On March 26 and March 27, 2017 forty-six keen attendees gathered at Kingbridge Hotel and Conference Centre for a two-day workshop with Australian Aromatic Medicine specialist Mark Webb, BSc, MASCC (Australia). It was a successful and exciting event for a number of reasons, not the least of which was our compelling speaker. The venue, the participants, the subject matter and the excitement of learning combined to make this an exceptional gathering. I am delighted to say that in addition to attendees from Ontario, we had participants from New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland & Labrador. It was also the first time that all eight members of our 2016/2017 Board of Directors were together in the same room and it was a treat.

A quick word about our event venue. The mission statement for Kingbridge Hotel and Conference Centre is “Place Matters: When our thinking needs to be inspired.”

Located on a sprawling acreage in King City, the Kingbridge offers 5 kilometres of on-site woodland trails, a labyrinth/wisdom walk, both pub and excellent fine-dining, 154 guest suites, and meeting rooms and indoor walkways with large windows and natural wood and stone finishes which help to bring the feeling of nature indoors. Kingbridge owner, John Abele sees Kingbridge as a ‘living learning lab’. The facility offers leadership training programmes and encourages innovation, collaboration, and transformation. As an innovator himself and as an educator, I think Mark Webb was inspired by the setting, the facility, and John Abele’s approach. Mark included this quote by John Abele in his handout:

“The paradox of real collaboration is that it is not about getting the best minds together – it is about creating a new mind set.” John Abele

If you go to Mark Webb’s Linkedin profile you will discover that he is a man of many talents and interests. You’ll make that discovery too, if you are a participant in one of his programmes. Mark Webb studied business and began his professional life in the corporate IT world. He also had a digital design firm; he was the creative ‘team’ who designed  the book he authored, Bush Sense: Australian Essential Oils and Aromatic Compounds (2000) .  He is the *CEO of AromaMedix Pty Ltd established in

2008 – “Applying knowledge across seemingly unrelated disciplines to solve problems”. He is a research and development consultant and an educational lecturer with a focus on and expertise in Australian Aromatics, Aromatic Cuisine & Aromatic Medicine, Aromatic Chemistry, Pharmacology and Toxicology, Internal and External Dose Forms.

Mark says he knew from childhood that he would be a scientist or chemist. He was inspired to pursue studies and a career in Aromatic Medicine after attending a workshop with Ron Guba in the 1990’s. Guba, who studied aromatherapy with France’s Dr. Daniel Pénoël, has been described as “Australia’s leading proponent of Aromatic Medicine”. Mark Webb’s definition of ‘Aromatic Medicine’ is “the use of extracted aromatic compounds by ALL body interfaces (channels of absorption) and dose forms to effectively treat a wide variety of physical, psychological and spiritual (body, mind, spirit) conditions and diseases.” By the way, Mark suggests we learn French in order to access the rich resource of current and historical botanical and ‘aromathérapie’ material available in that language.

Mark Webb is a passionate man – just ask him: “I’m passionate about Aromatic & Australian plants, educating others, essential oils.” I suspect the ‘passion list’ is much longer. He also describes himself as  “food scientist & geek – (sous vide, smoking, molecular gastronomy etc)”. He is a dynamic speaker and an entertaining story-teller, – direct, sometimes blunt, often humorous, always enthusiastic –  and his illustrative examples help to make the very complex art and science of plant oils and aromatic medicine more tangible. His mission: arm us with the proper information so that we can effectively, safely and appropriately blend, create, and treat with plant oils. A recurring theme/goal during our two-day aromatic adventure – the old but wise adage: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

Our two-day programme was divided into two components.

Day 1: “Aromatic Therapies – A world viewpoint”

Day 2: “Australian Aromatics – aromatic wonders from the land Down Under”]

Day 1: “Aromatic Therapies – 

A world viewpoint”

Mark’s programme was concentrated and chemistry-heavy so it was helpful to have even a basic understanding of plant oil chemistry. Mark prefers to refer to Aromatherapy as “Aromatic Therapies” – he feels it is more descriptive and that the term “Aromatherapy” has, sadly, become tremendously overused and abused. The  proliferation of commercial, household products scented with synthetic fragrance (scented candles and air fresheners, detergents, dryer sheets) and tagged with the term “Aromatherapy” has compromised the term.

