I did not set out to write a book….

I did not set out to write a book….

By 1994, I had so many books to look up information on specific oils, I decided to create a wall chart for quick reference. Thanks to my hubby who set up the chart format on his computer, I was able to began typing it all in. Then I cut and pasted the first sections on poster board. Once I had it all together it became four double-sided charts; someone said that it should be a book instead and I thought, “What a great idea!” At this time I took over my husband’s computer and home office until he kicked me out at which point I got my first laptop. After a year or more of research, consulting, compiling all books available at the time, and creating indexes and cross references I thought I was done. My daughter says this is all she saw of me during that time……



I had the pleasure of meeting Bernie Hephrun of Butterbur and Sage at the NORA Conference in 1994. *** Bernie suggested I consult Martin Watt who had just created Plant Aromatics and was there as attendee! I met him at the end of the evening of the last day. Once home I began faxing back and forth to Martin (this was before email), and planned a visit to England to work with him in person. He took me to Stonehenge, Avebury, and Bath. He freely shared the massive amount of research he had with me, and the wonders of his small village Blackmore, Essex. I loved the UK and I devoured all he could show me. It was Martin who helped me revise my book, allowing it to become what it is today.

Me stonehenge


I honor Martin Watt for his contribution to the aromatherapy world and my path. He helped me to become recognized as a revolutionary in aromatherapy.


Martin had me question a lot of the proclaimed uses for oils, pointing out there is no evidence or research on certain uses, and the confusion of herbal properties with essential oil properties.


He was outspoken about the quality of essential oils, having experience and insight into the industry prior. He helped us open our eyes. Martin says he may be one of the first to start saying that the aroma trade training and oil supply fields was run by “con-artists and tricksters.” Before him anyone who had their suspicions “kept their mouths shut tight for fear of rocking the boat.” He was the first to introduce me to fractionated coconut oil, which was not available at the time in the US, but has since become a standard carrier oil (thanks to Rob Brown of Lebermuth).


After working overseas with Martin, I brought Plant Aromatics back here as the first USA publisher/distributor and the AIA sponsored Martin’s classes on Medical Aromatherapy in Florida, Chicago and Boulder.


Martin Watt is important in aromatherapy for many reasons cited above but in addition, he was the first to do a big study on sensitization:a type of allergic reaction that can happen with over-use of any essential oil. Before he spread the awareness, the US aromatherapy community had no clue about sensitization and unfortunately, some still don’t. Today, many people are sensitized from early undiluted use. Worse still is the amount of people that have become sensitized from the recent widespread use of undiluted oils in such practices as “Raindrop Therapy” and “AromaTouch.”


Martin still resides in the UK, and has an active website (aromamedical.org) with his articles and links, such as the old IDMA internet list archives. This was an early email discussion group where many of us in aromatherapy originally connected. I am truly grateful he still patiently answers my questions now via email.


I thank you Martin. Because of you, my book became more than it was, and has now been useful to practitioners for many years.

mwatt1**** shortly after posting this I received the sad news of Bernie’s passing from Martin. Bernie will one day have his own page here as tribute for those who made big contributions but having left us. Here is Martin’s tribute to Bernie.


Let the studies begin

Let the studies begin

After half a decade of playing around with oils on my own, I wanted to expand my offerings and share the knowledge I had collected. One big influence in this endeavor was Kurt Schnaubelt. Original Swiss Aromatics started up in 1983 and his Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy offered a home study course by 1985. Once I took this course in 1985 I felt I could add the missing parts of what I did as a practitioner, so I created my own course, less technical, more practical and down-to-earth, so I thought. My first classes were live but eventually I created the correspondence course and in 1989 the Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy was created as my educational arm, separate from the oils. A few years later, I closed my salon, Rumors, where I had begun offering aromatherapy treatments and classes and moved my office to my home so I could focus on devoting myself to the collection of knowledge and experience within this field that had become my passion.


