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The term aromatherapie was coined by French perfumer and chemist, Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, in 1937 with his publication of Gattefosse’s Aromatherapy, which contains early clinical findings for the healing uses of essential oils. Aromatherapy applications include massage, topical application (the molecules are easily absorbed through the skin), inhalation, and ingestion – but the latter only under the professional guidance, as some essential oils are highly toxic when taken internally.

When essential oils are inhaled, the molecules enter the nose or mouth and move into the lungs to be distributed to other parts of the body, including the brain, where they affect the limbic system, the oldest, most primitive part of the brain which is linked to emotions, heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, memory, stress levels, mood and hormone balance. Several essential oils have been found to possess varying degrees of antimicrobial, antiviral, nematocidal, antifungal, insecticidal, and antioxidant properties.

As a complementary therapy, aromatherapy does not cure, but instead supports other treatments. It’s been shown to reduce nausea; anxiety; agitation; stress and depression; fatigue and insomnia; muscular aches and pains; headaches; circulatory problems; menstrual and menopausal problems; and hair loss. Other conditions may also benefit, although not all uses are supported by scientific evidence as, despite its 6000-year history, few studies have been conducted on aromatherapy. However, 2017 research suggests orange essential oil may alleviate PTSD, a condition believed to affect eight percent of people at some point; and in 2016, researchers discovered that ingredients in essential oils from cloves, anise, fennel and ylang-ylang could serve as a natural treatment of lung and liver conditions caused by air pollution.

Expert advice

“There is no minimum qualification requirement, despite what some colleges may say to justify their products, because there really is a lot of freedom to design your own training program based on your needs,” says Gwendoline Ford, Director and Founder of the Australian College of Aromatherapy https://acoa.com.au/. “Aromatherapy is a multifaceted field of practice, and qualification requirements will depend on what you hope to achieve from your studies. For the person wanting to make blends for private use, a short course will provide sufficient information to achieve this goal. A student wanting to use aromatherapy for therapeutic purposes requires higher levels of education, from certificate to advanced diploma. These don’t need to be government-accredited. I operate a successful aromatherapy college that has provided both government-accredited and industry-recognised qualifications. The standard remains the same.”

“The anatomy and physiology side of advanced aromatherapy training is something few students are prepared for,” adds Ford. “Advanced levels of training approach aromatherapy from a clinical perspective: you’re not studying just the essential oils, you’re also studying their effects on the human body and mind (mind/body connection). Also, few aromatherapists recognise the importance of business skills. You can be the most caring, insightful aromatherapist, but without key skills like marketing, you’re unlikely to achieve your goals. Business is part of life, and these skills are essential. Qualities that make a good aromatherapist include a caring nature, a desire to help others, professionalism, integrity, and a desire to learn more. Kinaesthetic people are best suited, although all personality types will benefit from learning this modality.”

For more information: IAAMA (https://www.iaama.org.au); NAHA (https://naha.org); ATMS: http://www.atms.com.au/aromatherapy.