Many of you have been asking about my story / background in essential oils, and how I got started using and teaching about them. And after repeating it over and over I decided to just write it down and share it. I typically keep this side of my life under my hat at least in public, but as the new year approaches, I decided it was time to share a little more of myself and my background with all of you. So here is my story, or at least what I can share in a format like this without taking up 10 pages.
There are many factors that contributed to where I am today, illness as a child, searching for help and answers for my health. But the real story begins about 15 years ago when I started a nursery with over 50 varieties of hard-to-find herbs and began growing and distributing plants to all the local nurseries in our area at the time. Growing all these plants gave me the desire to expand my knowledge of herbs by devouring books, taking classes and courses in herbalism, survivalism, wildcrafting herbs. These courses and classes helped me learn about the different herbs, their properties, how to use them, make tinctures, teas, poultices, etc. My love of herbs is still very strong to this day, and I still use the actual herbs more than essential oils because I love them and believe in them so much!
While I used essential oils off and on for many years, I became exceptionally fascinated with them after my love of herbs kicked in and also once I began working with skin care products a lot. Using medicinal plants in creams and lotions was my passion, but many times adding fresh, or even dried herbs or tinctures caused the cream or lotion to have a very short shelf life. So, ESSENTIAL OILS TO THE RESCUE! Not only did essential oils not shorten the shelf life of my skin care products, but in many cases they actually extended them. I became very involved in developing skin care products after my mom was diagnosed with a very rare form of breast and bone cancer. She, of course, wanted to avoid any chemicals in her skin care but found that many so-called “natural” skin care products were in fact not very natural at all! On top of this, when we were able to find truly natural products, they were often extremely expensive. Now natural skin care products are much more available, but 15 years ago they were harder to find, at least here in northern Idaho without an internet connection available. Since I had always been fascinated with chemistry and how things reacted and worked together, I decided I would just make her a line of skin care products myself. There wasn’t any “Pinterest” or other sites like that where you could just click a few buttons and have recipes at your fingertips. I had to start completely from the ground up developing recipes, just based on what I “imagined” would work together, and what I knew about how different substances would react with each other. I finally found a little book full of “recipes”, but, as many of you have probably found if you have ever tried to find recipes for lotions, butters, liquid soaps, etc., there is (especially 15 years ago) a HUGE difference in what is promised from a recipe, and how the product actually turns out in the end. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of “recipes” out there now, but many times they look/feel/smell nothing like what you buy in the store. And perhaps the biggest problem is many of them won’t last unless you keep them in the fridge. A recipe promises a “lotion” but in fact is nothing close to a lotion, actually resembling a soft lip balm or salve. Or, even worse, is simply a mixture of other pre-made ingredients, like mayo, fels-naptha, liquid soap, chemical preservatives, etc. This makes me FURIOUS! Why do people claim to know all about skin care and call themselves “experts”, but share recipes that are missing ingredients, don’t work at all, mold in a few days, require other pre-made products, or produced a finished product that isn’t even close to what the title of the recipe promised?
So,all those years ago, my mad scientist genes kicked in. My great-grandmother on my mom’s side had formulated a hand cream over 50 years ago that she sold for years, then finally sold the formula to a manufacturer and has now been sold for years and years in Wal-Mart! So I figured if she could do it, so could I! And countless hours and tons of failed batches, ruined ingredients, sleepless nights, and just about everyone who knew me making fun of me endlessly, I finally developed a whole line of products I could be proud of, that did not contain chemicals or preservatives, and looked and felt like something you could buy in the store! And in fact I went from selling at holiday craft fairs, to farmers markets, to health food stores, to selling them online all over the world!
Since that time, I’ve been blessed to work with hundreds of people with specific skin issues and been able to formulate products around their sensitivities, and years later I was contacted by a M.D out of Colorado who asked if I would formulate a line of products especially for his patients that contained no chemical estrogens or phytoestrogens. He had made some discoveries about skin care products affecting his patients ability to get well from certain hormonal diseases, and was unable to find a company that made a line of products that met the specifications he needed. A dear friend of mine got very ill, and became a patient of his, and when he explained all the ingredients in her skin care products that needed to be avoided, but that he didn’t know where she could find them, she responded that it wouldn’t be a problem cause she knew me, and she was sure I could develop products for her that met his specifications. He was excited to hear this, and asked if I would develop a whole line for him to sell, and she said she would ask me. When she asked, I just laughed and humored her, cause I assumed she was just trying to flatter me. No big wig doctor was going to call me up and ask me to develop products for him. But he did! I was so surprised you could have nocked me over with a feather that a famous doctor wanted some little ol’ red head from Idaho to develop products for him, I accepted, hoping I wasn’t biting off more than I could chew, as the list of ingredients that had to be avoided were some of the key ingredients to making effective products. Most thickeners, oils, essential oils, etc., were all off limits. This lead to a challenging and exciting few years of developing for me, lots of trials and failures, and a much more expanded view of product development and the chemistry behind skin care products. But I do love a challenge, and it was a great experience that opened up many doors for me in the skin care, as well as the medical world.
