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.

Rhiannon Lewis,
Clinical Aromatherapist

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.


Sarah E Ouano ND

After graduating from National University of Health Sciences (IL) as a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine in 2011, Sarah completed a residency in Seattle, WA, which focused on infectious disease and Autism Spectrum Disorder. While there, she also served as a volunteer physician at an LGBTQIA homeless shelter, acting as a primary care physician for both youth and adult patients. In 2016, she completed a term of AmeriCorps VISTA service, and has since become heavily invested in the intersection of public health and social justice, and how an individual’s health picture shapes a community.

Timothy Miller ND, LAc, RA

Timothy Miller ND, LAc, RA is a naturopathic physician, licensed acupuncturist, and registered aromatherapist. He is a graduate of the National College of Natural Medicine (NCNM) in Portland, OR.

Dr. Tim is a chemistry nerd. He is fascinated by the chemistry found in the natural world. Fueled by the abundant, potent, and unique components within aromatherapy, Dr. Tim has sought to understand how essential oils act on the body and identify which clinical applications are best incorporated into practice.

Dr. Tim first began his aromatherapy studies in 2005. He has since traveled the world to advance his understanding of essential oils and their clinical implications. Dr. Tim has studied with Rhiannon Lewis, Mark Webb, Gabriel Mojay, Kurt Schnaubelt, and Jeffrey Yuen. He has successfully completed a National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) approved course and has completed the requirements to become a registered aromatherapist. He is a member of the Aromatherapy Registration Council (ARC).

Beyond his love of aromatherapy, Dr. Tim is an avid traveler and student of foreign languages. He enjoys spending time with his family, watching movies, and being in nature. Dr. Tim loves to learn new things and is driven by self-improvement and emotional intelligence.

Dr. Tim believes deeply in Docere and loves to teach. He is an international speaker, workshop leader and contributing author. He believes learning should be fun and makes every attempt to engage his students in a profound and meaningful way.

Dr. Tim has taken part in several podcasts discussing a range of topics. Please find them below:

1. AromaChemistry with Dr. Tim – NAHA’s Beyond Aromatics Podcast
2. How to Fall in Love with Essential Oil Chemistry with Dr. Tim – Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy and Nyssa Hanger
3. Conscious Living with Dr. Tim – The Orson Wells Show
4. The Naturopathic Journey with Dr. Tim – Eight Billion Podcast
5. Don’t Throw Away Your Shot with Dr. Tim – LabAroma Podcast