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In The Spotlight - Sal Battaglia

I'm quite active on social media and like to share lots of aromatherapy information in my pages. Several years ago I started a Facebook group for Australian aromatherapy practitioners and enthusiasts to learn, share and support each other. It isn't a brand specific page, it has a particular focus on education and information sharing.  Within the group, we recently suggested a "In The Spotlight" as a means to focus on Australian aromatherapy practitioners, mentors, leading industry figures, and people of interest within the aromatherapy community.

When I asked members who they'd like to hear from quite a number suggested Salvatore Battaglia, He is one most of us know very well particularly as his book 'The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy' was our bible during our days of study. He is behind the Perfect Potion stores, and when I asked him to participate, he kindly agreed.  I'm sharing this, with Sal's permission on my blog so that more can read about and learn from this wonderful aromatherapist.

So, over to Sal.

Name Salvatore Battaglia

Qualifications (both within aromatherapy, health and outside) Bachelor of Engineering, Practitioner Diploma of Acupuncture, Diploma of Aromatherapy (UK), Diploma in Herbal Medicine, Diploma of Nutrition, Diploma in Iridology, MBTI Step I and Step II Certificate, Certificate IV in Assessment and Workplace Training.

Main job that you earn money from Managing Director of Perfect Potion

Role within aroma industry Author, educator and creator of Perfect Potion experience.

How long have you been using essential oils for? Since 1983

What is the one safety use rule/guideline/recommendation that you wish people would stop ignoring? Most of the guidelines, rules and recommendations that exist in aromatherapy are there for a very important reason – safety!

Essential oils are very concentrated and volatile. The most common way for us to use essential oils is topically. Some essential oils can be dermal sensitisers or irritants. We also know that many oils are prone to oxidation, further increasing the risk of dermal sensitisation.

There are also some conditions for which essential oils are often contra-indicated such as pregnancy, hypertension or epilepsy. However, in some cases confusion regarding contra-indications exists between the use of the herb and the essential oils. This is why I am a firm advocate that anyone who studies aromatherapy should also have training and knowledge in herbs.

So, my advice is - do not be afraid to challenge rules or guidelines, but get all your facts and do your research. However, most importantly always ensure your safety and the safety of your clients.

Who are your gurus/mentors or industry leaders and why? The first book that got me so excited about holistic wellbeing and natural therapies was a little blue book written in the 1930’s called Heal Thyself, by Dr Edward Bach. This changed my life and took me on the most amazing journey to where I am now.

In this book Dr Bach state: As long as our soul and personality are in harmony all is joy and peace, happiness and health.

It is when our personalities are lead astray from the path laid down by the soul, either by worldly desires or the persuasion of others that conflict arises.

This conflict is the root cause of disease and unhappiness.

These words have always been the source of my inspiration and the motivation for everything I do in life.

There are so many other people that I admire and respect within the industry. Two of my mentors in Herbal Medicine were Medical Herbalists, Simon Mills and Kerry Bone. Simon Mills has a background in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) so I like the way he integrated TCM principles with a holistic approach to prescribing herbs, whereas Kerry Bone provided a strong focus on the science and pharmacology of herbs. Much of what I learned in my herbal medicine training has been a big influence on the way I teach and use aromatherapy.

I also have so much respect for Robert Tisserand and Valerie Ann Worwood. Robert Tisserand is one of the true aromatherapy pioneers. His Aroma conferences back in the 1990s were so inspirational – fusing science with the art of aromatherapy. Valerie Ann Worwood’s The Fragrant Mind is a classic. It inspired me learn more about personality types and to study Myers Briggs so that I could better understand the relationship between scent and personality types.

I also am fond of the work of Peter Holmes, a medical herbalist, Chinese medicine practitioner and aromatherapist. Perhaps it is because we speak the same language such as “dispersing Qi”, “excess Damp” or “Liver Fire Rising”. He offers us deep insightful framework for us to practice aromatherapy holistically.

What is the one thing about the industry you would change if you could? Aromatherapy is such an exciting industry to be in, however there are so many challenges.

I recently spoke at the International Federation of Aromatherapists conference in London. There were aromatherapists from over 20 different countries at the conference. It was so exciting to see aromatherapy branching out to all four corners of the world.

However, there is often very little agreement regarding the practice or even the meaning of the word aromatherapy. Holmes states that the term “aromatherapy” has become worn out and is inaccurate as it does not accurately describe the way in which aromatherapy is practiced.

