Aromatherapy: The Art and the Facts!

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Aromatherapy was introduced to the UK in the 1950's by Madame Margeurite Maury. Her first assistant was Micheline Arcier; (her second assistant was Daniel Ryman). They opened the first Aromatherapy Clinic in the world in London. I had the preveledge to have been trained by Madame Micheline Arcier, both in my basic qualification and subsequently on two advanced courses.

Madame Arcier worked closely with Dr. Jean Valnet - a French physician who combined the use of drugs with herbal medicines. Dr. Valnet together with a scientist called Mssr. Gattfosse together experimented with the anti-bacterial/fungal/viral effects of Essential Oils using double blind and other scientific methods. The results were impressive.

An interesting historical point..... people used to use "strewing herbs" on the floors of hospitals. According to Valnet staff realised that those rooms strewn with Thyme had less infection set in than those strewn with say, Camomile. The treading of the herbs underfoot was releasing the Essential Oil from the herbs! And so the experiments commenced.

Aromatherapy in the UK really took off in the early 1990's. I was lucky enough to have had some training back in 1980 while at Beauty Therapy College in Nottingham. So when it became popular, I had a head start! I trained with Madame Arcier and got qualified in 1990.

Since the popularity of Aromatherapy as a practice has increased, so sadly has the training courses available been "dumbed down". A good private course will cover - to nursing standards - anatomy, physiology, chemistry and pathology as well as study around 60 E. Oils. Many college courses study just three out of the seven systems of the body (skeletal, muscular, nervous, lymphatic, digestive, cirularatory & respiratory), and about 24 E. Oils.

I am one in about .005% of qualified Aromatherapists in the world who have studied two advanced courses. I despair at the reduction in quality of training in my profession.

Essential Oils:

Are not always what they seem.....

  • They are frequently diluted with carrier/base oils.
  • The can be "extended" - cut with cheaper oils
  • There are sometimes several grades of a particular oil available
typical examples of this trick is the addition of Ylang Ylang to Jasmin, the addition of Rosewood or Geranium Roseum to Rose Oil and so on. Miss or Mr AVerage would not know the difference. Indeed many purveyors of Essential Oils may not know they are selling inferior stock - because they arent trained in what the real thing should smell like - so dont know the difference!

Grades of Oils:
There are five grades of Ylang Ylang. There are two types of Pine - one from the "leaf" one from the bark. The oil from the bark is highly toxic and irritant......... but both can be sold as Pure Essential Oil of Pine! Similarly with Juniper, there is Juniper Leaf and Juniper Berry. The berry oil is far superior. Mother Nature always puts her best energies into the fruits or flowers of the plant (unless its a root oil - like Vetivert).

I could carry on with many more examples of malpractice both in the therapy environment and about the quality of Oils. Suffice to say, I am open to questions.

I hope this has proved an enlightening piece for you to read!

Love and Light,
Samantha White

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