From the daffodil fields of northern England to the lavender fields of the South of France, Melanie Jane Nightingale is a lifelong fragrance and essential oil enthusiast.
It’s this passion that led her to become the founder of ‘Masterclasses with Melanie’, a fun and interactive aromatherapy workshop that started life in the iconic Dubai World Trade Club.
Participants can gain insight into the fragrant world of aromatherapy and learn from Melanie’s experience during the class. Melanie gives insider tips throughout the day while teaching the basics of essential oils, how to make them into beautiful blends and then put them into bath and body products to take home.
Melanie qualified as a Holistic Therapist in 1998 and recently studied at the Grasse Institute of Perfumery, she is also an associate of the Federation of Holistic Therapists.
1. How did you get into aromatherapy?
I lost my father suddenly in 1993 when I was six months pregnant, which led to me suffering from postnatal depression. I wanted to feel better without medication, so I enrolled at the local college on an evening class and learnt how to wax legs! That led to me signing up to a one-year diploma course on holistic therapy. I discovered the power of essential oils after one of my fellow students made a blend for me using frankincense and the next day I felt like the sun was truly shining for the first time in ages. I still create a version of that blend called ‘Morning Glory’ and it’s a bestseller with my customers.
2. What is your favourite essential oil and why?
Lavender, even though I disliked the smell when I was training, I now can’t live without it. Lavender helps me go back to sleep when I wake up at 2am. I use it on bugs bites, pimples or grazes. I use it to heal wounds or burns and I mix it with grapefruit for a toning body oil. Lavender enhances perfume blends too and is mostly undetectable, but adds a certain ‘Je ne sais quoi’ to a fragrance.
It’s such a versatile oil, I recommend that everyone should have a bottle by their bed and in their bag.
3. What tips would you give readers about incorporating essential oils into their daily lives?
Do it wisely, do your research and don’t Google recipes!
Read books and blogs by renowned aromatherapists like Robert Tisserand or Valerie Ann Worwood. Don’t read blogs from non-experts as there is so much misinformation about essential oils and in the wrong hands that can be harmful.
Once you have the basic essential knowledge, start slowly by using just a small selection of oils like lavender, bergamot, rosemary, mandarin and frankincense until you get more confident and make sure you dilute them in a carrier before use.
4. Are essential oils for the whole family? What precautions should you take with using essential oils on children?
Yes, absolutely essential oils are for the whole family but not on toddlers under the age of 12 months. Lavender or chamomile water is fine for cranky infants, but not the oils.
Essential oils can be used as part of your everyday life and not just for ailments, you can diffuse them in oil burners to energise or relax if you don’t fancy using them topically.
There are many precautions with aromatherapy and that’s why it’s so important to do your research thoroughly, for example ylang ylang lowers blood pressure, peppermint might seem like a safe candy-like oil, but it interrupts the breathing pattern of infants so mustn’t be used for children under three years of age.
People with medical conditions like cancer and low or high blood pressure etc or those undergoing chemotherapy or taking long-term medications should always consult their doctor before using essential oils, as there are some interactions that can be dangerous.
5. Is blending oils difficult? What’s the easiest and most difficult essential oil product you can make?
It doesn’t need to be difficult if you start with two or three oils and work your way up. The most important thing is to look at what ailment you are creating the blend for, then seek out the benefits of individual essential oils and go from there. Do you want something energising, balancing or healing? The next step is about creating a synergistic and attractive smelling blend, after all the aroma is the first thing you notice and the first part of the therapeutic process. This is what I teach in my classes and students are amazed by what they learn when it comes to blending successfully.
The most difficult product to make is something for the face because the skin is so sensitive and there are many skin types and things you want to accomplish in effective natural skin care, this is something I teach in advanced classes.
6. Is it better that essential oils are organic? Does it make a difference?
Really that’s a personal choice, like buying organic or non-organic fruit and veg.
Using non-organic oils certainly doesn’t affect their therapeutic properties and there is no research to suggest otherwise at this current time, another thing to consider is that pesticides disappear a few weeks after spraying, so even if there is residue when distilling the oil, the level of it is miniscule; just a few parts per million.
Certified organic essential oils are more expensive simply because of the cost of certification, but you may find oils that are free from pesticides etc that aren’t certified and buying them should depend on whether you trust them at their word.
7. Tell us about the type of aromatherapy workshops you do and your plans for the future.
I hold two types of workshops; aromatherapy and perfume. They are both very different.
The aromatherapy concentrates on teaching the basics such as; history, origin, extraction, application, profiles and benefits of essential oils.
The perfume workshops send you on an odyssey of over 50 exotic and rare oils, half of which are not used in aromatherapy. Participants discover the fragrance triangle and families as well as perfume classifications and learn how to create their own signature scent. I hold regular Perfume events at The Ritz-Carlton and combine an afternoon tea to add to the glamour.
Both workshops are very hands-on, with lots of blending, experimenting and product making. It’s my aim to make them fun and educational with lots of fascinating facts about the world of fragrance.
I also offer corporate and private events and my future plans are to hold more workshops and introduce them into the business sector for corporate wellness sessions – a compact session showing employees how to reduce their stress levels, feel more energetic or sleep better with essential oils. This invariably will lead to increased productivity and a healthier, happier workforce.
My mission is to spread happiness through fragrance one workshop at a time.
