By Anita Kalnay, RA® EOT®
Self-care has become our personal ritual, and baths or showers and the water element may offer the renewal that we seek.
Here are a few statistics:
According to Perfumer and Flavorist, “On a 1-10 scale of the importance of scent, ‘scent in my bathtub products’ received 9.3. Women’s post-bathing go-to products are body lotions (95%), body creams (68%), and body butters (50%). Interestingly, women switch scents often and for a variety of reasons. 65% of women change out scents on a regular basis, while 31% switch out shower scents each month and 22% change scents weekly. 72% switch scents on impulse after discovering a new scent in-store, 50% switch scents based on mood, 46% switch scents to match the season, 41% switch because they’re bored with the usual, and 68% try to match bath/shower scents to post-bathing skin care scents.”
10 Keys to Uncovering the Value of our Creative Services as Aromatherapists
1. Scent can be customized to offer relaxation and/or increased energy for your mind and body! As aromatherapists, we already know this as we have been customizing scents for our clients since the industry was born. That’s our super power! I love the fact that each of us is different and although it certainly is possible to create generic fragrances, the art in it might be the element of customizing using a client-centred design.
2. The bridge that links the mind and the body is emotions. With the range of sensation involved in emotions, this bridge is like a rainbow! We know from colour theory that each colour has a different vibrational frequency and that it can be related to the energetics of the chakra system. So, using colour as part of our creations can also be a stimulus as well as a creative opportunity to explore our aromatic design abilities.
3. The skin is the largest organ in the body, inside and out! So a focus on products that can be applied to the skin before, during or after a bath/shower experience can be key tools for well-being.
Massaging the skin stimulates the nerves that lie close to the surface, offering a soothing and nourishing experience. In India, everyone from babies to grandparents gets a daily massage! This not only connects the generations, but also offers the therapy of touch.
4. It is not limited to gender as men love beard oils, body scrubs, creams, deodorants and gels just as much as women. And all of these can be created from naturally sourced ingredients.
5. Nature is key and our self-care rituals can reconnect us to nature even if we live in an apartment in the city. Scent revives our senses and anchors an element of earthly delight to the start or end of our day. Each element offers a different energetic component so it can also anchor a fiery, airy or watery delight.
6. Trust is the primary essential element in relating to our clients and potential clients. They want to trust us as product designers and aromatherapy specialists. But most of all, it’s not just the products themselves, but also the relationship of trust and the feedback that they can offer us that allows us to make better products and understand how our clients use them.
7. The joy of creating. Whether you offer your services and products as a full-time career or even just as a hobby, the joy of engaging in the creative process offers originality and meaning. The focus that it takes to count all those drops can be soothing in an otherwise hectic world. As aromatherapists, we love what we do!
8. The design and presentation of our products is like creating beauty and gifting it to others to enjoy. I love it when I can create a gift box of products and mail it to a client or drop it off. There is a delight and a reward in the surprise and joy that they receive from exploring a new scent. And even more so if it is customized specifically for them.
9. Exploring sustainability. Yes, lately prices have gone up and our industry has shifted due to availability, but many colourful and aromatic plants grow in our backyard and park areas! Exploring ways to use more local options can be very sustainable.
Something to explore:
This past summer, in order to keep our prices reasonable and not just escalate because everyone else was, we decided to dry flowers for colour to use in bath salts and also learned as a group to distill hydrosols. This will be an ongoing process to explore as many people are not familiar with the scope of what can be done with a hydrosol.
10. The nose knows! Hope is on the horizon. Nature always finds a way to restore balance and harmony. She can be our teacher. And our nose always guides us to what we love, what we need and what we don’t like. The nose knows. The accuracy of our attraction to a scent that can offer benefit is likely 100%. As an example, after doing a bit of research on the scents that I or my clients like best, it's easy to see the correlation to health issues, as well as emotional attraction to just what we need.
Anita Kalnay, RA®, EOT®, has more than 30 years of full-time practice as an aromatherapist and intuitive healer. She holds a diploma in Spiritual PhytoEssencing and has completed more than 3,200 certified hours in other natural health modalities. She is also a natural perfume designer and works with more than 500 essential oils. She can be found at www.genieinabottle.ca.
Photo by Karolina Grabowska
The board of directors is considering joining the Airmid Institute. We will gather your feedback on this decision in the upcoming membership poll. One of the main objectives of this membership level is to establish guidelines for sustainability curricula which CAOA recognized schools would ultimately adhere to, and members receive many additional benefits as noted below.
Overall, benefits include:
1. A 1.5-hour consultation with Dr. Kelly Ablard (Kelly) and the CAOA Board of Directors and CAOA Education Committee to discuss critical parameters around sustainability principles, concepts, and practical components to include as required curricula guidelines
2. Following the consultation, a thorough review by Kelly of the working curricula guidelines with in-depth tracked feedback, followed by one more thorough review of the revised curricula
3. A 1.5-hour virtual or pre-recorded webinar presented by Kelly OR CAOA's choice of an upcoming or password-protected Airmid webinar recording for CAOA members.
4.A 20% discount off an annual Basic or Pay-it-Forward membership is extended to CAOA Directors, CAOA staff, and active CAOA members.
5. Access to additional and evolving internal resources, which will help further advance CAOA's dedication to sustainability.
