Educating, Innovating, and Inspiring: a Conversation with Rhiannon Lewis
Want to provide an immersive healthcare experience? Consider clinical aromatherapy, says nurse-turned-clinical aromatherapist, researcher, author, and educator, Rhiannon Lewis. Her heart’s path has called her to bring clinical aromatherapy to the forefront of complementary care, and decades later, it’s clear that her influence circles the globe.
From Bedside to Botanica: A Heart’s Path Spanning Decades
For the past eight years, Rhiannon Lewis has organized an integrative health extravaganza that celebrates all things herbal, and this year’s Botanica 2018: Education, Innovation, and Inspiration, to be held at University of Sussex from August 31st to September 3rd, is shaping up to be the finest one yet. While events that delve into the science and application of herbal medicine are not uncommon, this particular event is unique in its scope.
“Speakers from all over the world are coming. It’s a celebration of botanical medicine, and people from all areas of the profession–from distillers to suppliers to harvesters and growers to practitioners to you-name-iters–are going to be there, and you should be there, too. We’re all celebrating being in the presence of one another and learning and growing and evolving,” says Dr. Timothy Miller, Naturopathic CE’s founder and a workshop presenter at the event.
Not only is the scope of this conference unique in the range of attendees it attracts, it is uniquely inclusive of a branch of complementary medicine not often considered in integrative medical circles: clinical aromatherapy. Rhiannon wants to expand that limited perception of the medicine, and with her work on the International Journal of Clinical Aromatherapy, is inspiring a deeper level of study and clinical application of essential oils.
One facet of her approach to the promotion of clinical aromatherapy is to inspire others to see essential oils the way she does: as an immersive experience that affects all senses, filling in the gaps from conventional and even some integrative interventions, in order to complete a therapeutic experience.
“Essential oils are multifaceted tools. They have the capacity to work on the emotions, on the mind, on the body. Along with [this] multifaceted nature, there are also multiple ways that you can use them. Provided [that] people know what they’re doing…there’s a whole range of possibilities because essential oils, by their very nature, are fragrant, so you can use them purely by inhalation for obtaining the benefits for mind, mood, and stress management…and through the possibility of absorption through the skin, because we know that they can work through their physical nature. But there are also other routes of administration, mainly used in the medical or clinical context: using essential oils sublingually, ingested in capsule forms or different dosage forms, maybe even by the vaginal route or the use of rectal suppositories.”
Education is Fundamental
While she is excited to share the wide reach of essential oil use in innovative clinical settings, Rhiannon also takes care to stress the importance of proper education in chemistry and in clinical sciences to having success with this medicine. As a renowned clinical aromatherapist and leading voice in the field, she encourages anyone interested in learning more and working with essential oils to “recognize your sphere of competence.”
“Your starting point has to be education…You have to know the tools we use. It’s absolutely crucial to obtain a good qualification in essential oil science and education before you start working with prescribing. They’re incredibly powerful tools. We always want to stay on that side of the positive potential of essential oils, but because they are so potent, we also have the other side where they are not used appropriately…and you may actually end up harming the patient. Know when to refer, and stay humble.”
In addition to these wise words, Rhiannon shares a particularly intriguing clinical pearl about the use of essential oils for chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN):
“The typical modern medical approach to CIPN is very limited. These are people who may be post-cancer, post-treatment, but are still living with the consequences of this neuropathy. We’re finding remarkable results with topical preparations they apply themselves, at least twice a day, to the dorsal root ganglion where the nerve damage is, as well as to the periphery, whether it’s the hands or the feet. Here, we use oils like cornmint, or Mentha arvensis, chosen particularly for its menthol content and ability to work on the thermal receptors…based on some Scottish research on CIPN. We couple it as well some some essential oils or CO2 extracts such as marjoram, or Origanum marjorana, Spike Lavender, Lavandula latifolia, and a member of the ginger family called plai, or Zingiber cassumunar. When you put those oils together into a cream to use on the corresponding dorsal root ganglia and the periphery, the reduction in their symptoms is dramatic, even for patients who are [one year] post-treatment…it’s really exciting.”
It’s clear that where essential oils are concerned, there is much to be learned from clinical aromatherapy educators like Rhiannon Lewis. Many thanks for the afternoon spent with you, Rhiannon, and for your dedication to your profession! You have inspired us!
Watch the Full Interview with Rhiannon Lewis
To get to know Rhiannon Lewis a bit more and connect in all things clinical aromatherapy:
Click here to sign up for her Advanced Clinical Aromatherapy course series.
Click here for more information on Botanica 2018.
Click here to subscribe to the International Journal of Clinical Aromatherapy.