Heather Thomas of Heather Scent Aromatherapy, photo used with permission
Heather Thomas of Heather Scent Aromatherapy, photo used with permission

My previous interviews with professional aromatherapists have featured some very busy and talented ladies.  Some of you may think that aromatherapy is something you would love to take the time to learn about but you really don’t know if you have the time, patience or money.  So, over the next couple of weeks, I am posting some interviews that I did with some very busy moms – who found the time to both train in aromatherapy and use aromatherapy in a positive way with their own children.

This week, I interviewed Heather Thomas of Heather Scent Aromatherapy; Heather is a professional aromatherapist in Canada, so I also took the opportunity to ask her about the aromatherapy profession in Canada 🙂  I hope that after reading this interview with Heather Scent Aromatherapy, you will learn how beneficial aromatherapy is to busy moms!  Enjoy!

AN: First of all, thank you Heather, for taking some time out of your busy life to answer some questions!

HS: You’re welcome!

AN: Like many, you have had a varied path in your introduction to aromatherapy; part of that introduction, before you undertook any aromatherapy training, was the use of aromatherapy during your pregnancy by a certified aromatherapy health professional. How useful did you find aromatherapy during your pregnancy and how did you use it?

HS: I found it to be extremely useful. I received an aroma-massage about every 4 weeks, and a massage from an RMT (registered massage therapist) weekly. I would have gone to the aromatherapist more often, but our health insurance only covers RMTs. Still, I felt the aroma-massage was well worth the price.

My aromatherapist gave me a bottle of Mommy’s Massage Oil, which contained Lemon, Frankincense and Ylang Ylang. I rubbed my belly with that every night before bed. As you know, scent memory is a very powerful thing. I still have the empty bottle (I placed it in my son’s memory box), and to take a wiff of it brings me right back to the days of my pregnancy.

I can’t say for certain it was the massage that did the trick, but I came away from my pregnancy without a single stretch mark, and I was quite tiny before becoming pregnant.

For my baby shower, instead of handing out the standard party favours of mints or candy, I made up a large batch of Lavender bath salts and put them in cute containers from the craft store. What was leftover from that, I gave to the nurses at the hospital.

In the beginning, I also used to put a few drops of peppermint oil on my shirt cuffs every day to help with the constant nausea. This was before I discovered the more convenient inhaler sticks!

AN: Tell us a little bit about the creation of your aromatherapy business, including your aromatherapy training, and the services that you offer.

HS: In late 2007, my son had a cold. Like any mother, I bought some chest rub (I won’t repeat the name brand). Then I read the ingredients. Not only was it in a base of petrolatum, the essential oils it contained were not recommended for children. I knew there had to be a better way. I had just started studying with Joy Watson of Joyesscence Aromatherapy Centre in Guelph, Ontario, so I used some of my newfound knowledge to select a blend of oils that would be effective in fighting chest congestion in a toddler. Not being familiar with alternatives for bases, I simply added these oils to petroleum jelly (later I would learn to make a base from beeswax).

I packaged it in small tins and sold it to my on-line community of mommy friends. A few of the ladies encouraged me to start selling my wares on Etsy. I opened my shop there in March of 2008. It was around that time that I discovered the nasal inhaler diffuser blanks, and began creating my old blends. Since then, the nasal inhalers are easily my best-selling product. In fact, due to shipping issues, they are the only product I currently sell in the Etsy shop.

I completed my courses with Joy and took her exams in May of 2009. I spent that summer completing my case studies, and was certified by August. The following Spring, I took the CFA exam to achieve status as a CAHP in Canada.

Right now my business is mainly selling on Etsy and locally, and providing aromatherapy consultations by e-mail or telephone. Due to a lack of space, I don’t really have an adequate place to set up my table to perform aroma-massage treatments. I’ve recently moved my home office from the second floor to the main floor, and am looking into setting up my table in the dining room when I have a client come in.