6. The Airmid Institute Association Membership logo (.png and .jpg) is to be used on CAOA's website and social media, demonstrating CAOA's dedication to implementing quality and current sustainability guidelines
7. The CAOA logo highlighted on Airmid's website as a valued Association Member
8. Airmid's triennial newsletter Green Telegram is available for CAOA Directors and CAOA members.
9. The Airmid Institute Biannual List of Threatened, Near Threatened, and CITES-Protected Plants, Mammals, Fungi, and Seaweed Species Used in Aromatherapy, Perfumery, and Aromatic Herbalism available for Association Directors and CAOA members.
This list is translated into Brazilian Portuguese, Spanish, Ukrainian, German, Croatian, French, and Russian. The biannual list is scheduled to be released on July 1, 2023, and will also be translated into Greek and Italian.
This list is translated into Brazilian Portuguese, Spanish, Ukrainian, German, Croatian, French, and Russian. The biannual list is scheduled to be released on July 1, 2023, and will also be translated into Greek and Italian.
10. Updates on special events and invitations for CAOA members to attend public webinars hosted by Airmid Institute.
Can't wait for the membership poll to share your thoughts? Email us or add a comment to let us know what you think.
Find out more about the Airmid Institute here.
Spotlight on Lucas Anderson: Science Meets Sensitivity
Meet Lucas Anderson, RA® EOT®, and CAOA member practising in Edmonton, AB. He established Brotherhood ARomatics in 2018 and welcomes those dealing with stress, showing emotions, PTSD, depression and anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and mental breakdowns. His primary client group is men from 30 to 40 years old who tend to be more receptive to help and seek to prevent long-term issues later in life.
“When prospective clients want to scope out a new health care provider, they don’t just want the clinical. They want to know that the person working with them is human. If you can align the therapist with the client, you can create a much better connection and relationship for both.”
My sense of Lucas after just a short chat is that he is a dedicated soul with a wise curiosity who loves to validate and share his knowledge through science and fact-finding. He has spent many hours creating his databases that illustrate essential oils and carrier oils from various repertory perspectives and can be used to reference issues a practitioner might have to deal with quickly.
One of Lucas’ long-term goals is to create spas for men, all over the world, and a safe place to allow them the freedom to express their emotional and mental challenges.
“Men deserve their own services. Sure, there will be similarities. But it shouldn't be, ‘Here’s a service primarily used by, thought of, and designed for women. Let’s slap the word sports in front of it, and now it's for men.’ I want services created with men as the focus and beginning. Look at the man’s skin. What does it need? Now let’s create the services around that. What do they need emotionally? Now let’s create around that.”
He is an entrepreneur with a vision that can shine a light on men’s health and turn the tide of accessible help for men that has otherwise been overlooked or minimized with the cultural and toxic “just suck it up and be a man” attitude.
Lucas finds that most people’s physical problems aren’t always rooted in the physical. “There’s usually some sort of emotional cause, so I try to understand where the person is at and where they are coming from.
“I am passionate about working with men because there is very little out there for them, and there is very little information about them in aromatherapy and how to incorporate aromatherapy into their life.”
Lucas recalled a time when he experienced a panic attack. “I used oils shown to reduce cortisol in the bloodstream (namely neroli, lavender, rose, clary sage, sandalwood, patchouli, and citrus). The first inhale was the weirdest experience I have ever had in my life! It felt like a weight was falling off my shoulders. These oils reversed the feeling of ‘I’m paralyzed, and I don't know what to do.’ When I had a second panic attack a couple of days later, I sniffed my inhaler blend again and the panic attack stopped in its tracks. I never had another panic attack after that. Yes, the problems were still there, but it’s okay. I can do this. And I felt I could think clearly.”
Lucas has taken the time to develop and nurture his social media sites. They offer excellent discussions and opportunities to learn more about frequently asked questions like “Why we don't advocate the internal use of essential oils.” Likely one of the best discussions I have seen on the topic!
To get to know the essential oils in his collection better, Lucas has challenged himself to paint each of the 130 aromatics! He plans to make prints available, and include a few drops of the oil.
Lucas’ light-hearted curiosity and attention to factual details are welcoming. He currently sits on the CAOA board of directors, and has served as the past president of the Canadian Federation of Aromatherapists. He welcomes participation in the CAOA’s monthly online coffee chats, which are free and offer 1 CE credit for those who participate.
For more information on how to contact Lucas, and how he helps men achieve freedom, visit his website at www.brotherhoodaromatics.com, or find him on Facebook and Instagram at @BrotherhoodARomatics.
Anita Kalnay, RA, EOT, has 30 years of full-time practice as an aromatherapist and intuitive healer. She holds a diploma in Spiritual PhytoEssencing and has completed more than 3,200 certified hours in other natural health modalities. She is also a natural perfume designer and works with more than 500 essential oils. Located in the Comox Valley, BC, Anita currently serves on the CAOA board of directors. She can be found at www.genieinabottle.ca.
Anita Kalnay, RA®, EOT®
“All therapies and all knowledge will be absolutely obsolete. People need immediately exalted experience. And that is all human life is.”
The “me” mentality is perhaps being ushered in by the new Gen Z population. Not in a narcissistic way, but rather in ways that encourage and allow themselves to “celebrate themselves and participate in self-care.”1 The “time-out” that we all experienced through the COVID pandemic years definitely changed all of our personal patterns and gave us each more time to reflect and experience daily living on our own terms.
