To begin with, consider the source of the information you see online: is it from a trained professional aromatherapist, or is it from a sales representative of a company mainly concerned with selling? This is a vital distinction. A professional aromatherapist has a minimum of 200 hours of training (many accredited schools offer 400+ hour programs), and will have a professional designation indicating their training. Designations vary by country, but checking a professional aromatherapy organization such as the NAHA, AIA, BCAPA, or CFA can help you find a trained and licensed aromatherapist in your area. In the US, there are professional designations which include "Certified Aromatherapist" and "Clinical Aromatherapist". In Canada, we carry the designation of "Registered Aromatherapist and Essential Oil Therapist" (abbreviated RA, EOT). In addition to the minimum level of training, we are required to maintain ethical standards of conduct, carry professional liability insurance, as well as have ongoing professional development education. The primary concern for a Professional Aromatherapist is the wellbeing of his/her clients; sales are secondary.
The next thing to do when seeing information online is to ask questions. A professional aromatherapist will usually answer questions about information seen online. While they are not able to provide help with individual issues without a full and private consultation, they are usually happy to provide general information as to whether something seen online is in fact true (particularly if it is something they themselves have written).
So, what does a professional Aromatherapist do? There are numerous applications of aromatherapy education, ranging from retail and spa environments to private practice. Generally, an Aromatherapist who has a private practice will create essential oil blends specifically for the client. These blends are created after a private consultation where complete medical history, issues, and goals are discussed. Being a holistic health practice, Aromatherapy takes into consideration all aspects of an individual's life and seeks the underlying cause of health issues rather than trying to 'fix' the symptoms. Holistic healing is based on the premise that bringing the body into balance will lead to wellness, and that given natural support the body has the ability to find its balanced state of wellness. A full consultation gives us the opportunity to really understand the issues and lifestyle of the client and is the key to providing safe and effective support. An aromatherapist will take the information from the consultation and create a personalized essential oil blend and application plan for the client to follow. Some Aromatherapists provide massage or other healing modalities, while some provide the blend for the client to use at home, along with ongoing support.
The question now is why would you consult an Aromatherapist when you can go into a store and buy essential oils off the shelf? While it is true that you can walk into a health food store or specialty shop and buy essential oils, do you really know what to do with them? Do you know which essential oils to choose? Do you know which are safe for you, and for your family? Do you know how to apply them? How to dilute them? Any contraindications or precautions that apply to these essential oils? Chances are that the sales associates in the stores don't either! You might be thinking that "essential oils are natural, so they are safe", but natural products have the potential to do harm just as easily as chemical products. Think of Opium - a natural product, but one we know is not something that we should use without great care!
While it is tempting to follow that nice-looking and perhaps well-meaning online advice, our health is vital and must be protected. Investing the time and money in consulting a professional is a wise investment in yourself and your health, and one that will pay dividends for a lifetime.