British vs the French: Two Schools at Odds (NAHA)

by David Stewart, Ph.D., R.A.
February 2004

If you are not deeply involved with American aromatherapy or have been involved only a short time, you may not be aware that there are two competing schools. There is the British School and the French School.

The British School

The British School of Aromatherapy emphasizes massage with essential oils diluted in carrier oils in 2-5% concentrations and discourages the use of essential oils neat (undiluted) on the skin or taken orally. The British school was developed by aromatherapists from the fragrance industry whose interest was in relaxation, massage, and emotional aspects. The British are more interested in “aroma” than they are in “therapy.” The British rely on scientific research on animals using oils that are often perfume or food grade and usually applying only certain compounds isolated from essential oils rather than the whole oil. This has led to a host of invalid applications of scientific data to human use of oils. The British School states many cautions and contraindications for oils taken neat or orally and forbids the use of many essential oils entirely. These warnings are probably valid when non- therapeutic grade oils are applied. The British school emphasizes that essential oils have their hazards and is best practiced by trained, certified professionals. Most formally trained aromatherapists in the U.S. are of the British school, relying on British sources or sources influenced by that philosophy. The National Association of Holistic Aromatherapists (NAHA) and the Aromatherapy Registration Council (ARC) are two American organizations that lean toward the British school and promote only educational programs that are of British philosophy.

The French School

The French School of Aromatherapy emphasizes oral and neat applications of essential oils but administer oils also by inhalation, massage in fatty oil bases, as well as rectal and vaginal suppositories. The French are more interested in “therapy” than they are in “aroma.” The French School was developed by medical doctors whose interest was in healing disease and maintaining health, including relaxation, massage, and the emotional aspects. The French rely on scientific research on people using whole oils of therapeutic grade quality and to a great extent, the empirical and anecdotal experience of their practices. The French school emphasizes that aromatherapy is safe and can be practiced, with common sense, by anyone whether trained in the healing arts or not. This has led to to hundreds of thousands of ordinary untrained people using oils on themselves, friends, and relatives throughout the United States and Canada. It has also led to a popular protocol of applying essential oils called “raindrop technique,” where a variety of oils are applied undiluted to the back and feet, with techniques of massage, in order to address the therapeutic needs of one’s whole body, inside and out. This highly successful method can be learned by anyone and has been performed on hundreds of thousands of people with benefit and without any of the harms that the British seem to fear. The largest promoter of the French School in America is a network marketing company, Young Living Essential Oils, Inc., who produces and/or distributes some 100 species of essential oils. They have more than 100,000 active distributors and continuously offer training programs throughout the U.S. and Canada, as well as Australia and Japan.

School Rivalry

There is intense political rivalry between these two schools in America with particularly hostile attacks coming from the practicing aromatherapists of the British school who aim their missiles at the French school practicing aromatherapists. Meanwhile the French school aromatherapists just want to be left alone to enjoy the benefits of their ways of applying oils.

For example, raindrop technique, which would be a wonderful adjunct to any spa, beauty salon, chiropractic practice, health clinic, massage practice, hospice program, or any other health-related service, is opposed by NAHA and others of the British School. Their scientific argument against it consists of animal and single oil component studies that have no bearing on raindrop technique or any other human application of essential oils. Meanwhile, they ignore the existence of scientific data on direct outcomes of raindrop technique for thousands of receivers that prove its safety and effectiveness. (viz. A Statistical Validation of Raindrop Technique.) It is a case where the British use scientifically irrelevant science and ignore relevant science, empirical, and experiential evidence to the contrary.

The Hidden Political Agenda

There is a hidden political agenda. Those of the British school favor credentials and certifications and licensing. To them, aromatherapy, which is in their view a potentially hazardous practice, should be the domain of selected professionals only. Those of the French school favor education and training, but no need for government certifications or licensing. To them aromatherapy, which is harmless when governed by simple common sense, should be the domain of everyone, professionals and the public alike.

This strong difference of opinion between the two schools would not be a problem if both were of a laissez faire attitude of live and let live, each allowing the other to function freely as they see fit. Unfortunately, many of those of the British school are politically active in attempting to force their way as the only way and approaching legislators and such to that end. It is from this political agenda that the NAHA position against raindrop technique and their emphasis on “professional aromatherapy” has evolved.

The Center for Aromatherapy Research and Education, (CARE) is of the French school of thought (The same philosophy as Young Living Essential Oils, Inc.). We teach raindrop therapy to thousands and encourage beauty salons, spas, and health- related professionals of all kinds to incorporate raindrop into their programs. Many have done this, by our training and influence, and are achieving wonderful results and great customer satisfaction.

Brave New Raindrop Facilitators in England

A British spa owner and one of her massage therapist employees from London took the CARE training last year with great courage, but in great fear and anxiety after hearing so many negative things from both English and American aromatherapists about the dangers of raindrop. They were pleasantly surprised to learn, see, and experience the truth first hand. Raindrop is now a regular part of their spa programming with which they have had great success and no problems. The British public whom they serve love raindrop.

If you are new to aromatherapy, you may not have encountered the opposition that exists to the the healing and beneficial ways of anointing with essential oils taught by CARE, Young Living, The Pacific School of Aromatherapy (Kurt Schnaubelt), and others of the French school. This article is provided to give you insight, as well as answers for rebuttal, should a hostile member of the anti-French group come into your life and attempt to attack the credibility, safety, and efficacy of what you are doing. They have just been misinformed somewhere in their educational background and don’t know it. Perhaps you can help them to a better understanding and lead them to greater opportunities for healing than are possible with the restrictions of the British point of view.


Reprinted from The Raindrop Messenger, a free eline newsletter, with permission from Dr. David Stewart. To subscribe or download back issues, visit


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *