Thursday, May 5, 2011

Aromatherapy Course

This past February, I completed an Aromatherapy Certification Course with Clinical Herbalist, Linda Patterson, at The Boston School of Herbal Studies. This course ran from November-February, one Saturday class a month from 10 am - 5 pm.

In the course, we learned about the different body systems (including the respiratory system, digestive system, olfactory system, and more), their typical ailments, and the essential oils used to treat these ailments and body systems. Throughout the course, we were introduced to 50 essential oils, and techniques used for blending them.

It was pretty amazing to learn what essential oils can do. They can be used to treat numerous ailments, including depression, muscular pains and aches, infections, stress, and more. After taking the class, it was hard not to purchase a variety of essential oils.

Every essential oil has different properties, and it's fun and interesting to learn about, to experiment with, and to combine different oils. Essential oils can be expensive, though, and if you did have to narrow down the ones you were buying, these are the recommended top two: Tea Tree, the "king" of essential oils, and Lavender, the "queen" of essential oils. Tea tree essential oil is primarily known for its antimicrobial, antifungal, and antiviral properties, which also make it a great natural preservative in homemade body care products. It is also a powerful antiseptic, and has many other uses. Lavender essential oil is very calming, has an enjoyable floral fragrance, and is cytophylactic, encouraging the growth of skin cells, among other numerous benefits. For a book on the properties of different essential oils, The Directory of Essential Oils by Wanda Sellar is one recommended read.

Where to purchase essential oils? Throughout the course, Linda persistently reminded us about the importance of using practitioner grade essential oil whenever possible, meaning that the essential oils in the bottle contain only the oil from the first distillation of the plant, ensuring that the oil is of the highest quality and integrity. (As opposed to the same plant material being distilled twice, ensure that there are no other preservatives or other ingredients put into the oil, etc.). To guarantee that your essential oils are of good quality, you may need to do a little research. Currently, I purchase essential oils from Aromatherapy International, because this company has essential oils of high quality and there is a distributor of this line in Boston. Other recommended companies to purchase essential oils from include Floracopeia (they are expensive but their essential oils smell AMAZING) and Fragrant Earth.

Essential oils can be applied using various methods. A single essential oil diluted in a carrier oil or a blend of 3-5 essential oils diluted in a carrier oil can be applied topically. Carrier oils can be any type of oil, such as almond oil, apricot kernel oil, extra virgin olive oil, etc. Typically (but there are some exceptions) it is not recommended to apply essential oils topically by themselves without a fat or some type of carrier oil, because essential oils are very strong. In our class, we diluted 15 drops of essential oil in 1 oz of carrier oil. In addition, we learned never to take essential oils internally (again, essential oils are STRONG). However, this opinion differs depending on who you talk to.

Another way that essential oils can be enjoyed is by diffusers and nebulizers. In order to preserve the quality of the essential oils, especially if you are using them for medicinal purposes, it is important not to add heat to them (this rules out most diffusers, such as candle diffusers). Nebulizers technically are not supposed to use heat when diffusing the scent of an essential oil across a room. For example, a picture of a glass nebulizer can be found here. The downside to this nebulizer is that it requires a lot of essential oil when using it, and it is very hard to clean. The other nebulizer that was recommended to us in the course was the Heavenly Scent Diffuser/Nebulizer:

Heavenly Scent Diffuser/Nebulizer

Add some water to the nebulizer and 5-7 drops of essential oils, plug it in, and you can enjoy the scent for 50 min. - 9 hours, depending on what timer settings you choose. The downside is that the diffuser does use specially designed plastic cups to put the essential oils in for use. However, they last for quite awhile and shouldn't need to be replaced often. The upside is that the nebulizer does not require much essential oil for use, is easy to clean, has a convenient timer, and produces a lovely mist! To diffuse the essential oils, this nebulizer uses a fan that breaks down the molecules of the essential oils, and releases them into the air. The Heavenly Scent Diffuser can be purchased from Aromatherapy International. Something to remember if purchasing a nebulizer other than the ones mentioned here is that not all nebulizers sold are actually nebulizers. Again, technically, nebulizers aren't supposed to use heat to break down the essential oils, whereas diffusers can use heat. Many nebulizers sold on the market may use heat, even if they are called nebulizers. So if you are considering purchasing a nebulizer, make sure that you are in fact paying for a nebulizer, and not a diffuser!

Finally, in our last aromatherapy class, we made several natural body products, and applied our essential oil blending techniques to use in the products. Items we made included body powders, bath salts, and a moisturizer cream.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Aromatherapy Certification Course, and would highly recommend it to others. For myself, I've found it important to learn more about my health and ways to take care of myself using natural methods. If you have any questions about the course, please let me know! And to learn more about The Boston School of Herbal Studies and the classes that they offer, check out their website and join their mailing list!