I was a founding member of the American Aromatherapy Association that formed in 1988 and served two terms on the Board. Besides meeting Robert Tisserand at that meeting, I met Kurt, Victoria Edwards, Jeanne Rose, Marcel Lavabre and many other people like me, either with a business or a passion for aromatherapy! A small group, we went on to have another conference or two before disbanding. More about that later!AATA



From that time on I studied everywhere I could. Here is my aromatherapy educational highlights timeline: 1987-present


Aromatherapist Certification: Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy, Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt, 1987.
Certificate: Tibb Herbal Health and Healing, Hakim Moinuddin Chisti, N.D., 1988.
Certificate: Robert Tisserand Seminar, FL, June, 1988.
Certificate: Medical Aromatherapy Seminar, Dr. Daniel Penoel, San Rafael, CA, 1988.
Certificate: AATA, Maggie Tisserand, Dr. Daniel Penoel, CA, 1989.
Certificate: Medical Aromatherapy, Dr. Daniel Penoel, CA, 1989.
Certificate: AATA, Robert Tisserand, Dr. Daniel Penoel, Dr. LePraz, CA 1990.
Therapist Certificate: Herbal Essence Therapist Training, Dr. Dietrich Gumbel, FL, 1990.
Diploma: International Training in New Crops: Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, Purdue University, IN, and University of Illinois at Chicago, IL, August 1993.
Certificate: Medical Aromatherapy Training, Martin Watt, Essex, UK, 1995
Diploma: International Training in Essential Oils: Advanced Studies, Part One and Two; Purdue University, IN, 1996-97.
Certificate: Aromatherapy Intensive, Dr. Malte Hozzell, Orto De Provenco, France, 1997.
Diploma: Flowering Plant Systematics Course, Cambridge University, Cambridge, England, 1999.
Advanced Certificate: Aromatic Energetics and the Five Elements; Gabriel Mojay, FL, 2001
Certificate: Aromatic Kinesiology 1, Robbi Zeck, CA, 2004: FL, 2011, 2009. and Level 2, 2014.


And during that time I worked with many others including Martin Watt, Dr. Trevor Stokes, Dr. Robert Pappas, Tony Burfield who helped me learn more.  Over time all this resulted in my most major papers and presentations listed below. ( * papers can be found on the AIA site under Research.)


Major papers and presentations: 1996 – present:
“Percutaneous Confusion or the Evidence on Cutaneous Absorption of Essential Oils,” Sheppard-Hanger, S., The World of Aromatherapy, Frog; Berkley, CA; 1996
*”The Ravensara Dilemma- A comparison study of the taxonomy, chemical constituents, safety and an aromatherapy market survey of essential oils from the plants: Ravensara aromatica, Ravensara anisata, Cinnamomum camphora,” Sheppard-Hanger, S., NORA newsletter, 2 (2); Feb 1997. Purdue paper.
* “Aromatherapy treatment of behavior and emotional disorders,” Sheppard-Hanger, S., Stokes, T., Aromatic Thymes, Winter 1999 Volume 6.4.
“Aromatherapy Treatment of Psychological Disorders,”, Sheppard-Hanger, S., Stokes, T., presented Australian Aromatherapy Conference, Sydney, 1998, (pic below) and also at the Canadian International Conference on Aromatherapy(CICA), Canada, 1999.


“Collaborative psychotherapy aromatherapy treatment of behavior and emotional disorders: Psychosensory Aromatherapy Research Project”, Sheppard-Hanger, S., Stokes, T., Research Project. University of South Florida, Summer 1997.
* “Super Clone “88 ” Melaleuca alternifolia – what is its value?”, Sheppard-Hanger, S.,Burfield, T., presented at First International Phyto-Aromatic Conference, France, March 2000.
* “Artemesia– a new high azulene oil from the Pacific northwest”- Sheppard-Hanger, S., Pappas, R., presented First International Phyto-Aromatic Conference, France, March 2000.
* “Use of Essential Oils and Natural Products to counter side-effects during Radiation Treatments for Cancer”, Sheppard-Hanger, S., Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy Conference, November, 2000.
“Aroma as a sensory reinforcement to motivate engagement by children with autism,” Poster presented at the 17th Annual Association for the Advancement of Behavior Therapy, New Orleans, Fisher, B.L.c Stokes, T., Mowery, D., Medina, C, McQwown, S. Sheppard-Hanger, S., Bryant, J.B., and dePerczel, M.Y., November, 2000.
* “The Essential Oil of Eucalyptus camaldulensis Dehn. From South Florida: A High Cryptone/Low Cineole Eucalyptus,” Sheppard-Hanger, S., and Pappas, R., J. Essent. Oil Res., February, 2000.
“Assessment of the effects of music and aroma on relaxation and animation,” Poster presented at the 27th Annual conference of the Association for Behavior Analysis, New Orleans, LA, Wright, M.F., Wallace, J. Healey, C., dePerczel, M.Y., Sheppard-Hanger, S. and Stokes, T., May, 2001.
“Evaluation of Aromatherapy and Core Curriculum Training,” Sheppard-Hanger, S. and Kirk-Smith, M., International Journal of Aromatherapy, Vol 10, 3/4, 2001.
“Effects of contingent touch and aroma on relaxation by children with developmental disabilities’. Wright, M.F., Sheppard-Hanger, S., & Stokes, T. University of South Florida, Tampa. (2006 in review for publication).
* “Aromatherapy Undiluted- Are We in Denial?,” Sheppard-Hanger, S., NAHA Conference, World of Aromatherapy, Boston September, 2006.
* “Scoliosis – Effective Alternative Methods of Treatment”, 2 Parts, Sheppard-Hanger, S., and McCann, D., website NAHA.org, April, 2009
“Aromatherapy in Afghanistan? UAE expands outreach to Troops in Afghanistan -Update on the United Aromatherapy Effort, Inc.,” Sheppard-Hanger, S., New Zealand Registry of Holistic Aromatherapists Journal, Summer, 2010. (see United Aromatherapy Effort site)