It was also a time when the last of the boomer generation coincidentally found themselves at retirement age and handed over the baton to the next generation to manage in their own new ways.
And transition years are always tricky!
Here are a few of these new trend highlights to consider:1
I find it interesting to take a closer look at trends research as every new vision has a starting point of asking questions: who, what, where, why, when, how and what if.
Now is the perfect time to create a new vision for moving forward personally and with those whom we consider to be close, including our professional aromatherapy peers and associations who support us.
A few years ago I felt called to simplify the entire focus of my aromatherapy practice and just call it “the aromatherapy experience.”
Encouraging and developing our creativity is also another area of unlimited potential.
“Our creativity will be our sensory system. And through this sensory system we will be overflowing with energy, touching the hearts of people, and feeling the feelings, and filling their emptiness.”2
The premise that creativity itself is a flow3of our most authentic energy in action is a “coming out,” if you will, and a willingness to present that side of ourselves through our interests, skills and priorities and how we use our most inspired energy in creative ways.
One of the first authors to actually write about flow as creativity was Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Also, the nature of kundalini energy is the energy of our most creative and authentic flow itself. And I can’t think of anything more creative than creating a blend for a client!
The next 2000 years, according to Vedic astrology, reflect a transition into air as the dominant element. We are at the very beginning of this transition. Air rules vata in Ayurveda. Its main premise isconsistent inconsistency. It also rules the nervous system, which could take into account the more recent focus on mental health, emotions and nervous system regulation that many of us may be noticing in our practice.
It takes risk to be visible—not only to ourselves, but especially to others—and that’s where an understanding of the polyvagal system comes in. We need to feel safe to do that.4
The premise of polyvagal theory is nervous system regulation.
“Our nervous system is always trying to figure out a way for us to survive, to be safe.”—Dr. Stephen Porges
The autonomic ladder, as envisioned by Deb Dana (2018), is one way to visually represent these physiological states:
Parasympathetic/ventral-vagal state: Our centred, “true self” state, where all social interaction, connection and creativity occurs.
Sympathetic state: Feeling of threat or danger, and feeling the need to either fight or flee from a situation to seek safety.
Dorsal-vagal state: Our “freeze” state, when we feel our lives are so immediately threatened that we become immobilized.
We may have studied many of these topics either on our own or as part of our work as aromatherapists, but now we are being asked to intertwine our shared knowledge and take it to the next level!
I am curious: how you are doing this?
Do you have a vision for yourself as an aromatherapist? How are you engaging the transition as we move forward and embrace new ways of working with our clients and together in teams?
One of the CAOA’s most useful discussions has been our Saturday coffee chats. If you haven’t joined in on one, it is a safe opportunity to share ideas, discuss issues and creatively think outside the box.
And don’t forget to register for our upcoming spring continuing education event featuring Dr. Kelly Ablard and essential oil sustainability.5
If we want to have a preferred future for our organization and our committed role in society, perhaps we have to “dream it in.”
Please join us. Our association is here to support YOU!
By Anita Kalnay, RA®, EOT®
What’s your story?
As an aromatherapist, the journey to developing skills and professional recognition has been like travelling around the world in a hot-air balloon. You must rise up, see the terrain below, and float gently. We’ve had to invent the industry from scratch. I know this as I have been in it now for more than 30 years!
In the beginning, the enthusiasm for discovering and using essential oils was like jet fuel. We just took off with the excitement. Distilled oils became available and books were written, many of which just copied each other. I know, as I have lots of the originals that were written. People shared their discoveries, and we became somewhat of a garden of those who love scent.
As I read through some of the old journals on my shelf, I realize how naive yet enthusiastic and authentically interested we all were in what aromatherapy had to offer.
Leap to 2022
Now we are in a very cultivated garden, and each one of us can choose our role. Yes, it is still an aromatherapy garden, if you want to use that metaphor, but now we are challenged to take it to the next level and choose what we personally want to tend and cultivate as a member. As a gardener of plants, I know that they take lots of work! And that the reward comes from patience and where we put our focus.
Are you just beginning your studies as an aromatherapist or have you cultivated your interests and generated a livelihood from your love of scent?
Wherever you are, that’s okay. We are here to serve you as your professional association!
However, there is also a big scope of practice and a lifelong commitment to the joy of learning.
Getting your professional recognition as an RA® and EOT® is the starting point of opening the door to the journey itself.
As your professional association, we have dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s regarding the paperwork of creating a stable foundation for your professional journey. This year, we have decided to take a closer look at just where you can go now that you have the ticket, so to speak.
Where can you go with your skills and interests, also known as scope of practice?
How can we offer CE credits and supportive programs that will be as interesting as a ticket to your next destination? How can we communicate and create community around our successes and find supportive ways to evaluate failures, which really ask us to identify and solve problems? How can we communicate and educate others and how can we continue to be life-long learners ourselves as our industry evolves and grows? These are just some of the questions we are asking right now.
What’s in place already?
1. Saturday coffee chats (you receive credit for your participation)
2. Relevant online events featuring current topics in the industry that are designed to keep us up-to-date and informed, and offer credits and an opportunity to be part of the discussion
Business Membership Opportunities
As business stems from the focus of our scope of practice, it is important that our business members lead the way through their commitment to the industry and the area that they have chosen to focus on and develop. As we plant these new seeds, I’d love to tell your story! I love writing and would be delighted to interview you and tell others about what you do and your goals and dreams for our industry!
