You read the main text to learn the basic principles. Whenever you feel saturated by the classic concepts you switch to the text in the side column for a contemporary perspective, or an anecdote or an atmospheric illustration, expressing the mood of the current topic. The joyful mix of these elements ensures that the study process remains dynamic and entertaining.
The revised 4th Edition is, in our humble opinion, the first study text in over two decades that presents a truly updated perspective of aromatherapy. It includes many new elements not taught before, revealing the dynamics which led to the stunning global reach aromatherapy has acquired.
CALIFORNIA STYLE AROMATHERAPY
As the number of individuals using essential oils liberally (and sometimes too liberally) has risen dramatically, the fear-based approaches of 30 years ago are no longer meaningful.
Consequently, the 4th Edition leaves the old style with its numerous prohibitions (i.e. Clove oil should not be used at all) behind and presents the findings of evolutionary biology which indicate that a more casual use of essential oils can be in order and can deliver substantial health benefits. Following is a brief overview listing the scientific development which supports such more relaxed use of essential oils.
EXPANDING THE SCIENTIFIC FOUNDATIONS
French Style aromatherapy has focused on the chemistry of essential oils as the scientific underpinning of essential oil efficacy. The 4th Edition fully acknowledges this. At the same time, it overcomes the limits of a “chemistry only” perspective, introducing other narratives: Biology offers a broad new scientific rationale for essential oil efficacy. Traditional Chinese Medicine does the same from a philosophical and cultural vantage point explaining many healing powers of essential oils, which chemistry and conventional pharmacology fail to recognize.
Also from the perspective of biology arises the recognition that essential oils have two types of effects: specific and importantly, non-specific effects. Non-specific effects bring about some of the more important benefits such as improved immune response, prevention of infectious or chronic diseases and delayed aging.
By integrating Biology into the framework of aromatherapy we realize that a “chemistry only” perspective is outdated because it limits the perception of the activity of an essential oil to the activity of a characteristic or active component. But essential oils are complex mixtures of many active components. Biology provides the scientific process to understand the properties of such mixtures.
THE ORIGIN OF PHYSIOLOGICAL ACTIVITY IN ESSENTIAL OILS
Current aromatherapy holds that the basic qualities of essential oil components arise from different classes of chemical compounds, for instance, aldehydes are sedative and esters calming and spasmolytic. This is a very useful concept that has allowed for a good understanding of classic essential oil properties and hence has been the backbone of many approaches to successful blending. But the “chemistry only” perspective does not ask, why are aldehydes sedative. They just are!
Biology allows a deeper understanding by explaining how plant components acquired their activity. Consequently, the 4th Edition explores the fundamentals of plant evolution, especially of green leafy (Angiosperm) plants. Approximately a hundred million years ago Angiosperms refined the existing strategy of producing defensive molecules, favoring those which modify molecular targets inside attacking bacteria or virus particles. The 4th Edition explores how evolution selected essential oil components that had multiple beneficial properties.
The 4th Edition will also examine how one of the main concepts of today's biology, that of Emergent Properties is highly relevant for essential oils. Often, when conventional medicine disputes the efficacy of an oil for a specific indication, it does so, because there is no easily identifiable component with that given property. However, in biology, the idea of Emergent Properties shows that a plant or its complex products can have qualities that are not based on the chemical component, but in fact are properties of the whole plant organism. This explains how it can be that authentic and complete essential oils can have properties that are not found in any of its constituents.
THE VALUE OF TRADITION
Traditional Healing systems often are aware of healing properties which cannot be explained by conventional pharmacology. As a consequence, much of the knowledge of prior generations have been relegated to the dustbin of superstition, ostensibly for lack of scientific evidence. But ignoring traditional knowledge just because it does not fit into a narrow definition that claims that only reductionism is true science does not seem to be truly scientific. Instead of 4th Edition probes the many aspects we can learn - and enjoy - from traditional healing knowledge.
AUTHENTICITY AND QUALITY IN A GLOBAL AROMATHERAPY
Essential Oil quality had different definitions in the past. When essential oils were industrial raw materials, quality was defined by the purchasing agents of the major buyers. When the pioneers of aromatherapy were asking for wholly unadulterated essential oils, the absence of adulterants was considered high quality. As the multi-level aromatherapy companies succeeded in making aromatherapy a household word for large numbers of people unimaginable 20 years ago, the quality narrative again shifted. The 4th Edition examines the different notions of essential oil quality and formulates contemporary guidelines what authenticity and quality should mean for aromatherapy as a natural healing modality.
Contemporary Formulations integrates the knowledge of the above described new concepts into the design process for therapeutic blends to arrive at the most effective mixtures. Especially the results of molecular and cellular biology about the interaction of plant aromatics with molecular targets inside the cell helping to prevent chronic inflammation and carcinogenesis are considered.
There are many exciting developments in aromatherapy almost at any given time. The data from molecular and cellular biology attract the most attention, as they address contemporary issues such as cancer, chronic inflammation or metabolic conditions such as diabetes and mechanisms for detoxification!
Many scientific developments point to the anti-tumor properties of essential oils or their components. Nonetheless, there are, at this time, NO protocols that would reasonably suggest treatments for cancer with essential oils. However, if the surprising results about the anti-tumor properties of essential oils are combined with experience reports from the aromatherapy community the groundwork for a gradual formulation of a “Grand Strategy” may be emerging. Through this Grand Strategy, essential oils may become important players in the prevention and treatment of today's most serious diseases.
EXPANDING THE SCOPE: INTEGRATING OILS FROM THE EAST
An essential element of the new perspective is adding Eastern, sesquiterpene rich oils of a more yin character to the familiar Western oils, which are rich in monoterpenes and often of a more yang character. This expands aromatherapy from its original Eurocentric perspective to a truly global modality.
GOING GLOBAL AND THE EAST
When aromatherapy books first came out there was a need to sort, arrange or classify essential oils. Practically all authors arranged oils alphabetically. Niaouli came after Melissa but before Pine. This insinuated that all oils are somehow equal and that their only distinction lies in their chemical composition. The oils covered were generally the green leafy European aromatics with the addition of some exotic oils like Clove, Niaouli or Cajeput that came to the Old World by way of colonialism.
Instead of making Clove and Niaouli pseudo-European by hiding them alphabetically among the bulk of Western aromatics the 4th Edition proposes a fresh look at oils from the Eastern Hemisphere. The latter very often arise from rhizomes and resins and unlike many Western aromatics are rich in sesquiterpenes. Interestingly they can also be perceived as featuring a more yin character. The 4th Edition includes some descriptions of classic Eastern essential oils which are not so common in current aromatherapy. At the very end of Part VI the 4th Edition ventures into some philosophical speculation about the connections between humans, aromatics, and climate.