I write this post as an attempt to delve into my education in the field of aromatherapy.
I usually gloss over it, "I went to school for aromatherapy" and leave it at that.
But what does that look like, practically speaking?
In 2009 I was in St. Louis, single, living in an apartment with a roommate and working as a casher for Panera/Bread Co. pretty much full time. I had the 5am, bakery opener shift (Fun, but only sometimes!).
In a previous post I outlined more of why I started getting into natural body care, so this was around the same time. My first bottle of essential oil (Lemon Citrus limon) had been bought, I was interested, kind of using my spare time to find out more information about essential oils and natural ingredients.
One Friday evening in August (2009, remember) I was tired, but forcing myself to stay awake by doing what research I could on the handy-dandy internet about aromatherapy, essential oils, balms, salves, etc., etc. I happened to stumble upon a website call the American College of Healthcare Sciences. I was intrigued. It seemed to be a school where you could actually learn about aromatherapy. Uh, what do you know?!? They have that? I looked into it more, and yeah, it was a real thing. Who knew...??!?
I requested more info online, talked to the administrations department, did the math and within a week or two I was signed up for their Certificate of Aromatherapy course that was starting soon. It was quick, but I knew it was right.
The course had five semesters, starting with Aromatherapy 101...a very good place to start. ;)
I knew enough that I was interested in potentially becoming a Registered Aromatherapist, and wanted a course that would help me prepare to sit the national aromatherapy exam.* The administrations department assured me that this course would help me with that.
The course was all online, which was nice. I soon settled into a new routine. In the morning I did my 5am shift til about 1p, grabbed a glass of iced tea and went to sit in the park and did my required reading for the course.
The course was not just required reading (!), but practical application too. It came with a nice set of essential oils, enough to learn and explore with, and a few other aromatherapy paraphernalia.
What did I learn? Since the course was about a year and half, they started with aromatherapy basics. They covered topics such as: Definitions of aromatherapy, what an essential oil is and why plants produce them, why Latin names are important, legal considerations and safety, how to store essential oils, the history of aromatherapy, developing a relationship with each oil using organoleptic testing, how to perform a skin patch test, oils to avoid during pregnancy/breastfeeding, chemical constituents of the oils, how to use essential oils safely (ie, methods of application), how essential oils are made (Generally through distillation), anatomy and physiology of smell, and an overview of vegetable and nut oils used to 'carry' essential oils.
Whew. And that was just the first course.
The second was more detailed, going over toxicology (Which oils should never be used because of their toxic chemical component), more legal and environmental considerations, how essential oils are used commercially, using essential oils for massage and general massage techniques, more detailed anatomy and physiology (A lot of info), choosing quality essential oils and not ones that have been extended or adulterated, learning about Gas Chromatography and Mass Spectrometry and how oils can be tested using those techniques, more about the chemistry of essential oils, using essential oils in soap making, and so much more!
Each course had several modules, there was a test after each module and also a practical application or experiment (Of your choosing) that you had to do and then turn in. We also had to complete several 'case studies' using essential oils and write a paper on our findings.
The last two aromatherapy courses were mainly based on developing relationships with the oils they had sent, learning about them, taking tests related to them, how they could be used, what they were good for, cautions and contraindications for each oil, etc. At the end of the entire course we had to turn in a paper on one of the essential oils we had researched. Mine was based on the potential sedating effects of lavender Lavandula angustifolia.
There was also a business course that was required and it mainly focused on working in the field of complementary and alternative medicine. I had to write a business plan for that course (Which now has completely changed since starting Ruministics!!)
So, after a year and a half of studying, taking the final test for the entire course (And passing with flying colors!) I was sent a certificate and could officially call myself a Certified Aromatherapist.
NOW...the field of aromatherapy is very broad. I do not, by any stretch of the imagination, know everything. Ha. Not by a long shot. But!, taking the course gave me a wonderful, in-depth, first-hand knowledge of learning about essential oils, working with them, learning from instructors who had years of experience and could answer questions, know what to do and what not to do, etc.
As I said, the field of aromatherapy is very broad. There are many more classes I could take, books to read, essential oils to learn about and on and on. My goal is definitely to continue learning and growing in this area!
So that is a little bit about my journey into aromatherapy. What is yours??
*At the time of this blog post, I have not taken the national exam to become a Registered Aromatherapist, mainly because my focus has been natural body care formulation rather than working in a clinical setting. I also feel I would need to brush up on my education before diving into aromatherapy exam!