I am deeply influenced by the words of famous Western aroma therapist Marguerite Maury: “I would like to keep my present appearance, but I also hope to grow old gracefully.” By Elizabeth Shen
Since ancient times, people have healed the body with plants.
Plants are undergoing very rigorous tests from the environment in the process of growing and multiplying, such as resisting bacteria and viruses in the environment. In order to multiply, flowers emit fragrances to attract insects which can spread pollen for them. During this process, the secondary metabolites of plants which feature healing power are produced. Some of them are soluble in water. The boiled traditional Chinese medicines fall in this category. And some others are soluble in oil, and they are known as essential oils.
Now we are able to extract these curative secondary metabolites from plant roots, stems, flowers, fruit and leaves through different extraction approaches. After numerous experiments and analysis, it is proven that essential oils have great benefits for our physical and mental health.
Essential oils are complicated and super-tiny plant molecules which can enter the cerebral limbic system through the olfactory system and blood-brain barrier and consequently influence our mood and cognition. For example, smelling rose essential oil stimulates the brain to release the happy hormone serotonin which gives us a sense of joy. Application of anti-bacterial essential oil activates our immunity system, and stimulates skin regeneration and wound repair. And many essential oils are able to activate our hormones. So a proper application of essential oils is the best way for rejuvenation.
Plants are my best life mentor
The first time I had the idea of quitting my well-paid job to begin a deep study of aromatherapy was 30 years old. At that time, as a part of my job, I often flew to Germany and France to visit clients and to attend exhibitions. Due to frequent business trips and work stress, I started to have different body conditions. During one trip in Germany, I suddenly felt dizzy and pain in the stomach and intestines. Then a German friend took out a small bottle of essential oil and dripped a few drops on my palm. He asked me to rub it on my palm and smell it for one minute before wiping it on my belly clockwise and drinking a cup of herbal tea. Afterwards, very amazingly, my body discomforts disappeared by 80%.
I was totally shocked by the healing power of plants at that moment. Since then, I began to diligently read books on aromatherapy and learn related knowledge. I also gained an international aromatherapist certificate later.
Twenty years ago, aromatherapy was at its starting phase in Taiwan. Education was a key issue. So after getting my aromatherapy lecturer certificate, I set off on my teaching career. In order to acquire quality essential oils, I went to different farms around the world. I was deeply touched by the farmers’ reverence for nature and love of the soil. I then understood that every drop of healing essential oil is so precious. They are the gifts of nature to us.
As an aromatherapist, it is my responsibility to pass the gifts of nature to more people. That is why I require every graduate from my aromatherapy institute to not only keep on expanding and deepening their expertise but also always hold their reverence to nature.
At present, apart from teaching aroma therapy knowledge, I also collaborate with my students to seek more individual cases which can be used in our new books on aromatherapy. Also, some friends invite me to tailor exclusive fragrance to match their music, art works or personal spaces.
Aromatherapy education was introduced to mainland China about 20 years ago. But it was just in the last ten years that it began to boom. Now there are hundreds of thousands of aromatherapists in China who are truly professionals in the choice and application of essential oils. In recent years, more and more people are interested in aroma and try to get some aromatherapy knowledge from the internet or product salesmen. From my perspective, if possible, it is much better to study aromatherapy systematically.
Essential oil can be absorbed through smelling and inhaling, massage and bathing. In addition to understanding how to use essential oil, aromatherapists also need to master specialized knowledge such as botany and essential oil chemistry. They are required to have certain knowledge on body structure and pathology too. Then when they face individual cases, they will be able to provide the most suitable solutions. A qualified aromatherapist should be diligent and willing to deal with more individual cases, carefully record down every body reaction, and give individuals the best suggestions on how to improve wellness with essential oil.
But first of all, aromatherapists need to know how to take care of themselves, stay health both physically and mentally, and live a self-disciplined life. After this, they are able to pass on positive energy and good services to people. Every guest who come to the spa has entrusted themselves to the aromatherapists. They hope the therapists can help them cure the discomforts of the body. The aromatherapists really shoulder a great responsibility. So a good health foundation and rich expertise is of great significance.
Distinguishing oil quality and applying it wisely
Most consumers who buy essential oil the first time think that essential oil has a strong fragrance like perfume. In fact, except for the essential oil extracted from the flowers which has the flowers’ fragrance, all the rest have the original smell of the plant’s root, stem, fruit and leaf, which are a very natural and faint smell that are unable to be artificially synthesized in the laboratory.
Many people may also think that the higher the concentration is, the better effect the essential oil has. This is a misunderstanding. What I am worried most about is that many mums directly feed their children with essential oil in order to enhance their immunity and health. However, in Western countries, even certified doctors will firstly dilute the essential oil before applying it on the patients. They will never casually permit their children to take essential oil orally. Because before seven years old, the children’s liver and kidneys haven’t been fully developed. Application of highly-concentrated essential oil may not only cause skin allergy but also harm the liver and kidneys.
Plants are influenced by climate and soil. So the essential oil extracted from the same plant in different years may emit a slightly different smell.