In his comprehensive handout Mark states: “The extraction technique(s) determines the chemistry!” We reviewed oil extraction methods including expression, steam/hydro distillation, solvent extraction, and CO2 extraction. Where steam/hydro distillation and solvent extraction can alter or reduce valuable plant chemicals because the plant material is subjected either to high temperatures or harsh solvents, CO2 extraction does not. It uses carbon dioxide at high pressure as the solvent to extract the plant oil compounds. In the CO2 oil samples presented, we noticed a marked difference in aroma, colour, and, in some cases, viscosity when compared to essential oils extracted by the aforementioned methods. Mark shared the advantages of CO2 extraction including improved yield and cost efficacy since less plant material is needed, improved stability and shelf life, improved therapeutic efficacy, no solvent residue or contamination, improved aroma and taste, increased range of constituents, and the extraction of constituents can be tailored to suit the end application.

Day 1 also included a review of fractional distillation, hydrosols (aka hydrolates, waters of distillation and flora waters), absolutes and oleoresins, and fruit extracts. In addition, we looked at aromatic chemistry/functional group chemistry (FGC) – monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, aldehydes, ketones, esters, oxides etc. – and their therapeutic actions. Mark repeatedly stressed that knowing and understanding the chemical components in a particular oil is critical in selecting oils appropriate to treat a given condition and a given individual. Mark is reluctant to give actual recipes for blends; he prefers that we understand the chemical constituents of each plant oil so that we are well-armed and able to select oils appropriate for the the particular condition we are treating. On the topic of shelf life, Mark cautioned us to be vigilant about the freshness of our oils – if it smells off or has darkened from its original colour, discard it and never refill an empty used bottle with fresh oil as it will oxidize.

Some interesting information about plant oils we looked at in day 1 – the five plant oils we examined are Marks suggestions to add to your aromatic tool kit:

  • Applying Roman Chamomile neat on the carotid artery/zone acts as a tranquilizer – particularly good in pre-op; for children with sleep issues, diffusing Roman Chamomile, Mandarin and Fragonia is quite helpful. Mark also suggested we avoid Roman Chamomile that originates in Nepal as it is the not the correct species — Hungary, Bulgaria, Germany and the United States are appropriate sources. By the way, the CO2 extract is not blue but varies from olive green to soft yellow and smells more like the flower.
  • He recommends Peppermint, a good anti-inflammatory, analgesic and anti-spasmodic, for adult use only – definitely not appropriate for children under five – keep away from baby’s face as it can stop the respiratory reflex.
  • Black Pepper CO2 extract is self-preserative, is an appetite enhancer and increases peristalsis so it is particularly good for the elderly.
  • Sweet Fennel contains (E)-anethole, a phytoestrogen which acts as an antagonist and is therefore an excellent balancer for women. I affects those lacking in estrogen by opening estrogen receptors and for those who have too much, by blocking receptors so it is good for both older women and for teens but should be avoided if one has estrogenic cancer.

Please note that Mark strongly states one should always be cautious in treating clients undergoing chemotherapy and/or radiation. He advises topical or inhalation dose forms for radiation. For chemo therapy, he advises that you ask a pharmacist for clearance times for the particular chemo being administered but a good rule of thumb is not to use essential oils 24 to 48 hours before or after a chemotherapy session. In addition, Mark reminded us to exercise caution with clients/patients wearing transdermal patches: if applying a topical blend, go no closer to than a radius of 5 cm because patches can greatly affect the absorption of CO2/essential oils.

