Everyone always wants to know why we have yet to put our programs online allowing more students to study with us. We always say it is because we have way too much fun in class.
(We do have a secret plan in place to bring the Atlantic Institute to you … Have you heard about the Inner Sanctum?)
We enjoy aromatherapy so much that we created a series of classes where beginning students can journey with us as we study oils and the healing process—all the while making wonderful-smelling goodies to use at home.
Last year was the first year we offered the Aromatherapy Beginner’s Course and Training, created by Linda Byington and myself. Since we have so much fun together, I asked Sylla to attend, and she walked away with some surprising insights.
Here, Sylla shares about her experience. Though it is personal, it is also universal. Watch and find out:
- How the synergistic energy of a group helped her identify how to better her health
- What three oils helped her to complete the final stages of a project
- Her new favorite self-care tool (NOT aromatherapy) and why its making her so excited!
There’s also a slightly embarrassing mother-daughter moment at the end. One of the many joys of running a family business!
Let us know what your go-to tools for self-care are these days and leave a comment. We love inspiring greater health in our community, virtual or in-person. We all live on this beautiful planet together, so let’s do so harmoniously, both inside and out.
I was recently accused of spreading around “quackery.”
It’s not the first time, and it probably won’t be the last. There are occasionally people who undercut the research I’ve done and the chemists and scientists I’ve worked with and say, “You believe in alternative medicine? You must be a quack.” It’s unfortunately a part of the package when you’re dealing with a relatively new and unregulated health industry, and it doesn’t ruffle my feathers so much anymore.
But this particular critic accused me of something much worse: Promoting essential oils as a cure-all for cancer.
It’s true that I wrote a blog post on how essential oils helped me through one of the most trying times in my life—when I was diagnosed with Stage 1, non-aggressive breast cancer. But I never said that essential oils are a cure for cancer. In fact, I very much promote the idea of using essential oils as a complementary treatment alongside conventional treatment. I myself underwent a lumpectomy and radiation treatment. And I used essential oils to mitigate scarring, improve my mood and help ease the tenderness of my irradiated skin—all of which were the focus of that post.
It seems my critic unfortunately didn’t read the full blog before taking her stance against me. I respect her eagerness to protect cancer patients from unhelpful and dangerous “cure-all” treatments—I’ve been in a similar battle of my own, trying to make sure essential oils are used safely and responsibly. This is a good reminder that we must always search for the truth, and not simply make assumptions based on our opinions and beliefs.
As for the wider accusation of promoting “quackery” in general, I figured this was a good time to explain that it’s not quackery. It’s real science that I’ve had the pleasure to study for 40 years and counting. For those of you interested in where I’ve studied and with whom, I keep a blog of my experiences here: Vintage Aromatherapist. And here you can find a list of my aromatherapy accomplishments. I’m always striving for more, but I think my achievements aren’t too shabby so far!
During those 40 years, I worked with well-known and respected minds, including Martin Watt, Dr. Trevor Stokes, Dr. Robert Pappas and Tony Burfield, to name a few. This resulted in many papers and presentations, including the personal blog mentioned above, and it also culminated with the courses, books, and classes we offer today. Here is my bio, and here is my CV if anyone needs the long version.
I’m truly passionate about illuminating the exciting and surprising truths of aromatherapy and essential oils, and about offering my hard-earned knowledge to my students.
So to those critics, I say: It’s not quackery, it’s chemistry!
I’ve used aromatherapy for 40 years for myself and my family as preventive care. Over those years, I’ve also used them as internal remedies when the need arose, which was usually because of the flu, viruses, or systemic infections. I do not, however, use or promote the daily use of essential oils internally for preventive care.
I believe an aromatherapy lifestyle keeps us healthy especially when used in the air and in skin and body care on a regular basis. My husband is healthy and never takes a sick day, leaving his co-workers jealous and confused. When asked why he doesn’t get sick, he blamed it on living with me and aromatics for 35 years! But for anyone who works in the public or has a kid in school, it’s hard to avoid picking up germs from others at one point or another. As a result, my family would occasionally need to use the “big guns” to fight infection. That’s what I call the most anti-infectious oils (like oregano, thyme, clove, cinnamon, etc), because they’re just that powerful.
During a bad cold or flu, for example, I use blends created to kill germs, relieve congestion and ease symptoms. For a serious infection, I may use a dose orally at the onset, a topical application, inhalations from diffusion, aromatic baths, and suppositories.
WHAT? Yes, I said that last one!
To fight an acute infection, we need to bypass the liver and get the oils into the gut. Of course both topical applications and the suppositories consist of low-dose, diluted and anti-infectious essential oils that have little irritation potential.
