsite. Lavandin essential oil is not as commonly used in the aromatherapy industry, but it is produced worldwide for the fragrance industry. It is a common ingredient in soaps, laundry detergents, skin care, perfumes, and cleaning products. It's far less chemically complex than L. angustifolia essential oil and is considered to be somewhat inferior therapeutically, so not many professional aromatherapists use it. Still, the aroma is lovely - a bit sharper than an angustifolia, due to its higher Camphor and 1,8-Cineole content. Some people prefer its aroma because it's more similar to the traditional Lavender smell they're used to while others, who think they don't like the smell of Lavender until they smell a true L. angustifolia, shy away from the Lavandin scent.

Therapeutically, Lavandin essential oil is used for its antibacterial properties and to support the respiratory system. [Further therapeutic uses are covered in the full chapter in the book.]

 
LAVANDULA stoechas anouk supreme by erin stewart-23.jpg
 

LAVANDULA STOECHAS

Botanical name(s): Lavandula stoechas

L. stoechas is sometimes called Spanish Lavender, but since that term is also applied to L. dentata and L. stoechas is also called French Lavender (a term also applied to L. angustifolias and L. x intermedia varieties), it is best to just refer to it by its botanical name: L. stoechas.

L. Stoechas makes a stunning compact hedge in the garden and tends to bloom continuously beginning in late spring. My absolute favorite variety is 'Kew Red,' but I also love 'Cottage Rose,' 'Otto Quast,' and 'James Compton.'

The essential oil is not as easily found, but it can be sourced. Generally speaking, it is not well suited for use with little ones and comes with a few safety contraindications. It is rich in Camphor (even more than Spike Lavender), 1,8-Cineole, and Fenchone, and has an affinity for the respiratory system. Since it is so rich in ketones and oxides, it should be used with caution. [Further therapeutic information covered in the full chapter in the book.]

 

SPIKE LAVENDER

Botanical name(s): Lavandula latifolia, Lavandula spica, Lavandula spicata

Spike Lavender grows at a lower elevation than the L. angustifolia plants and is sometimes called Aspic. The essential oil has a sharper, more camphoraceous aroma than the essential oil from Lavandula angustifolia, with a camphor content that can vary based on where the plant was grown, sometimes reaching concentrations up to about 35%. It also contains higher amounts of 1,8-Cineole. Its aroma hints at its antiseptic qualities and smells quite medicinal. It is often utilized in respiratory support blends and is especially useful when you're feeling a bit stuffy. It can be helpful for pain and inflammation. While not nearly as calming as a True Lavender oil, it does stimulate circulation and effectively gets stagnant energy moving through the body again.

Because of the camphor content, it is recommended that this oil be avoided when pregnant.

Therapeutically, Spike Lavender essential oil is analgesic, antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, antispasmodic, circulatory, and expectorant. It is sometimes used in skin care preparations and is often included in blends that support skin ailments, cramps and spasms, headaches, and minor wounds. [Covered in more detail in the full chapter of the book.]

 
LAVANDULA x christiana by erin stewart-23.jpg
 

CONCLUSION

There are many other Lavender species and varieties that are grown around the world. Our personal collection has many beautiful varieties. Some of my favorites that aren't listed in this particular article include L. multifida and L. x christiana (pictured above).

There's just something so special about Lavender. Once you've spent some time with it, you can't help but want to be around it all the time. Plant one or two varieties in your own garden. Before long, you'll probably be growing your collection too!

Are you growing any Lavender in your garden? Which varieties? Let me know in the comments below. =)

Much love,
Erin

 

MORE BLOG POSTS

Meet an Aromatherapist: An Interview with Sylla Sheppard-Hanger

Many of you will fondly recognize our guest today. Sylla Sheppard-Hanger, aromatherapist, essential oil safety advocate, and educator-extraordinaire, is no stranger to the aromatherapy community and we're blessed to be able to share our recent interview with you here on the blog this week!

MEET-AN-AROMATHERAPIST-SYLLA-SHEPPARD-HANGER-INTERVIEW-on-aromaculture.com.png

ABOUT SYLLA

Sylla Sheppard-Hanger has 40-some years of experience and personal research into bodywork and essential oils as a Natural Health Care Practitioner, licensed Massage Therapist, Aromatherapist, and licensed Cosmetologist. Her fascination with aromatherapy has led her to study with some of the most knowledgeable people in the field of aromatic and medicinal plants, essential oil research, and herbology.