Day 1 was a very concentrated learning experience. I can’t speak for other participants, but by afternoon break I was more than a bit boggle-eyed. Mark to the rescue – we welcomed the rest of the afternoon’s offerings re-booted by a generous sampling of Mark’s delicious Energy Chai beverage specially formulated with CO2 oils. Apparently it was so popular with our crowd Mark commented that this was the first time a group had completely consumed a bottle in one go.  Cheers and well done! We look forward to its availability in Canada.

Day 2: “Australian Aromatics – Aromatic Wonders from the Land Down Under”

The focus of day 2 was a selection of aromatic plants and plant oils specific to Australia, a high percentage of which we were able to sniff. Several of the oils sampled were CO2 extracts. Mark says that many of Australia’s plant species are ancient owing to the geographic and environmental stability of that continent. The majority of aromatic plants we looked at were in the Myrtacea family most of which are rich in the chemical 1,8-cineole. An oxide, it is an excellent expectorant, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic. Mark characterized it as “a good solvent, useful for penetrating microbial bio-films and it has been shown to be an excellent dermal uptake enhancer (95x) for lipophilic compounds”. In addition to it’s therapeutic capabilities, it is an effective agent for removing biofilms on air conditioning ducts for example, and for dissolving waxes and adhesives.

Some of plant oils Mark presented were: Australian Kunzea – great for pain management, remedial therapies, palliative care, and respiratory issues;; Rosalina (Melaleuca ericifolia) – 3% solution creates an excellent bug repellant comparable to DEET; Broad-Leaved Paperbark (Melaleuca quinquenervia): [3 chemotypes – Naiouli (cineole CT); Nerolina (nerolidol/linalool CT)- best choice for kids and great for head & body lice plus the nerolidol increases skin absorption of 1,8-cineole; & MQV (viridiflorol CT)]; Fragonia™(Taxandria(Agonais) fragrans) [aka Fragrant or Coarse Agonis, or Coarse Tea Tree] – good for respiratory, skin and musculoskeletal conditions. Mark explained “Fragonia is a trademarked name used to define essential oil and hydrosol products from selected, plantation grown material of this species by John and Peta Day of the Paperbark Co. …Western Australia.” Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) – second most well-known Australian aromatic worldwide next to Eucalyptus, excellent synergy when combined 1:1 with Rosalina, anti-microbial, anti-fungal, anti-viral and an immunostimulant.

Mark calls Eucalyptus, also known as ‘Gum’ trees the “…most widespread, easily recognised, defining feature of the Australian landscape”. Another member of the Myrtacea family, Mark stated that he prefers the following cineole-rich Eucalyptus oils – all expectorant, anti-inflammatory and analgesic – because they do not contain the irritant isovaleraldehyde present in unrectified Eucalyptus globulus, E. maidenii, E. smithii, and E. viridis. His Eucalyptus ‘A’ list includes: Eucalyptus dives CT cineole aka Broad-leaved Peppermint which Mark rates as a ‘must have’ for your tool kit, has low toxicity soit is safe for children and is excellent for treating respiratory issues; Eucalyptus radiata aka Narrow-leaved Peppermint; Eucalyptus polybractea aka Blue Mallee which is not as pleasant-smelling as E.radiata.

Known for their uplifting citrus fragrance, Mark also presented a variety of Lemon-scented species including Lemon Myrtle, Honey Myrtle, Lemon-scented Ironbark – his favourite for kids because of its ester and terpene content; Lemon Tea Tree – opt for this instead of Melissa – similar chemistry but far more affordable; Lemon-scented Gum – great bug repellent and planted in Australian school yards for their calming fragrance.

