Terms & References


Sensitization – “exposure to allergen that results in the development of hypersensitivity.” [1]

essential oil female back spa

So what is hypersensitivity? Is a hypersensitivity reaction the same as an allergic reaction?

Answer, yes. They are synonyms, BUT there are four different types of allergic reaction:
“a local or general reaction of an organism following contact with a specific allergen to which it has been previously exposed and sensitized; immunologic mechanisms gives rise to inflammation or tissue damage. Allergic reactions are classified into four major types: type I, anaphylactic and IgE dependent; type II, cytotoxic; type III, immune-complex mediated;type IV, cell mediated (delayed).”[2]

For the purposes of aromatherapy safety, any essential oil can become an allergen by using it undiluted on the skin; and this risk is there for all essential oils, including lavender. So while there are certain essential oils which have a known reputation for being potential allergens or with a reputation for sensitization, using any essential oil neat (undiluted) sets the individul up for a potential allergic reaction, leading to sensitization, and forever being allergic to that essential oil.


Robert Tisserand explains:


“Yes, sensitization is the process that takes place in the body that leads to an allergic reaction. They are not the same thing, but they are not totally different either. There are 4 types of allergic reaction, [3] but only two are relevant to essential oils. Type 4 (delayed hypersensitivity) accounts for 90% of allergic reactions. Type 1 is immediate hypersensitivity (generally not anaphylactic) and accounts for the other 10%. You could say the risk is potentially there for all essential oils, but this is a little unfair on the majority of oils, that have never been known to cause such reactions. I don’t like to assume risk that may not exist. The less you dilute the more you increase risk, but that doesn’t mean that undiluted copaiba oil is a greater risk than 1% cinnamon bark oil. It isn’t.”

To learn more, see the video which is a sample from Webinar 4 “Irritation and Allergy” from Essential Oils and the Skin 10-Day Series by the Tisserand Institute: https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=898998096798059

1. Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. © 2003 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved
2. Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary © Farlex 2012
3. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/136217-overview

Eighteen Years Later…

Who is Steering Eighteen Years Later?

“The “Purdue initiative” was the name given to a group of people involved in the aromatherapy industry who took the Aromatherapy program at Purdue in 1996 and 1997. The group showed concern for:

  • A perceived lack of education standards in the aromatherapy industry
  • Instances of unsafe practices
  • The prospect of the FDA regulating the sale of essential oils if the FDA perceived a need to act to protect public safety
  • The prospect of governmental regulation if the industry was not able to provide a self regulation system.
  • The lack of any independent credential available to a person in the industry.” [ref. http://aromatherapycouncil.org/?page_id=75]

Eighteen years later and the essential oil industry and the aromatherapy community are still facing the exact same challenges.

The education standards in the aromatherapy industry range from an afternoon of sales and marketing training in selling essential oils, to 30 hours for a Foundation Level set by NAHA to 100 hours for the exact same “Foundation Level” set by the AIA. And in reality, these standards are not enforced…people still refer to themselves as an aromatherapist with no actual training, and any multi-level-marketing salesperson can hand her classroom of recruits a certificate titled “Certified Aromatherapist” when they leave with their new sales kit!

Unsafe practices have led to liver failure, permanent scarring, sensitization, comas and even death. And the only national association in the USA in the field of aromatherapy, not only failed to keep records of injuries reported to them, they disbanded their safety committee entirely! Keeping track of this data has fallen to volunteers as a result!

The FDA has sent Warning Letters for medical claims ranging from life threatening claims such as marketing essential oils to treat cancer, to ones which are not only safe – but appropriate – like using tea tree for acne.  And yet the FDA DSHEA allows for the most hazardous and fraudulent marketing of essential oils as nutritional supplements to be ingested in water on a daily basis, and yet that is all completely legal.

The industry not only does not self-regulate effectively, but attempts to establish a realistic and appropriate system of self regulation, this American Essential Oil Trade Association, is viewed by some with fear. We have contributors who to this day, choose to remain anonymous because of threats made against them if they show us any public support.

Promoting SAFETY is characterized by some, as “fearmongering”. Empowerment is valued over education by big business. Our industry has completely lost the holistic aspect of holistic aromatherapy, essential oils are pushed like drugs…except it’s often friends and family we trust doing the pushing, or people with a reputable standing in the community; pretty bottles and slick packaging, instead of white powder in baggies.

The only measurable progress made in 18 years is an independent credential available to a person in the industry, that of Registered Aromatherapist™. The Aromatherapy Registration Council which evolved out of the “Purdue initiative” and the original Steering Committee which followed, has been successful in creating a standard, with recognized credentials and true meaning within the Aromatherapy Community. But, until the other titles people appoint themselves, such as Certified Aromatherapist, are also defined and credentialed, consumers are going to continue to assume anyone who refers to themselves as a Certified Aromatherapist, has some measurable and acceptable base of knowledge about essential oils and aromatherapy.  There needs to be some *thing* in between no education other than marketing, and the level required to sit for the exam and become a Registered Aromatherapist™.

