Get to Know Rose

Get to Know Rose

Rose was one of the first essential oils that Sylla worked with in her practice. It is also one that holds a deep emotional resonance for her, being a comfort during a time of deep grieving. 

Therapeutically, Rose is an oil that can be good for practically everything. It can be helpful in skin-care blends, balancing hormones, cardiovascular issues, stress, migraines, emotional disorders, and lots more.

This month in the Inner Sanctum, Rose is our featured essential oil. We’ve included a sneak peek here, so you can get a sense of what we’ve got going on in our new membership.

In this video, you will learn:

  • The difference between Rose Otto and Rose absolutes
  • How chemistry affects the oil
  • How Sylla used Rose to treat emotional issues
  • Why it’s good to vary oils during difficult times


Below we’ve also included an abbreviated profile of Rose (for the full video and profile, join the Inner Sanctum Membership).

Common name: Rose
Botanical name: Rosa damascena

Part of the Rosaceae family, there are many variations of Rosa damascena. The big areas of production are Bulgaria and Turkey, and other names for it include Summer Rose, Bulgarian Rose, Turkish Rose, Otto of Rose, and Attar. Rose Otto is the oil, and the absolute is a thicker, richer-smelling extract. When you hear the name Rose Otto, you’ll know it’s the essential oil.

Rosa centifolia is another species that produces a much lighter oil. It comes from a lot of different places, and Sylla’s sample is from Russia.

In the Otto, stearoptene levels are up to 22%. These constituents are the more solid parts of the oil, which can cause the Otto to solidify at about room temperature. There are also monoterpenols in the Otto, along with geraniol and citronellol—up to 45%. The percent of phenylethyl alcohol is not as high in the Otto as it is in the absolute. The phenylethyl alcohol, or PEA, is what produces that very rosy, floral scent. A lot of people prefer the absolute for this reason.

Drawing these samples up in the pipette, you can see that the Damask Rose has a beautiful color. It is clear, which is very similar to the centifolia. The absolute is a little thicker, darker, and richer. Some of the colors will come through with the absolute because it’s solvent-extracted. You can blend the two together, so you get the best of both.

So we’d love to know:

  • Do you have a preference between the steam-distilled Rose or the Rose Absolute? Why?
  • What are your favorite ways to use Rose?

Leave us a comment with your answers and let’s keep this conversation going!

You can find the rest enjoy this video and profile in full, by becoming a member of the Inner Sanctum. Get your membership today for just $15.99/month and begin your learning journey with meditations, lessons, recipes, interviews, bonus resources, and member discounts.

Why Sylla Wants to Be Used

Why Sylla Wants to Be Used

Back when I was first diagnosed with cancer in 1998, my dear friend Robbi Zeck gave me a book by Dawna Markova called, I Will Not Die an Unlived Life: Reclaiming Purpose and Passion.

This book, and a particular poem in it, became a pivotal part of my healing. Here is the poem:

I will not die an unlived life
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance;
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.

This was almost 20 years ago. These days, I’m at the point where I’ve almost forgotten that time. I consider myself a thriver, not survivor. I had the best kind of cancer—not enough to kill me but enough to change my life. Now at age 68, I have been, done, seen, and learned so much more since then.

Life is so short, and I’m certainly not finished! I’ve packed a lot into my aromatic journey years, and there’s a lot I feel compelled to share (for historical interest if nothing else).

A few years ago, I attended a concert featuring one of my favorite musicians, David Bromberg. After a 14-year break from performing (during which time he repaired violins and never actually stopped playing music because friends would not leave him alone!), he said, “Why not go on the road again?”

He invited all of his friends to write and record songs with him on his album. He wanted to be used! So the title of this album is “Use Me.” (I was lucky to see him again this year at a house concert—less than 10 feet away from this man who I listened to most of my adult life. Check that off the bucket list!)

I told Nyssa that’s what I wanted, to be used—in the best possible way, of course! I do not want to die with an “unused” life.

This idea helped to fuel the growth of our home-study course, which includes a thriving online student forum, the publication of Natural Aromatic Materials: Odors and Origins, Second Edition, and now, our new online membership, the Inner Sanctum.

Some of the students who were lucky enough to come to my office for classes know that I call the back room the Inner Sanctum. Many more stories have come from that room as well.

I want to share those stories, share movies from trips to France and Australia, talk about the Purdue classes I took with my colleagues, share historical tidbits from 40 years of following my bliss—that irresistible calling—into the world of aromatics.

In addition, I want to tell you what I use, why I use these things, and how I did things when I was getting started, so I can inspire the next generation. I want to capture special times and moments before I forget, talk about the people on my journey that inspired in me, who they were and still are, and tell my story for the next generation to learn from.

So, with all that being said, I am also asking for your advice. How can what I have to share serve you? What do you want to know? How would you like to use my knowledge? Let us know in the comments.

I’m not going to die an unlived life, but I also don’t want to go out before my life’s knowledge and wisdom is put down on paper (or screen), so that I can share with all of you and feel all used up!

Aromatically Yours,

Learn About Patchouli

Learn About Patchouli

It’s the oil that you either love or hate, the one that’s associated with the ‘60s, and as Sylla says, the oil that’s “an old hippie scent.”

One of the first of Sylla’s discoveries, it is her known favorite. Join Sylla on this earthy, woody adventure as she explores Patchouli.

