A Holistic Approach To Foundations of Aromatherapy

“This trip was so full of conflict, argument and self-questioning; it was a struggle that had begun long before she had found herself on Cretan soil.” Sounds like a statement from me and my personal journey, or perhaps many of you reading these lines may feel sort of that way. This specific yet so familiar narrative is from the historical novel titled The Island written by Victoria Hislop in 2005. Engaging in an aromatic journey through life-changing decisions, we are learning to embrace the past and with it reclaim our innate power to change and pursue a more healthy, inspired and balanced life. 

The article was originally written for and published at the blog of The School for Aromatic Studies, one of the first aromatherapy schools in the U.S. founded by Jade Shutes back in 1990. Over many decades now, Jade and her School has supported thousands of students like myself in their aromatic life, passion and profession to evolve, and continues to offer balanced, progressive & inspiring education for a new generation of aromatherapists all over the world.

Aromatherapy is indeed that kind of magic which has changed many lives for the better. But… what’s in a name? – as Sakespeare would have Juliet pose the question through the metaphor of our precious flower of love: “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” What I am suggesting is that aromatherapy has its mysteries and many definitions, and while some of them can be beautifully complex, others rather reductionist. What I personally came up with in my efforts of trying to be as short as possible, yet capture its significance as it translates into my experience is this:  

Aromatherapy is a holistic complementary alternative therapy that helps restore and promote balance on the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual level by using essential oils, aromatic waters, vegetable carrier oils, and other herbal formulations. Beyond physical means, aromatherapy indirectly develops a high level of consciousness in relation to our alliance, healthy way of life, and connectedness to nature. My aromatherapy approach diffuses through all aspects of life. From wellness to wholeness, leisure to pleasure, kitchen to bathroom, work and passion – and most of all, aromatic and medicinal plants are my companion to enrich life and share mindful, healthy and life-changing products and practices with others.

As I am re-reading my above definition from a few years back, I am tending to start re-phrasing it already. Ohhhh stop, it’s good enough! After all, you can only have a slice of reality from your very own perspective at any given moment. Since after all, what’s in a name? Aromatherapy means hundreds of things to hundreds of different people starting with a classic approach where mostly it would be associated with an aromatic massage. Often called as ‘the English aromatherapy’ where it is mainly characterised as a wellbeing service through massage, as opposed to the very different nature of ‘French aromatherapy’ with a long history of healing traditions and the internal use of aromatic medicine. Looking at it from a different angle however, I may even dare to say it is a somewhat political approach, since anyone studying traditional folk medicine of almost any country, would likely find a rich cultural and historical background to aromatherapy in a larger context. Also, if we look at this part of my definition ‘…and other herbal formulations’, it is supposed to open doors to other practices that may fall under herbalism, phytotherapy or such.

As nature, plants, and sort of any herbal preparations we use in aromatherapy – including essential oils, carrier oils, hydrolats – have one thing in common: change. Nothing is constant, and we human beings are part of this ever-changing infinite cyclical dance of life, growth, death and rebirth. 

If we were about to detect and identify our arrival to the aromatherapy world, we would have to look at some of the typical situations that may serve as an entrance scene at the welcome reception. You may be in the small group of being born into a family with herbal wisdom where traditions are kept alive through generations. For many of us, however, even growing up in close proximity with nature, a partial or complete disconnection takes place by the time we enter adulthood and the busy life of modern times. From there on, we chose to pursue different survival tactics, where at some point an awakening process would be triggered. Needless to say again, our answers to challenges are very different in nature. These may be on distinct tracks of looking for more happiness, joyous life and fulfillment at the light end, while the need for connecting with others and belonging to a community, perhaps hopes for financial prosperity are all very understandable desires too. Taking care of personal wellness, and addressing various health issues can mean a strong drive, as well as searching for the meaning of life, more freedom and personal growth are in the higher realms of turning to the apothecary on Nature. As the original cause of act, so does the methodology and approach, our way of turning to aromatherapy can be down-to-earth, etheric, artistic or scientific. In any case, it is important to understand that we might knock on the door from one specific direction, nevertheless the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects are all blended into aromatherapy, which is by nature, holistic, whether we recognise and accept this fact or not.

After all, what is interesting to look at is where I am on this evolving Path? I would say it is not only a birthright, but a necessity for us to educate ourselves in order to explore our gifts, offer our best talents to the world, and be a responsible member of society. As opposed to what we have learnt and be programmed for, life achievements are not necessarily measured by the scale of it, but how true we are to ourselves, and through that comes our resilience and ability to recreate and repurpuse our ways to align with the currents of the Universe. 

Today we see students from all walks of life turning to aromatic medicine. Some may enter from the pleasant home use of evaporating essential oils and to surpass the level of chemically-made fragrance oils as exploring the realms of true botanicals. Others are to expand their valuable knowledge from the many areas of professional health-care fields, including doctors, nurses, midwives and mental health practitioners. Wellness advocates, nutritionists, yoga and meditation teachers and all discovering the road less travelled. 

Although it is easy to fall in to fancy products, ready-made take-aways, and simplifications, aromatherapy is not a multi-level, rather a multi-dimensional field of plants, places, processes, people, substances, chemistry, as well as energy, metaphors, language and affinity to parts and to the whole. No matter if you are a beginner to aromatherapy, or has years – even decades – behind you, to remain or regain a humble approach of being a student second to Nature is essential. What a prosperous world we live in, where we can still have so many options to follow our calling, connect with nature while entering the classroom online to explore, expand and work towards balance in our lives. Never before we had such an amazing abundance in tools that allowed our progress both as individuals and humanity. Let’s embrace these gifts with our deepest care and highest respect for all the work our human fellows and plant allies keep doing for our community!

Wherever you are sailing the Seven Seas or perhaps anchored at the moment, may you all continue keep blossoming on your aromatic journeys! 

Interested in studying Aromatherapy with me?

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