Business Membership Basics: What you need to know
Q. Can you be a business member and an RA at the same time?
A. Yes! But you don’t have to be an RA to be a business member.
Q. What is the cost of a business membership?
A. $95 per year.
Q. What benefits do business members get?
A. Free advertising in our monthly newsletter.
Q. What if I am self-employed? Would it benefit to be a business member?
A. That’s up to you. If you want free advertising and more focus on your offerings, then absolutely!
So, what’s your story?
1. What circumstances led you to become an aromatherapist?
2. What challenges did you face or overcome in the process?
3. How has your life changed because of your efforts, commitment, and the actions that you took?
Your story is creating the world of aromatherapy that we share with others!
If you want to tell your story, I want to hear it. It can be as simple as asking questions that you can answer on your own time, or an interview that I can write up and we can both share.
Here is a link to the business membership category for more information.
You will also notice a few new categories of membership, including professional aromatherapist, which requires only 200 credit hours of course work, and qualified aromatherapist to accommodate those who might be retired or on leave but still interested in participating in our CAOA offerings.
What issue are we addressing as a non-profit that represents you?
• Membership involvement and satisfaction: you asked for it so let’s do it!
• Our blog posts focus on the issues that you face and overcome
Your stories exude hope, solutions, and the commitment to the cause that you took on through your efforts, time and resources. They also show others the scope of practice that aromatherapists actually take on as a professional journey.
In the coming year, I want to focus on the stories of our members. Contact me, and let’s make this fun, entertaining, insightful and inspiring to your peers!
My hope is to acknowledge your contribution to our industry and to put the puzzle of our members together to illustrate how we all use our skills and interests in likely very different ways.
E-mail Anita at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In my President's message this month, I mentioned a diffuser blend I enjoyed.
I have included the recipe below for you.
This blend has a calming effect. However, it is also high in monoterpenes, at 44%, so it might also help with congestion (LabAroma, 2022); it is always helpful to have a decongestant around this time of year! Remember that monoterpenes oxidize easily and may irritate mucous membranes and the skin. So take care. You can view additional safety information here.
Physically, the blend ranks high for the reproductive system and skin (LabAroma, 2022). Although I intend not to aid either of the systems, I will not turn down the help!
I used LabAroma to help formulate this blend and review its chemical properties. If you haven't used LabAroma, I highly recommend it. They also give CAOA members a discount.
I hope you enjoy this blend as much as I did.
LabAroma. (2022, November, 22). Presidents Message November 2022. https://www.labaroma.com/
By Lucas Anderson, RA®, EOT®
You get home from a long, tiring day. Maybe you’ve been doing some physical work and are feeling sore. What do you do? You decide to pour yourself a nice hot bath, with some bath salts, and think, “I’ll add some essential oils and make it an aromatic bath!” But here’s a dilemma for any person, and aromatherapist. How can we enjoy an aromatic bath without causing any topical reactions? Well, there are some options. What I have found in talking with people, therapists included, is that most still don’t really do it appropriately.
So how can you mix the oil with the bath water without it floating on top, ready to burn your skin or cause a dermal reaction? We know oil and water don’t mix on their own. They require emulsification to mix. But what do you use? Some people will mix essential oils with Epsom salt before adding them to the bath water. However, this does not emulsify the oils in the water, and you still end up with a layer floating on top of the water. Some add them to witch hazel, milk or aloe gel, none of which truly emulsify the oils with water. In most cases you still end up with essential oils floating on top of the water. You can’t even see this layer because it's very thin and spread out.
On top of all the mixing issues, there is the added frustration of longevity of aroma. Every time I’ve added essential oils to a bath, I get to smell them for all of five minutes and then the rest of the bath is, well, bathwater.
So, to address both issues, there are a few solutions. The one I believe is the best solution, I will share last.
First off, emulsification. To truly suspend an essential oil, you need an actual emulsifier. Aloe gel, milk and witch hazel are not actual emulsifiers. Even 95% grain alcohol doesn’t emulsify essential oils in water. It does somewhat, but not completely and properly. It's more of a solvent of essential oils, not an emulsifier. What I have found in the past year is that polysorbate 20 is an amazing emulsifier that works well for essential oils, and doesn’t require a lot, approximately equal parts polysorbate and essential oils. This will allow the oils to become suspended in the water and not be concentrated in one area. Another emulsifier is common soap! It makes the essential oil molecules water soluble, allowing them to become suspended in the water and not concentrated on top of the water. If you use an unscented soap, you shouldn’t have conflicting aromas.
Both these solutions only address the topical aspect of essential oils, but still have one problem in common. That is the fact that essential oils are volatile compounds and, even at room temperature, dissipate into the air. Add them to hot water and they’ll dissipate even faster! The one problem that I’ve always had with aromatic baths, apart from occasional dermal reactions, is that the aroma portion only lasts about five minutes and then I can only smell bath water. And when you enjoy your bath for 20 to 30 minutes, that’s rather disappointing, to say the least.
Here is my solution that I have come to over the years. I pour my bath, I add the plain Epsom salts, get that all mixed up nicely. Then, I will put my essential oils onto a facial tissue, which I place on the edge of the tub, next to my head. This way I don’t worry about possible skin reactions to any oils I decide to use, and as the oils stay at room temperature, they dissipate much slower than at the temperature of the warm bath water. I can enjoy the aromatic bath for the full 30 minutes and not be burned by a dermal reaction, or disappointed by the short occurrence of the aromatic portion of the bath!
