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.

Who Would Have ‘Thunk’ It?

Who Would Have ‘Thunk’ It?

When many aromatherapists gathered for the 2006 Aromatherapy Conference by Michael Alexander in St. Pete, FL, my brother D, allowed us to raffle him for a dinner date for United Aromatherapy Effort, Inc. to raise funds. Jane Buckle won him and wrote a poem I shared in my recent presentation, so I want to dedicate this blog post to D. Even though my brother passed from this earth a couple of years ago he is still with me cheering me on! I really think he may have been at the conference when I did the RE start me up show, as one of those orbs in the picture.


orb1 orb2


My roots go back to North Carolina. I started this life in the tiny town of Mt. Gilead, NC in 1950 having been born Sylvia Ann Baucom in Troy, NC, where the closest hospital was. My first memories of exploring the world were following my constant companion “Irish twin” Donald or D as he came to be known. He was ten months older than me and we were raised as twins in our early lives, knowing where each other was, having that special bond siblings have.



We moved to the larger city of Raleigh, NC where I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s as an only girl with D and two older brothers (14 year gap). This may have set me up for a life of gathering “brothers” who became mentors and teachers, helping me along the way. Together D and I grew up in the 50’s and 1960s, so we remember well when the Rolling Stones, Beatles, Dylan started.




The fascination with smell began when mom would take us into woods behind our house and show us pitcher plants (what she called them). Their leaves smelled of sassafras. She would collect soil from woods. to use in her potted plants. My mom showed me sewing, practical things, listening, and unconditional love. She made clothes for herself, rarely splurged for Avon beauty products and only had a hair cut occasionally. My neighbor Mrs. Ellis, having two boys, loved showing me how to apply proper make up and perfumes from beautiful bottles with glass stoppers. I became aware of perfumes in high school, noticing the soft scent of Shalimar on the rich girls who wore the best clothes, settling on Intimate spray as gifts at 16 and Estee lauder Youth Dew when I was working and could afford more. Finally, in my 20’s, I received real Shalimar, but by then had switched to naturals so could hardly enjoy it anymore.


In high school, after looking to no avail for a summer job, I decided to go to beauty school instead. I thought at the time beauty was external and important! My early role models were my sister in laws, Joyce and Arlene and they had curly hair. Once when I wanted curly hair as a pre teen, my Mom was gave me a painfully rolled, uncomfortable and smelly perm. When I complained she said something like “one has to work at being beautiful” (or to have curly hair.)….so I thought it was something you had to pay for, to cultivate and work on, etc. Somehow I didn’t understand how the frizzy hair that resulted from my perm did that for me!


By high school, my thinking was what better way to have access to beauty ‘secrets’ than to go into the field. At the time I believed that beauty was something one “did”….with make up and hair instead it coming from within, but hey, I was young! I did the 1200 hours through my last two years of high school in my free time every Thursday night after school, Saturdays, holidays and all of summer vacation. I got my license at 19, a month after graduating from high school. Once working, I moved into my first apartment, my Dad passed away, I met and married my neighbor, and then before the year was up we divorced with me keeping the name Sheppard! Shortly thereafter I moved to Florida, settling in Tampa, and proceeded with my life away from my hometown and family.


While becoming “Sylla” (nick name from friends),  I also attended a couple of years at University of South Florida, and feeling beautiful, I lived the organic hippy life for a while. I earned a degree as a natural health care practitioner (LMT) in 1979 while I cut hair at a local unisex salon.



By the mid 70’s I began my collection of these scented oils that were so magical. Long before I found the Valnet and Tisserand books, I realized this could be something big. Who would ever think from then to now, what adventures I would have. I really thought I invented it!