Important Safety Tips from Aromatherapy Educators
By Caryn Gehlmann, Clinical Aromatherapist
I’m so thrilled to introduce my dear friends to you, Sue Jones and Frankie Holzbach. We first met at an essential oil workshop years ago. Whenever I go back to Michigan to visit friends and family I try to visit them. I’ve been privileged to be a guest instructor for a number of their aromatherapy workshops. These two women are amazing and so knowledgeable on how to use essential oils safely. You’ll learn a lot from the safety tips these aromatherapy educators share. Enjoy the interview!
Please tell us about your background.
Sue Jones is the owner of Aroma Essentials and is a certified aromatherapist. She has been in the health field for over 25 years and believes deeply in natural healing whenever possible.
Frankie Holzbach, a former art teacher, is the owner of Healthy Alternatives and an essential oils instructor. We joined forces in 1996 as we share the same philosophy which provided the foundation for a life-long friendship.
No one suspects we are both in our 80’s, and neither of us are on any medications since we became devoted to nutrition and essential oils. When we think we might be getting something, we diffuse or inhale or apply essential oils and we are good to go. Frankie is the techie so she handles emails, updating our website, and creating class manuals. Sue has the ability to clearly explain the science behind aromatherapy and the best use for oils. We tell people Sue is the left-brain and Frankie is the right-brain. It is the balance between us that works well with our classes.
When and how were you initially introduced to essential oils, and what made you decide to become aromatherapy educators?
In 2000, we were involved with a nutritional company that added essential oils to their product line. They quickly became our passion. The oils were so popular that the company had to plan for separate workshops at their conventions to accommodate our growing interest in learning more. It was at one of these workshops that we met Caryn Gehlmann and were impressed with her integrity. (We knew almost immediately that we could trust Caryn & Essential 3 to provide the integrity we were seeking because Caryn wouldn’t have it any other way.)
We took more aromatherapy workshops across the country over the next few years, and we asked one another, “What are we going to do with all of this information? Our question was answered when a friend from Sue’s church took a serious fall. She had many serious bruises and scrapes and called Sue for help. Sue helped her with oils which healed her so quickly, she suggested we should be teaching people about essential oils. That was the beginning of our new role as aromatherapy educators! In 2006, we realized there was a major lack of education on the practical and safe use of essential oils, so we began dedicating our time and knowledge to sharing safety tips we’ve learned through educational aromatherapy classes. We have found there is much more to learn, and every day provides an opportunity to add to our knowledge.
What is one of the most important things people should understand about essential oil safety?
There are many safety considerations when it comes to essential oils but one of the most important lessons we teach in our classes is — less is more! Some companies claim the more essential oils one uses at one time, the better. We know this is not necessarily true. Essential oils are the highly concentrated essence of a plant and should not be confused with the actual plant material which is often found in dried herbs, teas, phyto-therapy or potpourri. For example, the chemicals in one drop of essential oil may be the equivalent to thirty cups of a tea prepared from the same plant material. One drop of Basil or Marjoram could equal a handful of that same herb.
The other very important lesson we teach is the possible danger of ingesting essential oils. There are many ways to apply the oils, and we believe emphatically that ingesting essential oils is the last resort and only done with the supervision of a clinical aromatherapist.
Have you noticed any unsafe misconceptions people have on essential oils?
Way too many in our opinion. We’ve seen a trend where companies are solely focused on the objective of selling oils and getting distributors. They make outrageous claims with nothing but hearsay to back them up. We’re concerned that they could be jeopardizing the future of the aromatherapy industry.
As an essential oil user, we recommend you take the time to be properly educated and become familiar with safety. If not, it could be problematic for you, your family and anyone else with whom you shared the oils. Essential oils are wonderful when used responsibly, but we have found not everyone using essential oils knows what that responsibility includes.
We are all different and to assume that everyone reacts the same to essential oils would be wrong on many levels. In the excitement of discovering a vehicle that does not have pharmaceutical-based chemicals, many new consumers plunge ahead unaware that there are precautions they should be considering. For example, heavy applications of essential oils can send a person into a healing crisis. Someone new to the oils or newly pregnant could find themselves in trouble when their body is unable to process so much oil at one time.
Can you give us an example of a particular essential oil that has been used unsafely?
Wintergreen is an essential oil that definitely requires a safety consideration. It contains methyl-salicylate which is the same ingredient that’s in aspirin. Someone in our classes had acquired Wintergreen at an oils party because she loved the smell of it. It does smell great, but this woman is taking a blood thinner. No one knew to tell her that Wintergreen could cause havoc with her blood thinner medication. Thankfully we were able to educate her, and she stopped immediately. We then coached her on how to safely proceed without endangering her health.
What can a person do to become better educated about essential oil safety?
If there are classes in your area taught by clinical aromatherapists that’s a great option. There are also good resources online. We’re making an effort to teach more wellness practitioners, particularly massage therapists. They are in a good position to educate themselves about adding essential oils to their practices and then, in turn, educating their clients.
How do you personally benefit from using essential oils? Do you have any recommendations for feeling young in your 80s?
Sue sometimes has trouble sleeping. She says, “I always dilute these oils before applying. I like to apply Frankincense to my wrist before I get into bed and then use Vetiver and e3’s Sleeptime on the bottom of my feet (especially the bottom of my big toe), my decollete, or the back of my neck. If I wake up in the middle of the night, I use Cedarwood Atlas on my wrists.”
Frankie deals with a sore knee. She says, “I’ve found it’s important to interchange and mix up which essential oils I use. Again, these oils are always diluted! I find Lavender, e3’s Inflammation, Frankincense, Basil ct. linalol, e3’s Muscle Soothe work well. I also have an Arthritis blend I like to use that contains Frankincense, Copaiba balsam, Lemongrass, and either Birch or Wintergreen. Although I use Birch and Wintergreen less often due to their high content of methyl salicylate. I have to admit feeling young in my 80s is more difficult than it was in earlier years, but essential oils are my main “medicine” and I rely on them when I’m happy, sad or hurting, but it would be wrong if I didn’t add I also try to eat healthy and get plenty of rest. Life is good and staying positive helps keep it that way.”
Tell us about your classes and what you teach regarding essential oils.
We are located in Portage, Michigan and encompass the greater Kalamazoo area. We conduct a five-week course which is comprised of an education on 100 plus singles and blends, their safe use, and recipes. Since Covid, we’ve limited our classes to four people with the hope that a small group will be more comfortable adding to the discussion. We cover a lot of material, so in order to help our participants retain all we talk about, we provide a page for each oil discussed and pages on dilution, cautions, and recipes related to the individual oils for their binder which is an easy reference manual moving forward. Learn more at www.aromaessentials.info.
This interview was a great reminder for everyone who uses essential oils about the importance of having safety awareness. What new aromatherapy safety tip did you learn that you didn’t know before? Our blog has even more safety tips from aromatherapy educators — those on our own staff as well as other guest contributors. To stay up-to-date on the latest safety recommendations, sign up for our newsletter, you’ll also get a coupon you can use on your next order.