I hope you find this blog post useful in your aromatic bathing routine.
About the author: Lucas Anderson, RA®, EOT®, with seven years' experience as an aromatherapist, has been focussing on men's health and helping men achieve freedom. He has a passion for health as close to nature as possible and currently works with more than 130 essential oils. Located in Edmonton, Lucas is past president of the CFA and is currently serving on the CAOA board of directors. You can learn more about Lucas at www.brotherhoodaromatics.com.
Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay.
By Margo Fletcher, RA®, EOT®, and Anita Kalnay, RA®, EOT®
I thoroughly enjoyed this recording of Dr. Ablard’s webinar, as she begins by sharing the concept of sustainability and how its true meaning is defined in the intentions of the first peoples to safeguard the future of their people for at least seven generations, and she shines a light on how our lack of sustainability is impacting the world right now as we experience global warming and climate change.
Dr. Ablard is intent on having us see where our own responsibilities lie within this concept of sustainability, and she highlights the steps we can take toward the thoughtful and ethical use of the essential oils we are using. We as aromatherapists need to not only be aware and informed of the essential oil bearing plants that we are using, but also of the impacts of sustainably harvesting of these plants, and the importance of holding the people we buy our products from accountable for the part they play in bringing them to us.
She outlines guidelines to demonstrate sustainable practices, which are revealing and concise for someone new to this important idea and she breaks them down into five easy-to-understand sections of environmental, social, cultural, economic, and distribution and labeling.
Then she covers the topic of biodiversity, a term used to describe the enormous variety of life on earth, and explains how one species, our species is impacting the world.
She shares with us that although we are in a biodiversity crisis there is still hope. There are organizations such as the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) that are working to identify the different species that need help and The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which is an international agreement to which governments voluntarily adhere and which seeks to ensure that the trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
We can become informed about a specific plant’s conservation status by using the above list and by connecting with the IUCN and CITES organizations to see if we are using any of these threatened species in our own aromatherapy practices and thus change how we purchase and utilize these plants as well as inform others within our circles on the importance of sustainability and what this means for us all.
As a side note, I have tried numerous times for information on the essential oils that I was purchasing from my suppliers and what I received was a batch number of authenticity, not the chemical break down that I was looking for, so I will be reaching out to Dr. Albard for her guidance on how to phrase my request for the necessary information I am seeking.
I found the webinar informative as well as empowering and I am grateful to Dr. Ablard for her groundbreaking work and the CAOA for showcasing her presentation.
The CAOA recently hosted an online seminar with Dr. Kelly Ablard. Many of you might recognize her name as a faculty member at Essence of Thyme.
She is also the founder of Airmid Institute. The name Airmid refers to the Irish goddess Airmid, whose healing tears (in the story her father killed her brother) gave life to all the healing herbs in the world, which she then collected and wore.
Kelly’s mission became one of giving back life to dying plant species, and to celebrate and share the many traditional secrets of plant medicine kept by Indigenous healers worldwide.
Her knowledge is key to assisting us all as aromatherapists, who use distilled plants in our practices, to meet our needs and those of our clients, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
Kelly and her team, which comprises directors, global ambassadors, members and interns from all over the world, work together as a well-connected group to help preserve plant species and their use. As I looked through their website, these folks are passionate, well-educated individuals who truly care about sustainability.
Kelly outlined five areas of sustainability in her introductory workshop. The CAOA board has decided that our spring event will also be on this topic as it was extremely well received!
The five areas of sustainability include:
Ethically: “We don’t have a right to drive other species to extinction.”
2010 was the year that the sixth extinction was revealed. Earth has undergone five extinctions in human history, and the sixth was revealed in 2010. Rapid climate change is the biggest challenge.
Plants, humans and animals cannot adapt fast enough to accommodate the changes and the result is habitat loss. The main driver of climate change is carbon dioxide and plants are the “carbon fixers” of our Earth!
As humans dealing with this, Kelly suggests that “we are so misguided, we don’t even know where to start.” Education and awareness being two of the biggest issues.
As aromatherapists who use the tools of nature, we ask ourselves “where do WE start”, and what does that mean for our industry and the essential oils that we use as the tools of our profession?
I was surprised to learn that the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) was already UICN at the helm, and that they had already developed a five-level criteria as part of their focus on building nature-positive economies and societies.
Five-level criteria to evaluate endangered species:
A. Population reduction of species
B. Restricted geographic range
C. Small population size and decline
D. Very small or restricted population
E. Extinction: probability analysis
Agarwood: Critically endangered, fewer than 250 species in the wild, expected to decline in one generation or three years by 25%
Vanilla: Globally endangered, fewer than 2,500 species, five years or two generations expected to decline
Sandalwood: Facing extinction but being reseeded in project areas such as Australia
Elemi: Near threatened;there is excessive mutilation of the tree in order to strip bark and resin
Lavender, eucalyptus and virginia cedarwood: Species of least concern
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement between governments to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of a the species.
CITES lists all the species protected by international trade. It also has a regularly updated database and dashboard of species at risk.
