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Course CodeVHT104
Fee CodeS2
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment


Develop a basic understanding of the safe use of Aromatherapy oils; and their production. This course is aimed at the introductory level of education in Aromatherapy. It is suitable for those wishing to gain knowledge of using Aromatherapy in the home or for those working in a related discipline.

Knowing the botanical names of plants and how they are derived is an important part of Aromatherapy. Most people know essential oils by their common names, such as Lavender, Thyme or Eucalyptus. For instance, there are several different types of plant that are commonly known as Lavender, and more than one of these plants are used to produce lavender oil. Oil distilled from True Lavender, or Lavandula angustifolia, is the highest quality lavender oil. However, lavender can also be distilled from Lavandula x intermedia and Lavandula latifolia. All three smell very similar, and can even be confusing for an experienced aromatherapist, but the chemical composition of Lavandula angustifolia is far superior to the other two species and is a much better therapeutic oil.
All this and much more is explained in detail and with practical tasks in the course.

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Plant Identification
    • Understand the classification system used for naming plants and to be able to identify the family, genus and species names of plants used to produce essential oils. Define aromatherapy and its history, to understand how aromatherapy works, and the basic chemistry behind it.
  2. Introduction to Aromatherapy
    • To define aromatherapy and its history and to understand how aromatherapy works, and the basic chemistry behind it
  3. Essential Oils
    • Identify a range of essential oils, their uses and contraindications
  4. Safe Use of Essential Oils
    • Ensure that essential oils are used in a safe and controlled manner.
  5. Carriers
    • Identify what can be used as a carrier for essential oils and why they must be used.
  6. Growing and Harvesting Herbs for Essential Oil
    • Identify methods which can be used to grow, and harvest herbs used in essential oil production.
  7. Methods of Extraction
    • Identify methods used to extract essential oils from plants.
  8. Hazardous Herbs and Oils
    • Identify herbs and oils acknowledged as hazardous to people, and which should not be used in aromatherapy, or with great care

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.

What You Will Do

  • Undertake brief written report on what you understand about how plants are named
  • Give the scientific names of ten different plants from which essential oils are derived.
  • Give a brief summary of your knowledge of aromatherapy and essential oils.
  • Understand how herbs are promoted to the public in order to sell them.
  • Write an essay on the history of aromatherapy and essential oil use.
  • Suggest different blends that can be used for insomnia and other complaints
  • Suggest different blends that can be used for treating a head cold.
  • Discuss a range of oils that would be suitable for a travel kit
  • Understand the use of aromatherapy for children.- List a range of oils that would be considered safe to use for children.
  • Write a short essay on ways in which essential oils can be used.
  • Understand the use of essential oils on animals.
  • List a range of types of vegetable oils appropriate for use in massage and indicate what types of skin the oils are good for.
  • Explain how oils enter the body and how a carrier will assist with this entry.
  • Submit the bath oil blends from a Set Task along with instructions on how to use them in the bath and what conditions they are good for.
  • Understand why some herbs tend to be collected in the morning, some before flowering, some during flowering, and others at various times of the year. What impact does this have on the essential oil?
  • From catalogues collected, explain why some oils cost more others.
  • Discuss different methods of oil extraction and list their benefits and disadvantages.
  • Comprehend what is the difference between an essential oil and an aromatic oil
  • Compile a detailed costing for processing herb materials to produce essential oils.
  • List a range of essential oils that are not safe for use in aromatherapy.
  • Discuss how essential oils can be used safely and ways in which they should not be used.
  • Understand which essential oils may not be safe for use during pregnancy.

Lavender Oil

Lavender oil is one of the most widely used aromatherapy oils; but not all lavender oils are the same.The quality of lavender oil is affected mostly by three things:
  • The cultivars of Lavender Grown -every cultivar has a different combination of oils in the flowers
  • When it is harvested -oil composition can vary at different stages of crop growth and even under different weather conditions or time of day
  • How oil is extracted - oil can be contaminated during processing; or chemicals in the oil can be changed (eg. through over heating), when processing.
Some lavender oils contain high levels of camphor (which can be toxic), or other chemicals. The best lavender can be more expensive; but a quality oil, makes for a more effective use in aromatherapy. 


