Updated: Oct 17
We need to answer an important question first.
What is aromatherapy?
It is a holistic therapy that involves the use of plant extracts including essential oils and carrier oils/ butters/ waxes to help various conditions of the body, mind, and spirit. The extracts come from leaves, flowers, wood, fruit, seeds, roots and resins from trees, grasses, and other herbaceous plants. These extracts and contain compounds that have healing potential. They are best utilized by inhalation or topical application to the skin.
What is an aromatherapist and why should you consult with one?
These days where there are so many people selling essential oils (I used to be one of them) and giving you advice on how to use them and you may wonder “What exactly does an aromatherapist do? and Why should I consult with one?”
An aromatherapist has at a minimum 300 "ish"hours of training which includes chemistry, some botany, human anatomy and physiology, and essential oil safety. They learn about many specific essential oils, essential oil synergy and learn about scientific and evidence based research from aromatherapists who have extensive experience. They do case studies which are evaluated by experienced aromatherapists so they can learn by doing. Some even learn massage and various massage techniques to better serve their clients.
A trained aromatherapist will do an intake form and health history with you. Their scope of practice does not include diagnosing medical conditions or giving medical advice on a particular condition. They are trained to know that SOME essential oils should not be used by people with certain conditions (e.g., epilepsy, if you are pregnant or nursing etc.). They are also trained to check for contraindications with the medicines and supplements you are taking ( for example blood thinners and antidepressants). Your safety and wellbeing are number one.
Many aromatherapists will make generalized blends for diffusing, for massage and for general health and well-being, BUT they will do so from an informed place, with everyone’s safety in mind.
Let’s talk about what an aromatherapist does NOT do.
1. A trained aromatherapist will NOT make unfounded or unresearched health claims. Essential oils are NOT a cure- all no matter what anyone tells you. They ARE a supportive, complementary therapy to help you, mind, body, and spirit. They are not a cure.
2. An aromatherapist will NOT sell you a lot of oils that you will not use or that you do not know how to use. They WILL make you products specific to you and your needs. They will ask all the questions they need to make sure you get a SAFE and effective product, that you will want to use, that they will make for you. No need to DIY (unless you want to and most aromatherapists will guide you on that journey too).
3. An aromatherapist will NOT give you an essential oil that will potentially harm. Yes, read that again. Just because essential oils are natural does not make them safe for everyone. I am not saying that someone would intentionally harm you, but when they do not know what they do not know and with the misinformation floating around out there, they think that they DO know ( I know confusing isn't it?) serious consequences can result. Some essential oils are contraindicated with some very common medications, yes, I am repeating this. Some essential oils should not be used by people with epilepsy or who are prone to seizures, people on blood thinners or antidepressants, or during pregnancy and while nursing and also on young children. Aromatherapists are TRAINED to know these things which is WHY they will ask what medications you are on and if you have any medical conditions; they are not being nosey, they are protecting you. They will always keep your information confidential.
What can an aromatherapist do for you?
1. An aromatherapist will listen to you about your needs. They will usually take a detailed intake form. Maybe, for example, you are having trouble sleeping. They will explore why by asking you questions about lifestyle, medications, and previously diagnosed health conditions. From that information they will develop something specifically for you based on your needs and preferred aromas. There are many essential oils that have the same therapeutic properties, so if you do not like the aroma of one, we can usually find you a different one that you do like, because if you don’t like the aroma, you are less likely to use it. Remember to check with your health team before using aromatherapy if you have a chronic health condition or are pregnant or nursing.
2. An aromatherapist will research each oil that they use in your blends and make what is best for you based on their discussions with you. They will ensure that it is a blend that you can use safely and will instruct you how to do so. Aromatherapy truly is an individual thing.
3. An aromatherapist can teach you how to safely use the essential oils that you have. Many aromatherapists have an educational component to their business and are happy to consult with you. If you are going to take aromatherapy classes, please take them from a trained aromatherapist.
An aromatherapist will work with you and your health care team to come up with ways to support your heath that compliments your life and where you are right now. We want what is best for you and we want to help.
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Fawn Last is a life long learner and educator with degrees in biology and geology. She left an academic career to become a certified aromatherapist and continues to learn as she helps others find ways to support their wellbeing using aromatherapy.
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DISCLAIMER: The information on this site is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and is for educational and informational purposes only. When incorporating any complementary alternative therapy into your health care regimen, always seek the advice of your medical doctor or qualified healthcare provider, and watch for any possible interactions or side effects. Statements made on this site have not been evaluated by Health Canada or the FDA (U.S. Food & Drug Administration)