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PASSION for Aromatherapy

Gillian Kavanagh, Founder and Creator of the first Luxury Organic Aromatherapy Company Mandala Aroma shares her passions with Pecha Kucha.

Growing up in a small rural village, most of my childhood was spent running wild outdoors in the woods, across the mooreland, swimming in the lakes and rivers. Building dams with my brothers, hunting fairies with my friends, picking wildflowers and spotting birds, deer and foxes. It was a childhood marked by the seasons and I learned from my artist father the names of plants, trees and flowers.

My love for nature and flowers has never waned. In fact, as I have got older it has become more important to be caretakers of the earth and our environment. It is one of the reasons that drove me to start my company Mandala-Aroma using the best organic essential oils and base oils I could find at therapeutic strength. Ensuring the packaging is recyclable and beautiful. The other reason is passion for quality and care of the customer, honed by years of being a retail buyer.

So many products on the market claim to be aromatherapy and usually when you read the label itís a small fraction, maybe even a drop in mineral oil. Mineral oil is by product of the petroleum industry, and although it acts as a good barrier on the skin, the molecules are too large to enter the skin and into the blood stream. So you may have a pleasant smelling product but it is not aromatherapy. When you consider the skin to be the largest organ in the body and that it does absorb what you put on it, it makes you realise how important it is we look after it. It is how HRT patches work. They are stuck onto the skin and the hormones absorbed through the epidermis, dermis and into the blood stream. Itís very important to me personally that all my products have integrity and I believe todays customers look for and appreciate these qualities from companies.

My passion for Aromatherapy began many years ago whilst trying to cope with a stressful job as a fashion buyer, compacted with the sudden death of my mum and the suicide of a younger brother. Aromatherapy massages assisted me mentally, physically and emotionally. Later, whilst living in Hong Kong, again still a Fashion Buyer sounds glamorous but the jet lag of flying long haul to Paris for eight hours with an appointment upon arrival, tight deadlines and stress made me almost burnout. I always turned to aromatherapy treatments again. Secretly wishing to be an aromatherapist, but always in a job that made such demands of time it was impossible to commit to a course of study.

I travelled to India on a spiritual pilgrimage, not sure what I would find or if it I would find anything at all. It was profound. Needless to say something had changed within me. On my return to Hong Kong I began to import essential oils and sold them to the Chinese customers. I realised I had to understand more in-depth, the quality and properties of essential oils. Returning to the UK I undertook intensive in-depth training to study the chemistry, Botany and applications of Essential oils. Through my studies I realised many products on the market pretend to be aromatherapy or organic have little if any therapeutic properties. I was so exhilarating to listen to my inner voice and follow my dream. I began to practise Aromatherapy and many of my clients loved the organic high quality blends I made and kept coming back from more. My kitchen became the hub, blending, mixing, trying out blends on everyone from neighbours, friends, clients, even on my dog Woody, a cheeky golden cocker spaniel. The body is amazing. I always remember a saying ďthe surgeon removes the bullet the body heals the woundĒ so true. Aromatherapy just helps it along.

How can I explain organic essential oils, well to me they seem to have a roundness, an energy, and a gentle softness. You can feel this from the aroma of organic lavender oil and commercially grown lavender that often has a spike in its fragrance. The more I learned about aromatherapy the more I realised how the earth it is planted in has an effect. How it is grown and harvested has an effect. And the distillation process has an affect. A good comparison is Wine. Some wines are grown on one estate, the heat of the sun, rain, soil and the process of the wine making all have an affect to make it a great wine or not. An expensive bottle of wine can be traced back to the vineyard, year, type of wine, weather patterns etc. Table wine maybe a blend of several grapes, from several regions or countries all blended in a bottle with additions added in to make it more palatable or to improve colour.

In the essential oil trade there are a lot of unscrupulous traders who may stretch oil by adding cheaper oil in order to make it to a price point. Another common factor is essential oils from different countries being added together e.g. Geranium from Egypt & China. This can also have an effect on the properties in the oil. For instance High Altitude Lavender grows above 1500m. Usually on rocky stony ground in clumps that have to be harvested by hand. This oil is much higher esters which help you to sleep than an Alpine Lavender which grows much lower down the mountain in the valleys. The more one studies the botany the more there is to learn.

There is so much history about essential oils from the Egyptians using it for embalming and perfume, through Romans, Greeks, up to modern day. Itís a book in itself. Hippocrates, the father of medicine and the Hippocratic Oath. Taught that the way to a healthy body was to have an aromatic bath and massage everyday. He lived in 460- 377 BC how amazing is that! For millennium people have used herbs and oils to treat illnesses. In the time of the Great Plague 1665, a group of people did not catch the plague. They were glove makers. Apparently in that time glove makers used essential and aromatic oils to scent the gloves they were working on. Many essential oils carry anti bacterial and anti viral properties. Itís amazing and fascinating and it inspires me to learn more.

Along with many other enthusiasts I have just started to grow my own vegetables organically. I am using companion planting to help assist each plant without the use of pesticides. So far so good. I have tomatoes planted with chives, courgettes and marigolds, dill and brassicas. It makes for fantastic colourful vegetable beds. Itís such a joy to make dinner for friends and loved ones and pick the rocket salad fresh, so peppery and wonderful with grilled wild salmon and dill.

We have taken the decision to no longer use Sandalwood in our products due to disreputable sources and corrupt officials. We also avoid Rosewood as this beautiful tree in now in danger of extinction due to heavy deforestation of the Brazilian Rainforests. We are in touch with two South American botanists who are trying to re establish the Rosewood tree in a protected environment.

I always feel we are guests of this beautiful planet called earth, it is our responsibility to live in harmony with her and nurture our environment, for it provides us with a home, food, water, trees, birds, animals and plants. It is our responsibility to ensure its safety for all its inhabitants after we have left.

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