When Kristina Bauer and Angela Jensen Ehmke came to Aromahead Institute’s Teacher Training in 2013, they never imagined where it would lead them.
What first emerged as curious conversations between colleagues developing their respective aromatherapy businesses evolved into an exciting passion project. Now, two years later, Angie and Kristina are officially partnered in producing the world’s first feature-length aromatherapy documentary, Uncommon Scents. The film, currently in pre-production, will feature interviews with industry experts including celebrated educators, chemists, researchers, distillers, suppliers, practitioners, and advocates from around the world.
Describe how the film and your partnership evolved.
Angie: Kristina and I met at the Aromahead Teacher Training. After the workshop, I set up a regular conference call with the other Aromahead grads so we could stay connected, talk about challenges, and keep current. Sometimes there were several folks on the call and sometimes there would only be a couple of us on the call, but Kristina and I made almost every call. When it was just the two of us, we talked in depth—we really got to know each other and understand each other’s business goals. We also had some really inspired conversations about aromatherapy and essential oils in general, including some interesting dialogues about what we wanted our students to know about some of the challenges facing the field. I knew Kristina was focused on writing and I was enjoying following her blog. I was thinking about the classes I was setting up. I got to thinking about some of our more intense conversations and realized between her writing skills and marketing background and my experience in TV and film production, we had something really interesting and powerful. So I threw it out there: why don’t we make a documentary?
Kristina: We started out by talking it through: what would it look like, what would it include, how would we bring it to life? I was initially terrified about the filmmaking side of things, but Angie has that background and she quickly put me at ease surrounding what I didn’t know, because she knows it. After talking at length, we began to realize what the project could be—and we were both awed by the possibility. We ultimately registered the outline and base narrative, set up our formal business partnership, and got ourselves secured legally. Within weeks, we had the support of several key industry people and an experienced production consultant helping us navigate development. Now six months in, we already have over a dozen incredible participants signed on with more coming on board each week.
Angie: We’re floored by the support we’re getting from the community. And we feel an enormous responsibility to produce an exceptional film. We expect this film will empower everyone who sees it—from “newbies” to the experts interviewed in the film. Honestly, we think Uncommon Scents will encourage fresh dialogue about essential oils, aromatherapy, and aromatic medicine. I am proud knowing we can celebrate the aromatherapy community by shining a light on its highest standards through some if its trusted voices. I’m also really excited for audiences to see some of the incredible work being done with aromatics around the world.
When did you first become interested in aromatherapy? What stimulated your interest?
Kristina: Herbs and natural remedies have been a celebrated part of my life from early childhood thanks to my Danish grandmother and aunts; I have always looked to nature first when handling physical or emotional challenges. When I went to college in 1990, I had the privilege of designing my own major through a unique degree program. My love of nature and eagerness to work meaningfully with plants and herbs led me to include what I call “Mother Earth chemistry” in my curriculum. In securing resources and teachers to inform that part of my degree, a dear friend who owned the local herb/metaphysical shop insisted I incorporate essential oils in my scope. She gifted me with several oils to inspire me, including Ylang Ylang to help support me through a breakup. From the first sniff, I was hooked!
Angie: Working in film and television in NYC, I did a number on my body—long hours, eating on the fly, no regular exercise. I knew once I got married and planned to start a family that I wanted to slow down, move to Upstate NY, and be a work-from-home mom. I was especially interested in turning my focus to holistic living, so I began exploring holistic approaches to wellness and taking classes in health coaching and Reiki. My interest in aromatherapy specifically was sparked during my first pregnancy when I enrolled in a natural birthing class in NYC. I’ve always been sensitive to synthetic fragrances and products, so I was excited when another mom-to-be suggested lavender essential oil as a gentle, natural tool for relaxation during my pregnancy. It did so much to help calm and relax me during labor, I was still thinking about it six months later: that it worked, how it worked, how well it worked… I wanted to know more!
What brought you to Aromahead Institute? What was your favorite part about studying at Aromahead?
Angie: When I started looking for an aromatherapy education after my first son was born, I wanted to find a reputable school. After some searching, I was pleasantly surprised to find Aromahead only an hour away from me—with a certification class starting in just a few weeks! I called to talk through details (I was nursing and wasn’t sure how that would work). Andrea welcomed me and encouraged me to grab the very last spot in her certification class in Ithaca. Andrea’s teaching style made me feel passionate about aromatherapy from day one. I didn't know much about aromatherapy to start with, but when I completed all the course work, I was educated in more ways than I’d have thought possible: botany, chemistry, safety, you name it. The thoroughness of the course materials combined with the personal touch made it such an exceptional learning experience.
