Elizabeth Ashley, the Secret Healer: Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Ashley
During the course of networking through social media, I recently made the acquaintance of UK aromatherapist Elizabeth Ashley, also known as the Secret Healer. Although a veteran aromatherapist, Elizabeth has most recently been spreading the word about aromatherapy through her writing. Her latest aromatherapy book, The Complete Guide to Clinical Aromatherapy and Essential Oils of the Physical Body, has just been published. Here’s a short interview I did with Elizabeth to find out more about her.
With thanks to Elizabeth for taking the time to answer these questions! Enjoy!
Who got you first interested in essential oils?
I was in the very fortunate position of being the daughter of one of the founder members of the International Federation of Aromatherapists (IFA). My mum Jill Bruce trained under Patricia Davis and in the early nineties ran one of the IFA schools. So there were always bottles of essential oils around me and I spent my entire teenage life with a bottle of lavender oil practically strapped to my chin. No spots for me!
When I was growing up, mum worked as a clairvoyant and would see many clients who were suffering with really chronic illnesses and she started to make pots of cream to help make people better. I think the number of people whom she helped with rheumatism and arthritis, eczema, and psoriasis probably runs into the tens of thousands. It was reading the letters from grateful customers that prompted me to want to learn too.
Who did you complete your aromatherapy training with?
I am a licentiate of The Jill Bruce School of Aromatherapy, which in my case is a posh way of saying I studied with mum! I passed my Diploma of Aromatherapy in 1993 with honors, and then in 1994 went on to study both the Advanced Diploma of Aromatherapy and Medical Dowsing which was taught by my late step father Michael Cook, who later became the chairman of the British Society of Dowsers.
Did you go into aromatherapy practice straight after taking your training – or did a particular event in your life prompt you into the world of aromatherapy?
Funnily enough I have never run a full time treatment practice, mainly because massage hurts my hands and because I am quite a shy person and I found being alone with patients quite intimidating. I worked in the family business for six years and became the Marketing Director and then left aromatherapy to improve my sales training working as a recruitment consultant. It wasn’t really until I became pregnant with my third child (fifteen years after the last one!), and I suffered a pulmonary embolism, that the universe shoved me back where I belonged.
I had been a very successful sales person, but I couldn’t breathe properly for years after, so telesales was out. I had to find a new way to sell, and I wondered whether I could write. I read a few “How to’s” and all of them said the same thing. Write about what you know….so I did. Aromatherapy flowed through my fingertips like nectar from a flower.
Tell us a little bit about your latest aromatherapy book. Who is the book aimed at and why do you think it will help readers?
I have written several books for professional aromatherapists, and friends asked me to write a beginners book. At first I was reluctant because I had written so many of these as a ghostwriter, it seemed like repetition. But then the book took on a life of its own, rather than the forty or so pages I expected it to be, it now tops well over 200 pages! This book is written for the absolute beginner right up to a student doing their diploma – and everyone in between. I was lucky enough to have an extraordinary aromatherapy education and I wanted to pass some of that along.
Essential oils themselves are not particularly complex things. They will treat certain conditions and some can be dangerous in certain instances. What is remarkable is the number of levels they can work on – the mind, the body, and the spirit – and how the oils can unravel the intricacies of a disease. This first book in the series looks at mending problems in the physical body. In some ways it is only chapter one of aromatherapy, because it covers what an essential oil is, how it is obtained, the chemistry of the oil that makes its magic crackle, and how to use essential oils generally. There are profiles of over 100 essential oils with safety data and also lists of which oils I would suggest to look at for certain complaints. The final cherry on the cake for me is that some other amazing practitioners have offered me blends to publish in the book, so there are recipes by professional aromatherapists for even a beginner to follow. I think it is a really exciting thing.
My project for next year is to start writing monographs of individual essential oils to sell on Amazon. They include everything from Ancient Egyptian history, to clinical findings about essential oils in pharmaceutical trials in a lab. The book also includes bonus content of six of these monographs as well as a blending chart, and academic articles I have previously written for the IFA and New Zealand Register of Holistic Therapists. This means readers can explore essential oils from many different perspectives.
This particular book is free to download on the follow platforms from November 30th :
- Amazon – all countries
- Nook – Barnes & Noble (US and UK)
- Baker & Taylor
- Page Foundry
- WH Smith in the UK
- FNAC in France and Portugal
- Livraria Cultura in Brazil
- Angus & Robertson in Australia
- Bookworld in Australia
- Indigo in Canada
- Collins in Australia
- Feltrinelli in Italy
- Libris in the Netherlands
- Paper Plus in New Zealand
- Play in Great Britain
- Rakuten in Japan
- Buy.com (now Rakuten) in the US
- Whitcoulls in New Zealand.
Do you have a favorite essential oil? What are your recommended uses for this essential oil?
It’s hard for me to choose between valerian, frankincense, mandarin or geranium…but on consideration, geranium probably wins. A lot of people use it as a poor man’s version of rose, but I find it to be so much more. It is hormonal balancing, so is wonderful for PMS and skin care. Now I am entering “that certain age” of the peri-menopause I find I am using it more and more, especially to switch my mind off at the end of the day. I find it takes the edge off hormonal stress and also financial worries – which as a Cancerian I am very prone to!
When I am treating a patient, I always look at supporting the adrenal glands, because we all suffer from far too much stress, and geranium is one of the oils I choose for this.
How has the practice of aromatherapy changed since you began your training?
Truly? I find it to be unrecognizable, sometimes!
I suppose the major difference comes about because of the internet, and people’s awareness of natural healing generally. Aromatherapy is acknowledged and respected now, whereas we were fringe cranks when I trained. The spread of information is so much freer and accessible now, not just to the consumer but between professionals too. That can only be good for our advancement and learning.
Funnily enough, I went to the doctor’s yesterday and mentioned I had not been hearing very well. She diagnosed a build up of catarrh behind my eardrum. When I asked what treatment she would recommend, she said “Do you know anything about aromatic oils?!” Even the doctor prescribes them first. I suppose with the advent of drug resistant bugs, they have to do it more and more.
Do you have a final piece of aromatherapy advice/recommendation/tip for readers?
Good question! I would say try to understand dosages of essential oils in your blends. Less is always more, especially if you are treating the physical body. Only use one or two drops of any oil, any more and the effects become more on the emotional and spiritual bodies. If you add wheatgerm oil into a mix it also increases the potency of the other oils in the blend so it will pack a bigger punch to the symptoms too. Using essential oils this way not only enhances your skills as a healer…but it affects your bank balance too, because you save money on replacing oils!!!