Working with herbs BEFORE working with essential oils, has been a great advantage for me personally. Knowing the plant, what it does, and what its uses and cautions are BEFORE working with the highly concentrated essential oils helps me have a more rounded opinion than I otherwise would. Many people have an overly flippant use of essential oils because they can’t imagine how a drop of something could possibly be harmful. But when you have a knowledge of the plant and how it is used, you are able to put into perspective how 24 cups of an herbal tea (which is what 1 drop of peppermint is equal to) could cause possible harm depending on the herb in question. Also, many of the water soluble compounds in herbs balance out some of the potentially harmful compounds, which makes essential oils potentially much more dangerous than the actual plant themselves. Many people do not know this, and think that an essential oil is just a whole extract from the plant, rather than one tiny component isolated. Also, those who learn about essential oils first, can also develop an overly cautious view of using the whole herbs because they know how a particular essential oil can be toxic. But many times, the plant itself is quite harmless and would have to be consumed in HUGE quantities to have any ill effects at all, whereas one or two drops of some essential oils can be quite toxic. So, I say all that just to make the point broadening your herbal education can be very helpful if you want to learn more about essential oils.
I have studied and used essential oils for myself, the two kids I have raised, and many other people struggling with skin issues in particular, but also pain, anxiety, and ailments. Creating blends, teas, etc, specific to individuals needs. In addition to 15 years of experience working with herbs and essential oils, I am currently completing my C.C.M.A. certification which is a Certified Clinical Master Aromatherapist course from the International Certified Aromatherapy Institute, which is an N.A.H.A level 2 recognized program. This program is for those who are practicing aromatherapy professionally. It includes over of 675 hours of study, therapeutic case studies, fragrance case studies, and a large research paper. In involves detailed chemistry of oils, molecular structures, detailed information about different distillation practices, therapeutic uses, and safety protocols among other things. I usually don’t talk about my credentials (or experience for that matter,) as I assume that when people talk to me, my knowledge will speak for itself. I also despise those who are constantly flaunting their experience or education in people’s faces. Also, I prefer that people weigh the information I give them based on its merit and value rather than just taking what I have to say and assuming it is correct because “she must know ‘cause she has experience and education.” But that being said, I realize some people want the confidence of knowing I am not just “another blogger with a store and an opinion” so I’m stepping out of my comfort zone and giving you some of the details of my experience and education here. I have had the blessing of other experiences that have greatly impacted me over the years as well, but those are stories for another day. So back to my aromatherapy training: I felt it important to mention the exact program and what is involved because many essential oil companies give classes and throw out pieces of paper they call “certifications” that don’t actually mean anything other than that the person who got the certificate spent a few hours spent attending a class somewhere, and may have no previous knowledge or ANY actually experience. I want you to know I am putting large amounts of my time, money, and energy into bringing you the best quality information on essential oils and herbs that I possibly can. I am not just a stagnant pool of information that is still drawing on what I learned 15 years ago but am constantly working to improve my own education and experience so I have up to date, good research and information to share with you. I have a bit of a different take than many people do on essential oils. Some of this comes from my experience, some comes from my research. So I don’t promise to always agree with everything you have “heard” regarding oils. But what I can promise is I will do my best to explain to you exactly WHY I believe what I do regarding oils, and WHY I recommend what I do. I am always open to questions, and if I don’t have the answers, I have access to a lot of information so there is a good chance I can find out for you or point you to someone else who can.
