Lesson 1: What is Aromatherapy?

Please view the following video’s before beginning the rest of the lesson.


Required Reading

  • Foundational Aromatherapy 1st edition and 2nd edition pages 1-2
  • Foundational Aromatherapy 1st and 2nd edition pages VIII-X
  • Foundational Aromatherapy 1st edition pages 11-13; 2nd edition pages 11-15
  • Passport to Aromatherapy pages ix-x; page 12&14-16
  • A Closer Look: Secretory Structures of Aromatic and Medicinal Plants – HerbalGram. 200153:34-43 American Botanical Council

What is Aromatherapy? How would you use a working knowledge of essential oils?

Welcome to the wonderful world of aromatherapy! This book is for beginners, as well as the seasoned Aromatherapists, and I want your experience with the amazing gifts of essential oils and blends to be a positive one. Naturally, I expect you will soon enjoy aromatherapy as much as my family and I do!

Aromatherapy is the practice of using volatile plant oils. Volatile means the oils evaporate into the air so we can smell them, not that they explode! These oils come from various parts of the plants such as: leaves, roots, stems, wood, flowers, fruits, resin or sap, seeds or pods, and the peelings from citrus fruits. Plant essences serve the plant in many ways, including protection from insects or to attract insects for pollination. Plants communicate with each other using their natural odors for their own protection and for healing purposes. Essential oils are useful to us in many of the same ways: for psychological and physical health, protection and comfort, and to attract others.

In aromatherapy, the use of other all-natural ingredients are sometimes used to obtain a plant oil’s full effects, whether they are cold-pressed vegetable oils (such as grapeseed, olive, or sunflower), jojoba (a liquid wax extracted from the pods of the plant), hydrosols (the water left over after the distillation process), herbs, sea salts, sugars, clays, and muds. The most common way oils are used is by inhalation, the act of smelling the aroma of the oil.

There are three basic aromatherapy styles with essential oils: German, English, and French. German style aromatherapy suggests that oils should only be smelled and never applied to the body in any way.

English style includes both smelling and applying to the skin, but only when highly diluted with a vegetable oil or other essential oil carrier, such as bath salts or clays.

The French, who have used essential oils for decades, take a more medicinal approach, which includes internal use—both orally and internally as a suppository. Of course, they also employ the two English methods of inhalation and diluted topical use. Although I have been trained in all three methods, this book will focus mainly on the English style.

Essential oils can be blended together to create appealing aromas or to target specific purposes, such as pain, colds, or flu prevention. An essential oil blend is considered to work better than using each oil independently. Blends are also called synergies because of their synergistic effect—the sum of the collective whole is greater than the sum of the individual parts. Single essential oils are selected for blending by reviewing the beneficial effects of their natural chemicals—by plant part, plant families, or by note.

Note means the evaporation rate of an oil. Does it evaporate quickly, like the citrus oils that have a lighter scent? Or, does it evaporate more slowly, with the base notes that usually come from the root? Blending by note is usually done to achieve a particular aroma for a natural perfume or for psychological or emotional effects.

When used correctly, oils can have astronomical effects on the body; but if used incorrectly, they can have consequences. A healthy sense of appropriate caution is advised. Also, be aware that not all products labeled “aromatherapy” are pure and natural. Some may contain artificial ingredients and do not provide the beneficial properties that an all-natural product would supply. And, just because an oil label says it is pure, and maybe it is, does not mean it is effective—because there are many factors affecting it: where was it grown, how it was harvested or when, and the temperature or pressure of the distillation process. A host of items must be addressed to ensure the oils will provide the desired results. While I use the terms all natural and pure, I prefer genuine and authentic. These were terms I learned while studying with advanced Aromatherapists Kurt Schnaubelt Ph.D. who said:

“This is the ultimate attainable in essential oils. Starting with the cultivation (or in the case of wild plants), with the harvest, everything is done with the final goal in mind: to produce the best possible essential oils.”

Amazing things can happen to you when you learn about essential oils. Ask yourself: What amazing changes are about to begin in my life?

Claims Guide for Essential Oils

Based on examples from the FDA. Food and Drug Administration, Guidance for Industry: Structure/ Function Claims.


Cosmetic claims: Claims that a product cleanses, beautifies, promotes attractiveness, or alters appearance.