In this video you’ll learn more about:

  • The chemistry of the oil
  • The therapeutic properties of the oil
  • What Patchouli can do for your skin
  • How its distillation process differs from other oils

(This is a sneak peak at what you’ll find in our Essential Oil Explorations each month in the Inner Sanctum Membership)

Here is a profile for Patchouli, to follow along with on the video or to read on your own.

Common name: Patchouli

Botanical name: Pogostemon cablin

Part of the Labiatae family, Patchouli is a hardy, leafy plant. It is perennial, and it originates in Indonesia and the Philippines. Most of the world-production of Patchouli is from North Sumatra. The plant prefers warm, moist, well-drained conditions.

The leaves and flowers of the Patchouli plant are picked and soaked in water before distillation. Unlike other plants that are quickly distilled, Patchouli must first be fermented, and then it has a long distillation process. Eucalyptus and Lavender may take about an hour to distill, whereas Patchouli takes approximately six to 24 hours. Quite the difference!

Chemically, Patchouli is made up of lots of little components. The dominant molecule family is sesquiterpenes alcohols, with up to 45% sesquiterpene alcohols present in the oil. The sesquiterpenes are what make the oil have the soothing, calming, anti-inflammatory properties we all enjoy.

Patchouli is an antidepressant and anti-inflammatory. It is also antimicrobial and antibacterial. It can help with things such as staph and strep. It is also great for the skin, as it helps regenerate skin cells, and it is especially good for older tissue. Patchouli can help with things like acne, scars, and wrinkles.

Like a fine wine, Patchouli ages well. The odor is rich, intense, earthy, and woody—a result of the Patchouli alcohol. In perfumery, Patchouli is often a part of chypre (characterized by citrus, cistus, and oakmoss notes) fragrances.

You can see the variety of Patchouli’s color in this video. Indonesian is dark and rich, almost like syrup. The Indian CO2 select is light and golden. The last sample (country of origin unknown) is very light in color, showing just how much variety can exist.

Tell us what you learned! How do you like to use Patchouli? Is it on your list of favorite also?

We hope you enjoyed the sneak-peak of our Patchouli exploration! 

Aromatically Yours,


Sylla’s Latest Lessons in Self-Care

Sylla’s Latest Lessons in Self-Care

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.

Aromatically Yours,

50 Shades of Rose (otto) or 7 Ways to Use Rose This Valentine’s Day

50 Shades of Rose (otto) or 7 Ways to Use Rose This Valentine’s Day

For a lot of people, roses are the epitome of love. As Valentine’s Day swoops closer, lovers rush to buy bundles of these beautiful flowers. But did you know that most roses are bred for beauty, and don’t give off the aroma that they should?

It’s true! There are over 250 species of rose, and over 10,000 different hybrid varieties. Of these, only three are commonly used for oil extraction. But lucky for us, we get several varieties in the form of  essential oils and rose absolute! Here are some ways you can use rose this Valentine’s day, besides buying the bouquet.

1. Check out rose essential oil, or otto. It’s heavenly and quite complex. Many of its components are also undefined, which means it’s impossible to replicate. Rose essential oil is light yellow to green in color and can solidify at cooler temperatures due to the natural waxes. It’s a costly essential oil because it takes 4 tons of petals to make a kilo of oil or 60 roses to make one drop! But it’s also one of the most beloved essential oils in the aromatherapy world.

2. You can also look into rose absolute. It’s an extract that holds even more of the true rose scent than the otto. Absolute also offers unique chemical constituents and is more reddish in color and thicker than the otto. It’s less expensive than rose essential oil, as well. And you can blend otto and rose absolute together for the full effect!

3 Make a rose facial cream or serum. Use your favorite carrier oil, like organic coconut oil. Then choose additives that work for your skin type, like evening primrose oil, rosehip seed and others (our Aromatherapy Practitioner Reference Manual or the Aromatic Spa Book are great guides for which oils to use and why). Once your base is ready, add the rose oil, absolute or both. A good safe dilution for skin is usually 2%, and a bit more for perfume use. But due to its potency 1 or 2 drops of rose otto to one ounce of carrier or cream/lotion makes a nice face blend. Use less if you have sensitive skin or want less of a scent.

4. Fall in love with a spritz of rose hydrosol. Hydrosols are made of the hydrolate water from the distillation process. They are excellent for the skin, and soothing to inflamed tissue. Hydrosols are useful for most skin types and make for a refreshing body spray. You can buy them fresh or make your own through home distillation.

5. For a tasty Valentine treat, add an ounce of pure rose hydrolate or a drop of rose absolute to your champagne bottle. We tried this with otto, and to our surprise, the rose oil made tiny wax balls in the cold champagne. We’ll go more into detail about why this happened in our next blog, but for now, our suggestion is to add absolute or the hydrolate instead! It’s delicious and romantic–just like Valentine’s Day champagne should be.

6. Add a few drops of rose oil to local raw honey for a tasty treat. It’s delicious! And combined with Damiana oil and its reputed properties (see link below), this honey could be multipurpose, in tea or on the skin!

7. Our friend Marge Clark at Natures Gift suggests a drop of rose in chilled heavy cream before whipping it! Her site has more rose talk, and rose oils. Thanks Marge, what a wonderful romantic and tasty idea!

Enjoy these suggestions, and have a happy Valentine’s Day!

Here’s a fun read: Mooning Over Love: Fragrances, foods, and flavors to excite and celebrate your beloved

It’s not quackery, it’s chemistry

It’s not quackery, it’s chemistry

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!

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