Another oral remedy I use is a spoonful of raw, local honey and a drop of peppermint for stomach aches. One of Nyssa‘s friends has a fond memory of this as she often had a tummy ache at our house and this is what she remembers most! This is great for kids or adults.
And these are just a few examples of internal use. Of course, before using essential oils internally, it’s necessary to learn how to do so safely–otherwise you could inflict damage on yourself and others. There are many safe and efficacious ways to use essential oils as natural aromatic medicine and it is up to the user to know what is safe. Often companies selling oils will recommend undiluted and oral use with no safety precautions and this has resulted in adverse effects. We teach safe internal use in our live classes, and in the Aromatherapy Practitioner Correspondence Course, because it’s a part of using natural oils for aromatic medicine. Internal use has also been mentioned and outlined in my Aromatherapy Practitioner Reference Manual since 1994.
When used as necessary and in a safe manner for illnesses, essential oils have tremendous healing potential that can add greatly to our natural remedies. To repeat what I said earlier, I see no need to take any oils daily in my water or food. The oils can cause harm if overdone, which I see far too often in the Atlantic Institute’s Injury Database Report. I get my flavor from real fruit if I need an occasional change to plain distilled water–because once again, there is NO additional nutritional benefit when lemon or orange essential oil is added to water. I also don’t advise taking capsules for allergies when topical and inhalation are much more effective for this condition.
Instead, I use essential oils daily in the air of my home and office, in my daily skin and body care, in my own perfume, and on my clients during treatments. I’ve seen the benefits of this type of treatment for 40 years, without adding in daily internal applications. Then, when I get sick and the need arises, I can treat more strongly. This process is quite cost effective because I don’t use up all my precious oils through undiluted or oral application. The air diffusion and skin care are effective preventatives, which is why I have used these methods for so long! Essential oils work very well diluted, sometimes better as seen in anti-infectious trials and diluting saves you money over time.
Interested in learning how to use essential oils safely?
We have free local safe use classes in addition to our one-day and weekend workshops on our Calendar. We also have industry-leading books and other resources in our shop.
Please use safely! I don’t want to read about your injuries in my database!
I’ve been an aromatherapy educator since the early 1970s, and I’ve seen the field undergo many changes. With the introduction of the internet and multi-level-marketing companies, I’ve witnessed both good and bad information circulate rapidly to new generations of users.
There’s so much possibility for misunderstanding when it comes to the power of natural essential oils—which makes quality aromatherapy education more important than ever.
If you’re interested in teaching aromatherapy, here are some tips from a vintage educator. Take them as you will!
1. Know your subject. Study with as many teachers as you can and absorb different styles, viewpoints, and experiences. But always examine information with a critical eye—consider the sources and never hesitate to do your own research. As an aromatherapy educator, I work to provide useful, factual and cited information, but I never mind if a student has questions or does research outside of what I teach. In fact, you can strengthen your aromatherapy education by knowing which questions to ask during a live class.
2. Apprentice with established institutes. Instead of trying to start from scratch yourself, look for apprenticeships and positions where you can add onto educational programs that established teachers have already created. For instance, Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy sometimes calls on its own students to teach in their areas to increase our educational reach. As these student-teachers improve, they feel comfortable teaching larger classes and mentoring homes-study students. Beginning as an apprentice or teaching assistant and working your way up can be a great way to establish yourself as an aromatherapy educator.
3. Get comfortable with teaching. Students can often teach you just as much as other educators. Knowing the subject is one thing, but thinking on your feet when students ask unexpected questions is another. Being comfortable in front of a group of people is also a skill that needs honing, and teaching can help you discover your own unique educational style.
4. Know how to relax. Being an educator, especially in an unregulated and relatively new field, can be as stressful as it is rewarding. I rely on morning walks, meditation, gardening or being in nature to relax, center and energize me. I keep my office and therapy rooms scented with my standby Rosemary and Geranium. I’ve used this aromatherapy blend for 30 years, and it feels like home to me. Know how to establish a relaxing space and find activities that will help relieve the pressure. Trust me—you’ll need these skills!
5: And remember: teaching is learning. Have a wonderful journey, and enjoy it!
Many of our students find it challenging to learn the botanical names of essential oils. These names are in Latin and can be quite tricky to pronounce. Plus, students are already learning so much other information that the botanical names are sometimes just too much.
But it doesn’t have to be that way! The best integration of information happens slowly over a long period of time. You should never try to absorb every ounce of information all at once–you won’t be able to, and your mind will feel weak trying.
So we’ve collected a list of resources for pronouncing the most common scientific plant names. Read these and say them out loud to yourself over a period of time, and they’ll sink in. You’ll be saying them correctly before you know it.
OverPlanted Botanical Latin Pronunciation Guide – This is a comprehensive written guide to pronouncing the Latin botanical names of essential oils.