My main frustration with essential oils over the years has been the lack of good solid information you can find out there. There are lots of people spouting their opinions and ideas, or what worked for them, or what they “heard” worked for someone else. But when you really start digging, it’s very hard to find real solid answers for WHY we do or don’t do things in aromatherapy. For example, you will be able to find many lists of essential oils to avoid during pregnancy, but trying to find exact scientific reasons for why each of those oils should be avoided is a whole different story. I’m not saying the information is not out there, it absolutely is! I’m saying it is alarmingly hard to find, specifically in an easy-to-understand format. And this, in my opinion, is one of the biggest reasons for all the misinformation that is out there today. And trust me there is A LOT of VERY false and dangerous information about essential oils out there. People often just do what they are told without knowing the scientific reason behind it, and when they do try to find the reason behind it, they end up hitting a wall, or uncovering a scientific paper that they aren’t able to understand and this discourages them from further research. And people that are supposed to be “world leaders” in this field, promote blind loyalty by simply telling people what to do without explaining why, and how things work. And not fluffy terms, but actual facts and science behind what essential oils do.
I am not suggesting that you as an individual need to know all the chemical components of an oil and the reason behind all their uses or cautions. But what I AM saying is you should be able to find out if you want to! And if you ask someone what to do, they should be able to tell you the reason for what they are recommending, not just quote whoever their favorite expert of the day may be, or cite that they have “never had a problem” using an oil this or that way. And most of my writing, blogging and teaching centers around explaining the WHY of herbs and essential oils and using them.
I got asked the other day if the pretty blue glass bottles protect the essential oil from light, or if the brown ones are better, or if it mattered at all. I could have just said “yes it does matter, use the amber ones.” but in my opinion, this just promotes blind loyalty without actual knowledge. So, (in case you are wondering) my answer was “Yes it matters, because essential oils deteriorate the fastest when exposed to the blue spectrum of light. While pretty, the blue, green, and purple glass bottles do not filter out this spectrum of light as well as the amber bottles. So, if you are storing your oils in a dark place, it doesn’t really matter, as long as the bottles are glass. But if they are going to be sitting out on your night stand, or on the counter, or exposed to light at all, it is best to go with amber.” So now, if someone asks my friend why she doesn’t use the blue bottles, she can respond with the actual REASON instead of just saying “well Ashley said they aren’t as good as the brown ones.”
Or another example: Someone was asking about using certain essential oils during her pregnancy. She had read that this oil was not “safe” to use when you were pregnant and was asking my opinion. I could have answered “no, it is just fine to use, go ahead!” but then she would have had no information except my word to go on. My answer was “The reason that oil is generally not recommended during pregnancy is because it can act as a stimulant and is thought to possibly cause uterine contractions. However, since you are already PAST your due date, it is completely safe to use, because it will not harm you or the baby and any possible stimulation to your uterus it might cause would, at the WORST, cause you to go into labor, which you will be doing any minute anyway!” But if I hadn’t explained the reason behind the oil not being recommended during early pregnancy, she could have thought, (or rather continued to think,) this oil might harm her or the baby and that is why it is not recommended during early pregnancy.
Or another example, which is not important as far as safety, but illustrates the frustration that can come when you can’t find the information you need. A lady was asking on an online forum the other day what the difference was between orifice reducers, (the little plastic inserts in the tops of essential oil bottles that dispense the drops) and euro droppers. She got multiple answers from people telling her they were the exact same thing. They were both orifice reducers, so it didn’t matter which one she used. Even looking at the websites that sold these two different types of reducers was no help as they don’t explain the difference either! This gal persisted on the online forum, asking why they had different names and looked different if they were exactly the same? Several people responded again with the “they are the same thing” comment, and she started feeling frustrated, and my guess would be a little stupid as well! So I jumped in”while they are both orifice reducers, one is a simple plastic insert that reduces the diameter of the bottle, while the other (the euro dropper) reduces the diameter of the bottle, but also has a plastic “stem” underneath which is a vent and makes it much easier to get drops out of your bottle than standard orifice reducer. Standard orifice reducers tend to create an “air lock” in the bottle which makes it very hard to get any oil out unless you use a pipette. So, if you plan to use a pipette, the standard reducers are the best choice, but if you want to be able to get drops directly from the bottle, a euro dropper is the best.” Suddenly it made sense and she was able to make an educated decision on which product was correct for her needs.
Am I making myself clear here? These are just simple little examples, but they illustrate my point. I write all this to say, my passion is helping people UNDERSTAND everything to do with oils and how to use them. My goals for my classes, blogs, Facebook pages, and website is to turn the tide of the blind leading the blind and help people truly have a grasp of why they do or don’t do things and how these oils actually work together with our bodies. My goal is to help you find the answers YOU NEED, not just to be another voice to tell you what to do. Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE helping people and answering questions, and if you are stumped and need help with a recommendation I am happy to help you in any way that I can. But you may receive a longer-winded answer to your question than you expected! (as many of you who have already emailed me with questions have found out!) Cause the WHY is every bit as important as the WHAT to me.