8. Do you have to know anything about essential oils to join a workshop?
My workshops are for everyone, even those who don’t even know what an essential oil is, in fact I have all levels in each class, from people who know very little to those who work in related industries and they all go away with much more knowledge than they had before. I offer one to one guidance and that’s why I keep my classes small, so everyone can benefit.
Everyone will go away with fascinating facts that they never knew they needed to know!
10. Where are the best essential oils from? Are they all from France or does it depend from oil to oil?
Where oils are from varies from oil to oil.
I would advise consumers to look at the country of origin of essential oils, this is much more important than concentrating on whether they are organic. The best oils come from the country they are native to because of the environmental growing conditions such as, climate, soil conditions, altitude etc. for instance the best lavender comes from the south of France, ylang ylang from Madagascar, bergamot from Italy, frankincense from Oman and so on.
You can get good oils from other countries of course, someone I know swears the best lavender they ever found was on a tiny island inhabited by monks off the coast of Wales. I’m going to find it one day and see for myself.
11. What’s the most unusual or expensive oil you use?
The most unusual oil I use is very rare and called ambergris or ‘grey amber’ it has nothing to do with the fossilised tree resin called amber and actually comes from whale vomit! It is collected as it washes up on the shore. It smells as you would imagine it to, but blends beautifully in a perfume. I sometimes visit a secret vault in the perfume souk that has a treasure chest full of the dried ambergris and it costs AED 100 per gram.
I also use rose otto, which is extremely expensive because it takes around 36 roses to make just one drop of oil.
12. What are the benefits of using essential oils?
Essential oils work in harmony with your body, they can restore balance by detecting what your body needs by either stimulating, relaxing or healing.
For instance, bergamot is excellent for anxiety and I dab a drop on my pulse points before any public speaking events. Spike lavender is excellent for scar healing and I made a blend for my husband after his neck operation, the results were staggering after only four weeks.
I don’t believe that they are an alternative medicine, rather that they are complimentary. Modern medicine has its place, but I would rather people reach for a bottle of lavender than sleeping pills for their insomnia.
13. How much do the workshops and products cost? Please give ranges.
The workshops vary depending on the time, location, number of participants and products involved, a 3-hour session can cost around 300-400 AED plus materials for the products which range from 50-100 AED each product.
The ladies club has a course run over two Monday mornings with four full-size products, including an organic body lotion, and that is AED 1,000
The Ritz-Carlton perfume workshop is AED 500 for four hours including your own creation of an eau de parfum and an afternoon bubbly tea.
14. When did you start your brand?
I started creating custom-made blends for customers after I qualified as a Holistic Therapist in 1998, but I didn’t give it a name until I went public with it in 2011. It used to be called NightingOils (Nightingale and Oils combined) but the name wasn’t memorable enough for most customers, so I rebranded in March 2016 to Melanie Jane and did my re-launch at the World Trade Club.
15. How long do essential oils last for? Must you keep them in the fridge?
You don’t necessarily have to keep them in the fridge, but they will last a lot longer if you do. Citrus oils go off quicker than others – around six months. Most other oils last between 12-24 months in normal conditions or up to five years in the fridge.
Some oils age well too like frankincense and patchouli, that goes darker and thicker over time, which is when I like to use it the most for perfumes.
16. Can you tell us a bit about the history of essential oils? How far back do we know about their use?
Contrary to popular belief essential oils don’t date back to the Ancient Egyptians in 3,000 BC, they certainly used materials such as herbs, plants and resins for medicinal or religious purpose, but not essential oils, because the distillation method used to extract the oils wasn’t discovered until the 9th Century by the Arabs.
17. How do you use essential oils? What ailments do you use them for?
I use essential oils in so many ways, I use tea tree for mosquito bites, lavender for relaxing or healing, if I have flu I’ll diffuse lemon and vaporise with eucalyptus and rosemary. I use my blends of Morning Glory if I feel a bit blue or Drama Queen if I have mood swings, which are more frequent due to me being premenopausal.
I love burning frankincense resin on charcoal too which eliminates negative energy and makes me feel very grounded.
Lavender and rosemary in an oil burner is my favourite combination if I must concentrate when I’m tired or have a deadline, the lavender calms me and the rosemary keeps me alert.
18. What is your favourite scent?
I have too many favourites for different reasons but at the top of the list is honeysuckle because of the perfume I created for my husband and frangipani, which is in the first perfume I created eight years ago. But I think Patchouli is my all time favourite because it reminds me of the mid 1980s when I was into heavy metal, me and all my friends used it neat and I often reminisce of a more carefree time when all I had to worry about was catching the last bus home.
19. What would you say to someone who was sceptical about the effectiveness and benefits of essential oils?
My favourite phrase is ‘If you believe in aromatherapy it works, if you don’t believe in aromatherapy, it STILL works.’
There’s a lot of scientific research behind essential oils and a lot of chemistry, in fact I recommend reading about the chemistry of them to give yourself a better understanding of their benefits.
For instance, there has been research that proves the use of rosemary essential oil improves the cognitive function in Alzheimer patients, grapefruit is shown to reduce abdominal belly fat with regular massage and carrot seed oil promotes liver cell regeneration.
Don’t underestimate the power of a delicate flower.
Melanie Jane Nightingale
www.twitter.com/by Melanie Jane