Kelly offers key information and education on threatened species and ethical sourcing as well as tips to empower all of us as consumers and users of essential oils. Airmid Institute also has a list of threatened plants that is updated annually. You can request this list at https://airmidinstitute.org.
As an aromatherapist, this was fascinating to find out and inspiring to know that essential to the future of our industry itself is the work that these groups do on our behalf at a global level.
By Anita Kalnay, RA, EOT
Meet Steven Williams, the Sweetgrass Guy
“2022 was the wettest June EVER, seven inches of rain! At least here in St. Albert, Alberta!
“Sweetgrass loves the moisture but I couldn’t get access to the field,” says Steven Williams as we begin our conversation about sweetgrass.
“July came around and things dried up.”
Steven is “the sweetgrass guy” and the only commercial distiller of sweetgrass hydrosol that he is aware of. So the fact that you as a CAOA member get to meet and read about him is a treasure in itself!
“Sweetgrass is distilled from the Hierochloe odorata species, also known as ‘holy grass.’ It is unique in that it does not produce an essential oil, only an aromatic water known as a hydrosol. There is no such thing as sweetgrass essential oil as the plant does not contain any oil.
"I start a new patch every year. The plot itself is an area about the size of a large city lot. The harvest is best on the second year cut for distillation.”
“Sweetgrass is not conducive to growing in large plots. It has to be grown in smaller plots. It spreads by underground runners. So you put a row out and in a year it’s two to three paces wide. But as it spreads it becomes weaker in the centre, like a donut, and it can get weedy. The plots are small and new ones need to be planted every year. I’m picky about weeds, so by year three I till the plot under and start a new patch. From one patch that begins as a row 10 metres long, I can get one or two truckloads by year two, so it yields well.”
How do you cut it?
“I use a weed whacker with a hedge trimmer blade. I take long swipes and it lays it all down.
“It demands personal attention. It wouldn’t be economically feasible to mechanize the plant harvest, so there is a lot of hand labour involved,” he chuckles.
How did you get into sweetgrass distillation?
“I used to work at the University of Alberta at the botany greenhouses. One year, a grad student gave me a handful of sweetgrass seed. An aromatherapist suggested I try to distill the grass. My question was ‘then what’? What do you do with the hydrosol after distilling it? Who would be interested in buying it?
“Her answer was rather straight forward ‘I’m not sure who you will sell it to, but you’ll figure that out.’
“Persistence pays. I did my first batch in 2003. It took four to five years before I felt like it would be worth doing. It takes a few years to even determine whether it is worth even pursuing as a crop focus. Not just will it grow, but what do I do with it after I grow it. I spent a lot of time sending e-mails and samples out before it got going.
“By 2006 to 2008, after a few years of growing and distilling, I felt like the idea was going to work. There were people interested in purchasing sweetgrass hydrosol.”
Steven retired from the U of A in 2018.
“I used to grow medicinal herbs, such as wild mint, monarda, rhodiola and echinacea. Anybody can grow a plant, that’s not the hard part. The hard part is how do you sell and pay for your time.”
How do you get customers?
“Sweetgrass is one that worked. There is no competition. No one else in the world does it. I do hundreds of litres every year. I find that most of my customers have referred other people. All my business is done from e-mail contacts and referrals. I don’t even have a website. I sell out every year, why would I want to manage a website?
“There is a lot to the management. I have sales mostly in North America. Thankfully, I have a loyal following, and people often go from 1 to 30 litres per order as they get familiar with the product and figure out what to do with it. It’s been wonderful!”
Who buys it?
“Aromatherapists are the main customers. Many customers use the hydrosol as an ingredient in cosmetic products. Also, lots of New Age shops buy it, meaning people who sell herbs and crystals. Tourist locations in the U.S. sell the hydrosol, but sweetgrass is anything but main stream.”
Suggested uses include:
What about Indigenous users?
“It is used by the Native community. They use the sweetgrass braids, but the hydrosol is not culturally used so the Indigenous market is still largely untapped in that regard.
“The average person doesn’t have a clue what to do with a hydrosol water. The scent that comes out of sweetgrass is from the coumarins, meaning sweet clover and hay scents that smell like new mown hay.”
I have also used tonka bean-infused crystals in natural perfumery. The sweet coumarin hay-like scent is used to make fougère and chypre accords. I love the smell of new-mown hay. Research suggests that it can be used safely in cosmetic products and it has been used in food where it is often a companion to vanilla in scent and taste offerings; however, food use in Canada has been discontinued.
“Sweetgrass does not contain or produce any essential oil. It does, however, produce a beautiful and fragrant hydrosol.”
I ordered a batch and asked how long should I let it sit when I receive my hydrosol after distillation.
“Every batch is different. The first few litres of a distillation always has a little more earthy scent than the middle or last portion of a distillation.
“I hesitate to ship the hydrosol soon after distilling because it does need time to breathe and off-gas. It smells a bit raw/earthy for the first few weeks or even months sometimes. These off notes tend to dissipate over time. So, given a bit of time, it always mellows out to the fragrance we all so like.
“It is much like wine in that regard. Time allows it to mellow out and bring the desired fragrances forward. Let it rest in a cool, dark place to off-gas. There really is no magic number, but sweetgrass hydrosol should rest for a few weeks minimum after distilling. And like wine, you do nothing but let it be and it mellows out itself.”
As a side note, all hydrosols should be stored in a cool, dark place free of light and heat, which can cause degradation and microbial blooms.
