Importance of Aromatherapy Education
If you want to learn something, you study it. Aromatherapy is no exception! To be considered competent and respected as a professional, take the steps with a professionally recognized school. The more you study aromatherapy, the more you will realize that educating yourself is a continual process. Since my first introduction to aromatherapy in 1994, it has taken me on extensive study and exploration. As the years have progressed, I am amazed at the continual updates and research available. Over the years, the practice of aromatherapy has significantly advanced. It has adopted more research and a holistic approach encompassing integrating a person’s health, both mentally and physically, using various applications and healing methods.
Basic Components of Quality Aromatherapy Education
History- Since ancient times, herbal medicine has been used throughout the world by many cultures to treat illnesses and to assist bodily functions. The connection between humans and their search for botanical medicine dates from the very distant past. There is a vast amount of evidence, from various sources, pointing to this relationship: written documents, preserved monuments, and even original plant medicines.
Indigenous cultures, such as African and American Indians, have always used herbs in their healing rituals. Other cultures developed traditional medical systems, such as Ayurveda from India and traditional Chinese medicine, where herbal therapies were integrated into their daily lives.
Medicinal plants, which humans have used throughout history to assist or lessen symptoms from an illness, have similar chemical properties as conventional pharmaceutical drugs. We have evolved for thousands of years using plants, and our bodies are better suited to digest, absorb, and metabolize these plant-based foods and medicines.
It is imperative to recognize the natural symbiotic relationship that we have with plants, and their healing nature, to restore balance beyond a cause and effect perspective. Herbal remedies, including infusions and plant extractions, assist the body to stimulate, regulate, adapt, and promote self-healing as nature intended. Traditional and modern researchers believe that aromatic herbs, when used correctly, encourage the body to heal itself.
Extraction Methods- Civilizations have embraced the use of aromatic plant extracts for thousands of years. Through crude extraction methods, ancient cultures derived aromatic oils from seeds, roots, bark, leaves, wood, flowers, and resins. They used them in religious ceremonies, perfumery, funerary services, and many other aspects of life.
Today, there are several methods of aromatic plant extraction; steam distillation, hydro distillation, cold-pressing, absolutes, CO2 extraction, and hydrosols. Each extraction method offers different benefits.
Steam distillation is the most widely used process for extraction on a large scale and is the standard method for producing essential oils. CO2 extracts are oils similar to distilled essential oils, yet they contain more plant constituents and have a more full-bodied aroma, closely resembling the aromatic plant.
Solvent extraction methods produce absolutes that are different from essential oils because they can contain both aromatic and non-aromatic chemical constituents.
Hydrolate, also known as hydrosol, is the aromatic water created as a by-product during the steam distillation of essential oils or as a stand-alone product. The resulting product contains the water-soluble chemical components of the aromatic plants. Hydrolates are similar to essential oils but are very different in chemical properties, shelf life, precautions, usage, and storage. Unlike essential oils, hydrolats are much safer when added to water, other beverages, salad dressings, and food. They are an excellent addition to facial spritzers, compresses, and are safer to use directly on the skin, especially with children and elders than essential oils.
Essential Oil Profiles- Being knowledgeable in botany, chemical components, safety, uses, applications, and body systems of an individual essential oil makes a significant difference in the result of a blend. Every aromatic plant, seed, tree, flower, and bush has its unique qualities.
When we can find a particular attraction or connection with a plant, we create a plant ally, a bond of feeling nurtured and soothed in our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual selves. It is encouraged to build relationships with the herbs and essential oils used in creating aromatherapy and herbal formulations.
Essential Oil Safety- Essential oils are the most concentrated herbal substance we have available. Safety issues have become a big concern in the professional aromatherapy industry. Incorrect ingesting of essential oils and applying them neat on the skin continue to pose serious health risks. Not one essential oil or application fits all people, and over time, some can even be dangerous. Education is the key to achieving industry-wide safe usage guidelines. It is vital that schools and aromatherapy teachers update their essential oil safety precautions as new research and evidence becomes available.
Uses and Applications- One of the most sensational aromatherapy attributes, as a natural healing modality, is the variety of applications. Application methods of aromatherapy can include; topical, inhalation, diffusing, bathing, compress, massage, scrubs, and other personal care products. These options allow you to choose the optimum application method(s) that are best suited to you or your client's lifestyle and the intended effect of the blend.
Carrier Oils- The carrier oils used in therapeutic aromatherapy blending are extracted from vegetables, seeds, and nuts. They are rich in nutrients and vitamins and are soothing, nourishing, and restorative to the skin and are the most common foundation for topical aromatherapy blends.
