Body & Fitness: Scent from above

Posted on 17 Feb 2011 at 4:50pm

Bardwell, above, not only uses natural essential oils in her therapeutic work, she also offers sessions teaching how to use the same oils for healthier cooking. (Photo by Arnold Wayne Jones)

Michelle Bardwell offers aromatherapy like you’ve never experienced it at her new Flower Road Natural Therapies studio

STEVEN LINDSEY | Contributing Writer

That waft of vanilla and cinnamon coming from that candle on your kitchen counter? Yeah, no matter what the marketing says, that’s not aromatherapy. But there’s one woman who’s made a career of the science and is now in the neighborhood, ready to make people feel better, one drop at a time.

Michelle Bardwell, who calls herself the “green, gay Mary Kay,” owns Flower Road Natural Therapies, a business focused on the use of therapeutic-grade essential oils and other aromatic raw products for holistic therapies. Sure, most everything smells fantastic, but there’s so much more to aromatherapy than scent alone.

“Aromachology is when you’re trying to affect someone’s mind. You smell something and it brings back memories. You smell something and it reminds you to relax. It’s not necessarily that it goes into your body as an actual relaxant and works with the nerves, but it just reminds you to relax,” she says. “Sometimes you get a massage and smell lavender over and over until you get to the point where you smell lavender and you go into that same state of relaxation. Or you go into a house for sale and when you smell warm cookies, you want to buy the house because you like the smell and it brings back memories. That’s aromachology.”

The oils Bardwell uses at Flower Road, located in the ilume, are not your typical over-the-counter products, either. They’re highly regulated, pharmaceutical-grade oils.

“The oils come from France, but they’re distilled in countries like Madagascar, for example. They go through the French government, the American government, I even have an FDA number,” she says. “They’re organic, passing both the French and American standards, including the USDA. The man I studied with in France sells these oils to pharmacies in Europe.”

Bardwell sells oils to massage therapists who use them in various ways, but it’s her signature aromatherapy sessions that make for an incredible experience.

Utilizing soft-tissue techniques, the entire therapy is one of the most relaxing 90 minutes available. Unlike deep tissue massages where it can be impossible to relax with a massage therapist poking deep into your muscles, it’s easy to fall asleep at Flower Road — a very deep sleep.

After an initial assessment of your body chemistry, and current emotions and stressors in your life, she creates a chart of which areas to concentrate on, and which oils will be most beneficial. Walking over to her oil desk, filled with bottle after bottle of essential oils, she creates a custom formula based on what you need most.

That formula becomes the base she uses on you for every visit, though she may modify it with other essential oils based on any new developments, like if you feel the flu coming on. For that, she’ll likely incorporate Ravensara, an essential oil derived from a tree native to Madagascar with a scent similar to rosemary. Or if you need a little extra oomph in the bedroom, the addition of Vetiver will do the trick as it’s been praised for its aphrodisiac qualities for centuries.

During the near-silent treatment, she warms the body with heating pads so the essential oils are more readily absorbed into the blood stream. She traps the oil and prevents it from evaporating by covering the treated areas with plastic wrap. Meanwhile, she massages your legs and feet, and provides a lengthy, relaxing light-touch facial massage. Snoring is not uncommon.

The treatment ends with the enjoyment of hot tea made from essential oils, as well.

There are many applications for aromatherapy. She conducts lunch-and-learn sessions teachings people how to cook and incorporate essential oils into their diets. Massage therapists and other professionals can even become certified in aromatherapy under Bardwell’s teaching.

Aromatherapy is much different than what we’re used to hearing the term describe. And that’s partly because the United States is still farther behind other countries in terms of holistic therapies and products that are chemically manufactured in labs, not occurring naturally, and most definitely not organically.

“In other parts of the world, they’ve really started to incorporate all kinds of alternative medicine, so they have a better idea of what true aromatherapy is. Aromatherapy is about getting the essential oils in the body, not how it smells.”

Curious about experiencing the benefits of aromatherapy? Just follow your nose. Then get ready for so much more.

For more information, visit FlowerRoad.net.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition Feb. 18, 2011.

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