When we are selecting essential oil at the farms, apart from professional data analysis, the best tool to tell its quality is our nose. I once did a “smell with eyes covered” experiment and I discovered that everyone’s nose has the ability to distinguish natural smells. But only those who have smelled quality essential oil before could precisely tell the difference between good and bad oil. For consumers who don’t have enough knowledge of aroma oil, it is better for them to choose products with detailed descriptions on the packaging including its Latin name, place of origin, extraction methods, extraction part, storage life, contact of manufacturer.
Traditional Chinese Medicine meets aromatherapy
The principal idea of Western medicine is to target the part where disease shows itself. For example, treat the head alone if you have headache and treat the feet alone if you have pain in the feet. When bacteria comes, kill them with antibiotics. When a polypus appear in your internal organs, simply remove it.
But it’s totally different in China. We have an old saying: observe the development tendency in advance and take preventive measures accordingly. Traditional Chinese medicine also believes that the best doctor heals before the disease appears.
Aromatherapy shares the same idea with traditional Chinese medicine when it comes to the wisdom of prevention. TCM doesn’t use allopathy. On the contrary, it aims to help the body restore a balance of yin and yang. Now Western medicine also recognizes the importance of prevention. So they study genes in order to find out the root cause of disease in the cells. Always pay attention to the sub-health conditions of your body. They are usually warnings for actual diseases.
In the summer of 2007, my 90-year-old father had a fall accidentally and due to medical malpractice, he fell into a severe coma and vegetative state. He had to stay in bed at hospitals and survive with a respirator. I was thinking what I could do for him with aromtherapy. I tried all the essential oil formulas that are known to reduce phlegm; however, they didn’t work. Some even caused acute coughing. I was scared.
Later a TCM doctor told me: bedridden patients’ intestinal tract movements are slow, so it’s easy for them to have constipation. As a result, sputum increases. Traditional Chinese medicine believes lung channel and large intestine channel are interdependent. His words enlightened me.
Then I began to think from the TCM perspective. Sputum increase indicates the body’s inner dampness. When Yang qi flows smoothly and strongly in the body, dampness then can be eliminated. At the same time, Yang qi helps stimulate intestinal tract movement and allows mucus to be expelled out the body through defecation. So I tried to perform meridian aromatherapy on my father. Plant essence is absorbed via his skin to promote his inner Yang qi. I made a meridian oil with ginger, mangnolia officinalis, red tangerine, Chinese cinnamon, marjoram and a little of his favorite sweet-scented osmanthus. I massaged him from Youngquan acupoint under the feet upwards to the spleen channel, liver channel, and kidney channel until groin before specifically massaging Guanyuan point on the belly and tapping Tianshu point.
This really worked. My father’s defecation situation largely improved, better than all other patients at the hospital. Meanwhile, his sputum decreased and the times for sputum suction reduced. I was so happy to see my father’s complexion turn better and his skin smoother without any bedsores.
When spring came, I massaged my father’s Jueyin point on his foot which rules the liver meridian with essential oil that can sooth the liver. His hands and feet were able to gradually stretch more naturally, indicating an outward expression of Yang qi. It was at that moment I realized even a person in vegetative state whose routine and diet were strictly regulated would also manifest the changes that the turn of four seasons bring on his body. I more deeply understood how everything on this earth relies on and also changes with the rhythm of nature.
In late summer of 2009, my father was able to breathe himself without the help of a respirator. Then one morning in the late winter my father said goodbye to us peaceably with smile. I feel very thankful to my father’s speechless education. He taught me to reconsider the application of aromatherapy on people. During years of tending him by bed, I gathered a lot of clinical experience. I’d like to pass such a big gift to many more people.
Since my father’s demise, according to my promise to him at his sickbed, I help people improve health with aromatherapy based on solar terms and meridian channels. I carefully observe and record down every clinical case and include them in books, providing a new perspective to people who love and study essential oil.
Many of my students at the aromatherapy institute are TCM doctors. After finishing the courses, they set up aromatherapy sections at their clinics. Over the years, I have witnessed how aromatherapy cures people who suffer from different diseases and discomforts.
Most of the books on aromatherapy in China now are translated versions from the West. So I want to write a book from the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine and which targets the body conditions of Chinese people. Both essential oil and many of TCM materials are from plants. They must have something in common.
My first book is Aromatherapy for 24 Solar Terms Based on Meridian Channels《24节气芳疗经络自愈全书》. As I mentioned before, when I tended my bedridden father, I found even a severely injured person who lost his consciousness would have different reactions on the body based on the change of seasons and solar terms. Meanwhile, during my teaching career, I discovered that many students had similar discomforts on the body during the same solar terms. Apart from these, I observed a phenomenon in dealing with individual cases. When a woman has menstrual pain during different solar terms, the formula and concentration of essential oil she needs are also different. I include all these discoveries in the book.
Later I wrote another book, TCM Fragrant Essential Oil Guides《中医芳疗百科》, examining the functions of essential oil from the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine.
If more people master aromatherapy, not only they themselves can benefit a lot both physically and mentally, this can also help reduce drug abuse and save medical resources for the society. For decades, my team and I have been dedicated to aromatherapy education and aroma therapists training, hoping to introduce this amazing way of natural healing to more people through easy-to-comprehend courses.
Many have heard of aromatherapy, yet very few really try it. They remain doubtful of the safety and effects of aromatherapy and thus lose the chance of experiencing the wonder of it. This is truly pitiful. So it’s my goal to open the door to plant healing for more people.