I do have a full-time day job as a city bus driver, so it’s just not feasible to give up that kind of income and benefits to start my own business. I will be able to retire at age 55 (with a full pension), and at that time I plan to open a practice, full-time.

AN: One of your passions is books! Name a couple of aromatherapy books that you would recommend to those starting out in aromatherapy.

HS: The books I recommend the most often are:

Anything by Valerie Worwood , especially:
The Fragrant Pharmacy (published in North America as The Complete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy)
Essential Aromatherapy (co-authored with her daughter, Susan)
Aromatherapy for the Healthy Child (if you have kids)

Chrissie Wildwood – Aromatherapy. This one is hard to find. It has a textbook look & feel to it. The Book Depository in the UK is a good source – and they have free shipping to anywhere in the world.

Julia Lawless – The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Essential Oils. The oils are arranged by botanical name, so it’s not for absolute beginners, but the colour photos of each plant are very helpful.

 (AN: You can find some of the books that Heather mentions in the Amazon bookstore)

AN: Do you ever use aromatherapy with your children and how receptive are they to aromatherapy? 🙂

HS: I do use aromatherapy with my kids. They like the smelling aspect, but they are not receptive at all to full body massage, and they put up quite a fuss if I even want to put a salve on their chests! Even as an infant, my younger son did not like laying still for more than 60 seconds. But will still use essential oils in day-to-day living and for minor ailments.

My step-son likes a few drops of sweet orange on his pillow to help him sleep and repel nightmares. He’s nine now and I’ve been doing that since he was about five.

I put lavender & bergamot in the bath when my little guy has been having a bad day, and he also loves his ‘Stuffleupagus’ inhaler – which is my own blend for colds & congestion in children. I frequently add EOs (essential oils) to the humidifier as well.

When they get mosquito bites, I mix up some EOs with baking soda and then make a paste by adding some lavender hydrosol. Of course, since my kids are incorrigible they put up a huge fuss over having this applied and end up pitching such a fit that we’re usually worse off!

Heather Scent Aromatherapy Products, photo used with permission
Heather Scent Aromatherapy Products, photo used with permission

AN: You are a member of the Canadian Federation of Aromatherapists. Explain the importance of this designation to those who don’t understand what the regulations are surrounding aromatherapy in Canada.

HS: Technically, aromatherapy is not really regulated in Canada. Anyone can really call themselves an “Aromatherapist”, even if they have little or no training. This is often the case in beauty spas, where the workers maybe read a book and started adding lavender oil to their massage blend and POOF – suddenly the spa is offering ‘aromatherapy’ services. The CFA does, however, have a trademark on the term CAHP or Certified Aromatherapy Health Professional. In order to obtain this designation, you need to finish an approved course, pass an exam, hold a first aid certificate and liability insurance. You also need to obtain a certain amount of Continuing Education Credits every year.

The sale of essential oils are also not regulated, which is a good and a bad thing. It’s good because if the gov’t got involved in natural medicine, they would add impossible taxes, levies & fees to everything. It would probably end up costing about $5000 a year just to maintain status as an aromatherapist and be able to gain access to essential oils.
But it’s also bad because that means anyone can just walk into a ‘health food store’ and pick up a bottle of Wintergreen oil. Wintergreen, as you know Sharon, is liquid aspirin. Even a few mLs could seriously harm or even kill a small child. The way to solve this problem is through public education, which is one of the mandates of the CFA.

Not all Canadians who finish a CFA-approved Aromatherapy course go on to take the CFA exam. Some may already be certified in another module, and aren’t interested in one more professional membership. However, I highly recommend joining the CFA to anyone interested in Aromatherapy. The excellent group rate we get on insurance premiums alone make it worthwhile.

For more information about the CFA visit their website

Also taken from their website:

Why become a Member?

