Best Essential Oils for Peace & Healing
Aromatherapy Pioneers Share Their Favorite Scents
The art of aromatherapy dates back thousands of years, has been embraced by many different cultures, and has been shaped by passionate pioneers like the French chemist Rene Gattefosse. In 1910, Gattefosse was working in the family cosmetic business in Grasse, France, when an explosion burned his hand. He doused the hand with the nearest liquid he could find—and thus discovered the healing powers of the essential oil of lavender. Gattefosse used his discovery to treat soldiers during World War I, and then shared his knowledge with others. Here are snapshots of three of today’s pioneers.
Nick James, founder, Body Bliss
“My grandfather was a keen amateur botanist,” says Nick James. “By following him in search of rare plants, I absorbed his knowledge and passion like a little sponge.” James first used his love and knowledge to earn an MA in Botany at Oxford. Then, about 20 years ago, he befriended a healer and body worker from Brazil: “We shared a long-standing interest in meditation and alternative healing modalities, and she inspired me to join in the creation of Body Bliss.
“I am a passionate advocate for the practical, positive physiological impacts that essential oils can have on the body and mind—which is why we only use medicinal-grade essential oils in our work,” he emphasizes. “At the same time, I am acutely sensitive to the vibrational qualities of aromatherapy. Each essential oil has its own unique vibrational signature, a message that can speak to the deepest core of our being.”
“Vetiver is better than any other oil for grounding a person. People are often moving through life so quickly, and learning to relax can be challenging. Healing takes place when we can find deep relaxation, and vetiver is one of the best oils for that.
“Rose simultaneously affects the physical, emotional, and spiritual bodies. It reminds us of the balance between our vulnerability and our strength. It is comforting, dissolves sadness and sorrow, and opens the door to forgiveness. Vibrationally, rose speaks to the heart.
“Bergamot helps to counter depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and feelings of low self-worth. It has a powerful effect on stimulating the liver and stomach. It also has superb antiseptic qualities that are useful for skin complaints, such as acne, oily skin conditions, eczema, and psoriasis.”
Judith Jackson, founder, Judith Jackson Aromatherapy
On a business trip to London in the 1980s, Judith Jackson was introduced to aromatherapy. “After just one hour of this powerful treatment with essential oils, I knew I had found my calling,” she remembers. She returned to London to work with Micheline Arcier, a protégé of Jean Valnet, a surgeon revered as a father of phyto-aromatherapy. Jackson also went to the Gattefosse Institute in Grasse. “I visited that 160-year-old institution while studying with Madame Arcier and discovered they had a division in the U.S. They became the first provider of my oils.”
“Lavender can be calming, uplifting, and antiseptic all at once. My mentor, Madame Arcier, said during my training that lavender is like the sun—a small amount is energizing, a larger one relaxing.
“Sandalwood has a rich, heady fragrance that’s great for deep tub soaking since it works on all of the body’s water systems—sweat glands, bladder, and lymph. However, sandalwood has become very expensive and hard to get because so many trees have been killed in order to strip off the bark, which is the source of the essence. This is unfortunate, because I find the fragrance positively mesmerizing.
“Frankincense is a potent scent that reaches into the soul. In medieval and Renaissance churches, where the congregation sometimes slept along with their cows and sheep, frankincense was burned to kill odors and germs in air that was, to say the least, polluted. Today, frankincense is still burned at high mass religious services, perhaps taking one a bit closer to higher realms.”
Michael Scholes, president, Laboratory of Flowers
Michael Scholes went from a business degree to a wellness career when he met Daniel Penoel, MD, a French medical doctor who treated patients only with essential oils. Scholes says, “Something inside me woke up. It was not just the healer within, it also was the reconnection, through essential oils, to the endless possibilities of the natural world.”
Scholes set out to learn everything there is to know about aromatic plants and their benefits. “I have personally created more than 30 categories of information on over 350 essential oils, which amounts to 10,500 pieces of information that connect with more than 30,000 aromatic molecules found in essential oils. This has led to my greatest creation, the ‘Aromatic Apothecary,’ featuring more than 500 master formulations created over 28 years. I also set the standard in education with a focus on organic and eco-based essential oils sourced from small growers worldwide, and mixed with the purest supplies available from the earth and the oceans.”
“Bergamot is a citrus fruit whose rind is used for extracting the oil. It is extremely uplifting and complex with strong mood-enhancing properties and is excellent for stress and anxiety. It is harmonizing and good for vital energy and digestion, and it is the characteristic flavor of Earl Grey tea.
“Geranium is a good substitute for rose and has similar undertones. It is estrogen-like and is excellent for sore throats, PMS, female balancing, burns, skin damage, emotional stability, throat blockages (finding your voice), stress, tension, and balance.
“Patchouli is effective for feeling inspired as well as for treating nervous exhaustion. Patchouli is an oil that symbolizes new beginnings and change and is extracted from the fermented plant. Patchouli penetrates deeper into your soul, where you feel you belong. It stimulates the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone and helps one connect to one’s sexuality.”
Melinda Taschetta-Millane was editor in chief of Skin Inc. magazine and now works as a freelance contributor to the spa industry.