There’s no denying it — essential oils are going mainstream.
As a result, hundreds of books, thousands of blogs, and untold numbers of people on Facebook are all ready to tell you everything you need to know on the topic.
The trouble is, not all of these sources of information are good… while others might even lead you dangerously astray.
To complicate things further, it’s hard to know which sources of information to trust.
The best solution I’ve personally found is to look to aromatherapy experts — people who’ve been working with essential oils for decades.
I contacted over a dozen experts, and I asked them 3 questions:
- How should an everyday consumer find accurate and easy-to-understand information on using essential oils?
- Are there any free online resources on aromatherapy that you can recommend?
- Which aromatherapy books would you recommend for somebody who’s interested in self-treatment with essential oils?
I’m grateful to 14 experts who got back to me with their recommendations.
Read on to find out exactly what they had to say.
Candidly, I’m not comfortable telling anyone what they “should” do, especially not in the context of this question as I don’t think there is (or should be!) a one-size-fits-all approach to engaging essential oils and aromatherapy. I think the approach an individual takes (and the resources s/he engages) should reflect his/her unique wants and needs and his/her specific desired outcome.
A mother hoping to leverage essential oils for wellness with her children is going to have very different considerations than someone preparing to create a product line or hoping to add aromatherapy to their massage practice; that mother’s resources, her investment, and her choices ought to reflect that.
There are some things I can share….I consistently recommend that individuals:
- engage a variety of resources from credible sources that are brand-independent
- engage resources that have breadth and depth, i.e., choose books over marketing brochures and reputable classes over free lunch-hour sales pitches
- invest more in educational and reference resources than in oils and equipment. Investment in good books, online classes, in-person workshops, and other resources will be far more valuable in both the short- and long-term than a bottle of an expensive and scarce aromatic that one isn’t prepared to appropriately leverage.
aromahead.com offers a fantastic online “introduction to essential oils” course and maintains a robust, interesting blog with insights, recipes, and more. Robert Tisserand generously shares safety and dilution information through his website at the tisserandinstitute.com. At aromaweb.com, Wendy Robbins maintains an incredible resource that has extraordinary breadth and depth—you’ll find anything and everything there.
Seek out a variety of credible resources that provide quality, stand-alone content that is regularly updated and that stands apart from product marketing—get on their mailing lists, read their blogs, regularly visit their pages. Lastly, there are also some incredible online communities; the key is to find and explore them to find the perfect fit(s) for you.
For a beginner hoping to incorporate essential oils and aromatherapy in everyday ways (especially with kids in the house!), I recommend Nerys Purchon & Lora Cantele’s book The Complete Aromatherapy & Essential Oils Handbook for Everyday Wellness. Valerie Ann Worwood’s The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy is a cherished classic—and it was recently updated.
Jeanne Rose has a host of wonderful books including aromatherapy; I’m partial to sharing The Aromatherapy Book with beginners. Kurt Schnaubelt and Dr. Jane Buckle have extraordinary resources for individuals seeking more formal clinical applications. Every formulator should have a copy of Tisserand & Young’s Essential Oil Safety, 2e. Lastly, I expect Andrea Butje’s forthcoming book, The Heart of Aromatherapy, will be an instant classic; I’ve already preordered mine!
Eric Scott Bresselsmith
DO NOT take serious any publications from multi-level companies. If you choose to study aromatherapy, then study with someone accredited by one of these associations. DO NOT take a weekend course that gives a certification at the end of the weekend.
Great question! There is a lot of information available today. One way you can go about it is by reading about the author of the blog, website or book in question. Are they a Certified Aromatherapist (C.A.)? Do you resonate with their approach?
You can also look at the schools approved by your country’s Aromatherapy organizations.
When you’re looking to buy essential oils, I would recommend talking to the company you are interested in. Taking the time to do a bit of research will help you identify solid resources.
My school, Aromahead Institute, has an engaging blog that’s published every week, and is a great source for well-researched information about essential oils and tried and true recipes. Aromahead also has a free class for beginners, the Introduction to Essential Oils.
The Untamed Alchemist is another wonderful resource. Kristina (the Untamed Alchemist herself!) has a lot of fantastic recipes and information, shared with pure love and enthusiasm for health and healing.
