Ah, just imagine the soothing scent of lavender, a waft of relaxing chamomile or a room that smells warmly of cinnamon. For many of us those ideas evoke memories and feelings, but actually smelling these herbs and spices produces even more powerful thoughts and emotions.
That’s the power of aromatherapy, a decades-old practice that promotes healing through the body’s olfactory function, as well as through the healing properties in the essential oils themselves.
“There’s a lot of value in learning about essential oils if you really want to take care of your health,” says Jimm Harrison, who has been teaching essential oil classes for the public for more than eight years through Bastyr University’s Department of Certificate, Community and Continuing Education (CCCE).
Now the department is taking the practice to a new level by offering a non-credit Certificate in Essential Oil and Aromatherapy, which can be attained after taking all eight courses in the program.
Sue Russell, CCCE director, encouraged Harrison to develop a certificate program because of the subject’s broad appeal, which ranges from holistic health professionals looking to enhance their practice to members of the public interested in self-care or beginning a new career in aromatherapy.
“The skills and knowledge offer a current health care practitioner additional tools for their tool kit,” Russell says. “Others, who are perhaps new to the field of health and wellness, can embark on an entirely new career path as an aromatherapist.”
Walk through any beauty or home store and you’ll see countless products such as candles and lotions touting aromatherapy benefits. But Harrison, who has been a master aromatherapist for more than 20 years, says that despite the commercialization of the practice there’s still plenty of “therapy” in aromatherapy.
“The problem with aromatherapy is that it’s not taken seriously enough,” he says. “It’s simple, but at the same time it’s extremely complex.”
Aromatherapy is the practice of using the essential oils of plants, peels, seeds and woods to treat illnesses and imbalances in the body. The basics are easy enough to learn on your own, Harrison says, but beyond that things start to get a little more involved.
For instance, that intoxicating oil you’ve been using to help sleep at night could have the opposite reaction on you in the middle of the day or after a heart-felt conversation with a long-lost friend.
“There are contradictions in essential oils — it’s not all black and white,” Harrison says. “In some instances, essential oils that are calming can also stimulate.”
Similarly, personal history can play a vital role in how you respond to treatments, he explains: “If somebody gets a skin rash from an essential oil, it’s not necessarily from an allergy. It could be that something they’re smelling is linked to a negative memory.
“The olfactory aspect of it is one of the most interesting aspects of essential oils.”
If you’d like to learn more about essential oils but are wondering when you’ll have time to squeeze classes into your life, Harrison emphasizes that his Essential Oil Therapy classes are offered on weekends on a flexible schedule.
“We designed the program so that participants can take the modules one-by-one, spreading out the investment of time and money,” he says. “Plus, someone can merely start by taking the introductory ‘Foundations’ module, which is an excellent way to begin exploring essential oils before diving in to the entire program — then continue on in their studies when they’re ready.”
Ready to get started? The next “Essential Oil Therapy: Foundations” class runs from March 30 to April 1.
In addition to the new Essential Oil and Aromatherapy Certificate Program, Bastyr’s CCCE department has added three more programs this year:
Learn more about the programs available through CCCE at a free information session from 6:30-8 p.m. March 29, in room 1062 at Bastyr University. For more information, call (425) 602-3152 or email continuinged[at]bastyr[dot]edu.