In 1993, she completed the Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Program at Purdue University in Indiana, and continued to complete the International Training in Essential Oils: Advanced Studies - Parts 1 & 2 (1996-7). She was a founding member of the American Aromatherapy Association (1988) and served two terms on the Board of Directors. She is the Founder and Director of the Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy (Tampa, Florida) and author of The Aromatic Spa Book (2007), The Aromatic Mind Book (2008), The Aromatherapy Practitioner Correspondence Course, and the Aromatherapy Practitioner Reference Manual (1995). Sylla founded and directed the volunteer team for the United Aromatherapy Effort, Inc. (UAE), a non-profit charity whose mission is the collection and dissemination of donated aromatherapy products and chair massage to those affected during critical incidents and emergency work. Sylla worked closely with Dr. Trevor Stokes of the University of South Florida in their Psychosocial Aromatherapy Research Project (PARP) using aroma in children with autism and other disorders. She teaches and consults with companies needing help; and she maintains a private Aromatherapy practice (as a licensed massage therapist and cosmetologist) in Tampa, Florida, where she resides with her husband and one cat.


THE INTERVIEW

Hi Sylla! 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?

Thank you for this opportunity! I started in the 1970's when I first found essential oils and added them to my massage practice.  I actually thought I invented something but soon found out others had the same ideas. 

It all started on the quintessential “hippy road trip,” during which I ran across a fragrance shop for the first time.  It was love at first scent (and sight­ — I love those little glass bottles). That love became an obsession with personal scents and I developed one for myself that I still wear to this day. Those who know me know me by scent, even when I’m no longer there.

From there, I moved into licensed massage therapy and began to incorporate fragrances into my massages. The effects on clients sometimes astounded me! My lifelong obsession with aromas, essential oils, and positive effects was cemented.

Today, I work in several aspects of the industry.  From teaching to researching, editing for peers to client consultations — I am very active within the aromatic world and have a driving desire to encourage safe use on a global level.

You can read that whole story of my aromatic birth here.

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

Like many people, essential oils changed my life from the moment I first smelled some way back in the mid-1970’s.  When I added them to my massage treatments, clients experienced amazing relaxation; when I made my own personal perfume, I felt complete.  It became my signature scent that I still am known by today, 40 years later. 

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

Like so many in this industry, I began by reading anything I could. Of course, in those early days, finished quality reading material was harder to find. After I’d read all I could and incorporatedthat material into my practice, I searched for further education.

I found Kurt Schnaubelt and the Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy and enrolled in (and completed) the program there. I loved their conferences. Oh, the joy of gathering together with like minds and learning from others! Kurt and Monica were the first to bring many aromatherapists to America for those conferences — I heard from people like Tisserand, Penoël, and Franchomme. Great days, those were!

I talk more about those first days in my education here.

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

Several moments stick out:

  • My first healing experience of treating a bedsore wound with lavender.
  • Helping one person to relax in order to pass away in peace, soon after diffusion.
  • My own healing experience during radiation treatment for breast cancer and feelings during my breast cancer journey (link below).
  • Finally, a testament to daily diffusion: it is rare that either I or my husband catch a flu, virus, or other contagious illnesses, even though we both work around lots of people. He totally attributes that to living with me and the oils all these years; our home is protected!! So, our having no major illness from airborne germs because of diffusion is a big one.

I must say, though, that one of the most amazing things is seeing the “This really works” moment. Watching someone have a complete breakthrough in thinking just by smelling an oil or blend or having a complete emotional release (cry, laugh, etc) — that is something I’ve always loved. My daughter, Nyssa, and I say in our classes that the class is not successful unless someone cries. And most often, someone does, even us.  

My journey combining complementary aromatherapy with radiation is a free download here (put it in the cart, then check out - use credit card 0000, leave expiration as is, and fill out other information as usual). 

Can you tell us a bit about your own pursuit of aromatherapy education?