Harvesting Flowers

Lavender flowers with stems are harvested for oil distillation. Oil accumulation is highest when half of the flowers have withered, making this the optimal time to harvest. Harvesting should be carried out in the mid-morning of a dry and sunny day after dew has evaporated. Only undamaged material of good quality should be collected. The key to producing high quality oil, that attracts a higher price, is just as much in the way it is distilled, as it is in the cultivar that is grown. For a consistent product to be produced, a producer needs to use the same still or type of still, to distil the same cultivar, harvested at the same stage of growth.
Tim Denney, from Bridstowe Lavender Estate, undertook significant research into Lavender oil production in the decades following WW2. He determined that the optimum time to distill oil was 18 minutes, and that long distillation periods could result IN undesirable chemical reactions in the product (e.g. Hydrolysis of Linalyl acetate into linalool). Poor design of distillation equipment can cause the distillation period to be extended (to as much as 2 hours); and that can result in decreased quality in the oil produced.



Distillation is used to separate the lavender oil from the plant material. There are two methods of distillation: water distillation and steam distillation.
Water distillation is an ancient method of distillation for herbaceous oils. It requires the plant material to be completely immersed in boiling water. This method is difficult to carry out efficiently and is therefore only used rarely nowadays.
Steam distillation is now the preferred method of distillation for herbaceous oils. The oil glands are ruptured upon contact with the steam, releasing patches of oil. The steam condenses on the plant surface, emitting its latent heat and thereby raising the temperature of successive layers. At the edges of the oil patches is an interface where oil and water come into contact. Once the condensing steam has raised the temperature to approximately 98°C, the additive properties of the water’s and oil’s vapour pressures cause the liquids to boil. Oil saturated vapour rises and can be led through a condenser where it is cooled until it condenses back into a liquid. The liquid flows into a separator. Because oil has a lower density than water, it floats on top of the water and can be skimmed off.


Why study this course?

This course is great if you are working in the natural therapies industry and are looking to specialise in Aromatherapy.  You may be interested in starting up a small business of your own in the natural therapies field. It is also a very useful course to study on a personal level if you are interested in learning about Aromatherapy and applying the knowledge for personal use.

Meet some of our academics

John Mason Parks Manager, Nurseryman, Landscape Designer, Garden Writer and Consultant. Over 40 years experience; working in Victoria, Queensland and the UK. He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world; author of more than 70 books and editor for 4 different gardening magazines. John has been recognised by his peers being made a fellow of the Institute of Horticulture in the UK, as well as by the Australian Institute of Horticulture.
Maggi BrownMaggi is regarded as an expert in organic growing throughout the UK, having worked for two decades as Education Officer at the world renowned Henry Doubleday Research Association. She has been active in education, environmental management and horticulture across the UK for more than three decades. Some of Maggi's qualifications include RHS Cert. Hort. Cert. Ed. Member RHS Life Member Garden Organic (HDRA) .
Diana Cole B.A. (Hons), Dip. Horticulture, BTEC Dip. Garden Design, Diploma Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development, PTLLS (Preparing to Teach in the Life Long Learning Sector), P.D.C. In addition to the qualifications listed above, Diana holds City & Guild construction qualifications and an NPTC pesticide spraying licence (PA1/PA6). Diana runs her own landscape gardening business (Arbella Gardens). Active in many organisations including the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers.

Check out our eBooks

Scented PlantsScented plants can be either a delight or a curse. For many people, there is nothing more pleasing than a garden filled with fragrance, but for others who suffer allergies, certain plants can make them physically ill; sometimes very seriously.
HerbsHerbs are fascinating plants, mystical and romantic. They have a rich history dating back centuries. Used by monks, apothecaries and ‘witches’ in the past, herbs are undergoing a revival in interest. They are easy to grow, scented, culinary and medicinal plants. In a formal herb garden or peppered throughout the garden, herbs rarely fail! Find out how they are used as medicines, for cooking, perfumes and more. This book has nine chapters covering the following topics: an introduction to herbs, cultivation, propagation, pest and diseases, herb gardens, an A-Z plant directory, using herbs, features for herb gardens, herbs in pots - 113 colour photos 61 pages
Fruit, Vegetables and HerbsHome grown produce somehow has a special quality. Some say it tastes better, others believe it is just healthier. And there is no doubt it is cheaper! Watching plants grow from seed to harvest and knowing that the armful of vegies and herbs you have just gathered for the evening meal will be on the table within an hour or two of harvest, can be an exciting and satisfying experience.
Medical TerminologyWhen studying and using medical terminology it is important to understand the basic structure of medical terms and their meanings.