How I’m Working Through Trauma

How I’m Working Through Trauma

Most of us will experience trauma in one form or another at some point in our lives, and plant medicine can be a wonderful healing ally during these times. 

Currently, I’m getting to know this very well.

For those of you who haven’t heard, my husband was the victim of a stray bullet that was shot into the air on the 4th of July. He’s okay, but he will carry a bullet in his neck for the rest of his life—one that just nearly missed causing sudden death or major injury. 

(Here’s some good news: If you saw our crowdfunding page, please note the recent update. Insurance is paying for his medical bills, but we’d like to use the rest of the money to help prevent these kinds of incidents from occurring.)

That’s not the point of this blog post, though. 

I’ve had the privilege (yes, I’ll call it that because I am going through all of this with him still alive and well) of learning more about how trauma affects the body and how we can work through this healing process. 


If you’re also working through trauma, here are a few things to try:


  • Talk about it. Ever since this happened, we’ve been sharing this story with our community. This is not just because we wanted to let them know what’s going on, but also because we’ve needed to keep telling it. Over the past 10 days, I’ve seen how helpful it is to do this—even though I go through all the emotions again. But each time, they begin to transform, reshape, and thus so does the story. Talking about trauma can have this weird effect where it both orients oneself in the “new reality,” while it also provides a way to let it go.


  • Use herbs. I’ve never relied so heavily on my oils and herbs. Once we realized that my husband would be released from the hospital after his injury, I knew the first thing I was going to do when we got home: make herbal tea. I make a daily tonic blend every day anyway, but I knew I needed it bad that day. It contains herbs that are not only full of vitamins and minerals, but ones that help the body deal with stress as well. You can find the recipe in my Body-Listening Cheat Sheet here. I can feel the cells in my body sing each time I sip this delicious mix, so that’s got to be good.


  • Use essential oils. Luckily, at this time, I was also working on next month’s Aromatic Meditation in the Inner Sanctum, which features Vetiver. Honestly, I couldn’t have chosen a better oil. I’ve always thought that Vetiver was particularly good for helping to clear out deep trauma. Its grounding energy helped bring me back to myself in the here and now, which is crucial when healing from PTSD. We need to affirm for ourselves that in this moment, we are safe. My husband, who is staying in Ohio to finish his training (he is even more devoted to the work of teaching adolescents to be good citizens), asked if I could send him some inhalers to use during the “hard moments” that are arising. I made him three inhalers and sent them off last weekend. Next week, I’ll share what oils I used for those. Stay tuned! : )


  • Keep moving. When times get tough, even just from the debris of daily life (and the self-judgements that can come with that), we may start to feel stuck. But remember, you’re only stuck if you stay there. I’m so grateful that I attended the Aromagnosis Teacher Training last May because I’ve been leaning hard on identifying, working with, and moving through the alchemical stages. For those of you who are new to this idea, Aromagnosis incorporates Carl Jung’s work in drawing on the seven stages of alchemy as a framework for transformation. They bring herbs and oils into this healing experience as well, and let me tell you, a lot can be done! As I’ve been moving through the aftermath of this trauma, these stages have been really helpful for me because I am better able to understand what I’m moving through and how to keep that movement going. It also gives me permission to honor the wisdom that each of these stages has for me while providing tools for how to not get stuck in them. I had already planned a Weekend Immersion where you can learn about these stages, understand how to use herbs and oils in the process, and find the healing insights within yourself to help you move forward—but now this workshop has taken on even greater significance.

If you’re ready to learn about this kind of deep healing work, I’d love for you to join this workshop. Sign up by August 1st to receive early-bird pricing. 

I know that the global healing we all need can only start in one place: within you. By that I mean, it also starts within me. I’m committed to “doing the work” to be a greater healer, therapist, educator, and just all-around person. 

Know that I support you in that journey as well. 

Thank you to everyone who’s reached out with love, support, and help with the crowdfunding. We feel doubly blessed that Sam is still with us and that we can use this experience to help show others about the effects of their actions—and that we’re all in this together. 

Let’s start healing. 

What Happens When You Study Aromatherapy

What Happens When You Study Aromatherapy

Even back in the day, I could see that she was pointing to something bigger.

It was 2005, and I was a few months into being a Licensed Massage Therapist. I had the chance to take my mom’s class as a professional. She was teaching her Basic Aromatherapy weekend workshop and I sat in as a student.

Her teaching style was lively, dynamic, and focused on what makes sense in the larger picture.

At the end of the weekend, each student made their own personal blend, or their “Individual Prescription.” Before blending oils and making these creations, we each talked about what was going on with us and what we wanted to shift mentally, physically, and spiritually.

