Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

An Elective Course in Aromatherapy Science

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

An Elective Course in Aromatherapy Science

Article excerpt


Aromatherapy is a vastly growing market in the United States, resulting in more than 31 million dollars in sales in 2012. (1) While many associate this trade with the spa industry, aromatherapy has seen a rise in the use of therapeutic oils as shown by the increased number of registered aromatherapists over the past 3 years. While studies remain ongoing about the clinical benefits of essential oils, aromatherapy may enhance the quality of life and even serve as a complementary treatment to reduce stress, pain, nausea, and depression. (2-5)

A joint survey by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and the National Center for Health Statistics reported that 38.3% of Americans use some type of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). (2) With this increased use of natural health products, such as herbal medicines and mineral supplements, healthcare professionals play an important role in educating patients on the proper uses and potential interactions of these oils. Consumers of these natural products turn to pharmacists, in particular, for information and guidance on these complementary medicines. (6,7)

Because pharmacists are seen as easily accessible and one of the most trusted healthcare professionals among patients, (8) it is imperative that they are equipped with the knowledge to guide and counsel patients on complementary medicines. (9,10) However, many practitioners admit that they are unfamiliar with many CAM approaches that their patients use. (11) There is a need to incorporate this education into pharmacy students' curriculum. (12)

Colleges and schools of pharmacy are required to offer a wide range of pharmacy elective courses according to Standard 10 of the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. (13) This allows students to develop skills and enhance knowledge in areas of personal interest and expand their understanding of opportunities in the profession. Additionally, this ensures that students become competent in areas of ever-changing healthcare environments. This includes areas such as alternative medical treatments as well as the evaluation of alternative and complementary medicine purity, bioavailability, safety, and efficacy.

With the increase in alternative medicine and essential oil use, (14) pharmacists today require knowledge of alternative sources of healing and potential medication interactions. (9,10) While courses on CAM are increasing, we could not find a description of a pharmacy elective course related specifically to aromatherapy. (15) The purpose of this novel course was to introduce pharmacy students to aromatherapy as a form of alternative medicine and discuss the potential for essential oil and drug interactions through active learning. The primary goal of this course was to develop and/or improve students' knowledge in the discipline of aromatherapy science as it related to their pharmacy educational experience. The course was designed to use the pharmaceutical sciences faculty members' areas of interest (ie, medicinal chemistry, calculations, pharmacology/toxicology, anatomy/physiology, biochemistry, pharmaceutics) to directly apply core curricular threads to aromatherapy principles. We have provided a framework for a simple and novel way to add an elective course to an established pharmacy curriculum.


A 2-hour Aromatherapy Science elective course was designed to cover common essential oils and their therapeutic uses, toxicity, bioactivity, contraindications, interactions, and relevant clinical studies. The curriculum at Sullivan University College of Pharmacy (SUCOP) is an accelerated 3-year Pharm D degree program in which pharmacy students complete four 10-week quarters per year. Elective courses are available to students during each quarter of their second year of classroom-based coursework. Students are required to complete 6 elective courses during their second year. …

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