How does the distillation process work?
“Care is taken to only distill the fresh green leaves and areal plant parts (seeds, stems, etc). Dead stems will produce a dead grass smell. It’s not a pleasant odour, but you can detect it. I pick all of the dead grass out.”
“A small distiller was made. It is a mobile distiller left over from an herb group that I used to belong to. It’s available, but I am the only one using it.
“Distilling is a very specialized field. You have to be in it for the long run. Even if you find plants to distill, you are back to how do I market it? In order to sell your product, you have to reach out to a lot of potential customers and do a lot of door knocking. The trick being to work with what you know, work within your own area, and stay focussed.”
What is the chemical profile analysis?
“I have never tried to get an analysis done on a hydrosol. It will give you the phand the microcompounds present, but what do you do with that? With sweetgrass hydrosol, there is not good reason to incur the expenses of an analysis because the results do not mean anything to anybody.
“To justify getting a gas chromatograph, there must be a reason for this expensive test. With lavender oil, the chemical profile may tell you which species of lavender you are dealing with. Sweetgrass hydrosol is a water containing the essence of the plant. There is no essential oil profile to see.”
What does the customer do with it?
“Creating mist bottles for aerosol sprays is the most common use. Many blend it with other hydrosols or essential oils. Cosmetic products, creams and lotions are also a common use. I had one client in Saskatoon who uses it to make soap. They all have their own reasons. It depends on the person. I’m just happy to hear that they are using it! There is a customer in Ontario who has a fairly good market with funeral homes. She does a stress-release spray with lavender that is relaxing and refreshing. The funeral home sprays the area before events. Everyone has their own niche market.”
I use it for smudging an area as a liquid smudge for clearing space. I’ve also tried as a natural perfumer to recreate the scent using 100% natural essential oils and I have created a blend called Peace that was launched in 2020. Most of my clients say that misting the back of the neck before bed helps to create a peaceful sleep.
Do you have a relationship with the plant itself?
“Whenever you grow a plant, you have a relationship. I do less talking and more listening. If you have the knowledge and background, plants will tell you things if you listen. For instance, a nutrient deficiency can be detected by observing a plant or perhaps water stress is shown by the burning/browning of leaf tips.”
In summary, “It takes a lot of effort and work when you take the first few steps. The rest will come,” was Steven’s takeaway looking back.
“Also, that there are not many people in Canada or North America that even do distilling. It’s hard to narrow down the field itself. So many are just microdistillers on the kitchen table. I am more than surprised about how things have fallen into place over the years.”
For more information, and to get on Steven’s e-mail list, please send a message to email@example.com. He does respond right away.
About the author: Anita Kalnay, RA, EOT, has 30 years of full-time practice as an aromatherapist and intuitive healer. She holds a diploma in Spiritual PhytoEssencing and has completed more than 3,200 certified hours in other natural health modalities. She is also a natural perfume designer and works with more than 500 essential oils. Located in the Comox Valley, BC, Anita currently serves on the CAOA board of directors. She can be found at www.genieinabottle.ca.
“I just LOVE hearing people’s stories and sharing them. If you have a story to tell, please feel free to contact me. I’d LOVE to hear it. Our aromatherapy profession has grown because of people like YOU! You can write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Lucas Anderson, RA®, EOT®
In the aromatherapy industry, there are a few rather heated topics. Depending on the audience, you can get some who think essential oils are completely harmless and only helpful, and you can get those who come across as fear mongering. You can even get those who believe that their brand of oil is the only one safe enough because it's the only pure essential oil on the market. I’ve also seen professionals get caught up in less than sound logic, using examples for why one shouldn’t use essential oils internally because of some property they possess that can be perceived as harmful to an unrelated object.
Last year, a fellow member of a Facebook group posted the ingestion question as she had been approached by several people asking about ingestion of essential oils. And she knew from her training that we aren’t supposed to do that or recommend it, but she wasn’t sure how to explain it to these individuals. I shared my rationale behind not recommending internal use of oils, and why it is far beyond our scope of practice as aromatherapists. I believe when you understand what you’re dealing with, it’s easier to understand why. When you understand what essential oils really are, when you understand the body and the systems within to protect, build and support the whole, it becomes clear why ingestion of essential oils is not something to take lightly, nor should it be undertaken without a greater understanding of what’s happening within the body. The following is my explanation to anyone, but particularly fellow aromatherapists who are trying to explain the hot topic to clients or other members of the general public, including sellers of essential oils.
I will point out here that I am not a medical doctor or pharmacist, nor do I have a bachelor of science degree. In my aromatic journey, I have simply picked up things from various professionals and have come to this understanding on my own.
A relatively brief reasoning for not ingesting essential oils
So that everyone can understand why this application of essential oils is so far beyond our scope of practice as qualified aromatherapists, I am going to give a relatively brief explanation of some of the considerations involved.
Internal usage of essential oils constitutes medicine. Period. And practising medicine without a licence is illegal. Essential oils comprise chemical constituents just like all drugs. Each oil can contain upwards of about 200 diﬀerent chemical compounds. As such, there is far more involved than just purity of the oils, or even the state of the liver! A pure essential oil can be equally as dangerous as an adulterated one when you truly understand what you're using.
