The history of aromatherapy, the practice of using essential oils distilled from aromatic plants for health benefits, begins before civilization as we know it. Some dismiss it as a pseudoscientific alternative medical therapy, and with its roots in folklore, anecdote and spiritualism, it's easy to see how that conclusion is reached. However, according to David Crow, this connection to our cultural history is what makes aromatheraphy so important. Renowned in the field of botanical medicine, Crow is bringing his 30 years experience to Sun Valley this weekend for a three-day aromatherapy workshop.
"People everywhere, in every culture have used plants for healing for centuries," he said. "A lot of this information is part of traditional culture, but in our modern society we have forgotten a lot of very basic, simple things we can use for our health. Now, my attention is focused on how to bring simple, safe medicine into the home so people don't have to rely on prescription medicines when simple things can help."
Crow calls this type of community-supported, plant-based medicine "grassroots health care." "Even simple backyard gardens can produce basic culinary herbs that have many medicinal functions," he said.
Crow's workshop is targeted at both seasoned aromatheraphy users and beginners. The Friday and Saturday portion focus on the pharmacy of flowers, an introduction to essential oils with emphasis on their benefits in daily life and health.
"Essential oils have a very strong anti-microbial effect—they enhance our immunity," he said. "And many of the flower oils in particular are very beneficial for improving our moods and mental state."
The Sunday class explores the relationship between essential oils and meditation.
Crow has been practicing Ayurvedic and Chinese medical systems for three decades and is a master herbalist, aromatherapist and acupuncturist. His company, Floracopeia Aromatic Treasures, specializes in sourcing essential oils for grassroots healthcare, and he has the following tips for those interested in exploring aromatheraphy.
"Atmospheric diffusers and massage oils are the simplest, safest way to use essential oils," he said. "There are many other methods for applying essential oils, but these require more education and training.
"The simplest oils to work with in the beginning include flower oils, such as lavender, geranium, rose and orange blossom. Also the tree oils, such as eucalyptus, and the conifer oils, which are very good for the respiratory system. These oils are very easy to use and are good for use in a diffuser in the home.
"Aromatheraphy on the one had is very easy and very safe. But on the other hand, because the oils are very concentrated, people shouldn't just apply them directly to the skin or take them internally. It is very sophisticated herbal medicine, but with the right education, they can be used by everybody."
Outside of the mood and anti-microbial benefits that Crow extols, aromatheraphy may also have a role in treating other common ailments, such as premenstrual syndrome and menopausal symptoms.
"Essential oils also have documented use for different types of skin conditions," he said. "They have anti-inflammatory aspects and aid in skin rejuvenation, and many oils have a history of use for trauma, pain-relieving and analgesics. Essential oils represent a huge pharmacy."
David Crow presents "The Pharmacy of Flowers & Contemplative Aromatherapy Workshop" from April 27-29 at All Things Sacred, at The Galleria in Ketchum. The three sessions (Friday 7-9 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.) can be attended individually or purchased as a package. Visit www.sunvalleywellnessinstitute.com to register.