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)

I Thought I Invented It

I Thought I Invented It

In the mid 70’s, like all good hippies, I went on a 6-week road-trip with my Mom in a VW microbus camper to California and back. I found the first scent shop I had ever seen in Dallas, TX. That shop changed my life! The smells were wonderful; the colored oils in glass decanters with pipettes for dispensing were a sight to behold! I bought at least six samples including patchouli, and so-called rose and jasmine (synthetic, as I discovered later). I mixed various scents together, patchouli and rose one day, patchouli and jasmine the next; and I observed how people reacted. This helped me define my own trademark scent that I still wear to this day.


I gave scents to my friends and family. I remember my brother D began first by scenting his fiddle case with patchouli, then it became his scent that he wore for the next 40 years. Another friend had been given a blend of vetiver/patchouli and I became obsessed with that too. I made perfumes, and perfected my famous personal scent. My own scent left a trail where I went; people would say I knew you went to the library on campus when I smelled you on the door after I opened it. Once at a party someone said I was at the airport on a particular day as they had smelled me in the elevator. At first I didn’t know what they were talking about. Later though, I remembered I had taken my Mom to the airport to fly home after a visit; sure enough I had been in the elevator at Tampa Airport that day in October. My scent followed me wherever I went and became a signature for who I was and who I would become.


Once I had my massage license (1979), I began adding oil blends to treatments and I saw that more intensely deep relaxation and occasionally psychological miracles occurred. I really thought I was onto something, wondering why anyone hasn’t anyone done this before?. “Surely this could be something big,” I thought. I understood a new potential and began an earnest quest for more information and more oils.


I ordered patchouli and “musk”- at the time really popular scent from Kiel’s pharmacy in NY, and begin to locate oils at the local food co-op, early health food stores and “head” shops.



I found advertisements for essential oils in the herbal magazines, as aromatherapy slowly entered the US through the door of herbalism, and the natural health movement. Many of the first teachers were herblists such as Jeanne Rose and Mindy Green and of course Colleen Dodt.


Odd that today, many aromatherapists are moving back into herbalism, wishing for a deeper understanding of the traditional medicine, and wanting more info on the plants these oils come from. With that in mind I have asked another well known herbalist to help create a course for our students, so watch this space!