I first took the Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy course in the early 1980s, then wrote my own Aromatherapy Practitioner Home Study Course to fill in the gaps for practitioners as I found the course lacking that part. I attended every class, conference, and meeting I could find in those days before the internet. Some of that is chronicled in the link below. 

As a Founding Member of the first American Aromatherapy Association, I met all the leaders in the field. Later, I attended Purdue University for several programs on Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, including the two-part Essential Oils Program with Dr.  Jim Simon. 

Other influences have greatly expanded my personal growth in the field. Some of them include: 

  • I studied with Martin Watt in person and over distance, first published his Plant Aromatics and brought him to the United States of America. 
  • Tony Burfield helped me with scientific editing for my courses and I published his Natural Aromatics Odours and Origins (both the first and, more recently, second editions) which taught me more. 
  • I’ve repeatedly teamed up with Dr.  Robert Pappas and have sponsored classes and collaborated on papers with him for many years. 
  • I also attended a fascinating summer program on plant classifications at Cambridge University (UK). They have all the plant families in separate beds there! 
  • I hosted and studied with Robbi Zeck and the Blossoming Heart classes.
  • Gabriel Mojay has been a big influence as a personal friend and colleague and a joy to host in classes here in Tampa. 
  • Most recently, I attended Mark Webb’s 8-day Medical Aromatherapy class in Atlanta.
  • A full listing of all the courses I’ve taken can be found here.

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?

Besides attending most Alliance of International Aromatherapists and National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy conferences, I enjoy attending classes like the Aromatic Medicine above. Editing Tony Burfield’s Natural Aromatics Odours and Origins, Second Edition has been a continuing education for me and my daughter for the last year. In addition, I’m regularly updating my own course materials and creating new courses is education. Aside from all of that, I enjoy the informative parts of social media (Facebook/LinkedIn) for leads on new studies and updated information.

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

Today it is scattered regular clients and some online mentoring in our Student Forum. For the last year, spare moments were spent working on editing and publishing Tony Burfield’s second edition; since Nyssa and I are also creating a new beginner course, we are writing sections for this. In addition, throughout the last few years, I have been working with new companies/individuals - consulting, creating blends, etc. (such as the Kids line for Eden’s Garden). 

What do you enjoy most about being an aromatherapist?

I love daily work with the oils — making a new blend or just using them in my own self-care, for diffusion, etc.  Mostly I enjoy making changes in people’s lives so simply and pleasantly, and sharing with others the simplicity and pleasure of living with essential oils. I recently gave a diffuser and oils to a friend’s mom who is house-bound — her life is much more pleasant and healthier with it!

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

When I started 40 yrs ago, there were no courses or qualifications or titles for people taking courses. We have had to create this in our industry, and even still today, they are varied and inconsistent; from Aromatherapy Practitioner to Certified Aromatherapist, with training time varying from a simple weekend to years of study.  The national organizations have their standard requirements for members, but that leaves out the rest of the world. 

Our working vision is to get the Registered Aromatherapist designation in place — for this, people can take an independent exam (regardless of which accepted course they choose) and receive the title Registered Aromatherapist. Right now, this remains our only designation with a standard, yet it needs new volunteer input and some changes to reflect what Aromatherapists really want.

So the acceptance and embracing of aromatherapy or aromatic medicine in holistic health care is happening, but slowly, and this is good to see. However, the other issue is battling the constant unsafe info being generated by the masses on the internet.

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

Safety!! As former chair of The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy Safety Committee (unfortunately now defunct), I developed a passion for stressing safe use — due to the tremendous amount of reports of injuries caused by unsafe advice since about the mid 1980’s. We had never had to deal with this issue before the unsafe advice started being spread. This led to the collection of injury reports we still now collect. The collection has begun to reveal the degree of less safe use and the need for safety education at a mass level. It also points to the validity of a class action lawsuit being looked into.

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

Lately, I have used what I call the breather oils (conifers/citrus), partly because I love the fresh clean smell and because my oak trees are full of pollen. Since pollen doesn’t help my breathing issues, I am preventing the issues by staying inside! Also I have been playing more with new CO2 extractions, most recently,  the Rosemary ct. verbenone, which has always been a favorite!