  1. Use of the legal designation of the certification mark CAHP (Certified Aromatherapy Health Professional) is only applicable to professional CFA members. The CAHP designation is protected under the Canadian trademark laws.

  2. CFA membership certificate for your office.

  3. Ability to stay connected and network with aromatherapists regarding areas of practice, issues within the field of aromatherapy and gaining ideas and advice from fellow practitioners.

  4. Access to discounted Professional and General Liability Insurance through group rates and coverage for numerous holistic modalities.

  5. An opportunity to represent the CFA and it’s members by lobbying various levels of government concerning the right to practice holistic therapies.

  6. Belong to a professional and respected organization. The CFA has established minimum education standards, advertising guidelines, grievance resolution policy, code of ethics, among other policies and procedures.

  7. Receive a quarterly newsletter to keep you informed. Be kept up to date with changes & developments in our industry with respect to education, research and resources for professional practitioners.

  8. An opportunity for a voice in your profession.

  9. The privilege of participating on the Board of Directors of the CFA by election.

AN: What qualities do you think an aromatherapist should have in addition to aromatherapy training?

HS: A genuine desire to help people! People don’t go into aromatherapy for the money, okay?

You also need to have that “touch”, especially if you will be offering hands-on treatment.

Remember that it’s a business and will need to be run like any business. If you don’t have a head for money and marketing, you either need to learn or find someone who can help you with that part.

Oh, and a bit of start-up money is a good thing! You will be spending quite a bit on your initial collection of oils and supplies.

AN: Do you have any other advice for those considering a career in aromatherapy?

HS: Find out what the recommended procedure is for become a proper aromatherapist in your area. In Canada, this procedure is laid out on the CFA’s website. In the US, you would look to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy – the NAHA

Take a course (you will have to invest time & money in this – becoming an aromatherapist doesn’t happen overnight!), and then offer some services to friends and family for a nominal charge (enough to cover the cost of your oils) to help you gain experience.

It’s important to have a plan for your business. Or at least I hear it is – I wouldn’t know because I never made one and still don’t have one! I’m flying by the seat of my pants here – it’s still takes me about 6 weeks to get everything together for my taxes, because I’m terrible and keeping track of stock throughout the year. So my advice is: Don’t be like me! lol

When it comes to purchasing initial oils and supplies, there is a tendency to go hog-wild. My best advice:

1) Even though it’s cheaper to buy in bulk, purchase EOs in small bottles (especially the citrus ones, which expire quickly), until you get a feel for how much you’ll be using of a particular oil. Otherwise the oils will lose all their therapeutic value before you’ve had a chance to use them up. By ‘small’ I mean 5mL for citrus oils, maybe 10-15mL for other oils. Once you start using the oils, you’ll learn which ones you need more of. Eventually, you may find yourself buying buy the litre!

2) If you plan to make products ONLY BUY SUPPLIES THAT YOU HAVE AN IMMEDIATE PLAN FOR! I know if I see a cool new container, I want to buy a dozen, even if I have no idea what product I will package in them! Same goes for supplies like cocoa butter, carrier oils, etc… Buy only what you need for a planned recipe, or you will end up throwing away a lot of rancid butters and oils.

It’s also very important that you insure yourself and your business, especially if you are dealing with touching people or selling products. And learn the local regulations – some states (I have learned) do not allow you to ‘touch’ someone unless you are a registered massage therapist! So you may only be allowed to provide consultations in those states.

AN: Finally, where can people go to learn more about your aromatherapy business?

HS: Website/blog: http://www.heatherscent.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/heatherscent

Twitter: http://twitter.com/heatherscents (Note – I tweet about everything – not just aromatherapy – and I can get a bit crazy sometimes!)

My Etsy shop: http://heatherscent.etsy.com

AN: Thank you, Heather!  I appreciate the information on aromatherapy in Canada and I think that busy moms everywhere will see how aromatherapy is beneficial to their children! 

 Next week, I will have another interview with a professional aromatherapist!

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