Using the highest quality carrier oils that are organic, cold-pressed, and unfiltered, makes a significant difference in the therapeutic quality and absorption. Thus, no animal, mineral, or synthetic oils are used to formulate therapeutic essential oil blends. These are the optimum environments to blend essential oils because of their “fixed nature,” meaning they are stable and have a slow evaporation rate. Organic and unrefined carrier oils also have the added benefit of many vitamins and minerals that are not present in essential oils.
In my experience, carrier oils resemble a beautiful cut glass crystal vase used to hold a flower arrangement. Using a variety of carrier oils in a blend enhances the overall effect and results of the topical application.
Case Studies- Professional aromatherapy encompasses clinical trials and case histories, which are the “heart” of professional aromatherapy training. Learning how to blend for an individual is an art and science. This comprehensive process takes many steps. First, completing a health history form and then honing client observational skills. Finally, it is also imperative to be aware of the client’s chronic issues, any precautions, medications, and dilution factors before choosing the essential oils, carrier oils, and applications.
For an aromatic remedy to be entirely successful, it must include recognition and communication with the whole self. The full embodiment of healing always integrates the body, mind, emotions, and spirit.
Anatomy and Physiology- There is no substitute for gaining knowledge of the physical body and all of its extraordinary components. This study needs to include a comprehensive study of the structure, function, and pathologies of the human anatomy and physiology, including the study of cell structures and the systems of the cardiovascular, central nervous system, digestive, endocrine, integumentary, lymphatic and immune system, muscular, skeletal, reproductive, and urinary systems. Advanced study of anatomy and physiology includes the mechanisms of diseases and pathophysiological conditions for all the major systems. The more knowledge and study I have acquired in anatomy and physiology, the deeper the awareness I have gained with my own body and the innate ability of self-healing.
Essential Oil Chemistry- Aromatic plants create volatile oils as secondary metabolites in protecting and promoting plant health. Learning these complex functions is a unique feature of aromatherapy. These account for the biological activity and synergistic effects of the essential oil constituents beneficial in healing as an antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and more.
Plant Allies- We are deeply connected with plants in our existence on earth. They can heal us, protect us, and be our food and medicine. They inform us of both the harmony and imbalances within ourselves. They can open us up to the microcosmic expansion, which expresses the essential features, in miniature, of the characteristic qualities or features of something much more significant.
There are many effective ways to connect with nature. It starts with deepening a connection with ourselves.
Integrative Therapies- I have recognized the utmost importance of including integrative therapies and self-care maintenance. These include aromatherapy, herbs, healthy organic nutrition, vitamin supplements, exercise, time in nature, supportive friends and family, and mental/emotional rebalancing with meditation, prayer, and alternative healing methods. Complementary and alternative therapies can also include herbology, acupressure, acupuncture, chiropractic, naturopathy, homeopathy, massage therapy, reflexology, yoga, tai chi, qigong, and energy medicine, to name a few modalities.
Viable Research- In the last few decades, there has been a significant increase in scientific research and evidence of essential oils and their chemical components, which has substantiated their healing benefits. The rise in the worldwide popularity of aromatherapy in recent years is extraordinary. However, it has become evident for aromatherapy professionals and enthusiasts to have resources that are credible and researched-based. Unfortunately, not all sources have adequate, viable, or correct information.
Sustainably- Essential oils are the most concentrated herbal medicine available. It takes a tremendous amount of plant matter to produce essential oils. In recent years, there has been an enormous increase in the production and sales of essential oils, as more and more people realize the benefits of aromatherapy. With this growing consumption, some aromatic plants are in grave danger of ceasing to exist. Over wild harvesting and natural habitat destruction have contributed to certain species becoming threatened or endangered. It is our professional responsibility to consider that using more and more essential oils daily does not create long term sustainability issues of these sacred plants.
The subjects addressed above are the foundations of educational study for professional aromatherapist. There is also advanced, specialized training available for those who will be administering aromatherapy in hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, trauma centers, integrative medicine, specific treatments to animals or children, product formulating, research, business, professional ethics, writing, and teaching.
Ready to learn more about aromatherapy? See an overview of the certified aromatherapy courses here.
Dechen, Shanti, Aromatherapy Certification Level 1 Text (2020), Crestone, CO. pp 18, 21-23, 51 Dechen, Shanti, Harmonized Aromatherapy for Seasonal Wellness (2018), C Crestone, CO. pp 4, 5, 8, 28, 33 Dechen, Shanti, Resources for Aromatherapy Research
https://www.learnaroma.com/single-post/2019/09/30/Viable-Resources-for-Aromatherapy-Research; Retrieved June 25, 2020