“Aromatherapy reconnects me with natural world. It’s like nature’s own medicine for the soul and I can’t wait to start helping others with it…” I remember these beautiful words spoken to me by one of my Aromatherapy Diploma graduates. I have helped train many clinical aromatherapists for over two decades, and I never cease to be amazed at how these beautiful aromatic scents inspire and motivate others to create a beautiful, healthy world for themselves – and for others. For me, this is what aromatherapy truly represents – the sharing of nature’s medicinal gifts to help self and others.
Aromatherapy is one of the most generous therapies available. I refer to it as “generous” because it gives so much in such small quantities. Much of this is down to the powerful and potent energetic nature of essential oils, and their unique properties based on scent, chemicals, and other important components. Those small brown bottles of essential oils can be, for many people, the key to quality of life.
When writing about aromatherapy there are so many things I can touch upon; such as, how the aroma from essential oils can transport you to a new world of opportunity or return you to a repressed memory that requires healing. Or, how medical science is revealing specific oils have their own therapeutic signature that can be used to help treat illness and ailments. Or, how essential oils can inspire spiritual realisation and reconnect the mind and body in perfect union. There are endless possibilities when it comes to aromatherapy, so I thought I would start with the basics so that you, the dear reader, have a nice foundation from which you can further explore aromatherapy.
For me, the most important part of aromatherapy is safety – and this comes exclusively with education and training. This is especially important due to the growing popularity of this complementary therapy, and the increase in companies that sell essential oils direct to the public who have little, if any, knowledge of aromatherapy except that they like the particular scent of an essential oil.
Naturally, placing a few drops of essential oil in a diffuser is unlikely to cause any negative effect on friends and family. However, when essential oils are used for therapeutic reasons, such as for sore muscles, skin care, or weight loss, I am finding more and more people are ill equipped to administer essential oils safely to others.
This is why I advocate for aromatherapy education and training. Without these things there is a real risk a budding aromatherapist will make a terrible error in the application of a specific essential oil, which can cause irreversible damage. One of the most disturbing trends I am hearing about is the increase in poisoning among children that have ingested essential oils (based on a report by the Western Australian Poisons Information Centre). Although many of these poisonings are accidental, I have heard that there are some well-meaning, but ill-informed parents feeding their children essential oils in order to promote healing and good health. This can cause serious harm to the child.
It is, therefore, important that I stress safety with essential oils. As an aromatherapy trainer and consultant, I find budding aromatherapists without a background in aromatherapy make errors that should not have been made in the first place. These are the three most common mistakes I find with those individuals using aromatherapy but who have very little knowledge of its safe application:
- Essential oils are natural and, therefore, inherently safe. This is a common misunderstanding when it comes to most natural therapies, including aromatherapy. Just because something is ‘natural’ doesn’t mean it cannot cause harm to you, especially if not applied appropriately. After all, arsenic is natural and can cause great harm if used carelessly.
- Essential oils can be ingested. This practice is gaining traction with misguided individuals believing you can ingest essential oils for health benefits. Granted, there are some oils which can be ingested under strict supervision from a qualified aromatic medical practitioner, but even this is for a very narrow scope of conditions. The vast majority of essential oils can cause significant harm to the body, including liver damage.
- Fragrance oils are essential oils. Individuals not trained in aromatherapy often mistake fragrance oils (usually synthetic) with essential oils and attempt to use these fragrance oils for therapeutic benefits. Usually, there are rarely any therapeutic benefits gained – and when these synthetic oils are applied to the skin, can cause irritations or burns.
These common mistakes are easily avoidable with education and training. It is very important that when working with essential oils you understand safety with these oils, which includes their safe application. Failure to do this opens yourself, your family, and your clients up to real harm.
If you are reading this article and are eager to be a responsible aromatherapist through further education and training, then I commend you. As an aromatherapist, I know how inspiring working with essential oils can be, and how important it is that we remember to gift its medicinal qualities to those we know would benefit from it.
For all the budding aromatherapists unsure as to where to begin, I would recommend you find a trainer or school that offers aromatherapy training from skilled and qualified aromatherapy practitioners. After you have enrolled in a course, I would suggest you begin introducing yourself to essential oils immediately. For this, I would recommend you begin your journey into this aromatic world with the following four essential oils:
Lavender. The is the best first essential oil I would recommend to all budding aromatherapists. If you read a lot of aromatherapy literature, which you should do, you will appreciate the importance of lavender as the ultimate aromatic healer. It is produced using steam distillation of the lavender’s stalks and flowers, which then produces a thin, colourless oil. Depending on the ratio of stalks to flowers, the lavender essential oil can be earthy (if more stalks) or floral with a sharp freshness (if more flowers). Lavender blends well with most essential oils and has a special affinity with geranium. Add a few drops of lavender on to a clean tissue and place it under your pillow to help with sleep.
Peppermint. This essential oil has a strong and familiar aroma that reminds most people of chewing gum or mouthwash. Peppermint’s medicinal properties are well documented and it is often used to sooth stomach issues or ease symptoms of the cold and flu. It is produced using steam distillation of leaves, which produces a thin, colourless oil. It has an intense minty smell and is known for its energising and cooling nature. Peppermint can over power many oils so it’s better to use sparingly with robust essential oils like Eucalyptus, Tea Tree and Lavender. Add a few drops of peppermint in a diffuser to help clear congestion in the chest from the cold or flu, and to clear a foggy mind.
Lemon. The delicious citrus aroma of this essential oil instantly uplifts and invigorates the spirit, so it is especially useful when someone is feeling a little depressed. Lemon essential oil, which is thin and yellow in texture, is known for its stimulating qualities, and it’s strong, zesty aroma is produced using expression (squeezing the oil from the lemon’s peel). This essential oil blends well with most oils, especially Lavender and Tea Tree. Add a few drops of Lemon essential oil to a massage blend and apply to the body to stimulate circulation and assist the lymphatic system.
Fragonia. This is my all-time favourite essential oil. Very few people have heard of it (this is why it is important to study aromatherapy!), which is such a shame because this essential oil is bursting with therapeutic benefits that pack a real punch. Fragonia essential oil is uniquely Australian, and its aroma reminds many people of the outback with its rich Eucalyptus-like fragrance. It is produced through steam distillation of the twigs, branched, and leaves which create a pale, thin oil. Fragonia has a sweet, yet strong fragrance, so I would recommend using it sparingly with complementary essential oils, like Lavender and Orange. Add a few drops of Fragonia to a diffuser to chase away the symptoms of colds and the flu.
Now that you are ready to study aromatherapy, and have your four basic essential oils, you can begin to use aromatherapy in all areas of your life. From using essential oils in a diffuser to influence moods and emotions, to applying it directly onto the skin in a carrier oil to heal and restore the body. When you have mastered the fundamentals of aromatherapy, you carry this knowledge with you for a lifetime, building upon it with further education and training so that it eventually blooms into wisdom. Once at this point, you can begin to educate and training other budding aromatherapists starting their own journey into aromatherapy.
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