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Massage Today
August, 2013, Vol. 13, Issue 08

Don't Believe Everything You Read Online

How the Internet Changed Aromatherapy Education

By Shellie Enteen, RA, BA, LMBT

Thirty years ago, to get information and education in the use of true essential oils, a person in the United States had few choices: go to Europe or England and take a course (costly), find a book or magazine on the topic (with not very many to choose from), find a person selling true essential oils nearby (rarer still) and take a class with them or have the good fortune to find that they were sponsoring a class given by a visiting aromatherapist from Europe or England (very infrequent).

Clearly, a lot has changed since then and there are now many more options including full professional training and a peer recognized exam that confers the RA (Registered Aromatherapist) designation. And there are many benefits of having the Internet. You can search and get information on many aspects of aromatherapy and lists of books to order. However, as companies and blogs and short articles on holistic health have proliferated online, so has information that would not be very wise to follow.

I love the Internet and all the gifts it brings. I'm glad my Massage Today columns are now archived and can be accessed online. However, it is disturbing to me and other professional aromatherapists to see many items online that convey wrong and even dangerous information to an unsuspecting public. I do not doubt that the authors themselves are as misinformed and unaware of the dangers in what they are promoting as their readers. But the fact that this kind of information, masquerading as knowledge, is so easy to access makes it important that the person seeking advice about aromatherapy remembers several things.

First, know the source. Do they have the credentials in aromatherapy training that give them the ability to offer information that could affect your health and well-being? Second, look at the sources credited by the author and apply the same scrutiny to them. And third, know the basic safety information about using essential oils so you can recognize when something seems and really is off base.

internet - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark One of the first safety rules of aromatherapy is to keep essential oils out of the eyes. How important is this? It's not just to avoid an unpleasant stinging sensation. Many essential oils are solvents that can strip varnish off wood, hardly something you would put in one of the most delicate and important areas of the body. Often, we don't even place them on the delicate tissues around the eyes because of skin irritation potential and because the volatility of the aromatic molecules will cause them to enter the eye if applied at close range.

Recently, a very highly respected educator and long-time aromatherapist came across a blog post that recommended treating eye conditions by using drops of essential oils placed directly in the eye. The educator shared this blog on Facebook with the suggestion that her peers contact the blog writer and ask them to remove the post to prevent people from the very real potential of serious and possibly permanent eye damage if they followed this advice. Several were so concerned that they reported the post to the FDA. Eventually, the writer did remove the post. But who knows how many people had already read that and will think of trying the suggestion in the future?

All too often, information that comes from the herbal tradition is transferred to using the essential oil. It may be harmless to make an herbal eye wash or put an herb soaked compress over the eyes in some cases, but the herb form and the essential oil are not the same in composition and function, and certainly not in potency. When word of the dangerous blog post got to Robert Tisserand, another highly respected author and educator in aromatherapy, he considered the topic important enough for this detailed article about the dangers of using essential oils in treating the eye, including other examples of misinformation: http://roberttisserand.com/2013/02/essential-oils-and-eye-safety.

Years ago, I subscribed to the newsletter of a famous holistic integrative medicine practitioner and was stunned one day to see what might have been a wonderful piece on using essential oils as natural mosquito repellents contain the suggestion of using an undiluted skin application of the essential oil of Pennyroyal. This essential oil is considered toxic and is not used in any application of aromatherapy. I contacted them about my concern and it took a very long time to get that post removed, along with a retraction statement. During this time, it was also revealed that these blogs and articles are not written by the famous professionals themselves and they frequently don't even know what is written by their “paid for” staff. However, even if he had written it, this famous holistic practitioner was not actually trained in the essentials of aromatherapy practice and safety.

Here are four basic safety rules as recognized by most professional aromatherapists and member organizations (not necessarily multi-level companies) in the U.S. and abroad:

  1. Always dilute essential oils before skin application except for an emergency use of a cell regenerating antibacterial essence like Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia).
  2. Do not ingest essential oils without the input on dosage and method from a qualified MD (not chiropractors or other CAM modality physicians) who has been trained in aromatherapy.
  3. Keep essential oils out of eyes.
  4. Keep essential oils out of the reach of children to avoid accidental ingestion.

And if you want to get information about using essential oils to affect a physical condition, consult aromatherapists with qualifications such as the RA (Registered Aromatherapist) or approved schools and leave the Internet surfing to other, less potentially dangerous issues.

For more safety and approved schools information, consult www.naha.org or www.alliance-aromatherapists.org. For more information on skin sensitization, see the archives of “The Aromatic Message” at www.massagetoday.com/columnists/enteen.


Click here for more information about Shellie Enteen, RA, BA, LMBT.

 

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