I do not want to get into an argument over the meaning and origins of the word “aromatherapy”. However there lies the problem – the original French approach was that essential oils be used in traditional herbal medicine, however nowadays essential oils are often used topically in massage treatments, in aged care, in hospitals, in spa treatments, in beauty therapy treatments and inhalations. It is likely we will argue that the method we have trained in is the safest or the most effective. Is there such a thing as “the best way to use essential oils.”

My point is that we should embrace the diversity of aromatherapy rather than being critical of aromatherapy practices which we may not be familiar with.

There is also a problem in the way aromatherapy has traditionally been taught. We are often taught to associate the use of individual essential oils according to their assigned properties or actions. Often, we are given very weak pseudoscientific evidence based on ‘functional group chemistry” to support these actions. Then in another subject totally unrelated we may be taught about the energetics or spiritual role of the essential oils.

Would it not be wonderful if essential oils could be taught within a holistic framework where the spiritual, emotional and physical aspects of the essential oils are all interrelated.

If we study essential oils within a TCM or Ayurvedic framework the relationship between an essential oil’s spiritual, emotional, mental and physical action are clearly all interrelated.

Therefore, if there is one thing I could change it would be to introduce the concepts of ‘integrative medicine’ to the way aromatherapy is taught.

What is the biggest challenge regarding professional acceptance by the community (we are not just ‘pretty smells) for the industry?

One word – education. You just need to compare the level of training other complementary health care professionals receive compared to aromatherapy. Unfortunately, I believe that the introduction of competency based training has undermined the professional development of aromatherapy.

The topic of “aromatherapy as a health profession” even became the subject of a PhD. Janelle Sheen’s PhD thesis was: The professionalisation of aromatherapy – a case study of the professionalization of complementary and alternative medicine in the Australian health care system.

In her thesis Sheen claims that aromatherapy has an identity crisis. Sheen argues that according to the definition of a profession, the practice of aromatherapy does not meet the criteria and therefore should not be considered a profession.

I disagree with her, but she does have a point. For example, she notes that beauty therapists take up aromatherapy without the comprehensive skills of a medical herbalist. She says that generally aromatherapy is allied to other theories or philosophies and is often integrated into any other health care modality emphasising its versatility. As a practice, she claims that aromatherapy relies on theories of health, illness and diagnosis from other healthcare frameworks.

This is true, but I’m sorry, I think this is awesome. This is exactly what integrative medicine is all about, and aromatherapy is one of the only complementary therapies that can be used with an integrative medicine framework.

While I do not necessarily agree with Peter Holmes, his advice is to proposes a new term “essential oil therapy” to break the shackles of the image of the term ‘aroma’ with the word aromatherapy which may imply pretty smells.

I’m also sorry to say but the MLM industry presents aromatherapy with the biggest ever challenge to the professional status of aromatherapy. For example, it is so irresponsible and outrageous to promote frankincense essential oil as a treatment for cancer. If we use science it must be good science. Yes - boswellic acid found in the resin does have chemoprotective activity, however there is no boswellic acid in frankincense essential oil.

The positive aspect about MLM companies is that they are introducing aromatherapy to so many more people than ever before.

What are the pros and cons for professionalization of the industry? Do we want the scrutiny, regulation and restrictions that this will bring?

There are two main issues – the first is education. I have already expressed my opinions about education in the previous question.

I do not want us to lose our identity but one of the ways forward for aromatherapy as a profession is make aromatherapy part of a Degree in naturopathic medicine – specialising in aromatherapy or aromatic medicine.

There is another concern that going professional we can lose the heart and soul of the healing practice. I believe that this need not happen if there is also a focus on counselling and if we learn to incorporate aromatherapy into yoga practice and mindfulness practices. We need to also understand that scent has also played a very important role in helping us connect with our spirituality. Therefore, the role of essential oils to support our spiritual wellbeing must be part of any aromatherapy curriculum.

The second issue is essential oils. On one hand, we have the TGA which unfortunately forces essential oil companies to sell pharmaceutical grade rectified essential oils. Government legislators often focus on identification of the active constituent. This leads to standardised essential oils which I believe lack the chemical and pharmacological complexity.

Then we have some companies that create their own standards which sound impressive but have no true meaning or value.