Here are a few great Aromatherapy books I would recommend for self care:
- Salvatore Battaglia — The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy
- Gabriel Mojay — Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit
- Jennifer Peace Rhind — Fragrance and Wellbeing: Plant Aromatics and Their Influence on the Psyche
- Andrea Butje — The Heart of Aromatherapy
There are so many other wonderful books, and those are a good place to start.
Good resources are books written in the last few years that are NOT affiliated with any company engaged in essential oil sales.
Many books on the market are a rehash of info from books written more than 25 years ago and contain myths and lack safety information. More research has been done in the last 10 years to support the use of essential oils in various circumstances. However, to someone unfamiliar with how to read the research, a lot of the information is easily misunderstood.
Also, many authentic aromatherapists provide classes and weekend workshops in Aromatherapy and they can be a wealth of information. Again, it is best to avoid engaging with those who have an interest in essential oil sales.
(I say this because much of the information shared on social memes and on Facebook and Pinterest is derived from Multi-Level Marketing companies whose interest is in selling oils, not health and wellness. Their advice often recommends overuse and copious amounts of essential oils in their protocols. In addition, their dropper sizes yield drops of oil that are twice the size of those generally sold. All in an effort to sell MORE oils.)
Aromaweb.com is run by an aromatherapist and provides some good basic information.
naha.org and alliance-aromatherapists.org both provide information on general basics (including safety and how to use). They also have searchable databases to find an aromatherapist near you (as does aromatherapycouncil.org), and they also list schools and educators.
The blogs at Tisserand Institute, Life Holistically, and the International Journal of Professional Holistic Aromatherapy offer good information.
I recommend The Complete Aromatherapy & Essential Oils Handbook for Everyday Wellness by Nerys Purchon and Lora Cantele. This book is written for lay persons as well as professionals who want it all at their fingertips (so they don’t have to go through several resource books).
It contains info on 109 essential oils, carrier oils and hydrosols, over 450 recipes with step by step instruction using ingredients commonly found in the grocery or health food stores, and provides resources for supplies, education and organizations world-wide.
Best part is that it is the MOST up-to-date with safety data! There are helpful tips in the margins and info on essential oil & drug interactions. The most comprehensive book to date was written by Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young called Essential Oil Safety, 2nd edition. This book however is not for the layperson (5.2 pounds of small type and very sciencey — full of chemistry and research). Robert was an advisor on my book and so I made some of his safety info more digestible in mine.
There is a new book out soon by Andrea Butje called The Heart of Aromatherapy. I’ve seen an advanced copy. It is very well done. She also has another book out for the lay person called Essential Living.
Shirley Price has a number of great books: Practical Aromatherapy, The Aromatherapy Workbook, Aromatherapy for Women, and Aromatherapy for Babies and Children. The books are a bit older, but still have really great info in them for the layperson.
My favorite school for the non healthcare professional is Beverley Hawkins’ West Coast Institute of Aromatherapy. I have had employees take several different courses, as well as my own studies. For the beginner starting out, I think Beverley’s is the best introduction.
For unbiased sources of information I highly recommend the West Coast Institute’s collection of articles and the info available on Aromaweb.com. (Of course I also recommend the info files available on naturesgift.com and on our blog!) Robert Tisserand’s online blogs and articles continue to be a great reference, with an emphasis on safety as well as efficacy.
In my experience, “free” courses are worth what you pay for them… most are simply ‘teasers” to invite you to take their paid courses.
Lora Cantele’s book is a good foundation. The first couple of printings had errors that have been corrected in the third and subsequent printings. (Lora has downloadable PDF corrections for those who have the earlier versions, I don’t know of any other author who has gone to that trouble.)
Valerie Worwood’s book has been re-issued (finally, it was quite dated) but I haven’t received my ‘new’ copy yet so I can’t recommend it. Make sure, if ordering, you get the NEW one (white cover), not the earlier (yellow cover).
My quarrel with her earlier books — they are full of recipes.. but you don’t LEARN from recipes. You learn from EXPLANATIONS of the recipes.