Structure-function claims:  Claims that a product helps the body stay healthy and function normally or contributes to general well being, e.g., “supports the immune system.”

Disease/drug/medical claims: Claims that a product diagnoses, prevents, treats, or cures disease.

Disease: Damage to an organ, part, structure, or system of the body such that it does not function properly as from colds, flu, arthritis, cancer, depression, etc.

FDA disclaimer: “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.”


Disease Claim Structure-Function Claim (Things you can’t say.)

  • Prevents, treats, cures any kind of sickness, illness, infection, disease, chronic condition, etc.
  • Along with better dietary and exercise patterns, can prevent conditions like heart disease, stoke, diabetes, and cancer.
  • Fights germs, viruses, bacteria, or allergens
  • Fights colds and flu
  • Relieves insomnia
  • Soothes arthritis pain
  • Relieves constipation (without further qualification)
  • Reduces depression and anxiety
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • For ear infections
  • Helps fight obesity
  • Helps with ADD/ADHD
  • For dementia and Alzheimer’s
  • For toxemia
  • Prevents osteoporosis
  • For hyperemesis  gravidarum
  • Treats cystic acne
  • Relieves pain (without further qualification)
  • Relieves heartburn or acid indigestion (without further qualification)
  • For nausea (without further qualification)
  • For chronic fatigue or daytime drowsiness
Claims you should Never Use:
  • Don’t use disease claims.
  • Don’t use words such as “disease,” “illness,” “cure,” “treat,” “repair,” “chronic,”  etc.
  • Don’t refer to any disease or illness such as cancer, diabetes, autism, cold, flu, etc.
  • Don’t refer to symptoms of disease such as coughing, sneezing, fever,etc.
  • Don’t recommend a product as a substitute for a drug.
  • Don’t recommend a product to augment a therapy or drug.
  • Don’t imply a disease claim through pictures or symbols.
STRUCTURE-FUNCTION CLAIM (Things you can say.)
  • Supports, maintains, or improves health, wellness, or structures and functions of the body like the brain, the heart, the liver, muscles and joints, the respiratory system, cognitive function, etc.
  • Supports the immune system
  • Relieves occasional sleeplessness
  • Relieves head and neck tension
  • Supports cartilage and joint function
  • Reduces sad and anxious feelings; also, helps you relax, calms emotions, soothes away tension, relieves restlessness, eliminates irritability
  • Maintains healthy cholesterol levels that are already within the normal range
  • For occasional ear discomfort
  • Helps with weight loss plan
  • Helps with focus and staying on task
  • For mild memory problems associated with aging
  • For edema associated with pregnancy
  • For ordinary morning sickness
  • Supports bone health
  • Treats mild acne
  • Relieves occasional or mild heartburn or acid indigestion; also for occasional upset stomach, aid digestion, and alleviates gas or bloating
  • For occasional nausea or motion sickness
  • Relieves occasional constipation
  • Relieves minor pain or pain associated with non-disease states such as muscle pain following exercise
  • Helps restore mental alertness or wakefulness when experiencing fatigue or drowsiness
  • For seasonal or environmental threats
  • Use as part of your diet to help maintain an already healthy blood sugar level
  • Along with better dietary and exercise patterns, can contribute to disease prevention and better health

Only use structure-function claims that are substantiated for the product being discussed.  Not intended as substitutes.

Claims to be used as:
  • Do refer to temporary emotions (“lifts mood,” “reduces irritability”)
  • Do use cosmetic claims (“cleanses,” improves appearance”)
  • Do use structure-function claims only with products labeled for internal use.
  • Use words such as  “health,” “wellness,” “supports,” “maintains,” etc.
  • Refer to general body parts and systems (“for heart health,” “supports the respiratory system”).
  • Refer to normal conditions associated with a natural state or process (morning sickness during pregnancy,” “hot flashes during menopause”).
  • Use “May” as a helping verb in front of acceptable claims to infer- “May lift mood”
  • Use qualifiers such as “mild,” “typical,” “normal,” “occasional,” or other words to distinguish a temporary or minor condition from a symptom or disease (“occasional stomach upset,” “muscle soreness following exercise”).
  • Do use the FDA disclaimer only with structure-function claims.