The Forager's Path - School of Botanical Studies

Using Aromatic Plant Medicine: the Science & Tradition of Essential Oils

Below are notes on the variety of topics presented during the Using Aromatic Plant Medicine: the Science & Tradition of Essential Oils course. Each class includes lecture, discussion with Q&A, detailed handouts and direct interaction with a variety of oils.

(Student comments from previous essential oil classes are here.)

The Role of Essential Oils in the Plant Kingdom:
Plants use vital energy to create essential oils. These oils have specific roles to play in the long term health and survival of the plant world. Learning the roles of oils help us understand ways humans can benefit from their use.

Safety Issues When Using Oils:
Even though oils are ‘natural’ they are concentrated substances that must be used with respect. Following a set of guidelines allow folks of all ages to safely use oils on a daily basis.

Purchasing & Storage Guidelines:
There is an extremely wide range of quality available in the world of oils. This class gives you the knowledge to be a well informed consumer.

How Oils are Extracted from Plants:
A fascinating process is followed to bring the healing essence from the fields and forest to the bottles in our homes. An understanding of this process helps us have a deeper appreciation of the human work required and allows us to better choose quality oils.

Ways Our Bodies Absorb & Eliminate Oils:
This class provides a general overview of the ways our Skin, Olfactory (nose) and Respiratory (lungs) systems allow us to absorb the healing effects of oils. This class, combined with Methods of Application, allow us to choose the best way to use oils in a given situation.

Methods of Application for Topical, Inhalation & Respiratory Use:
This portion of the course gives specific details and demonstrations for the individual application of oils.  Also included is a discussion and demonstration of different types of room diffusers.

Dilution Rates of Essential Oils:
A topic that often has much confusion and controversy, this class looks at the specific oil used and the part of the body being treated. Combined with Safety Guidelines & Methods of Application, this information is vital to both the safe and effective use of oils.

Choosing Carrier Oils:
When choosing carriers, one must consider skin type, method of application and the desired goal of treatment. This class presents the pros and cons of more than a dozen vegetable and nut oils.

Chemistry of Oils – a Scientific View of Therapeutic Uses:
While many people rely on personal experience and tradition to guide their use of oils, the field of chemistry gives added scientific support. Although the healing effect of plants cannot be totally explained by chemistry, it is a helpful tool that guides us to therapeutic possibilities. Twelve categories will be explained and a helpful chart is provided for future reference. No prior knowledge of chemistry is required.

The Big Picture – Essential Oil Categories:
Oils are often presented in an individual, disconnected way. Grouping the oils into broader categories allows us to see the deeper connections in the plant world. Knowing the therapeutic similarities within each category (ex: flowers, tree resins, citrus) provides us a useful tool when choosing which oils to use.

Materia Medica – Detailed Study of Individual Oils:
This portion of the course takes us much deeper than “This oil is good for… insomnia, acne, pain, etc.” To truly know and understand an oil, it is helpful to have a connection to the plant and the environment from which it comes. This class is a combination of direct interaction with the oil by each student and extensive background information in addition to applying all the topics covered in previous classes.

Anti-Microbial Effects of Oils:
One of the primary functions of oils in the plant world is to act as the immune system of the plant. We can benefit from using these oils in similar ways. This class draws from both scientific research and traditional uses.

Attars – Heavenly Scents from Nature:
Attars are a very special part of the essential oil world. They are often a combination of either sandalwood or vetiver as a base combined with a tropical flower. The result is simply an aromatic paradise. Several high quality attars will be shared throughout the classes. These can be experienced simply for their exquisite fragrance or approached on a deeper, therapeutic level.

Pre-registration is required
What: Using Aromatic Plant Medicine: the Science & Tradition of Essential Oils
When: Date – TBD, 9:00 – 3:00 each day
Where: Flagstaff, details with registration
Cost: $190 – includes instruction, written materials and use of oils

After payment is made, you will be re-directed to a workshop registration page. Once I receive your registration information, I will email you directions to the workshop location.

About the Instructor – Mike Masek
Since there are different branches, schools and philosophies of essential oils, I want to share a bit of my background in this field…

In the early 90s, like many people, I began using basic oils while reading whatever books I could find on the topic. The works of Valerie Worwood and Jeanne Rose were popular then.

More in-depth training was offered during my clinical herbal apprenticeship with Dr. Tieraona Lowdog in the mid 90s. Looking back, I had a good grasp of what oils could do but my understanding of exactly what they were (botanically) and how they worked (chemistry and energetics) was still somewhat limited. There was enough clinical success for me to continue working with the oils and continue my study.

In the past 15 years, the field has grown tremendously. Much more research is available along with a deeper understanding of the chemistry and healing potential of these volatile plant compounds. 


Since then, my main teachers and major influences have been Jade Shutes, Robert Tisserand, David Crow, Kurt Schnaubelt and Kathi Keville. My study and learning is ongoing and I consider myself a lifelong student in this field. As of 2017, I have 350+ hours of formal education, 22 years of personal study and 19 years of clinical experience in using essential oils.


I have no financial connection to any essential oil company. My goal as an instructor is simply educational: to empower people to safely and effectively use this branch of herbal medicine while connecting to not only the oils but the plants and larger natural environment in which they grow.

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