I am thinking of the difference between a straight recipe book in the kitchen.. which is NOTHING but ingredients and quantities and how long to cook them.. and a book like Julia Child’s series, or The Joy of Cooking.. which, in addition to recipes, helps you learn about the ingredients and methods of cooking them… which frees you to go on and cook with or without a recipe, because you’ve learned the basic processes.
The Wilson book contains a wonderful balance of information about the oils themselves AND formulas for their safe and effective use.
If you don’t mind a narrower focus, Mark Webb’s Bush Sense is the first introduction to the amazing essential oils of Australia. The first edition is out of print, the second edition is due late spring/early summer.
A Nurse-Aromatherapist Perspective:
The novice who wishes to learn how to use essential oils has a challenge today.
Although there are numerous MLM companies selling oils and making them easily attainable, and many others online, it has never been easier to purchase and hear about these products, yet it is not so simple a task to find correct and streamlined information on how to apply them in a safe and effective manner.
Instead of relying on the essential oil company who sell oils for education, I recommend that one looks to experts in the field, educators, authors and health professionals, whose aim it is to provide accurate instruction, rather than having the goal of selling oils, which can be perceived as a conflict of interest. For example, as a health professional and registered nurse, I have a license to protect and have the responsibility to impart safe practices and to offer truthful and unbiased information.
In addition, because something is natural should not be interpreted as without possible safety issues to consider, i.e. contra-indications, methods of application, dilution strength, drug interactions, and so forth. Having shared this as a foundation, I can offer the following to assist the consumer in finding accurate and easy-to-understand information:
- Take a class from an expert in the field, someone with the proper training and education – such as a certified aromatherapist
- Visit the two national association’s websites (NAHA and AIA) for general information regarding safety, application, reputable educational sources, etc.
- Purchase a book (or borrow from your local library) authored by an expert, hopefully who is also an experienced health professional, and/or certified in aromatherapy, that includes introductory information, as well as safety material, practical recipes, and user-friendly blending charts
I do have a great book that fits the above criteria and is utilized in several aromatherapy schools: Aromatherapy: A Holistic Guide to Natural Healing with Essential Oils.
Mynou de Mey
First of all, consumers should be educated in the safe use of essential oils. Those oils are concentrated at the end user point, usually, and those selling and educating people in the use must be quite knowledgeable in the field of Aromatherapy. Therefore it is not advisable to use “neat” (undiluted) essential oils on the skin.
Essential oils do not fit one universal therapy for all. Everyone is different and reacts differently to different essential oils. Therefore an important element of using essential oils must include at the very least a core knowledge in Aromatherapy.
Taking classes is always fun, and enlightening, especially when it could help you, or your family with minor illness. For anything that is serious with anyone’s health, always refer to your medical practitioner.
Various claims of cancer cures and other serious and sometimes fatal illnesses cannot be cured by essential oils. There have been medical and scientific studies demonstrating this fact.
Aromatherapy is also a science, and because essential oils components contain natural chemicals that can affect people’s health, it must be studied seriously, and responsibly.
Those who have taken extensive and serious courses in Aromatherapy – and that is very highly debatable – are not always licensed medical practitioners, but may have/or not some basic knowledge in essential oils. The “or/not” is a problem.
If, on the other hand, a consumer wants to enliven his/her home, calm the kids’ moods when they get back from school, or diffuse something natural in their environment rather than commercial scented sprays, things to be aware of are: possible allergies. Not everyone likes the smell of roses, or jasmine, or citronella…while others may love those scents; this is a factor that needs to be taken into consideration. Also the age of a person, his/her health condition. Babies and elderlies need a smaller dose of essential oils than healthy, and young individuals that do not have health issues.
It is quite sad that Aromatherapy has become so mainstream, leading the way for many “fake” products that even though can produce a beautiful scent, are probably harmful to your health because of the other additions, extenders, and other chemicals, some noxious to your health and the environment.
If you have elderlies living with you, or very young children, birds, dogs or cat, you need to be mindful of them as well. Animals are rather sensitive to smells, since their sense of smell is usually more powerful than ours. Choose wisely, ask lots of questions, ask where the person studied, their professional qualifications, look them up on the internet…. you want to know everything! Have fun!
There are may free Internet resources regarding essential oils, but the secret is to find reliable, informed, and serious sources.