A criteria needs to be set and a title which indicates a basic foundation of knowledge, established and trademarked. Someone who has a 30-hour basic foundation level understanding of aromatherapy and essential oil safety should be able to document that, by some standard which is recognized. But this is not the role of the AEOTA.  NAHA or the AIA should set some kind of criteria for the title Certified Aromatherapist, or come up with some other title and credentials which has meaning in our industry. Waiting 18 years is long enough.

Marketing Terms – Guest Post, Martin Watt

In the middle 1990’s, the new trade organisations in the UK, the EOTA and Aromatherapy Trade Council (ATC), organised two meetings with an adviser to the Medicines Control Agency. The MCA had started to flex their muscles over medicinal claims which were banned way back in 1969, but which many aromatherapy outlets were ignoring. At this meeting, participants were given a list of terms that it was agreed we could use in trade literature relating to essential oils. It was made clear at that meeting that no words could be used which related to the physical medicinal uses of essential oils, unless the condition referred to was classified as a ‘normal life event’ such as morning sickness, birth, menstruation, menopause, etc. Many members of the Aromatherapy organisations attended that meeting. Most of them have more or less complied with these guidelines.

Permitted words:


Additional terms:


Relating to colds and catarrh: IDEAL DURING COLDS SEASON

This was a list of some of the permitted terms allowed in the UK in the past, but may not be the same in the USA.

Martin Watt


FOOTNOTE: One of the benefits of Membership in the AEOTA, will be guidance documents, verified by the FDA, regarding acceptable cosmetic marketing terms for essential oils. You have questions, we will have answers…

What does Certified Aromatherapist mean?

The answer is…it depends!

In Australia, the Australian Natural Therapists Association (ANTA) has ‘recognised professional’ training requirements in the field of aromatherapy.

“Aromatherapy is practiced by practitioners whose practice has been defined by the Government National Health Training Package HLT51407 introduced in 2002. An Aromatherapist is a practitioner trained in Aromatherapy principles, philosophy and practice and uses volatile plant oils for psychological and physical well-being. Aromatherapists blend therapeutic essential oils for individuals and recommend methods of use such as topical application, massage, inhalation or water immersion to stimulate desired responses.”

So you can’t even call yourself an aromatherapist in Australia unless you have completed the approved Health Training requirements. http://training.gov.au/Training/Details/HLT51407

In Canada, the profession is self-regulated, but clearly defined and the terms trademark protected. The Canadian Federation of Aromatherapists…

“…has set standards for certification, safety and professional conduct for its members. A core curriculum has been established that our schools must follow and writing the CFA National Exam is a requirement for membership. Our members are entitled to use the legal designation CAHP (Certified Aromatherapy Health Professional) which is only available and applicable to CFA members.”


“To graduate from a CFA approved program, students must complete 400 educational hours and pass the standardized national CFA exam.”

The CAHP designation is protected under the Canadian trademark laws. http://cfacanada.com/about/

The Alliance of International Aromatherapists (AIA) defines the term Qualified Aromatherapist as…

“one who has completed a recognized training in aromatherapy at the minimum level of 200 educational contact hours (such as approved by the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy or the Alliance of International Aromatherapists) or has been recognized through a standardized exam, such as provided by the Aromatherapy Registration Council.”

Many Qualified Aromatherapists in the USA belong to the AIA. http://www.alliance-aromatherapists.org/aromatherapy/standards-of-practice/

The United States has no Federal regulations for the practice of aromatherapy. Laws for the practice vary by state.

The title “Certified Aromatherapist” has no recognized or legal meaning at all in the USA.

Individuals who call themselves Certified Aromatherapists range from those who have attended a Sunday afternoon class, and leave with a certificate of attendance, proclaiming they are now a “Certified Aromatherapist” – to individuals who have degrees in the practice of medicine, but have only attended marketing classes held by the brand they were recruited to sell – to individuals with advanced training in aromatic medicine...and everything in between.

The only recognized title in the USA with any formal recognition within the Aromatherapy community in the USA, is “Registered Aromatherapist™ (RA™)“. This title is available to those who have passed the Aromatherapy Registration Council exam. Learn more from the The Aromatherapy Registration Council at http://www.aromatherapycouncil.org/


Business Update…

A little business update from today, we have completed the State Requirements for forming a nonprofit corporation:

  • we filed incorporation papers (non stock) with the Connecticut Secretary of the State;
  • we have registered with the IRS, our Federal Employer Tax ID Number is 47-2178302;
  • we have registered with the state of CT Dept of Revenue Services.
  • Plans for 2015 are to apply with the IRS for nonprofit exempt status as a 501(c)(6) business league.

“A business league is an association of persons having some common business interest, the purpose of which is to promote such common interest and not to engage in a regular business of a kind ordinarily carried on for profit. Trade associations and professional associations are business leagues.


“Contributions to section 501(c)(6) organizations are not deductible as charitable contributions on the donor’s federal income tax return. They may be deductible as trade or business expenses if ordinary and necessary in the conduct of the taxpayer’s business.”


What is Aromatherapy?

needkeeoAromatherapy is the art and science of using essential oils to promote or improve both psychological and physical health and well-being.