The art and science of aromatherapy – essential oils and Alzheimer’s Disease

I’ve studied and used essential oils since 1989 and was actually teaching workshops on their uses way before I began teaching art workshops. In the late ’90s, Dr. Bill Kurtin and I partnered in sharing research-based information about aromatherapy with social agencies and college classes, and set up our informational website, called Chemaroma, in 2006.

Bill is a biochemist who chaired the Chemistry Department at Trinity University for many years. We’re married now, and since Bill retired from teaching, he’s had time to do more research on current studies about essential oils. He’s just written an article for our Chemaroma blog summarizing recent research on essential oils and Alzheimer’s Disease. Here’s the link to the complete article, which I think is wonderful and encouraging.

In his article, Bill writes, “The research . . ., as well as much work not mentioned, strongly suggest that EOs may provide an excellent alternative, natural, widely available, and inexpensive treatment for AD, particularly for easing the symptoms of the disease.” He writes for a general audience, who, like me, have trouble with scientific complexities – whew! It’s a fascinating premises that could help millions.

If you have not any in-depth reading on the science of aromatherapy and need an introduction, here’s a good background article from the University of Maryland Medical Center. And, or course, you can always go to our website, Chemaroma, for more info.

I’ve always relied on Clary Sage essential oil for getting past creative blocks – the name in Latin means “clear eye” – and its smell is intoxicating.  Here’s another take on essential oils from an artist on the Craftsy site.

Bill and I are especially interested in essential oil research that pertains to our aging population – anything that will help all of us stay alive, engaged, and creative longer is worth pursuing! Read and share the article, Are Essential Oils Useful in the Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease.” It’s a good one.


Smell this . . . . . .ahhhhhhh



Raise your hand if you know about aromatherapywow! That’s more people than I thought! It’s a wonderful practice, one that I’ve taught since 1990. Shortly after that, my biochemist friend Dr. Bill Kurtin and I began work on a new educational aromatherapy website called Chemaroma. We’ve just updated and expanded it, and we’re really excited about it. We may even get to participate in the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy conference later this year.

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So what’s in it for you? First of all, there are a bunch of free resources on the Chemaroma site, including a recipe called Stinky Sneaker Zapper that makes your track shoes smell like lavender. There are also some neat skin care recipes and such. And you can get essential oils at Whole Foods and Sprouts. There is even a special essential oil for creativity called Clary Sage – I’ll tell you about that one later. Essential oils are easy and fun, and you don’t have to be an aromatherapist to experience them.

So, if you want to experiment, here’s one of my favorite ways to use  essential oils – an aromatherapy bath salt project. I made this video about three or four years ago. Once you make these artistic little bath salt packets, you can use them for gifts, for craft markets, or just to store in your linen closet or underwear drawer until you are ready to open them and use them in the bath tub or shower 🙂 They make lovely aromatic sachets.

Got questions about aromatherapy? Visit Chemaroma or just email me. And the first person to contact me through the Chemaroma home page gets that packet of Gingergrass Bath Salts at the top of this post. Happy Friday!!

Home from The Prairie

belIt’s hard to know where to start when you’ve just experienced an amazing four days in an unfamiliar but totally inspiring place. Teaching with the gifted instructors at Vivi Magoo in Round Top was an honor – and the students taught me as much I taught them! My friend Bonnie said that it was like going off to camp – how true. Except the camp cabins at The Prairie were furnished with lace and soft pillows and rose chintz.

I did miss my pal Michelle Belto – she was a huge help preparing botanical prints and papers for our demonstrations. And I couldn’t have done it without help from Lorri Scott, whose advice kept me focused and confident in a new environment – so glad she’s feeling better! Each of the three classes had its own personality – and I loved them all. Remarks heard during the three days, “I love your residue!” – “Those look like tie-dyed underpants” – “Ow, ow, that rebar’s hot!!” – “Look, it’s an alien!” – and especially, “I feel like I’ve know you guys all my life.”