Naturally, either because that’s the nature of these things or that’s the nature of my mom (or both), the conversations became personal, heart-opening, and deeply healing.

It wasn’t the oils. Of course, the oils helped, but I could see that it was so much more than that.

Aromatherapy allows us to look deep within ourselves and shows us the next steps in our growth.

This month in the Inner Sanctum, Mom brought this idea up in our Healing Guide. We were discussing the circulatory system, and we couldn’t help but include a lesson on healing the heart.

It’s hard for us at the Atlantic Institute to see our educational journeys as different and distinct from our personal journeys. They are increasingly one and the same—both informing the other in this beautiful dance of growth.

How has your educational journey affected you personally? Where do you see these two elements of your life intermingling?

Let us know in the comments. We love hearing about how aromatherapy is helping you.

How to Befriend Your Pain

How to Befriend Your Pain

So you’ve heard that essential oils might be able to help you with your pain. The good news is, they can!

As aromatherapists and massage therapists, Sylla and I have used aromatherapy for pain relief for years—both in the treatment room and at home.

Recently, we covered aromatherapy and pain in the Inner Sanctum. We were talking the next day when Sylla said to me, “Hey, you know what? I forgot something.”

She proceeded to tell me exactly what I needed to hear.

The thing is that while we can use aromatherapy for pain relief, and while it can help us tremendously, it is only one small part of the healing experience. What my mom shared with me is something that she has learned through her own ongoing healing journey. It really helped me shift my thoughts on my own injury—which is a relatively new part of my experience.

Below this video, you’ll find a list of essential oils that you can use for pain relief. If you don’t have any of these oils, consider the ones you do have with analgesic, anti-inflammatory, or rubefacient properties. Be sure to learn the safety of the oils you are using. We recommend always using them diluted (about 15 drops per ounce of carrier oil)—especially since carrier oils have healing benefits, too!


A few oils that may help reduce pain:

  • Anti-inflammatory oils to reduce swelling and inflammation: Bergamot, Cedarwood, Clary Sage, Frankincense, Ginger, Lavender, and Patchouli
  • Analgesic oils to reduce pain: Eucalyptus, Lavender, Peppermint, Rosemary, and Sweet Marjoram
  • Rubefacient oils to increase circulation: Black Pepper, Eucalyptus, Ginger, and Peppermint

Now your task is to make yourself a pain blend.

Get a sample from the Inner Sanctum Membership of a recipe Sylla uses for her pain here.

Let us know what you used, how you used it, and how it worked for you. Did this video help you reframe your pain in a new light? Let us know by leaving a comment below.

Want to learn more? Join us in the Inner Sanctum and get started on your healing journey today.

Blue Tansy’s Message For You

Blue Tansy’s Message For You

Has an essential oil ever opened up something inside of you?

Or uncovered a deeper truth?

I’ve known for a long time that essential oils can do this, but I’m still in the beginning stages of using them most effectively for deep inner work.

Part of this lies in the mystery of how olfactory nerves communicate with the emotional and survival centers of the brain—affecting our body chemistry and influencing our conscious thoughts—all in a matter of seconds! How all this works is a subject for another blog (or honestly, a lifetime study), but here I have a special message to share with you.

Each month in the Inner Sanctum, we feature a new essential oil. Sylla speaks at length about the science, research, therapeutics, chemistry, and botany of the oil. Then I take what she finds, do my own “inner research,” and write a meditation based on that oil to share as well.

Usually, I turn to several references to find out the emotional/energetic properties of the oils. The first stop is The Blossoming Heart by Robbi Zeck. The second stop is Aromatherapy for the Spirit by Gabriel Mojay. I try to get a sense of what others have found on the oils and start there.

But Blue Tansy was different.

It hasn’t been used as an aromatic as long as other oils like Lavender, Rosemary, Lemon, or Eucalyptus have, so there wasn’t much out there that I could find. I had to go within myself.

One day, I sat down with Blue Tansy just to see what emerged.

As it goes in meditation, my thoughts started wandering a few minutes in. I found myself suddenly sure that I needed to let go of a commitment in my life. I didn’t really see it coming, but I felt a reassurance that, “It’s okay to say no to something you’ve already said yes to.”

Wow, Blue Tansy, that’s one powerful message!

I wrote the Inner Sanctum Meditation about this and sent it to Sylla. It really spoke to her, too, as she’d recently been working to change a habit of overcommitting herself.

We also used this message to create a personal perfume for one of our monthly Inner Sanctum recipes. We call this blend, “Say Yes to You.” 

Sylla’s scented salt jar she made for her desk.