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

Decide on your role and capabilities: essential oil producer, product sales, product formulation, application as a licensed professional (for instance: massage/skin care), mental health counseling, health coach, etc. Ask yourself, “What do I want to do in the industry?”

Find the most relevant school and teachers to get your initial education; look for teachers who may share your field, especially those that are still practicing therapists themselves. Look for those who are still learning themselves. Look for schools that have a long history of specialty education in aromatherapy. Check out the school and teachers’ accomplishments over the years: are they active in the industry? How long have they been teaching? Look for those with high regard in the field and courses that are approved by the national organizations. 

And .  .  .  never stop learning!


I hope you've enjoyed getting to know our guest a bit more today. Have a lovely week!

Much love,
Erin

MORE BLOG POSTS

How to Become a Certified Aromatherapist

When I first became interested in essential oils, I had no idea what I was supposed to do with them. I'm a bit of a nerd when it comes to studying, though, so it wasn't long before I had volunteered my husband to help me carry a humongous stack of aromatherapy books home from the library.

I think most of us who enjoy learning about essential oils figure out early on that they just have a way of drawing us in until we want to know everything there is to know about them. The more I studied, the more I wanted to know. The analytical side of my creative brain was constantly badgering me with questions - "But why does this work?" "How do I know when to use Roman Chamomile instead of German Chamomile?" and, all too often, "What does that even mean!?"
 

My innate need to fully understand everything I become interested in left me thirsty for a much more solid foundation.
 

That's when I started researching more in-depth aromatherapy education. Some of the programs I found looked amazing but cost more than I could afford at the time and I didn't want to take out a loan to go back to school right in the middle of our Dave-Ramsey-Style-Get-Out-Of-Debt run. Some of the other courses didn't look comprehensive or trustworthy or up-to-date enough to capture my attention. A lot of time was spent sorting through information before I finally settled on the program I wanted to go through first and started saving for it. I know taking in all of that information and making a decision can be daunting, so I'm simplifying the process for you today with 10 easy steps to become a Certified Aromatherapist.

Note: I know full certification programs are not for everyone. If you have absolutely no desire to build a career around aromatherapy, you may not need to pursue such an in-depth program and a shorter course might work out much better for you.

But if you want to work in the aromatherapy field, start a blog or website, see clients, incorporate aromatherapy into your massage practice or your holistic health practice, write, sell products, or teach classes, or even just know that you have the knowledge and ability to be able to use essential oils safely and effectively and to share accurate information with your friends and family, a certification program is definitely going to be your best option.


10 STEPS TO BECOME A CERTIFIED AROMATHERAPIST
 


1. RESEARCH SCHOOLS

Is the school on the approved schools lists provided by NAHA and AIA? NAHA and AIA are the two governing bodies for aromatherapy education in the US. The schools that are recognized by them are those that offer 200+ hour programs with curricula that has been reviewed and approved as being comprehensive and accurate according to the rigorous standards set forth by our industry.

What are their requirements for certification? Most legitimate programs will require you to complete 200+ hours of aromatherapy coursework, an anatomy and physiology class, write a research paper, submit a number of case studies, and pass your final exam(s).
 

2. CHOOSE A SCHOOL / PROGRAM

Choosing the school you want to go with for your certification program is a largely personal decision. One school may offer more of a particular aspect of aromatherapy education that you want to learn than another or one may offer a format that works better for your schedule. I needed a school that didn't require in-person workshops or live calls and instead allowed me to learn online at my own pace.

Personally, I also wanted to go with a school that would offer thoughtful, individual feedback on my assignments and case studies, assign me to an instructor who would be available to answer my questions in a timely manner, and that offered an online community where students could interact with each other and the instructors. A mix of video content and written content was also important to me and I wanted to learn from people who I thought had good energy, presented themselves well, and who had a lot of personal experience in the industry.

Ultimately, you'll be drawn to the program that will work best for you. If anything, you'll have to narrow down your favorites and decide which one to go with first and which one(s) to enroll in later on. ;)
 

3. SAVE UP FOR THE PROGRAM YOU WANT TO ENROLL IN

Once you decide which program you want to enroll in, you may want to start saving up for it. Even the programs with payment plans require a down payment, so you'll want to be prepared financially. I save for courses by setting up a dedicated, automatic weekly transfer from my bank account to my savings account so that when I want to take a course, I have money in my "education fund" and I'm able to pay for it.
 

