Maybe Someday She'll Have a Little Brother Named Kunzea

Jul 31, 12:08 PM

by Katharine Koeppen, RA

When you're in the business of aromatherapy, you meet all sorts of people needing all kinds of help. Sometimes the best aromatic solution for a person is immediate and obvious, other times it's more, well, obtuse... even strange. You wind up helping someone in ways that are completely unexpected.

Not long ago, I was working a conference for expectant mothers, which seemed a great way to introduce women to the benefits of aromatherapy. Very typically, when a woman becomes pregnant (especially a first time mom), her health becomes paramount and she suddenly goes on an all-natural, all-organic craze. Right?

Wrong. Not this group of well-heeled, North Dallas expectant moms, all of whom aspired to Better Living Through Chemistry. My business received minimal attention, as did the pregnancy yoga therapy practice and the doula services flanking my booth. I felt especially sorry for the doulas, whom most attendees mistook for babysitters. The infant music school and pregnancy event planner booths, however, were drawing big crowds.

By the end of the day, I was having a hard time being upbeat. The long conference hours, coupled with the attendees' general lack of interest in anything remotely healthy, left me depressed and dragging. Minutes before I was ready to call it a day and pack up, a twenty-something young woman and her parents stopped by the booth. In her advanced stage of pregnancy, she was glowing with impending motherhood and excitement about aromatherapy. "Ooooh, I loooove essential oils," she cooed, "And I want to smell everything in your display!"

She proceeded to open nearly every bottle, exclaiming with delight over each one. Her parents, who did not share their daughter's zeal for aromatherapy, soon moved on. But she remained at my booth, becoming eventually transfixed by one particular bottle. "How do you say the name of this oil... is it neroli?"

"No, that one's niaouli, and it doesn't smell anything like neroli," I replied. A common error; those new to aromatherapy frequently confuse the two.

"Oooooh, I just LOVE the smell of it. What do you use it for?" she breathed.

"Well, it's strongly antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal. It's a relative of tea tree, and is effective for a lot of the same things as tea tree oil, but it doesn't smell quite as harsh." Yes, but it still smells medicinal, and is not exactly the sort of aroma that people go nuts over.

"Oooooh, where's it from?" she squealed, the bottle still firmly planted under her nose.

"Niaouli is distilled in several countries, and this one's from Madagascar."

"MADAGASCAR?! You're kidding! That's awesome! I can't believe it!"

Although I found her youthful enthusiasm amusing, I couldn't understand why she kept speaking in italics about niaouli. It's just not an essential oil that people get emotional about.

"I've just got to have some of this... I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the smell of it! I just want to rub it all over my scalp!" she exclaimed, while attempting to shake a few drops of oil into her palm.

"Ummm, please don't do that. It's not a really good idea if you're pregnant. Plus, you should never apply an essential oil undiluted right out of the bottle." OK, this was starting to get weird.

By this time the conference had ended and my fellow exhibitors were packing up their displays. Her parents called her from across the room, but she stayed glued to my booth. "Mom, Dad, I gotta have this niaouli!"

As she made her purchase, she became teary-eyed. "Ma'am, you don't know how much you've helped me. For months, I've just been so stuck. I've been searching for a name for my baby girl, but nothing fits. Now I've finally found the perfect name! I'm gonna call her... NIAOULI!"

I worked very hard to keep a straight face as I stifled simultaneous gasps of mirth and horror. She left beaming, clutching the little bottle to her heart. As she walked away, I realized this bizarre incident had lifted my depression over the day.

My aromatherapy career has taken me to some unusual places, but this was the first time I've inspired an inadvertent baby-naming project. Little Niaouli, wherever you are, this one's a great story for the grandkids.


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