I’ll let the video give you a taste of all the truly fun things we did and learned, but videos can’t show the welcoming warmth of the students and instructors at Vivi Magoo (by the way, I did find out where the name came from). Many thanks to Barb Solem and her family. And what a thrill it was to meet fellow Artful Gathering (yay!) instructors Diane Cook and Debby Anderson in person. So Viva, Vivi Magoo, and y’all in San Antonio stay tuned for workshops at my Studio sharing all of this good stuff!

Aromatherapy and Compassionate Care


This afternoon the Studio will take on a different role as a workshop space for ABODE Contemplative Care for the Dying. More than 20 hospice workers, counselors and social workers will attend the presentation. You’ve heard me mention the good work that Patsy and Edwin Sasek do with this beautiful non-profit organization, and today they have asked Dr. Bill Kurtin and me to discuss essential oils for end-of-life care. Bill and I maintain an educational website about Aromatherapy as an art and science. It’s called Chemaroma, and I invite you to visit anytime for research-based information about aromatherapy – there’s far too little of that, and we hope to provide more of it on our site.  There are also some formulas for skin care and other fun things. – look around!
Researching today’s presentation took me far afield from visual arts (sort of), but I discovered some wonderful resources. One of the best discoveries was the Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe. The abbot, Joan Halifax Roshi,is a Buddhist teacher, Zen priest, anthropologist, and author. She has worked in the area of death and dying for over thirty years and is Director of the Project on Being with Dying. It’s a fascinating, if not cheery, subject. If you’d like to know more about what I’ve found out, you are welcome to look at the Resources I’ve gathered for today’s workshop.


Friday Freebie: Secret Skin Formula

Hazelnut OilSpeaking of aromatherapy, today’s freebie is my never-before-revealed aromatherapy formula for the best skin treatment. It really is nice, natural and effective – friends ask me to make it for them often and now you can make it for yourself – Ta Dah! It starts with Hazelnut Oil. You can order it from fancy spa sites, but guess what? You can buy it in the gourmet oil section of Central Market or Whole Foods for much less. And it’s food grade, so it’s very pure. I’m giving you two formulas, below, but the first one is my favorite. Essential Oil of Lavender is easy to find, Frankincense not so much (and it’s pricey). But lately I’ve just been using Lavender Oil on its own and its still wonderfully effective. Don’t mix it in larger quantities than two ounces, and don’t refrigerate it. This should last you at least a month, because you don’t need very much. It’s non-greasy and is especially good for your neck and eye area (don’t get it in your eyes!)

Here’s the formula – there’s lots of other information on the Chemaroma website that I share with Dr. Bill Kurtin. Happy Friday!


The Art of Aromatherapy and ABODE

abodeOne of the most interesting and inspiring groups I know is ABODE.  These compassionate people, led by my friends Patsy and Edwin Sasek, provide a home where contemplative care for the dying is provided to guests in a simple, welcoming, peaceful environment. You can read more about their Mission on their website.

Recently, Patsy invited me and my colleague in Aromatherapy, Dr. Bill Kurtin, to present a program to their group and others with similar interests about the use of Essential Oils as therapeutic aids for calming stress and encouraging serenity in both client and caregiver. We are thrilled to have this opportunity, and will hold the workshop at my Studio on Sunday, May 5th. As most of you know, Bill and I have done lectures and demonstrations at the University level and elsewhere on the Art and Science of Essential Oils but this is a new venture for us. I’ve worked with hospice groups in the past, but Bill’s ability to ground the therapeutic use of essential oils in scientific research will add immense credibility to the presentation, as always.

chemaromaAromatherapy is complex, effective and sometimes misunderstood science, but it is so worth learning about. You can read a sneak preview about the presentation sponsored by ABODE on our research website, Chemaroma. If you’re interested in attending, contact the good people at ABODE (or just send me an email). The sign-up information will be available very soon. And for tomorrow’s Friday Freebie, I’ll be giving you the recipe for a wonderful facial treatment using essential oils, so stay tuned.