The body is a very complex organism and needs to be treated with the respect its due. When you take in a "drug" (which I will include essential oils in this category for the rest of the post), that drug will be metabolized by the liver, at some point. However, the liver is not the only organ that has to handle the drug, its subsequent waste material and metabolites. Once the body has made use of the drug, it must excrete the ensuing waste product. So you have other organs involved in the process including kidneys, sweat glands and lungs.
Now to go back to that ". . . at some point." Depending on the route chosen by the properly trained professional, e.g. oral, sublingual, rectal, intravenous, etc., the essential oils/drugs will reach first pass metabolism (FPM) at diﬀerent points, if at all. FPM is the point at which the liver has to deal with whatever you're putting into the body and metabolizes, or breaks down, a substance into something usable, or excretable. Not all roads lead directly tothe liver, they take diﬀerent routes. Anything taken in orally will be the first to reach FPM. This means that what an oil does on the outside, may not be what it'll do internally. Those same oils/drugs taken rectally will pass through the system diﬀerently before reaching the liver.
For a purely illustrative purpose, the following are the travel paths through the body for diﬀerent routes of administration:
Sublingual/Buccal: Sublingual vein → internal jugular → superior vena cava → heart →lungs → heart → systemic circulation → liver
Vaginal: Vaginal vein → internal iliac vein → inferior vena cava → heart → lungs → heart →
systemic circulation → liver
Rectal: 1/3 superior rectal vein → liver (FPM)
Rectal: 1/3 middle rectal vein → internal iliac vein → inferior vena cava → heart → lungs →heart → systemic circulation → liver
Rectal: 1/3 inferior rectal vein → inferior pudendal vein → internal iliac vein → inferior vena cava → heart → lung → heart → systemic circulation → liver
Inhalation: Lungs → heart → systemic circulation → liver
Intranasal: Brain → heart → lungs → heart → systemic circulation → liver
Oral: Hepatic portal system → liver (FPM)
Essentially, FPM will happen to all oral routes, and only about 30%–50% of rectal. Drugs taken in through inhalation will pass through the system diﬀerently and not go directly to the liver. So again, knowing the chemical composition of the oils (and what chemicals will get metabolized as what in the body), and knowing what compounds will get metabolized as toxic substances (our liver can break down some compounds into more toxic compounds, which will drain the liver of glutathione and potentially damage the liver by depleting it of this substance quickly), and knowing how those compounds will aﬀect the diﬀerent organs they'll pass by, and . . . Are you beginning to understand the breadth of the scope of medical aromatherapy yet and why this is outside of our scope, that of all MLM companies suggesting taking them internally and, for that matter, even some medical professionals?
Then once they've been "used" by the body, there is the matter of waste. Diﬀerent compounds will compete for the same exit strategy. Meaning that if you take two drugs that exit the body in the same manner, e.g. kidneys etc., you can cause a strain on the exit pathway, or you can cause an excess of waste materials to build up. Neither are good.
Whenever anyone is recommending internal use of essential oils without knowing pharmacokinetics/dynamics, the diﬀerent systems of the body completely, how the body excretes the various waste products that are created or how the body will metabolize those compounds, they have no right, licence or legal permissibility to give any such recommendations. This area is a very broad and large scope and cannot be simplified down to a generality of "oh if you have (insert random complaint), just take a capsule with this oil, this oil, and this oil." It's not that simple. And there is a reason that those of us who realize this, shutter, cringe and get very vocal about it!
As well, don't get caught up in the marketing game either! I’ll include this in this discussion because I’ve heard people say that it is okay to take essential oils internally because they are natural and therefore harmless. “Natural” is a term that is used in marketing because when people hear the word, they assume it must be better for you and less harmful, if at all. Well, remember this: gasoline is natural, it comes from petroleum, which comes from the ground, naturally. Lye is natural, it's found in the ash of burned wood, among other things. Pure lye will most certainly kill you! Aconite, a beautiful flower also known as monkshood, is extremely poisonous and will kill you if consumed in small quantities, but is completely natural! Poison ivy is natural. Don't get caught up in the natural = harmless movement, especially in the discussion of internal use of essential oils. Yes, they are natural; however, they can cause harm. They can trigger allergies, interfere and interact with other medications, and they can definitely exacerbate various medical conditions (such as epilepsy). The body metabolizes essential oils just like any other drug. Wintergreen’s primary constituent, methylsalycylate, is metabolized into salicylic acid, just like acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin).
I hope that this is helpful in explaining why this topic is such a hot one, and why it is such a big one! I haven't even scratched the surface of the things that need to be considered. My answer is not complete or exhaustive, and I may have incorrectly described some of the functions of diﬀerent parts of the body, but the point is that there is a lot to understand before making a suggestion of internal use of essential oils.
Webb, Mark. Aromatic Therapies: A world viewpoint. Mark Webb lecture, Canadian Federation of Aromatherapists. Toronto, 2017.
Miller, Timothy. AromaPharmacokinetics Full Course. Timothy Miller Online Course, Naturopathic CE, www.naturopathicce.com
About the author: Lucas Anderson, RA®, EOT®, with seven years' experience as an aromatherapist, has been focussing on men's health and helping them achieve freedom. He has a passion for health as close to nature as possible and currently works with more than 130 essential oils. Located in Edmonton, Lucas is past president of the CFA and is currently serving on the CAOA board of directors. You can learn more about Lucas at www.brotherhoodaromatics.com.
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