Aromatherapy VHT104

Learn to identify, grow and use herbs for their healing properties.

  • Develop a basic understanding of the safe use of Aromatherapy oils; and their production.
  • Start a herb nursery or farm, growing and producing quality oils for aromatherapy
  • Discover how essential oils are extracted, and different types of medicinal preparations that may be created from herbal oils

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.

One of our Aromatherapy students said about the course:

"This course was very interesting, challenging and very worthwhile" N. Mills


Course Content

There are eight 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, including distillation.

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.



  • 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.


Understanding the Science is the Key to Success

Aromatherapy products are derived from plants; but within the tissues of plants, you can find a huge range of different chemicals, some which can be very good for the human body, but others which might not be as beneficial.

If you wish to practice effective and safe aromatherapy, it is important to understand what chemicals are being used, and the purity of any products you might use.Oils can sometimes be a very high quality, purified through processing so that they only contain the beneficial chemicals; but sometimes oils can be less than perfect.

A plant may smell like lavender, mint or some other recognizable herb; but that is usually because you are smelling the dominant aroma. Often hundreds of other chemicals can lurk in much smaller quantities in the background. Some of those different types of chemicals are alkaloids, phenolic compounds, flavanoids and turpenoids. There are others as well.


Alkaloids are compounds which contain mainly nitrogen along with some hydrogen and carbon. They may also contain oxygen and sulphur. More rarely other elements may be present including phosphorous, bromine and chlorine. They are derived from primary metabolites including amino acids like lysine, tyrosine and tryptophan. Most are salts of organic acids e.g. acetic, citric and oxalic acids. Alkaloids have certain chemical characteristics such as reacting chemically, like other alkaline substances, because of the presence of a nitrogen atom. Many are highly toxic if consumed by animals and they often taste bitter.   

Some alkaloids have great medicinal value if used carefully, but others can be dangerous. Alkaloids have many different effects on the human body, for example morphine and codeine in opium are well known pain relieving alkaloids.  Vinblastine is an anti-cancer alkaloid. Others include sanguinarine which is an antibiotic, scopolamine which is a sedative, tubocuranine which is a muscle relaxant, colchicines used to suppress gout, and ajmalicine which acts as a an antiarrhythmic combating irregular patterns of heartbeats.  Nicotine in tobacco is also an alkaloid, as is caffeine in coffee and tea beverages and these both act as stimulants.

Alkaloids may be found throughout whole plants or they may be concentrated in certain plant parts like seeds, bark or roots. Nicotine and tropane alkaloids are made in the roots and then transported to above-ground parts. Some, such as nicotinic acid derivatives, are found in many plants, albeit in different forms. Also, some are found in particular plant families or groups of plants. For example, the anticholinergic alkaloids scopolamine, atropine and hyoscyamine are mainly found in plants from the Solanaceae family.  Toxic tropane alkaloids are found in berries of plants from the Convolvulaceae, Solanaceae and Erythroxylaceae families.  

Many isoquinoline alkaloids are found in plants of the Papaveraceae, Ranunculaceae, Berbidaceae, and Menispermaceae families. Amongst these is the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) which contains three of these alkaloids in morphine, thebaine and codeine.     

Phenolic Compounds
There are known to be more than 8,000 natural phenolic compounds in plants. Phenolic compounds have one or more hydroxyl groups attached to one or more aromatic rings. Many are derived from the amino acid phenylalanine and have a simple C6C3 carbon skeleton. These are chiefly phenolic acids like caffeic acid, ferulic acid, cinnamic acid, and coumaric acids. Others derived from phenylalanine have a C6C3C6 carbon skeleton and these include flavonoids which account for about half of all phenolic compounds. Other complex polymers, or polyphenols, of phenolic compounds include lignans, stilbenes, coumarins, quinones, cucurminoids and tannins.

In plants phenolic compounds help with defence against pathogens, parasites and predators. They also combat the effects of UV radiation and provide coloured pigments. In humans they are implicated in defence against cancers and this is a growing area of research. In particular they have anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, anti-mutagenic and anti-oxidant properties which help protect the body against cancers.

Phenolic compounds are widely distributed in food plants such as vegetables, fruits and berries as well as drinks like wine, coffee and tea. Flavonoids are the most widely distributed phenolic compounds in the human diet.

Many phenolic compounds are produced via the shikimate pathway and these include phenylethylamine, cinnamic acid, benzylisoquinoline and isoquinoline. A few are produced via the polyketide pathway and these include quinones and orcinols.