Early teacher: Kurt Schnaubelt

Early teacher: Kurt Schnaubelt

After half a decade of playing around with oils on my own, using the few available books I had at my disposal, such as Valnet and Tisserand, I wanted to expand and share the knowledge I had collected.  I saw the need to delve further, to really get serious about this new path I had wandered upon, so I began more serious study of aromatherapy!


One big influence in this endeavor was Kurt Schnaubelt. Kurt Schnaubelt had one of the first fine lines of “genuine and authentic” essential oils and aromatherapy products available here in the USA. Original Swiss Aromatics was started up in 1983 by Kurt in San Rafael, CA, and you can see an early article about him here. His educational arm Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy offered the home study course by 1985.


Over the years Kurt and Monica have brought some high level education in their regular conferences in San Francisco, and the events became a nice gathering place for enthusiasts and something to look forward to. I presented several times including my paper on the work with children and autism and my personal use of oils during breast cancer recovery. Eileen Christina and I shared about our work after September 11, 2001 in the the United Aromatherapy Effort Tribute video. This year is the 30th year celebration and the 8th PIA conference coming in 2014. Read more here.


Since 1983, Original Swiss Aromatics and the Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy together have been the first to establish the concept of genuine and authentic essential oils in the US, create the Aromatherapy Course, the first comprehensive text on scientific aromatherapy to come out of the US, and the first and foremost course with a pharmacological basis that is internationally recognized.


They were the first to bring Robert Tisserand to this country for his first major US seminar in 1988,


to present Dr. Daniel Penoël, aromatherapy researcher, author, and lecturer, to present, Pierre Franchomme, Master Aromatherapy Scientist to coordinate the original two American aromatherapy conventions in the US, and to speak out not only about the quality of essential oils but to start a rigorous program of purity analysis by GC/MS.


Once I took this course in 1985, I felt I could add the missing parts of what I did to a curriculum. I created my own course for practitioners; less technical and more down to earth! This course eventually became the Aromatherapy Practitioner Home study course and eventually in 1989, the Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy was created as my educational arm.  I felt like I could add an East Coast feminine aspect of practice (as a friend used to say) to the table.


I honor Kurt in so many ways than being my first teacher. He is a beautiful man with a charismatic German accent who changed the aromatic world in ways we cannot say.  Monica is a beautiful spirit sister. I have fond memories of them both through the years and I feel fortunate to have crossed paths!

see Kurt’s blog here.

Days of Rumors

Days of Rumors

In February of 1982  I married my husband, O.V. on Valentines day and the same month bought the salon business I had worked at for a few years. I renamed it Rumors, in honor of Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks, my obsession at the time. Originally I sold my collection of vintage clothes I had worn and accumulated for years called “Sylla’s Fancy”. (I was later known for this kind of attire, dripping lace, antique slips for dresses, layers of slips showing some lace up boots. I loved finding something to add to my style of dressing. Once my friend Michael’s son now adult told me that when small “I thought you were the goddess or the good fairy with your dresses”….so cute.

