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Giant's Interview with Sylla Sheppard-Hanger By Gergely Holodi

Pg. 32-37 7 minute read

We are so pleased to bring you another "Giant" in the 2024 Spring edition (11.1) of Aromatika magazine.

Gergely Hollodi had the pleasure of interviewing Sylla Sheppard-Hanger for our "Giant's" column. Sylla is the founder of the Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy

How did you get involved with Aromatherapy?

I discovered essential oils in a scent shop in Austin, Texas in 1977 and then at local health food stores or co-ops. I started collecting scents and using for myself as perfume when I noticed people had delightful reactions to my personal patchouli blend, which soon became my signature scent, I still wear today. I soon began adding them to my massage blends. I thought I had invented something before I heard the word aromatherapy! Of course, I was thrilled to get my first copy of the Art of Aromatherapy and realised this is going to be my journey. I began to seek out companies, courses, and other practitioners and aromatherapy became my greatest passion in life.

Where and who did you study with?

I studied with everyone I could and collaborated with more! Once I realised that I did not invent this, I wanted to know more. I first took Kurt Schnaubelt's home study course and began seeking out teachers and colleagues like Emilee Stewart here in Florida. I began looking for oils from true aromatherapy companies, which were few in the eighties. Remember we didn't have the internet and found supplies or teachers via books, herb, health and massage magazines and mail notices or word of mouth. In 1988, a small group of us formed the first attempt at organising the American Aromatherapy Association in California, and that enabled me to find more seminars and resources.

Who was your inspiration or the most influential person/people in the aromatherapy/aromatic medicine field, and why?

I never stopped studying until a few years ago so my list is long. My first major inspiration was Martin Watt. Once I had started to create the Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy and began teaching, I started my book. When I thought I was done I met Martin and he helped me redo my course safety and my book. I in turn published his book Plant Aromatics here in the US and brought him over to do classes. In 1992 I met Dr. Jim Simon on a trip to the WOCMAP conference in Maastrich, Netherlands. Purdue first offered a two-week Medicinal and Aromatic course. They then offered a two-part course in essential oils in 1996. These courses helped me understand the science and showed us first-hand cultivation, field distillation, lab work, and more. The second class is where the leaders in aromatherapy, who were in attendance, started thinking we need to organize, because who is certifying the teachers? We formed the Purdue Initiative and that became a Steering Committee to form the Aromatherapy Registration Council that has been testing and awarding the Registered Aromatherapist title for 25 years. To read the complete list, please refer to the article in our magazine. Sylla has studied with many in our industry.

What is/was your philosophy in teaching aromatherapy?

Having started with a rigid science course like PIA, and learning all about the medicinal uses based on chemistry, I sought to offer a more rounded approach because I was a massage therapist and put the oils into my practice in a wholistic manner. For me it means using essential oils for health, beauty and well-being. In teaching I felt that students needed the how to and the wisdom from a practicing therapist, besides the chemistry and science. I took the holistic approach and use all modalities I have available to treat the whole person. Sometimes just a sniff can change a person's outlook or reach a deep memory that needs to be processed.

The Spring issue of Aromatika Magazine is packed with heartfelt and inspiring articles. To read the complete article, order your copy of our Spring issue of Aromatika Magazine (11.1) or subscribe to our beautiful E-Journal yearly subscription by following the link in our bio or simply copy and paste the link here:

Over the 100 colourful pages in our Spring issue, we have some of the most knowledgeable aromatherapists and educators from around the world.

We thank you all for your continued support and hope you'll enjoy the fascinating chapters of our SPRING e-journal.

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