Since I started working with Blue Tansy in this way, I’ve been able to get a clearer picture of what I need to say goodbye to.

I’ve seen Mom making this shift too. (Check out her “Just Say No” scented salt jar. She keeps it close by so while she’s working she can ward off distractions and stay focuses on what she wants to do).

But one thing I am saying a full-hearted YES to is finding new and better ways to serve you in your search for aromatherapy education.

I love how aromatics and the messages they bring can come into our lives and change them—instantly.

Of course it takes work on our part, but they are such wonderful tools with so much wisdom to share.

Now we’d like to know:

What is it time for you to say no to (even if you’ve already said yes)?

What oil or oils would you use to help you make that transition?

Let us know and leave a comment below.

How to Make Spruce Syrup

How to Make Spruce Syrup

Ah, the smell of Evergreens … This is a scent that can transport you to a winter landscape. Even if you live in a tropical place like us, there are ways you can feel like you’re on a mountain overlooking snow-covered trees.

My latest favorite is crystallized Spruce needles and with those, Spruce Syrup!

As part of this month’s Spruce Exploration Deep Dive in the Inner Sanctum, I crystallized some real Spruce tips and made a simple syrup with them. (If you don’t have any Spruce trees near you, you can order them from a beer supplier here.) I imagined I was a homesteader or wilderness person, wishing to preserve the feeling of Spruce, the smell of winter into a simple syrup—since I don’t have maple trees to tap. It’s been the best addition to my water.


A simple syrup is just sugar and water together in a 1:1 ratio. So, I boiled water and added the sugar till it dissolved, as I did for the crystallization project. I immersed the remaining Spruce sprigs, wood, and needles, along with the rest of the sugar mix I had used. Simmering on the stove, I kept it on low so I wouldn’t lose the essential oils. I must say it smelled like something delicious was cooking! After a few hours, I had to add more water as it thickened! So I added more water and left it overnight in the fridge. Then I simmered it again the next day till it smelled perfect and was the right consistency.

Once it cooled, I strained out the spent needles and let it cool further before decanting it into my bottle.

I now use it to flavor and sweeten my daily water glasses.

Watch Sylla share why she loves her Spruce syrup so much.

First, I add some warm water in the bottom of a large tumbler. Then I add about a tablespoon of syrup, mixing it and adding ice. Finally, I top it off with room-temperature distilled water (my choice).

There are many ways to use this simple syrup! It could be used in hot tea. It could also be caramelized till it’s thick and brown—to be drizzled over desserts … The uses are endless.

I already know I should have made more …

Have you ever crystallized an Evergreen? How do you like to use it? Tell us all about it below!


Why You’ve Got to Learn the Latin Names

Why You’ve Got to Learn the Latin Names

Ever since my parents started dating, they’ve called each other, “Buddy.” Whenever my dad was in his home office and my mom needed his attention, she’d yell up the stairs, “Hey, Buddy.” One day, when I called home to talk to Mom, Dad went to find her in the backyard garden and yelled from the porch, “Hey, Buddy.” I know this because I could hear it through the receiver.

Cards will be addressed to “Buddy,” and the two of them will even say, “I love you, Buddy,” before leaning in for a kiss.

The thing is, no one else calls either one of them Buddy. Since I’m an only child, I call them plain ol’ Mom and Dad, and no one else does that either (except for Mom’s adopted aroma-kids!).

I share this odd and personal tidbit to emphasize that we do the same thing with plants—give them names that we know them by—even when they have proper names.

What’s important to understand here is that every essential oil you work with comes from a plant that has an official Latin binomial. Also known as a botanical name, these identifications help us know exactly what plant we’re dealing with.

It’s like the difference between asking to talk to “Buddy,” which could refer to either one of my parents (or the millions of other people out there known as “Buddy”) and asking for Sylla Sheppard-Hanger (Latin for amazing aromatherapist and Mom to Nyssa).

Now, you might think each plant has a Latin name, like our first and last names, and possibly one or more common names, right?

Well, not exactly. Sometimes plants have more than one Latin name.

Before you think plants are just trying to keep us on our toes, keep this in mind: we’ve only been officially classifying plants since about the 1700’s. And since Carl Linnaeus laid the foundations of binomial nomenclature, we’ve learned a lot more about how to study plants and better classify them. So plant names may change species, genus, or much less often, family, and it takes time for everyone to catch on. That’s why many resources (like your books) will list several names if present.

Watch Sylla and Nyssa explain why they love Latin names in the video below.

Now we want to know, what’s your favorite botanical name?

Which one do you just love to say?

Let us know by leaving a comment below.