Pretty soon I also sold my first aromatherapy products and essential oils. Eventually my line was called “Rumors Aromatics” with oils, blends, natural perfumes, with Aveda products on the side. I created a scent bar where my clients could to sit and play with oils, to find the right scent or just smell and look.


Being the first in Tampa offering aromatherapy, I had a bit of publicity with many articles in the papers, talks on local TV news, and newspaper interviews and articles. Early on my clients thought I was saying I did “roman therapy,” wondering what the heck that might be. Now of course they know more than most people thanks to their early education in what was then a little known therapy.


My signature salon scent became rosemary and geranium (2:1) blend. Clients would just come and sit and relax as they passed by, others would know they had been there due to their smiles and subtle scents. Students from nearby University of South Florida would come get a “study blend snifie” (cotton ball of basil and rosemary), then a fresh one for exams. I made custom blends for massages, giving clients the remainder to “bring them back” to my table when they used it. Aromatics, aromatherapy massage, and natural facials became the rage as we became a community gathering place for looking and feeling good. I did consults and helped a lot of people find essential oils. My first blends included my own personal scent with a patchouli base that has changed yet remained the same they say over the years; a blend for protection during meditation of 33 essential oils, an earthy grounding blend with vetiver, patchouli, sandalwood; and most asked for,  our famous rosemary and rose geranium house blend.

After half a decade of playing around with oils on my own, I wanted to expand my offerings a share the knowledge I had collected and many were requesting classes and courses. My first classes were live but eventually I created the Aromatherapy Practitioner Correspondence Course for mail order; and in 1989 the Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy was created as my official educational arm, separate from the oils. A few years later, after ten years open I closed my salon, Rumors, and I quit selling oils as I could not do both teaching and selling as it became clear about this time that it is unethical (illegal if medical?)to make claims and sell product. and I had seen enough so called educational classes really there to sell product in the hair industry. So I moved my office and salon/treatment room to my home so I could focus on devoting myself to the collection of knowledge and experience within this field that had become my passion. I remain here today, working out of my home, seeing clients and working in my yarden…

I Will Not Die an Unlived Life Part 2

The word ‘cancer’ encompasses over 200 different diseases, yet when it affects an individual it takes on a greater significance, a different tone, and much more meaning. The day my doctor told me I had breast cancer, she also said it would not kill me, but it would change my life. A diagnosis of cancer is a chance for deep reflection and profound change. It is a balance of hope, optimism, and being realistic. It is about figuring out priorities, understanding relationships, and considering future plans. And she was right. With my cancer, an uninvited teacher had arrived.


I had a lumpectomy in August 1998, after having discovered a lump in my right breast earlier in the Spring. Several weeks later, I underwent removal of lymph nodes to see if the cancer had spread. I was lucky, the lymph glands, bone, and liver scans were clear. Only a course of radiation was in order. During the following six weeks, I had radiation treatments 5 days a week, and coped with the physical and mental side effects of extreme fatigue and skin irritation.


Over the last few years I have been able to look back at my own treatment experience from a different perspective. HERE is my account of how aromatherapy helped me cope. You can click HERE if you are interested in the full-story via audio interview with K. G. Stiles.


Many supported me during this time of my life and one particular gift stands out. Robbi Zeck, ND and aromatherapist from Australia gave me a book called “I Will Not Die an Unlived Life” by Dawna Markova. She who wrote the poem of the same name that mentioned in a previous blog. This became my mantra for the years following my cancer. I knew I still had some living to do.


Interestingly enough, there was no research for me to look at back then. Now we have the complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) information, a summary which provides an overview of the use of aromatherapy and essential oils in improving the quality of life of cancer patients. THIS SUMMARY includes a brief history of aromatherapy, a review of laboratory studies and clinical trials, and possible adverse effects associated with aromatherapy use.


Over the last few years I have been able to look back at my own treatment experience from a new perspective. I am grateful for the experience, for the awareness of better health and habits. I don’t call myself a “survivor”, which promotes something awful happened and keeps it alive, but I choose to be a “thriver”. I don’t support the pink ribbons due to understanding the pinkwashing that goes on. Now 15 years later, I have an exit letter from my surgeon. No more yearly visits, no checking, and certainly no worries. In reality, I forgot about it long ago, fired my oncologist for making me wait 45 minutes, and have released my contract with all negative health issues. This body is healthy and this is my greatest gratitude. Cancer was the greatest teacher, uninvited or not!