During the Purdue classes in 1996, we went on a field (peppermint!) trip to the Lucac farm to see peppermint distillation. While we were there, we met Rob Brown of Lebermuth, who had with him their new chemist Rob Pappas. Rob was new to the industry, and our meeting that summer day sealed his fate with aromatherapy. You can read about his history here and here.
Rob and I became great friends and aroma colleagues as I dragged him kicking and screaming into our field of aromatherapy. He cleared up a lot of the mystery for us surrounding chemical components and distillation, and he helped bust essential oil myths with rational science. I was able to arrange for him to come to the Part II Essential Oils Purdue class so he could teach the chemistry portion (the previous professor unfortunately had such a thick accent that we couldn’t understand the lecture).
He joined with the Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy to teach Chemistry of Essential Oils classes in Florida and other locations for many years. We co-authored a home study course on chemistry and perfumery, as well as two articles for publication on separate essential oils. See them below.
I visited his home several times and met his beautiful wife Buffi and their beautiful children (very young at the time, but now they’re adults!). He showed me the gigantic dunes in the Indiana Dunes State Park on Lake Michigan. Who knew that was there!? He also gave me an essential oil sabbatical by letting me spend time in his lab and see the GC/MS equipment; he even let me mix up some formulas on the scales. I had the most fun smelling and tasting all sorts of varieties of oils. Oh yes, I like to taste to get the true sense of an oil, much to the horror of the staff!
I’ve learned so much from Rob over the years and had a lot of fun, too. He helped me with my computer skills and issues, once remotely taking over my computer to fix something. He added “Witchy Woman” music to my first website. Once, he sent me a chemical structure picture that I opened early in the morning, before the sun had come up. I was so excited to see it and print out the image that I tripped and fractured my hand! It was my first fracture, and and I still blame it entirely on him!
We both obtained one of the first Internet phone systems with an eyeball camera, so we sat up late many nights talking about stuff. For fun, he showed me Diablo, an early interactive internet game that was very exciting for those who don’t play games—me, in other words!
We also connected through music, most especially the Dave Matthews Band album “Crash,” and I still think of those times when I hear those songs. For example, Celebrate takes me back to us riding through the Colorado mountains with Laraine Pounds and Michael Scholes, singing along on the way to some hot springs before a chemistry class weekend. We were known to sing karaoke in bars from Indiana to Paris. He introduced me to distillation and set me up with my first stills, including the StoveStill that he designed himself. It’s very efficient and uses the cold finger condenser. And he, along with others, remotely supported me through my cancer experience.
He debunked a lot of myths on aromatherapy through the old idma internet list, and he still does so on social media. He was the first to expose a major supplier’s jasmine as being synthetic, and he recently debunked myths like the idea that oil was used in the Bible, and that irritation is detox, and many more on Facebook here. He is not afraid to speak his truth.
We traveled similar paths and had great fun in many places at conferences, from across the USA and Canada and to Europe (Paris, Nice, and Cannes). He introduced me to Tony Burfield in Cannes at the World Perfumery Conference, which began years of collaboration–but that’s another story! Along with Rob Brown, Rob Pappas and I traveled into the high mountains outside Nice, France to find the home of some wild crafters. Together we saw how they lived, collected and processed aromatics. Our friend Michel drove us around Paris to see the sites, ending up in a park where we smelled the loveliest oils of Haute Provence from Michel’s distillations.
Once I found a eucalyptus tree in my neighborhood, and when I distilled the leaves, I realized it was different. During a chemistry class, we harvested some, distilled it, and Rob analyzed it. It was unique because it was a camaldulensis species with cryptone, a component not usually found in this species. So we decided to find out more. Tony Burfield had connections in Australia for species identification, so we sent the plant leaf/flower specimen for authentication and wrote about it. Our article was published in Journal of Essential Oil Research. You can read about that here. We also presented a paper in Grasse on a high chamazulene Artemesia from the Pacific northwest, which you can read here.
Rob started the first Chemistry of Essential Oils course for college credit (C390) at Indiana University South Bend. He arranged for a separate Introduction to Aromatherapy course, which we did together and imported various experts. Both of these courses are landmarked as the first university credit courses focusing on essential oils and aromatherapy. He still teaches Chemistry of Essential Oils at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany, IN and offers an online course as well.
Rob, Sylla, and George Nazaroff, Head of Chemistry IUSB
These days when he’s not teaching, Rob is busy with his analysis business Essential Oil University, and he maintains one of the best databases for essential oils. The Essential Oil Chemical Reference database contains thousands of literature references and GC/MS reports for almost any oil you need information about. Each citation will list the title of the article, authors names, title and page numbers of the journal referenced, and the complete chemical breakdown of the oil as reported in the article. We in the industry have found this database very useful because it’s the largest online essential oil chemical reference database in the world. Visit his Facebook page for more information.
Rob has been a major factor in my life in many ways, and this is just a little slice of why I love him so much. He has always been our aromatherapy champion, bringing in science and rationality, fighting for what is right and good. A true Aquarian, he brings water to thirsty aromatherapists and shines a rational light on irrational claims. We are very blessed to have him on our side in the fight for truth and justice in the essential oil realm.
So thank you, Rob, for being a special part of my life and giving the gift of truth to the aromatherapy world!