Kristina: Honestly, I already had 20 years of experience working and blending energetically and esoterically. I was quite comfortable with being self-taught and continuing to learn on my own. That remained true until several people I deeply cared about experienced major health challenges. I felt suddenly helpless. I wanted to be able to craft blends that they could safely use in the context of their health issues, but I had no idea how to go about doing clinical blending. I was concerned about contraindications and the possibility of doing more harm than good. In doing some initial research, I quickly discovered lots of people using aromatherapy for “health” in ways that I thought were totally unsafe! I decided to formalize my aromatherapy education and pursue more focused, clinical training to empower my practice and provide me with a platform from which to educate those around me. I initially chose Aromahead’s Online Scholar’s Program because of its reputation for excellence, its credibility, and its online platform. I think I’ve taken every single online class offered at Aromahead now! I can’t say enough good things about the quality of the courses, the substance of the materials, and the integrity of the program, but it’s my connection to the community that Andrea has so meticulously created that’s been my most precious takeaway.
What do you love about the aromatherapy profession?
Angie: That there are so many avenues within the profession and therefore room for all of us. I have never felt competition from others. It's like motherhood: there is a way for all mothers to succeed and the more empowered we are and the more we support each other, the more successful we will be. That makes me happy.
Kristina: I agree. I think for me, there was also real power in discovering that I did not have to fit into a tiny, narrow box. It’s incredibly exciting to create a business that’s dynamic and personal and helps others. My practice continues to evolve and uniquely reflects me. I’m curious and passionate by nature. I delight in having so much more to learn—and so many wonderful teachers across the field! I know this work can keep me engaged, inspired, and learning for the rest of my life. Fundamentally, I also love that this work keeps me intimately and actively connected with nature.
How do you use oils to maintain your own health and well-being?
Angie: We use my foaming hand soaps, cleaning products, linen sprays, and hand sanitizers in my household every day. I love my inhalers for me and my personal first aid kit and diaper bag supplies for my two boys. Occasionally I diffuse in various rooms in the house, especially before and after we travel or when someone in the house isn't feeling their best.
Kristina: Ditto here. Most of our personal products are my creations—shampoo, body wash, lotions, butters, facial scrubs, shave cream, you name it. My inhalers are a godsend when I travel. Both my husband and I also wear custom fragrance blends; they get changed up according to the seasons and our preferences. On the rare occasion one of us has something come up that requires specific attention, I’ll look to my broader toolkit (including herbs and oils) in considering how to encourage wellness, support recovery, or promote healing.
What recommendations do you have for anyone interested in becoming an aromatherapist?
Angie: Don't wait. The personal development is worth the certification program alone. Being able to make safe, effective aromatherapy products for myself and my family is priceless. Even if you don't want to have a business, it is worth the certification to keep yourself and your family healthy using natural products.
Kristina: Invest more money in education than you invest in essential oils and you’ll never waste a dime. Engage with the aromatherapy community, not just the oils themselves. There are a host of stakeholders in this industry from growers and farmers, distillers and suppliers, chemists and researchers, practitioners and clients, to hobbyists and teachers—be ready and willing to learn from all of them. Remember that essential oils are distilled from natural materials and sourced from nature. To be meaningfully in relationship with essential oils, you need to be meaningfully in relationship with nature.
What do you wish people knew about Aromatherapy?
Angie: If you’re hoping to address a specific concern, you don't need to figure it out alone—you can hire an aromatherapist! For the cost of the ingredients needed to make one specific recipe, you could get a consultation with a trained aromatherapist and a custom blend crafted just for you—with your unique parameters in mind. You can get a product that is safe, effective, and personalized instead of perhaps investing in materials you aren’t familiar with yet. Aromatherapists make the investment in essential oils and education so you don't have to. If you’re interested in addressing a specific concern yourself, invest in the resources, teachers, classes, and knowledge needed to create a safe, appropriate solution—don’t look to cookie cutter recipes online!
Kristina: Honestly, my answer is too big to capture here! This question is also the catalyst behind our documentary: there is so much that we want to shine a light on, so much to share. There’s so much to inspire, surprise, shock, and delight everyone from experienced aromatherapists to individuals hearing about essential oils for the first time. The full spectrum of aromatherapy—what it is, where it comes from, how its being used, what it offers—has such rich breadth and depth. We’ve enlisted some incredible people to help us tell its story—and we can’t wait to share it with audiences!