Advanced Aromatherapy Book Review

Advanced Aromatherapy: Kurt Schaubelt Book Review

Kurt Schnaubelt is one of my favorite aromatherapy authors, so I will do my best to be objective in this book review!  What I love about him is that he approaches and explains aromatherapy from a scientific angle, yet makes it readable and not overly technical. Advanced Aromatherapy was published in 1995, but is still relevant today.

Who is the author?

Kurt Schnaubelt, Ph.D is a chemist and aromatherapist originally from Germany, but based in California since the early 1980’s.  He opened his business, Original Swiss Aromatics (OSA) around that same time. OSA sells essential oils, blends, and rare oils.  He is also the author of one of the earliest aromatherapy courses in the United States, with the Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy. Although he has authored multiple books and papers in both English and German, his two other main works are The Healing Intelligence of Essential Oils and Medical Aromatherapy.

Dr. Schnaubelt’s writings tend to draw on French aromatherapy pioneers such as Daniel Penoel and Pierre Franchomme. As such, you will find mention of internal use of essential oils, mostly via suppositories. While I do not recommend the self-trained user of essential oils practice internal usage of any sort, I still find lots of value in his books and just overlook the prescriptions for internal usage. The other trend I have noticed in his writings and course is the tendency to pick and choose both the oils and conditions that he discusses. His are not books for the “I’ve got an oil for that” crowd–you won’t find comprehensive coverage of every possible usage or oil. If you want a deeper understanding of essential oils from a chemical and biological standpoint, he is your man.

Summary of what’s inside

Chapter 1 offers a brief history of aromatherapy, but not the typical history you see- re-hashed everywhere. Rather, it contrasts plant based medicine with the chemicals and antibiotics used copiously in our world today.

Chapter 2 lays the groundwork for the rest of the book. It begins with what essential oils are and how plants use them. A discussion on extraction methods follows, with an emphasis on steam distillation. Schnaubelt then explains why species and chemotype matter in aromatherapy. Adulteration, quality, and GC-MS testing are discussed before moving on to the main chemical components in essential oils (ketones, monoterpenes, etc.).

Chapter 3 examines the antibacterial and antiviral effects of essential oils. The anti-spasmodic, expectorant and sedative effects are also included. There are many interesting graphs of the effectiveness of various constituents against various bacterial organisms. What makes this book different from many I have read is it relates the effect of the oil to certain constituents in that oil.

Chapter 4 looks at several safety considerations when self-treating with essential oils. In particular, oils that have a high ketone content are singled out. Several oils that should never be used are included and the chapter ends with a discussion on skin sensitization from oils.

Chapter 5 is over 40 pages long. After introducing his system of graphically representing the main components of an oil, several essential oils are presented with their charts, main components, main actions, safety considerations and a brief description. You will not see detailed lists of what condition to use each oil for. Some of the descriptions do mention specific uses, but not all. In keeping with his earlier discussion of the importance of recognizing the differences between chemotypes, oils such as rosemary and thyme have separate descriptions for each chemotype.

Chapter 6 describes methods of application and then lists several specific protocols for a handful of conditions. The conditions he chooses are not as comprehensive as other books (for example Valerie Worwood’s Complete Book of Aromatherapy). For those conditions he does include, he offers a three phase recommendation for many of them which focuses on clearing the infection, attacking the root cause, and supporting healing which is congruent with the work of Dr. Penoel and is an approach not common in mainstream aromatherapy books whose prescriptions are much more vague.

Chapter 7 ends the book with a brief discussion of using aromatherapy to support the immune system.

What I love about this book

  • This book spends a fair bit of time looking at oils based on their main chemical constituents (e.g. sesquiterpenes, ketones, etc.). Both usage and safety are discussed in terms of these families of chemicals. While the whole oil is important, if you are serious about aromatherapy you must know the main constituents and what they do.
  • The system of classifying oils on a grid that he presents is a great visualization for the aromatherapy enthusiast who has heard about synergistic blending but isn’t quite sure how to accomplish it. It is not laid out step by step, but he does offer some guidance for using both the charts and knowledge of constituents to predict synergistic properties of oils.
  • The message that application of essential oils is intended for specific conditions, for limited periods of time. I think (hope) more and more people are finally realizing that the phrase “I’ve got an oil for that” should be a joke and not a mantra.

What could be better

I started out saying that Schnaubelt’s books are science based but readable. I should qualify that they are readable if you have a basic background in chemistry and perhaps a little microbiology. If you took a little chemistry or biology in high school or college, you should be fine. For those without a basic background in the sciences, I could see reading this being a little harder to follow.

While not the main focus, there is some mention of ingestion of oils in this book. I don’t support ingestion of oils for lay users who are self-treating. Yet, the mentions are there and if you follow this book, please know that you should only ingest oils under the care and recommendation of a qualified professional. My preference is that you avoid ingestion altogether as aromatherapy can be plenty effective without taking oils internally.

This book is best for:

  • people who want to understand the science and chemistry behind the effectiveness of essential oils
  • as a reference for those interested in synergistic blending

Have you read it? What did you think?

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