A chemist steps up to the aromatherapy plate with a thorough overview of the processes at work in essential oils. Kurt Schaubelt takes a rare stand as a chemist and speaks in favor of aromatherapy, using this book to illustrate how essential oils work differently from synthesized pharmaceutical materials.

Along with explaining why linalool in one plant is not exactly the same as linalool in another, he answers to some of the bugaboos that appear when researching natural medicines. As Schaubelt points out in his introductory chapter, “Only a very narrow form of conventional pharmacological proof qualifies as valid science… For example, the attempt to explain the benefits of lavender essential oil quickly turns into an exercise in epistemology. As we experience lavender’s outstanding capacity to heal burns, we wonder why we cannot claim this as a valid property. Then we notice that there is no research on this topic. And then we notice that the absence of research gives rise to the contention that lavender is ineffective.”

Among the arguments Schaubelt makes is that people who use essential oils in medical application still try to classify them as they would allopathic drugs. This, unfortunately, ignores what Schaubert terms the “biological nature” of essential oils, by which he means that oils will respond in ways that are ambient to their immediate environment.

This is an advanced reference book, for aromatherapy practitioners that have mastered safety practices and understand the difficulties inherent in contraindications. While Schaubert offers intensive reviews on allergies and dilutions, he does not fall into the trope of endless lists of essential oils and their applications. What makes the book advanced is the very risky territory he ventures onto: aromatherapy treatments for symptoms associated with cancer, herpes and autoimmune conditions. Treatment for such severe and chronic illnesses are highly contentious even in allopathic circles, and to dare speak on it in an aromatherapy book braves the path of the heretic. It’s clear that Schaubert has the chemistry knowledge to back up his contentions, and while research may not fully support all his findings, he answers to why that is quite well.

Recommended, but for advanced aromatherapists and chemists only. You really need a solid grounding in the basics to understand the significant risks and rewards inherent in applying information from this book.

~ review by Diana Rajchel

Author: Kurt Schubelt, Ph.D.
Healing Arts Press, 2011
pp. 233 $19.95