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Jo Kellett5 min

Behind the Deck: Aromatherapist in a Box

With the steady growth in the sale of essential oils over the last few years, Jo Kellett’s Aromatherapist in a Box is a perfectly timed, approachable and fun way to learn about aromatherapy. Publishing in time for Stress Awareness Month (April 2024), this set of 60 beautifully illustrated cards guides users through the 50 most common essential oils and how to use them. Including simple instructions on how best to combine essential oils, or make your own massage oils, diffusers and more. We spoke to Jo about the inspiration behind the deck, and her journey as an aromatherapist.

What was the inspiration behind the Aromatherapist in a Box deck?

I was approached to write a collection of easy-to-use aromatherapy cards for the enthusiast so that they could access the safe and correct Information around using essential oils for themselves and their family’s wellbeing. It’s been such a pleasure to work on these cards to offer people an understanding of the power of essential oils.  I’m a huge advocate of passing on my experience and passion so that everyone can utilise essential oils safely and effectively.  

How did you begin your journey into aromatherapy?

Before I trained as an aromatherapist, I was a stage manager in London’s busy West End. One spring I came down with a very nasty ‘flu-like’ bug. It was almost impossible to take time off as you were expected to work – ‘the show must go on!’  The wig mistress on the show I was currently working on used essential oils in her daily life and could see how badly I was suffering. She introduced me to eucalyptus and thyme to help reduce my congestion. They were so good and effective! At the same time my flatmate was also using essential oils in a diffuser. I had had enough of the theatre lifestyle and knew I wanted a change. For many years I had appreciated the power of massage and I was always fascinated by aromas, so being an aromatherapist seemed like a dream career. For a year I trained during the day and worked in the evenings before finally giving up the theatre lifestyle and becoming a full-time aromatherapist. I am now entering my 28th year as a practising aromatherapist and I can’t imagine doing anything else!  

Could you tell us about your first experience with using essential oils to combat stress?

Stress is such a multifaceted matter. People’s experience of stress is so different from person to person. Some people find their sleep disturbed, others will have digestive upset, others will have feelings of overwhelm and anxiety. That’s the joy of essential oils, as they have different therapeutic properties that can alleviate the varying manifestations of stress. Also, the aroma plays such an important role – smell is very idiosyncratic. It is processed in the brain in the same region that we hold our memories, so having an affinity with a particular aroma will play a part in its effect on you. There are, however, groups of oils that are considered wonderful for reducing stress. For example, the citrus essential oils all have a bright uplifting aroma that can make you feel positive and optimistic. The floral oils are comforting and soothing, and the wood oils are grounding and strengthening. Using the dividers in the box will allow you to find an oil that is supportive for you – aromatherapy is truly bespoke!  

How can your aromatherapy cards help individuals soothe and stimulate the senses?

Each card within the box is divided into primary actions, like stimulating, energising or nourishing. This is a great starting point for you to access the essential oil that can soothe or stimulate you.  Each card also has a ‘blends well with’ section, so you can create a blend that will have multiple results. Smell is such an undervalued sense, but once you start to explore its potency, you will wonder how you ever got along without using essential oils to enhance your everyday needs. The deck also explains the best application to use for your needs, whether that be an aromatic bath, a body massage oil or a diffuser, meaning you will get the best result from your usage.  

Mind, body and spirit-related decks have seen an apparent explosion in popularity in recent years. Why do you think the practice is attracting so many newcomers? 

Taking care of ourselves is so important. Taking responsibility for your own wellbeing is an investment for you and your future. We are so used to ‘quick fixes’ in our modern hectic world, that in some cases we have lost the patience to look at ourselves and change patterns that are deeply ingrained.  There does, however, seem to be a seed of change in our attitudes – we are all becoming more aware of our mental and emotional health. We are understanding the links between certain lifestyle choices and the consequences of that. Complementary care, aromatherapy being a part of that, is more accepted, and people are looking at how they can take care of themselves in a more natural way.  

Do you think there are still misconceptions about aromatherapy, and how would you respond to them? 

Very much so. Essential oils are potent, concentrated extracts that need to be respected. The internet is a wonderful tool, but it does allow anyone to say what they want.  Essential oils should not be ingested, unless you are specifically trained in that field, plus they should not be applied undiluted to the skin. Also, they are not intended to replace conventional medicine; they are complementary and can be used to support your general health and wellbeing. There are some aromatherapists who are specifically trained in areas of health like cancer, pregnancy and skin health. These practitioners have detailed knowledge and education that exceeds the information that is provided in Aromatherapist in a Box.  

What does spiritual empowerment mean to you, and how can we ensure we encourage and foster it in our lives? 

Taking the time for ‘self’ is vital for our health. Using essential oils in your daily life can inspire a quieter, calmer approach to your life. This can only lead to a more empowered you! For me, doing what I love and being with friends and family that foster care and encouragement feeds self-worth and therefore encourages empowerment. Seeking out what brings you joy and fulfilment will boost your spiritual connection and create a more centred you.  

Which of the cards in the Aromatherapist in a Box deck have you found yourself most strongly resonating with on this journey?

That’s a hard question, as I love and work with so many essential oils. Smell is so personal and can even change from day to day. I love the floral, woods and citrus oils, but appreciate all the oils for their individual therapeutic properties. I know that everyone will have a different favourite or an essential oil that resonates more with them than another. An essential oil that I am particularly enamoured with at the moment is Rose, Rosa damascena. It has a very strong complicated floral aroma that is nourishing, supportive, feminine and dynamic. It is a ‘base’ note, meaning that you only need a small amount in a blend for it to shine aromatically. I use it for skincare, emotional support, hormonal balance and because I love the smell!  

Finally, what’s one thing about your deck that no-one has asked about yet, but that you wish someone would?

‘Are you planning on workshopping the deck?’ I love to share my knowledge, as I said, so that people have the correct information around the use of essential oils. Alongside my private practice I teach postgraduate aromatherapists; however, this publication is a starting point for your aromatherapy journey, so to have a platform for that would be wonderful. It’s so enjoyable to share the aromas in a group setting, discuss what the oils mean to an individual, just from the aroma, and then explore its properties and therapeutic uses to gain a better understanding of the role that essential oils could play in your life.

Jo Kellett

Jo Kellett received her Diploma of Holistic Aromatherapy from the Tisserand Institute (1996) and has gone on to develop her own successful practice, From the Seed, in Brighton, UK. Jo teaches at postgraduate and diploma level, including for Neal’s Yard Remedies. Alongside her practice she works for Tisserand Aromatherapy, developing products and training staff.