Sure, inhaling samples of essential oils at the local health food store is nice but did you know you can make a living as an aromatherapist? Practices steeped in antiquity have made a modern come-back as more and more people look to natural healing methods for pain relief and peace of mind.
We know the ancient Egyptians developed one of the first distillation machines to extract oils from certain plants such as cedarwood, clove, and cinnamon, which they used to embalm the dead. Before them, 90 percent of the people living on the Indian subcontinent used plant-based remedies featured in Ayurvedic medicine – which is still well-established today.
But the Chinese seem to be the first people to use infused aromatic oils to elevate mood and feel good about life. The Greeks said the gods were gifted with the knowledge of perfume and fragrance.
French chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse first used the term “aromatherapy” in 1937 after he successfully used lavender oil to help cure a burn. That incident triggered his curiosity about the healing power of essential oils. In World War II, a French surgeon named Jean Valnet treated wounded soldiers with essential oils to aid their healing. Therapeutic-grade essential oils can also help acne problems.
The word aromatherapy comes from “aroma” – which means a noticeable and often pleasant smell – and “therapy” (from the Greek word therapeia: THARE-a-PIE-yuh) – which means “to heal or minister to.” Aromatherapy uses nice smells for their therapeutic properties.
Popular scents used in aromatherapy include not only lavender but vanilla, orange, rose, pine, chamomile, eucalyptus, and peppermint. Fragrant substances have specific healing properties associated with them.
Western allopathic medicine treats with a substance that opposes the body’s own mechanisms. Allopathy is the primary medical system in most countries whose treatment methods are pharmaceutical drugs and surgery.
In contrast, alternative, naturopathic or homeopathic therapies regard the body as a whole (medical holism) with interoperative parts that influence each other, all energized by pathways of vital life force (chi). Holistic practitioners look for the underlying cause of a disease or general unwellness along with relieving symptoms.
Mainstream medical doctors may now provide Functional Medicine, “a personalized, systems-oriented model that empowers patients and practitioners to achieve the highest expression of health by working in collaboration to address the underlying causes of disease.”
Classes and licenses in aromatherapy are available. Unlike allopathic medical degrees, there is no equivalent in the essential oils industry of a health professional who has earned a professional degree from a valid degree-granting institution. No aromatherapy certification programs correspond to the hours or extent of training required of a doctor or medical professional.
Even so, many different organizations offer coursework and diplomas, license or certificates in aromatherapy. Some are well-regarded in the industry while others are not so much. Seek an accredited institution with sound credentials and solid alumni testimonials.
Aromatherapy students who offer alternative therapies such as massage, reiki, and naturopathy may be motivated to learn another valuable wellness service they can add to their suite existing therapeutic techniques.
Some people who enroll in aromatherapy classes may simply curious and want to learn about the benefits to help themselves and their families. Essential oil companies may offer training to help promote awareness – and their products.
The American College of Healthcare Sciences (ACHS) has been accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) since June 2003. The DEAC is listed by the U.S. Department of Education as a recognized accrediting agency and recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). The ACHS has certificate, diploma, and degree plans up to Master of Science in Aromatherapy.
The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) is a non-profit association devoted to the holistic integration and education of aromatherapy into a wide range of complementary healthcare practices including self-care and home pharmacy. NAHA-approved schools uphold educational standards based on scientific, empirical and current information about aromatherapy and essential oils.
The Alliance of International Aromatherapists (AIA) has established criteria for levels of academic training. Students who complete 200 classroom hours of AIA-approved classes are eligible to take the Aromatherapy Registration Council’s registration exam. AIA’s Advanced Practitioner Level requires 400 hours of training.
People love aromatic products. The global aromatherapy market size was valued at $1.3 billion in 2018. U.S. consumers paid out about $500 million on essential oils in 2019.
So why not pick a profession where you and your clients end up smelling like roses?