4. LEARN ALL YOU CAN WHILE YOU'RE WAITING. READ. ASK QUESTIONS. TAKE FREE COURSES.

If you aren't able to enroll in the program right away, take advantage of the waiting period by learning everything you can in the meantime. Read books. Lots of them. Ask people questions. Consider booking an educational consultation with an aromatherapist who can answer your tougher questions. Take advantage of the free courses offered by the different reputable schools. It's a good idea to see if the school you've chosen has one available so you can get to know the format they use to present their material and see if it appeals to you.
 

5. SIGN UP FOR THE SCHOOL'S LIVE WEBINARS AND CALLS, IF THEY HAVE ANY COMING UP.

I ended up choosing Aromahead Institute's Aromatherapy Certification Program as the first course I wanted to take. Since completing that program, I've made my way through other courses, including some from other schools, but this was the one that I thought would provide me with a really solid foundation to build upon and I'm still really happy with that decision.

Shortly after deciding on this program and saving up for it, the school offered a live webinar all about becoming a certified aromatherapist. I attended it and was really glad I did because a lot of the information covered within it answered questions that I had about the process and the value of the program. I ended up enrolling in their certification program during the webinar, which turned out to be excellent timing because they usually offer some really great bonuses when you sign up for the program during the webinar!

6. ENROLL IN THE PROGRAM

Congratulations! You're officially a student! It won't be long now until you're a Certified Aromatherapist!

The day I enroll in a new course is always a really exciting day for me. I know that I've just invested in myself by furthering my education and it feels good. Take some time to celebrate! Get acquainted with the user interface of the site, start making your way through the Orientation materials, and get your account info all set up. Introduce yourself in the forums, if the school you've chosen has them available. (Aromahead has a thriving, active community in their student forum.)
 

7. MAKE YOUR WAY THROUGH THE COURSEWORK

Take your time. There's no hurry. Chew on the lessons as you make your way through them. Re-read / re-watch them several times so you can make sure you are really understanding the information presented. The more you go through the material, the better you'll remember it long-term.
 

8. WRITE YOUR RESEARCH PAPER

Choose a topic that is really inspiring you, whether it be a single essential oil, a plant family, or a specific issue that you are interested in learning more about. Writing about something that sparks your interest will be much more enjoyable than choosing a bland topic that you'll lose interest in quickly. It'll also make your paper more fun to read. Enthusiasm is contagious!
 

9. SUBMIT YOUR CASE STUDIES

This may have been my favorite part of the program. I love experimenting and seeing what works and doesn't and then reasoning out why the ingredients I chose were effective (or why they weren't) in any given situation.

One thing that I would do differently if I were able to go back and do this part over again would be to provide each of my case study clients with a little journal to keep notes in as they tested their products. This is a practice that I have since adopted for other projects and case studies and it's invaluable as a tool for learning.

Take time to thoroughly examine your case study results. If you have a blend that really worked, file your recipe and test it again with someone else in the future to see if it may be effective for many people. You can sometimes develop signature blends by refining and repeatedly testing case study blends that were successful! If a blend didn't work the way you had hoped, try to figure out why and decide what you could have done differently.
 

10. PASS YOUR FINAL EXAM(S)

Take as much time as you need to study before taking your exam. After you pass it, set aside some time to celebrate! You've just completed a really valuable course that is going to help you tremendously as you begin to build your career!

Once you've completed your exam and submitted all of your assignments, you'll receive some final feedback from your instructors and then you'll be awarded your certificate of completion. Print it out (if it isn't already printed) and display it!

As an Aromahead Graduate, I can wholeheartedly recommend Aromahead's Aromatherapy Certification Program. Their in-depth courses are organized so beautifully and include access to a thriving community of students and instructors. Andrea, the founder of the school, and Cindy, the Anatomy and Physiology course instructor, are both incredible teachers who break the information down into easy-to-understand pieces.


Are you considering Aromatherapy Certification?
Which program(s) are you currently thinking about enrolling in?
Let me know in the comments below.

Much love,
Erin


MORE BLOG POSTS