So friends, that’s my story, my passion, and my goal. Education, pure and simple. Not promoting fear of using oils, but also not promoting that all natural substances are safe and harmless. My goal is taking the research on essential oils, which is primarily composed of scientific papers and articles that are very hard to read, and make the information they contain and explain easy to read and understand, and accessible to beginners and more advanced users alike, not just reserved for those who have a passion for research. At some point if you stick with me on this journey long enough, I will probably contradict a lot of what you have been told, but I will also explain why and do my best to equip you with the information you need to determine what is best for you and your family. So if you are sick and tired of being confused by contradicting experts, and friends and family who recommendations are exact opposites, begin the journey with me to finding out WHY, not just WHAT. You’ll never regret it!
So for those of you who are local, as far as my store what does this mean? Many of you know I am expanding my herb, tea, essential oil, and skin care side of things at the store this year. This is not a sudden move, prompted by the growing fads that I thought I should “get in on.” This has been my goal for the store since the moment I opened. But when I first opened and talked to many people in the surrounding areas about making your own skin care products, etc., I was met with questioning stares and lots of “you make your own WHAT?” type questions. So, I’ve been quietly waiting for enough interest to bubble up in our little town and surrounding areas to start sharing all the products that I use on a daily basis and love. And that time finally has come! I’m having overwhelmingly good responses to the products I’ve already brought in, which is VERY exciting! Timing is everything, and I feel this is the right time. And in my mind, I buy containers in HUGE quantities anyway, so why not share them at the store! I buy skin care supplies in pounds and gallons, for my own various lines of products, so why not divide up smaller portions and have them available for my shoppers? I am so beyond excited to finally be able to share this side of my life with you all. I love the decorating, arranging, crafting, design side of my store too, don’t get me wrong. And that side of the store is certainly not going ANYWHERE! But the herbs, essential oils, and skin care side is my true love and passion.
As far as information, and asking me questions: I love helping you select the products that are right for you, or pointing you in the direction of someone else who has them if I do not, but the store is not a place where I can give one on one devoted time to helping you learn and expand your knowledge. As much a I would love to be able to walk each of your through how to make your own products, where the best things are to order, etc., I simply don’t have the time during business hours. However, I will happily direct you to online classes I give, articles I’ve written, or books and recourses that have been invaluable to me over the years, as well as directing you to websites, or other articles, and telling you of companies that may have the containers, or products you are looking for that I don’t have. I’ve been doing this for a long time, and I love to share some of my favorite sources for you to enjoy as well. Also, often times the store doesn’t afford me the time to personally answer all your questions, you can feel free to email me, or shoot me a message on Facebook where I can direct you to information that will help you with your own goals for essential oils and herbs. Also, many times at the store with customers and my little guy running about my mind gets pulled in a thousand directions, and when I get a sudden question like “So, in your opinion what is the most effective mixture of herbs for maintaining immune function during the winter months?” or “so what is the real difference between essential oil companies and which one is the best?” And it’s very hard for me to give a short and sweet answer to some of those questions between other customers and interruptions! So be patient with me, and don’t be offended if I answer a question by recommending a blog, or article to you. I do a lot of work online, and get so many emails and messages with specific questions on various topics, that sometimes I get a little behind in responding. So patience is appreciated, but you are all so important to me and I will do my best to help all of you in your endeavors for 2014
I am so excited for the expansion of this side of the store. So excited to be able to start offering some of my favorite essential oil blends I’ve made over the years, and favorite tea and herb combinations. Thanks to some added help at the store this new year, I will be freed up to make many of the best sellers and favorites at the store that until now I’ve only had in my online business! Up until now I haven’t been able to keep up with online sales as well as sales at the store, so many of my products have never been available at Harebrained And Happy, but hopefully this year that is all about to change! It’s a whole new year coming up, and a whole new set of exciting opportunities. And I just want to thank you all for making this possible, and for your amazing loyalty and support throughout the last 4 years, even through some dark and tough times for me and my family. You are all so appreciated and loved.
I am so beyond excited at the chance to partner with all of you on your journey to a more natural lifestyle and better health.
Many blessings to you all!
Real Essential Oil Education
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