Unfortunately, aromatherapists are not the only users of essential oils. They are so commonly adulterated to meet the costs or requirements of the flavouring, perfumery or pharmaceutical industry. The essential oil industry has become like big pharma business which can lead to some very dodgy practices.

Therefore, the way forward is to use certified organic oils. This not only ensure product integrity but it also means that the essential oils are most likely produced by farmers who care for the environment and the local communities in which the essential oil crops are grown.

What is your favourite thing about working in this industry? The ways in which essential oils can transforms people’s lives in such a positive way.

What are your professional development plans? I’m currently in the final stages of writing the 3rd edition of Book One of The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy. I will be launching it early 2018. The 3rd edition will be split into two books because there is so much more information available than ever before for the understanding and practice of aromatherapy for health care providers.

I have also been using the Myers Briggs Type Indicator as a tool to assess the relationship between personality types and essential oils. I hope to do more statistical research in this area and soon publish my findings.

I have already started work on a new book which will simply be titled Integrative Aromatherapy, in which we investigate the road forward for aromatherapy in and integrative healthcare system.

I also am in the process of developing new training modules that will be available to all health care professionals who wish to further develop their aromatherapy skills.

What is the one thing you wish all essential oil users were told before they used oils? Essential oils are natures gift to humankind, use them with respect, wisely and with love!

Also learn to understand and respect the plants from which essential oils come from.

What training needs do you think the industry is meeting and which are lacking? I have outlined my vision for training in an earlier question. That is the integration of aromatherapy within a Degree of Naturopathic Medicine.

I do not believe that it is the only way forward, but it will definitely assist those within the industry that are looking for professional recognition as a health care provider.

What got to you started in this industry? I have been passionate about natural therapies and wellbeing since I was quite young. I was particularly fascinated by smell and the way it could influence our mood and feelings.

After graduating as an engineer in 1982, I migrated to Tasmania. My family was based in Far North Queensland. However, I needed to get away from everyone and do some soul searching. I knew that I did not want to really be an engineer. In Tasmania, I meet some really amazing and inspirational people who introduced me to natural therapies. I was in heaven – I immediately knew I had found my calling, I devoured all the information I could find, did every single course that was available at the time.

In those days, it was not possible to learn aromatherapy in Australia, so I packed my bags and went to the UK to study aromatherapy under Madame Micheline Arcier.

While practicing as an aromatherapist and acupuncturist back in Brisbane, I would often make take home remedies for my clients. Within a very short time these clients were asking me for more take home remedies to share with their friends and family. Whether it was a balm for arthritis or a cream for eczema - the results were amazing.

This got me thinking that I could make a range of aromatherapy products to sell to the public to supplement my practice. This was the beginnings of perfect potion.

What is the most intriguing aspect of the industry for you? There are so many aspects of aromatherapy that intrigue me. The way in which essential oils can have a profound influence on a person’s psychological wellbeing still leave me in awe.

Then there is the fact that we still do not understand the mechanisms of olfaction.

We still talk about the theories of olfaction. Scent is the foundation of psychological aspect of aromatherapy and yet we still argue whether the basis of the way we detect aroma is by “molecular shape” or ‘vibration’.

I encourage you to check out the work of Luca Turin who suggests that our olfactory receptors are able to detect scent by molecular vibrations. This is truly cool stuff that potentially provides us with the scientific basis and understanding of “subtle” or ‘vibrational’ aromatherapy.

What is the biggest challenge for the industry generally? I believe one of the biggest challenges for aromatherapy is the courage to change and evolve in order to meet the demands of the wellbeing and complementary health care system.

Brag book- tell us about your best moment in the industry, what you do and anything you want members to know about you, your thoughts, your business.

In 1991, when I established Perfect Potion, it was my dream to share my passion for aromatherapy with the general public and inspire individuals to study and practice aromatherapy. I am honoured and sincerely grateful for the opportunity to share my thoughts and feelings about an industry that I am deeply passionate about.

I truly believe that aromatherapy integrated with a holistic approach to health and wellbeing has the potential to revolutionize integrative health care.

WOW, wow, wow, thank you Sal - not only for sharing this with us, but also allowing me to share it with the wider aromatic community.

I was lucky enough to meet Sal last year at one of his education sessions, and his passion truly shines through, as is also evident by this spotlight blog. 

If you want to know more about Sal and his work, head over to Perfect Potion. Some truly wonderful products.

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