I would never recommend a large outfit, such as ANY and all multi-level marketing companies. Those usually have a very poor scientific knowledge of Aromatherapy and essential oils, and some of these companies tend to be “evangelical” in their approach, even to the point of claiming “miracle cures”… some of these companies have been cited and fined by the FDA.
Claims of miracle cures and false and scientifically unproven medical claims are hurtful to the public, and tend to negate scientific proofs and progress. Large companies usually cannot train their personnel in a serious and ethical way, while the entire organization’s aim is to increase their sales, without regard to the individual.
I would personally recommend to seek a small outfit with a serious and solid background. Don’t be afraid to ask many questions… Your health and well-being are important and serious matters!
For essential oil education on the Internet:
Some organizations that can help with education and other aromatherapy information:
ARC (Aromatherapy Registration Council)
AIA (Alliance of International Aromatherapists)
NAHA (National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy)
There are some good sources for good and pure essential oils (please don’t get taken by those who claims that their oils are “certified therapeutic”, or “medical grade””…there are no such animals.) The only place I would recommend in New York City is Enfleurage – NY (they also have classes that are always fun!)
I recommend that a consumer should seek out information from an organization such as the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA). Such an organization offers valuable resources on basic aromatherapy and safe essential oil use. They also provide a list of approved education providers around the United States and beyond.
Membership starts from as little as $50 per year and includes a wealth of information through webinars, a quarterly aromatherapy journal, and the chance to attend an aromatherapy conference every two years.
When it comes to free Internet resources, Aromaweb has a wealth of information on essential oils and aromatherapy use.
And as for recommended books: my book! I wrote Authentic Aromatherapy for anyone who was new to aromatherapy and wanted to learn more about the safe use. It goes beyond a basic aromatherapy recipe book and actually teaches you how to make your own basic blends.
It is best to rely on non-profit associations for unbiased information, no matter what the issue. Here are a few options:
- American Botanical Council
- Alliance of International Aromatherapists
- National Association of Holistic Aromatherapists
Herbalgram (the American Botanical Council website) has an ‘herbal library’ which offers some essential oil books. Members have access to many excellent EO articles on line.
I also have an aromatherapy book called – Aromatherapy, A Complete Guide To The Healing Art (co authored with Kathi Keville; she also has many more books as well as a short version of our book together).
Refer to books, blogs and websites of people who are published, respected authors in the field. If someone goes through the time, research and effort to publish a book or writes articles for peer-reviewed journals, they are probably not going to steer you wrong.
Visit the websites of speakers who are involved in non-corporate-affiliated industry conferences. If someone has been a featured speaker at AIA or NAHA conferences, they have been carefully vetted and have reached a respected professional standing in the industry.
Subscribe to an industry journal. There are about a half dozen that are aromatherapy-specific, and the articles are not difficult for a beginner to understand.
Instead of relying on essential oil studies that are quoted and spun every which way on a nebulous website, look up the actual study and read it. PubMed is a good resource for that, or go directly to the source journal (all of them are online nowadays) if it is given.
I also strongly believe in taking a face-to-face, beginner class from a qualified professional in your region to understand basic, safe essential oil usage. Most basic classes geared toward non-professional users run from 1/2 day to 2 days, so it’s not a big investment of time or money, and that little bit of education really pays off for years. The basics are the same, whether you’re a beginner interested in personal usage only, or a beginner intending to investigate a career in aromatherapy.
[As for free online resources:]
http://www.alliance-aromatherapists.org (AIA website)
http://www.nature-helps.com/agora/agora.html (the AGORA website)
https://lifeholistically.com/category/essential-oils/ (blog of aromatherapist Leslie Moldenhauer)
http://www.aromaceuticals.com/blog (my own blog, which is how I assume you found me [true])
I don’t recommend taking free online aromatherapy classes, which a number of individuals and companies are now offering. The information imparted therein is minimal and these are nothing more than very effective sales tools to try to persuade you to invest several thousand dollars in another course which may or may not be appropriate for you.
[And as for aromatherapy books:]
Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art, Mindy Green & Kathi Keville
Complete Aromatherapy & Essential Oils Handbook for Everyday Wellness, Lora Cantele & Nerys Purchon
Advanced Aromatherapy, Kurt Schnaubelt (not an advanced book despite the title)
Beginners should not attempt to use essential oils other than to self-treat everyday common ailments. Refer any serious or complex illnesses out to a qualified professional aromatherapist or an allopathic medical professional who is trained in clinical aromatherapy.