Dave’s Garden Botanary – Here you can look up a plant name, discover its meaning and find a guide to pronouncing it.
The International Plant Names Index – A database of the names and associated basic bibliographical details of seed plants, ferns and lycophytes.
There’s long been a discussion as to whether alternative medicine or Western/conventional medicine is the most beneficial. When I was diagnosed with Stage 1, non-aggressive breast cancer in 1998, I experienced both—and they both had a hand in making this time in my life one of deep reflection and profound change.
I found the lump myself and underwent a lumpectomy to have it removed, and the doctor also did a lymph node removal to see if the cancer had spread. Thankfully it hadn’t, and so I went through daily radiation treatments for six weeks.
The actual process of radiation treatment is painless and only takes about a minute. The side effects come slowly, built up over time in the skin tissue. Redness and irritation are common, and they aren’t so bad in comparison to some other side effects of cancer treatments. But they do take a toll, and since the effect is cumulative, they grow with every treatment. Fatigue is also a major side effect of radiation treatment, and I used aromatherapy blends to help combat it. I also used topical treatments on my scars to help with healing.
Now, before I describe how I used aromatherapy, essential oils and aloe throughout this process, I want to point out that doctors ask you not to apply anything to the irradiated area. That’s not because it has any effect on the treatment—it doesn’t. Instead, it’s because the radiotherapists put little marks on you to show where the radiation beams should be directed. I opted to have the tiny pin marks tattooed on, because they rubbed off anyway throughout the day, even when I wasn’t applying anything.
Both my oncologist and radiologist were aware of my profession, and they approved my use of complementary and self-administered treatment.
The irritation and the incisions
First, I applied aloe (Aloe barbadensis) straight from the plant. The doctors warned me against applying anything with alcohol, and I wanted to stay away from preservatives found in many commercially prepared aloe lotions, so the plant was the best way to go. This alone was very soothing and helpful to the area.
I also used a water spray on the irradiated breast, and this is where the essential oils came into play. I used a four-ounce spray bottle filled with distilled water and added equal amounts of Helichrysum (Helichrysum italicum) and Blue Tansy (Tanacetum annuum). I sprayed this onto the skin after radiation and after my morning shower, and I upped the amount as the skin became increasingly tender. I used this every day during treatment and continued for a month after the radiation had ended.
The redness persisted but the severe irritation ended two weeks after the treatment. Though skeptical of my brand of medicine, the radiologist admitted that my skin faired better than most, and that he was amazed by the lack of burn.
As for the incisions, I had both a 1-inch and 3-inch incision from each of the removal procedures. I applied Helichrysum (Helichrysum italicum) and Artemisia (Artemisia arborescens, high chamazulene, Pacific Northwest variety) using a 50:50 ratio and diluted at 10% in fractionated coconut oil. I believe this helped with healing and preventing any inflammation or infection. Thanks to my topical treatment and an excellent plastic surgeon (see—complementary!) I barely have scarring now.
Fatigue and mood
I also used aromatherapy to help with the fatigue and emotional side effects of a 6-week radiation treatment. My afternoon blend included stimulatory oils like Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis, camphor variety), Peppermint (Mentha piperita), and Basil (Ocimum basilicum), which I put in an air diffuser.
When I wanted to rest, I used blends containing Lavender (Lavendula officinalis), Neroli (Citrus aurantium), Rose (Rosa damascena), and Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens). Out of those, my favorite was Geranium, and that was most often in the diffuser. I also put 5-10 drops of this oil in my bath, and these practices really helped with my moods. Cancer and cancer treatment are very difficult on a person’s well-being, and having my favorite oils there to help me was an immense comfort.
I used Rose in times of depression and confusion, as well. To demonstrate how much psychology plays a part in this, I’ll tell you that I used Rose after my mother passed away. So I had developed a cognitive association with using rose when I needed to work through grief, which helped the oil stimulate that response in me again.
What I learned
While I was finding my own treatment and following the advice of my doctors, I was also receiving an immense outpouring of love and support from the aromatherapy community. I could feel them out there, sending healing vibes and providing unseen but much felt protection. I learned how important that network is, and how healing it can be to have a friendly and open support system.
I also learned how to rest, because it was medically required of me. I’m sure anyone who is active can understand this, but sometimes I didn’t know how to stop and allow my body to recover and recuperate. Once the fatigue set in, I had to or risk prolonging recovery. I also learned that sometimes I physically can’t do everything I want to do, and asking for help isn’t shameful. That was a fantastic life lesson for me, and one I wish upon everyone.
I’ve also become much more active in volunteer work since then, and I participate in several cancer groups and speak about my experiences with aromatherapy as complementary treatment.
I truly believe both medicines can combine and be powerful tools for those suffering from cancer and undergoing cancer treatment.