Overview

Is aromatherapy a nice smelling air freshener, a relaxing massage, a delightful beauty therapy, a useful home first aid tool, or a serious health care modality?”(Sheen and Stevens, 2002, p.189) Aromatherapy continues to be one of the fastest growing complementary healthcare modalities of the 21st century and yet it continues to be one of the least understood not only among health care practitioners but particularly within the mainstream. Defining aromatherapy, on the other hand, is a complex task and one that requires sensitivity to the diverse practices and philosophies which are encompassed by different practitioners. According to Sheen and Stevens (2002), “the ‘misuse’ of the term aromatherapy in the wider society could be an indication of the misunderstanding of what aromatherapy is, or an indication of aromatherapy’s lack of a clear definition” (p.190).

Aromatherapy is practiced by a diverse set of lay people and practitioners including: naturopaths, nurses, massage therapists, independent aromatherapy consultants, occupational therapists, estheticians, reiki practitioners, social workers, psychologists, reflexologists, and at times and in some countries, by medical doctors. Aromatherapy can be used to reduce anxiety and agitation, to heal skin ulcers, to reduce the impact of stress on the physical body, and to expectorate mucus from the lungs. Aromatherapy can be applied in hospice environments to increase quality of life, in maternity wards to support the delivery process and relieve postpartum stress, and in bodywork practices to enhance the therapeutic benefits of the bodywork technique itself. Aromatherapy has these therapeutic benefits and many more as you will discover on your journey through aromatherapy.

Some of the most common reasons individuals seek aromatherapy include: stress, anxiety, musculoskeletal issues, depression, skincare, hormonal imbalances, respiratory disorders, immune enhancement, and much more.

Aromatherapy utilizes essential oils, aromatic distilled plant extracts from specific botanical species. In our philosophy we believe that the authenticity and purity of the essential oils used is the very foundation from which aromatherapy is built. With a commitment to sustainability and wholeness aromatherapists seek genuine and authentic, plant derived, preferably organic or wild crafted, unadulterated essential oils.

Aromatherapy could therefore be defined as “the holistic therapeutic application of genuine and authentic plant derived essential oils for enhancing the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health of the individual”.

Aromatherapy, like herbalism, is an unlicensed profession in the United States. Aromatherapy is a self regulated field represented by two organizations in the United States, the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) and the Alliance of International Aromatherapists (AIA). Both organizations work to educate the general public on the benefits, efficacy and safety of utilizing aromatherapy as well as setting educational standards to support and enhance the quality of education provided by schools throughout the industry. East-West School for Herbal and Aromatic Studies is a member of both organizations and is a NAHA approved school for aromatherapy education.