Dorene Petersen: The Promise of Aromatherapy

The improvement of mood, cognitive function and/or physical health has long been the nebulous promise of aromatherapeutic practice and products. Today, the category, labeled “aromatherapy,” includes products such as traditional holistic aromatology-type products (essential oils for application toward mental, physical and/or spiritual well-being), air fresheners, body washes with “energizing” scents and premium holistic beauty products. While products continue to enter the marketplace with heretofore unsubstantiated claims (anti-aging or anti-depressant fragrances, for example), major consumer goods companies are investing in aromatherapy innovations to harness the physiological and psychological power of scent.

“Aromatherapy is … one of the few therapies in the holistic health repertoire that offers both a physiological and a psychological result simultaneously,” says Dorene Petersen, founder and president of American College of Healthcare Sciences. “That was always of interest to me.” Petersen, whose college offers an accredited, online Master of Science in Aromatherapy (, will speak as part of the annual conference of the International Federation of Essential Oils and Aroma Trades (www. taking place in San Francisco September 29 to October 3. Originally a naturopath practicing in her native New Zealand and relying on essential oils produced for the fragrance or flavor sector, Petersen has spent the last three decades focusing on sourcing high-quality pesticide-free and organic essential oils for the therapeutic sector.

Now based in the United States, she says she’s increasingly focused on research-based work in aromatherapy. “I’m very interested in sound research and human clinical trials that are able to show the therapeutic efficacy of essential oils and specifically which constituents are active within the essential oils that appear to be causing that physiological reaction,” Petersen says.

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