Reflections from Petaluma

Traditionally, fall is a time for sharpening the saw and adding to the knowledge you have. 
I just returned from a workshop in Petaluma, California lead by Robert Tisserand at Eden Botanicals.  Tisserand is an internationally known author and consultant on the subject of essential oils usage and a world-class teacher. He started his career over 30 years ago and is the founder of The International Journal of Aromatherapy and Tisserand Aromatherapy.He had the unique opportunity to interview Dr. Jean Valnet before his death on the subject of essential oils. If you will remember, Valnet was the medical doctor who pioneered the use of essential oils using Gattefosse’s observations during World War II.
Eden Botanicals, by the way, was an outstanding place to hold this class for 25 students. Our hosts were terrific!

While there I also met Jean Rose – whose classes are also on my list of to do’s. She has written some amazing books on the use of essential oils that are well worth the money to have in your library. We also had some time to visit a rugged rocky windswept beach – a rarity in California but nourishment to my Oregonian soul; visit wine country and have Crab and Shrimp Louie’s on the wharf with a view of the bay in Sausalito  – and last but not lease  -participate in the madness of high speed freeways and no parking that is just part of the California experience.

But I digress… this class was on essential oil safety and skin care.  I found myself in the company of students from around the world. 
Interestingly enough, the focus was on the bio-chemical research of the constituents (individual components) of essential oils and how to use this information to create skin care products.  This is quite a different world-view philosophy from my own holistic energetic view  – so it proved to be a good stretch for my knowledge base. 
My favorite quote from the class was from a person sitting behind me who said:   “I knew that essential oils had scent, but who knew they were therapeutic?” – Keep in mind most of the folks in this class were
Here I am with Tisserand mixing one of the
various skin care formulations that we did in class.

biochemists. This is the predominant world view.

When an essential oil is tested for what it contains, there are different amounts of esters, alcohols, terpines, aldehydes etc. recorded for the assay. Each oil at distillation (or any other process like CO2 extraction) is unique to the species of plant; the part of the plant distilled; and treatment that plant has received while it is growing – like altitude, sunshine, water, wind, soils and harvesting.  It can be challenging to recreate what nature created by just knowing these constituents. The interesting thing is that usually there are always some constituents that cannot be identified. The structure of how the constituents are put together is also a mystery. 
In my view, something is lost in dis-assembly and the structure is the synergy that makes the oil therapeutic. The adage from Aristotle “ The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” holds true.
Historically, this way to view the creation of chemical compounds had huge implications for herbalism and the use of essential oils to preserve wellness in the 17th century. While I believe in using all the tools in the toolbox, sometimes it appears that in our pursuit of wellness, we take out a sledgehammer to begin with by using chemical based compounds, when a little grease or a tongue depressor might do the job. 
I always find that classes of this nature create a dissonance within my own knowledge base until I have time to process the intense learning that goes on over two days. So, it is good to be back in my studio or the aroma cave (as the people who I have work with me call it!) with a new set of eyes and perspectives that will add to the way I create my products. 
I will leave you with one of my favorite reflections from Teresa of Avila:
May today there be peace within.
May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith 
in yourself and others.
May you use the gifts that you have received and pass on the love
 that has been given to you.
May you be content with yourself
 just the way you are.
Let this knowledge settle into your bones and allow your soul  the freedom
 to sing, dance, praise and love.
 It is there for each and every one of us.

I wish you an abundant season filled with infinite possibilities!    Brenn