First, I really feel anyone who is going to be using essential oils regularly for themselves, their families and friends, and in their homes truly does need to invest in some education on the subject.
There are numerous avenues and options to access aromatherapy education. Online schools such as ACHS and Aromahead Institute, to in person classes, ranging from weekend workshops to full length courses, taught by experienced and trained aromatherapists. I definitely feel aromatherapy training, reference texts, and sources of information should not be associated with a brand, sales, or marketing efforts.
When looking at online sources of information such as blogs, it is important for the everyday consumer to differentiate between opinion and anecdotal information, and evidence based information. The primary way to do this is by looking at the references used by the author of the article to support the information and statements made in the article. You want to see references to research studies, journal articles, or even textbooks.
If there are no references listed, it is a good indicator not to use the information in the article. Also, while there is a good deal of research being published on essentials and aromatherapy, it is important for the research be interpreted correctly, which is where the author’s credentials, training, and experience come into play.
While blog articles are a great way for the everyday consumer to access information on essential oils and aromatherapy, I only recommend the following blog sites which use references in all of their articles and are written or contributed to by experienced professionals. Again, blogs from schools with NAHA or AIA approved programs are a wonderful place to start, the ACHS blog, the Aromahead blog and many others.
The Tisserand Institute website is an valuable resource for training opportunities, resources, and also blog articles. The NAHA and AIA websites are also excellent places to look for information and resources.
If I were to pick one aromatherapy reference text for the home user, I would recommend The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy 2nd Ed. by Salvatore Battaglia. While written in 2004, this book gives excellent overview of all the relevant aspects of aromatherapy from history, to extraction, research, methods of use, safety, carrier oils, and monographs on essential oils with references.
I would also recommend purchasing Essential Oil Safety 2nd Ed. by Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young. This is an exhaustive reference text on essential oil safety, and necessary for the home and professional user alike.
I generally do not recommend books with recipes or formulas for beginner users. I feel studying the individual essential oils and working with them individually first is important. Crafting an essential oil blend takes experience and knowledge, and it is important to understand the role of each of the essential oils in the blend. While the author of the blend may understand this, the home user may not, and this makes it difficult for the home user to interpret their experience with the blend once they have made it.
This is where having a connection to a trained and experienced aromatherapist is invaluable for the home user, or even a professional interested in beginning to work with essential oils. I know I have given countless email and phone consults regarding how to use essentials, crafting a blend formula for a particular use, recommendations for safe use of a particular essential oil or essential oil blend, etc. And, many professional aromatherapists are also open to giving these types of consults. The money invested in the professional consultation is well worth it, as is developing a working relationship with a trained aromatherapist for any future support.
First, it all begins with chemistry. I don’t typically make public recommendations because my position in the industry makes it difficult to do that. I would recommend that people learn as much chemistry as they can because the chemistry will separate the charlatans and posers from people who actually know what they are talking about.
Above all else, I would not rely on information from “aromatherapists” who also sell retail essential oil products. Especially stay away from retailers who pass along GC reports from their suppliers because they almost never match the lots of oil they are selling. If a company cannot afford to have every lot of oil they sell tested then they should not be in this business. If the report is not from a qualified third party lab you may as well throw it in the trash.
There’s a lot of good free information out there but if you don’t have some basic foundations in chemistry then it will be difficult for you to filter through the information. I have a chemistry of essential oils course that is sold only to cover the cost of administering it for certification and supplying the chemical and essential oil samples, but if people want my information I give it away for free. I put my course videos on Youtube for free. These videos are from the actual class sessions from the course I used to teach at Indiana University, C390 – The Chemistry of Essential Oils. I also regularly post educational articles on my Facebook page and website .
Most aromatherapy books are bunk but again without a decent understanding in chemistry you won’t be able to discern the good from the bad. If you would like a good beginners book on chemistry that is relevant to essential oils and aromatherapy I would recommend starting with The Chemistry of Essential Oils: An Introduction for Aromatherapists, Beauticians, Retailers and Students by David G. Williams.
