My Learning Curve to Aromatherapy
Katherine Judge – Student Article
All articles written by students are the opinions, research and voice of the student and not Heart of Herbs Herbal School. We encourage our students to explore and grow in their profession.
“A little learning is a dangerous thing;
drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
and drinking largely sobers us again.” Alexander Pope (1)
The concept, that a small amount of knowledge regarding a specific subject could be dangerous, has taken on greater meaning for me in light of experiences gained in over more than 18 months spent learning about essential oils. Sometime during the Fall of 2015 my daughter and I decided to purge our households of toxic cleaners and personal care products. It became immediately apparent that the natural “green” products were expensive, and the idea of making our own seemed like a great money saving alternative. Coincidentally, in November a dear friend invited us to a get together where we could, among other things, learn about essential oils and their many uses, including in do it yourself household cleaning formulations.
At that event, to put it mildly, we were immediately hooked on these oils. We purchased a diffuser, a starter set and became Young Living distributors. The enthusiasm and overconfidence that we felt was buoyed by the claims and assurances of the safety, efficacy and purity of the Young Living products. We jumped right in and started looking up recipes and formulas online and had great fun. Along the way we encountered warnings and cautions regarding the use of essential oils, but we were assured that those warnings were for adulterated and impure oils from suspect sources. The essential oils that we were using were 100% pure, therapeutic-grade and were backed by a Seed to Seal® process, which is said to preserve the integrity and potency of essential oils through every step of the production. (2)
As we started to create our own formulations, we started asking questions and seeking information on how the essential oils worked together in blends and what carrier oils might be appropriate for different conditions. One particular creation of mine was a bug repellant that seemed to cause some irritation for different users. My husband used it one warm day when he was working outside and he experienced a severe localized reaction that resembled a burn. Heading back to the books and their chapters on safety, I learned about hot oils and photo-toxicity. I realized that there was more to this venture, and there was actually a lot more to learn about using essential oils.
One of the first books that I purchased for my education was “Essential Oils desk reference sixth edition”. It is for all intents and purposes, the “bible” for Young Living essential oil distributors. In its preface Aromatherapy is described as having “evolved into the synthetic world of misinformation and adulteration of God’s oils for financial gain.” (3) In chapter 1 of the book, three schools of thought regarding the use of essential oils and their models were discussed only in terms of methods of application. The term Aromatherapy is sparingly used in a book that contains more than 800 pages on the uses of essential oils. (3) As I studied this text I realized that there were myriad ways to use essential oils and I resolved to be able to use them in my work with the elderly as an Assistant Occupational Therapist. In order to do this I would need more formal education so I started looking for courses to take and books to read. My first tangible ‘aha’ piece of information was the understanding that the use of essential oils is Aromatherapy. Aromatherapy is “defined as the therapeutic use of essential oils from plants for the improvement of physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being.” (4) With that understanding came the question why would the company that I was a member of not want me to make that connection?
At this point I received permission to take an online Aromatherapy course with funding from my employer. I enrolled in the Heart of Herbs Master Clinical Aromatherapy Certification course and my formal education was begun. I soon became able to weed through online information and was able to identify unsafe practices and questionable recommendations. I learned about dilution rates, essential oils that are safe for children, pregnant women and the elderly. I understood contraindications for use of essential oils with certain medical conditions and possible drug interactions. I became knowledgeable regarding which oils were phototoxic or more likely to cause skin irritation. It became apparent to me that people were using essential oils in ways that they were not meant to be used. I found that the most frightening and objectionable information came from multi-level marketing (MLM) distributors, members and advocates.
I love the Young Living oils but I am finding it increasingly difficult to justify my ongoing association with them as a buyer and distributor. With the resources that are available to provide education and training it really seems inexcusable for this company to allow such a woeful lack of safety teaching. Potentially dangerous practices continue to be shared, including the regular use of neat oils and the focus on ingesting oils despite cautions from the leading aromatherapy associations. Professional organizations such as National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy and the Alliance of International Aromatherapists, have released safety statements which caution Aromatherapy practitioners against using unsafe techniques such as using oils undiluted, ingesting oils and using multiple drop techniques. (5)(6) Young Living in particular teaches that essential oils cannot cause allergic reactions and that skin irritation is a sign of detoxification an assertion that has been widely refuted. (7)(8)
As I delve deeper into the subject of Aromatherapy I realize that there is still so much for me to learn while I develop my professional identity. I am hopeful that the knowledge base that I have cultivated up to this point will counteract some of that early overconfidence and zeal with caution and educated enthusiasm. I know that safety and education for new essential oil users will be the cornerstone of my future practice. The informed use of these vibrant, aromatic substances promises to provide greater choices for our overall health and wellbeing.
(1) https://www.quora.com/What-does-Little-knowledge-is-a-dangerous-thing-mean retrieved 5/15/17
(2) https://www.youngliving.com/en_US/company/about retrieved 5/15/17
(3) Essential Oils desk reference sixth edition Life Science Publishing April 2014 USA.
(4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0 retrieved 4/6/17
(5) http://naha.org/explore-aromatherapy/safety/naha-safety-statements retrieved 5/15/17
(6) www.alliance-aromatherapists.org/aromatherapy-safety retrieved 205/15/17
(7) https://www.youngliving.com/en_US/discover/essential-oil-safety retrieved 5/15/17
(8) http://tisserandinstitute.org/essential-oils-and-the-detox-theory retrieved 5/15/17
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Articles written by students are the opinions, research and voice of the student and not Heart of Herbs Herbal School. We encourage our students to explore and grow in their profession.
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