Simpler phenolic acids occur in plants either in free or conjugated forms. The conjugated forms are esters or amides. They can be separated into those derived from benzoic acid i.e. hydroxybenzoic acids like gallic acid, syringic acid and vanillic acid, and those derived from cinnamic acid. The latter group includes coumaric acid, chlorogenic acid caffeic acid. Caffeic acid is the most widely distributed phenolic acid in fruits and vegetables and is found in coffee in its conjugated form as chlorogenic acid which is an ester. Another hydroxycinammic acid is ferulic acid which is found in cereal crops and is especially abundant in bran.  

There are some 4,000 plus flavonoids. They have 2 aromatic rings linked to 3 carbons in a central pyran ring. There are nine subgroups which vary according to the opening of the central pyran ring and saturation level. These are flavonols, flavanols, flavanonols, isoflavonoids (mainly isoflavones), flavones, flavanones, anthocyanins, chalcones, neoflavonoids and biflavonoids. Amongst flavanoids some are more prevalent in plants and these include catechin in tea and some fruits, quercetin in onions, anthocyanin in berry fruits, genistein, glycitein and daidzine in soybeans and naringenin in grapefruit.       

Flavonoids occur mainly as glycosides in plants. Some flavonoids can act to stimulate the cardio vascular system; others have diuretic properties, whilst others inhibit infections.  Rutin, one of the flavonoids, has an anti haemorrhagic effect.  It also helps the blood vessels to expand, thereby lowering blood pressure.  Examples of flavonoid containing plants are camomile flowers, juniper berries, broom leaves, linden blossoms, hawthorn flowers and birch leaves.  

Many flavonoids occur in plants as glycosides. These are flavonoids which occur in conjugated forms. They may be bound with a sugar moiety or moieties linked through an OH group and are known as O-glycosides, or they occur with sugar moieties linked through carbon-carbon bonds and are known as C-glycosides.  A range of different sugars have been observed bound to falvanoids. Amongst them are glucoside, galactoside, arabinoside and glucuronide. Different types of flavonoids e.g. flavanols and flavonols occur in plants with free forms and glycoside (sugar-bound) forms.

This represents a vast group of compounds with more than 30,000 identified. They make up more than half of all plant secondary metabolites. They are volatile, aromatic hydrocarbons and may be considered polymers of isoprene, which has the formula C5H8.  As such, all terpenes have repeating 5-carbon isoprene units.

The simplest terpene is one isoprene unit and is known as hemiterpene. Terpene proper is two isoprene units bonded together and is denoted by C10.  Sesquiterpene has three bonded isoprene units and is denoted by C15, diterpenes (C20) have two terpene units, and so forth. Terpenoids are modified terpenes e.g. by the addition of oxygen.

A sesquiterpene lactone called artemisinin, which is isolated from Artemisia annua (sweet wormwood), gives rise to arteether. This is used as an anti-malarial medication. A few other derivatives of artemisinin have also been trialled for potential anti-malarial qualities. Diterpenes include taxol and giberrellic acid which regulates plant growth. Triterpenoids which are modified triterpenes (C30) include saponins, steroids and cardiac glycosides. Saponins are sugars bound to triterpenes and are found in ginseng, primula root, liquorice and sarsaparilla root.    


Aromatherapy may involve using aromatic oils, to relieve general ailments such as stress and insomnia; but in reality, it is this and much more. 

You will learn to make better informed decisions about what products to use in what situations. You will understand safety with aromatherapy products and how products are created. Graduates will have above all, a sound foundation upon which to begin developing experience and expanding their knowledge on aromatherapy.

Some will apply what they learn in their own lives; while others may develop a business or career, perhaps creating, distributing or using aromatherapy products.

A well trained Aromatherapist may treat a wide range of specific ailments, as well as treatment for balancing and restoring emotional well being, through the proper use of massage and essential oils. This may be done by a range of different methods; from vaporising oils in an oil burner through to massaging them into the skin. Different oils may be used in different ways.

Therapy may be defined as “using pure essential oils to seek to influence, to change or modify the mind, body, spirit, physiology or mood”.

Essential oils are the backbone of Aromatherapy. Their effectiveness is dependant on their safe and proper use, as well as on the quality of the oil used. They work in a much more subtle way than many commercially prepared products and in many situations are more suitable for preventative treatment rather than cure.

Course Duration -100 hours of self paced studies 

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Fee Information (S2)
Prices in Australian Dollars

PlanAust. PriceOverseas Price
A 1 x $781.66  1 x $710.60
B 2 x $416.96  2 x $379.05

Note: Australian prices include GST. 

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