Other Australian aromatic plant oils included: Aniseed Myrtle (Szyzygium anisatum) which Mark says has the nicest scent, has anesthetic properties and it has a high anethole content good for treating peri-menopausal symptoms because it is phytoestrogenic. Also included in this fragrant group are the Sandalwoods which contain the anti-inflammatory santanol (good for skin care) and the anti-cancer chemical farnesol: East Indian Sandalwood (Santalum album); New Caledonian Sandalwood (Santalum austrocaledonicum); NA Sandalwood [Northern Australia] (Santalum lanceolatum); WA Sandalwood [Western Australia] (Santalum spicatum) and the nut oil – Mark compares himself to this Aussie oil because of its depth and complexity; The final group included Australian White Cypress (Callitris glaucophylla) – high eugenol & lactones make it sensitizing to skin; Blue Cypress (Callitris intratropica) – preferred over the former since presence of sesquiterpenes reduce the sensitizing effect of lactones; Desert Rosewood aka Buddahwood (Eremophila mitchellii) – fragrant but less expensive than Sandalwood, very grounding, fixative, an effective insecticidal safe for mammals (mix with Rosalina), excellent for mouth ulcers (Desert Rosewood:Tea Tree:Rosalina 1:1:1 diluted into aromatic honey); Brown Boronia Absolute (Boronia megastigma) – good for sexual disfunction, frigidity, female libido; Tasmanian Native Pepper Absolute (Tasmannia lanceolata) – peppers are edible but very hot; contains polygodial, a strong anti-fungal which punctures the fungal membrane, ie. effective in the treatment of Candidiasis – oral thrush, Candida albicans, and AIDS-related mouth ulcers (systemic Candidiasis) ; Balm Mint Bush (Prostanthera melissifolia) – Mark describes as a potent “kick-ass” expectorant – a little goes a long way; Wild Boronia (Boronia anemonifolia); Yellow-barked Paperbark (Melaleuca nervosa); Cape York Red Gum (Eucalyptus brassiana); Lemon Paperbark (Melaleuca citrolens).

At the outset, Mark Webb stated that he was here to share information, not to convert us but to generate thought and discussion so that if we chose to, we could change the way we practice. Perhaps not a conversion, but certainly an eagerness for further education was evident even after day 1. When informally polled, a significant number of attendees expressed an interest in pursuing further studies with Mark, with a particular interest in becoming better acquainted with the chemistry of plant oils. Currently, Mark offers a 2-day CO2 workshop,  an Advanced Diploma programme which includes Aromatic Chemistry; Internal Dose Forms – Galenic preparations;  External Dose Forms (Natural Cosmoceuticals); Aromatic Toolkit – materia medica; Aromatic medicine for Common Clinical Conditions. In addition, he offers Aromatic Cuisine – Food as Medicine, a one day aromatic & culinary experience. Learn how to safely create delicious meals, snacks and beverages using a variety of aromatics.

For further information, visit Mark’s site www.bush-sense.com

We are grateful to Mark Webb for adapting his presentation to our needs and supplying us with an excellent handout. It was an educational blast – an enlightening, energizing, thought- and discussion-provoking weekend. Based on the sheer volume of information which Mark shared, I fully expected to be flattened by Sunday but in fact, felt revitalized. Style of presentation and compelling material was the magic (oh and perhaps a little of Mark’s lovely Energy Chai)  – thank you Mark.

There is a great deal of ‘behind the scenes’ time and effort that goes into creating an educational event such as this one. To do it well and to be able to offer affordable fees, we rely upon the generosity of corporate sponsors. Sincerest thanks to the sponsors of this event for their support and generosity: Lisa Cain and Kin Organics; Danielle Sade and Healing Fragrances School of Aromatherapy; Joy Watson/Julie Fischer and Joyessence; Charlotte Naranjit and My Essential Business; Krista Grear and Kustom Wellness; and, Nancy Scott and eScential Wellness. A very special thank you to our CFA Administrator, Sue Todd for keeping us updated, on track, and organized, and to our 2016/17 Board of Directors, particularly Chantal Corriveau and April Kinsella, for all their hard work in making this inspiring event come together and stay together, and to Sandra Grilo for photographically capturing the energy of those two days.

And last, but certainly not least, our heartfelt thanks to CFA member, Elaine Goodman, who was so impressed and inspired by Mark Webb’s workshop that she presented our federation with a most generous financial gift to enable others to take advantage of similarly fine educational opportunities.

Written by Linda Prussick, CAHP