Many describe the third Monday in January as “Blue Monday”, the saddest day of the year. For many of us, this slower period after the excitement of December holidays can have us feeling low, sad or restless. For us at Ksoni HQ, a simple way to lift our spirits on Blue Monday (and all year round!) is through aromatherapy. So what is it and how can we benefit from it? We talked to Katie Elliott from Katie Marie Aromatherapy about how aromatherapy can help us physically and emotionally, and some simple routines we can do at home.
What is the best way to describe aromatherapy for those who are not familiar with it?
Aromatherapy can be best described as a form of holistic therapy that harnesses the fragrances of essential oils in aromatic plants to help restore and balance a person’s mind and body and improve and enhance their overall sense of well-being.
Could you tell us a little about the history of aromatherapy and when it became popular?
Aromatherapy actually stems right back to ancient civilisations - from Chinese, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans - all documenting and sharing the power and therapeutic effects of plants in their medical treatments.
It wasn’t however, until 1937 that the actual term "aromatherapy" was said to have been coined by a French chemist Rene-Maurice Gattefosse. After suffering from a serious burn incident, Gattefosse grew fascinated about the healing power of essential oils, namely lavender which he successfully used to treat it. Hot on his heels was French surgeon Jean Valnet who used essential oils as powerful antiseptics to treat wounded soldiers during World War II.
Since that point, Aromatherapy has fast become popular and respected worldwide as a form of alternative medicine, used in a variety of applications from psychological, cosmetic, cognitive and medicinal.
Why did you want to get into aromatherapy?
I was blessed to grow up along the South Coast of England, nestled between rugged coastline and beautiful countryside, so I have always had a deep fascination and appreciation for nature. As I child, you’d always find me in my parents’ back garden, picking my poor Mum’s beautiful rose petals, in an attempt to make lotions and potions. It wasn’t until I moved to London in 2012, that I started using aromatherapy as a therapeutic outlet. I found that not only did essential oils help to lift my mood, settle periods of anxiety and stress, but they helped address different health needs too, from digestion to skincare. Last year, I decided to take the leap of faith and embark on a journey of becoming a certified aromatherapist - and I haven't looked back!
Tell us a little about your course – how long is it and how much of a time commitment?
I’m studying an Aromatherapy and Essential Oils Science diploma with the prestigious Neal’s Yard Remedies. It’s an 18 month long course. It does require a lot of commitment. We have intense study weekends once a month and there’s lots of homework and studying to do at home, not to mention massage practise. But I am loving the experience and meeting like-minded people already in, or getting into the industry - it’s hugely rewarding.
We’ve often seen aromatherapy linked to massage or diffusers. Is there any other way to experience aromatherapy benefits?
Essentially, aromatherapy works in many ways to heal the mind, body and soul through smell and skin absorption, so it can be experienced in so many ways! From diffusers, massages, bath salts and oils, balms, lotions, facial steamers, spritzers, inhalation, to compresses.
How do you plan to use aromatherapy in your practice?
I intend to take a very holistic approach when treating clients with aromatherapy because of the many positive physical and emotional effects people can experience from essential oils. Alongside my studies, I make aromatherapy candles from pure essential oils. I find them to be a perfect complement to massage, from relaxation to energising, to sleep preparation. It’s important to be mindful of what we breathe in, as well as what we put on our skin.
Are there any go-to essential oils that you tend to recommend most often?
Lavender (known as Lavandula angustifolia), distilled from the flowers and leaves of French lavender. From calming the body and the mind, to its numerous medicinal qualities, this humble little oil is so amazing. I religiously spritz it onto my pillow to help me sleep - it’s such a saviour!
How can you tell if your essential oils are good quality?
Consumer demand has led to many new and sometimes questionable suppliers selling cheap, inferior quality or adulterated essential oils, so it’s really important to look for reputable suppliers when buying. Oils should be 100% pure, unadulterated and of ‘therapeutic quality’. Most of the UK's larger essential oil suppliers are members of the Aromatherapy Trade Council (ATC), which is the UK's regulatory body for the Essential Oil Trade, so that’s a good accreditation to look for.
Aromatherapy is considered to be an alternative therapy in the UK. Where do you feel aromatherapy sits compared to other conventional medical treatments?
I think this is a really important discussion, and holistic healing is something I’ve always been interested in learning more about. Aromatherapy can be used as a complementary therapy to support conventional treatment of various conditions but it can also be used as an alternative medicine / treatment too. They’re very different because of course, it depends on a person’s condition and their needs. More and more aromatherapy is being seen as an integrated complementary therapy alongside medical treatment and I think that’s got a lot to do with it being uniquely designed to treat the entire body and promote the body’s natural abilities to heal, rest and recover from stress and illness.
Today is Blue Monday, described by some as “the saddest day of the year”. Can you recommend any essential oils to help anyone who is feeling low this season?
January can often tend to be a month of self-reflection and perhaps uncertainty, which can trigger stress-related emotions and low-mood. I would recommend calming essential oils like Lavender, Sandalwood and Chamomile. To relieve symptoms of depression or anxiety, Bergamot, Frankincense and Clary Sage. Adding recommended drops in a bath (‘buffered, i.e mixed with a carrier oil first), or in diffusers are a perfect way to use them.