I also recommend the Essential Oil Consumer Reports group on Facebook. It’s the largest consumer advocate group for EOs on FB and run by some good people with a no drama, no nonsense approach. They have almost 34,000 members now and it’s the only group of its type worth participating in.
I think before using essential oils therapeutically consumers should take some basic training at an accredited school or work with an accredited Aromatherapist who will advise and follow their progress. If neither of these are possible they should buy their oils from someone who is trained and can advise them on use and precautions.
They could also buy a book such as mine 🙂 from an aromatherapy institution such as NAHA to be sure the book is giving correct information
[As for free online resources:] Jade Shutes has a free online introduction to aromatherapy on her school site.
[And as for recommended aromatherapy books:] Aromatic Medicine by Cathy Skipper and Patrice de Bonneval.
General thoughts – looking for basic information on the internet can be very confusing! I would recommend spending a few days reading a book as a good starting point.
[How to get informed about essential oils:]
* Buy a couple of introductory books:
- Aromatherapy, A Complete Guide To The Healing Art by Kathi Keville & Mindy Green
- The Complete Aromatherapy & Essential Oils Handbook for Everyday Wellness by Lora Cantele
- The Essential Oils Handbook: All the Oils You Will Ever Need for Health, Vitality and Well-Being by Jennie Harding
* Some useful Facebook groups:
[And as for free online resources:]
I would recommend my free mini course, How Essential Oils Work in the Body.
To sum up
Feeling dizzy? I hope it’s from the excitement of getting so many good recommendations for good aromatherapy information.
Here’s a summary of the various resources that were mentioned above (or click here to get it all in a handy spreadsheet):
- National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy
- Alliance of International Aromatherapists
- Aromatherapy Registration Council
- American Botanical Council
Blogs And Other Free Online Resources
- AGORA Website
- American College of Healthcare Sciences Free Webinars
- Aromaceuticals Blog
- Aromahead Institute Blog
- The Chemistry of Essential Oils YouTube Video Course
- Essential Oil Consumer Reports Facebook Group
- Essential Oil Consumer Safety Advocates Facebook Group
- Essential Oil University
- Essential Oil University Facebook Group
- Ethical Aromatherapy Facebook Group
- How Essential Oils Work in the Body (free course by Robert Tisserand)
- International Journal of Professional Holistic Aromatherapy
- Introduction to Aromatherapy Online Course (free course by Jade Shutes)
- Introduction to Essential Oils (free course by Aromahead Institute)
- Life Holistically
- Real Essential Oil Education Facebook Group
- Robert Tisserand’s Blog
- Tisserand Institute Blog
- Untamed Alchemist Blog
- Advanced Aromatherapy by Kurt Schnaubelt
- Aromatherapy for Vibrant Health and Beauty by Roberta Wilson
- The Aromatherapy Book by Jeanne Rose
- Aromatherapy for Babies and Children by Shirley Price
- Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit by Gabriel Mojay
- Aromatherapy for Women by Shirley Price
- Aromatherapy, A Complete Guide To The Healing Art by Mindy Green and Kathy Keville
- Aromatherapy: A Holistic Guide to Natural Healing with Essential Oils by Valerie Cooksley
- The Aromatherapy Workbook by Shirley Price
- Aromatic Medicine by Cathy Skipper and Patrice de Bonneval
- Authentic Aromatherapy by Sharon Falsetto
- Bush Sense by Mark Webb
- The Chemistry of Essential Oils: An Introduction for Aromatherapists, Beauticians, Retailers and Students by David G. Williams
- The Complete Aromatherapy & Essential Oils Handbook for Everyday Wellness by Nerys Purchon and Lora Cantele
- The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy by Valerie Ann Worwood
- The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy by Salvatore Battaglia
- Essential Living by Andrea Butje
- Essential Oil Safety, 2nd edition by Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young
- The Essential Oils Handbook: All the Oils You Will Ever Need for Health, Vitality and Well-Being by Jennie Harding
- Fragrance and Wellbeing: Plant Aromatics and Their Influence on the Psyche by Jennifer Peace Rhind
- The Heart of Aromatherapy by Andrea Butje
- Practical Aromatherapy by Shirley Price