By SUZANNE KYDLAND ADY
Of the Gazette Staff
The nose of a dog can be, literally, a million times more sensitive than a human’s. Sharks, also known for their smelling abilities, use their nose power to locate prey – and survive.
Although people generally don’t have to rely on their sense of smell for survival, Billing’s aromatherapist Kate Rossetto says a person’s sniffer is the still the most primal of the five senses.
“If you think back to caveman days, our sense of smell was highly developed,” she said. “We used it to find food and to stay away from danger.”
In the past 40 years or so, Rossetto has finely tuned her sense of smell for a different reason: For well-being and balance in her own life and others.
Rossetto’s story begins in the ’60s, when she realized her attachment to nature and gardening.
“I love going outside and getting my feet in the dirt,” she said. “More people need to take off their shoes and just walk in the grass, or sit under a lilac bush. The body will respond.”
Back then, Rossetto also knew plants had been used for centuries as foods and medicines. Fascinated, she started growing her own herbs and ordering essential oils through a catalog. Not long after, she began creating her own oils.
“As I got better at it, I bought my own plants – they’ve taught me a lot,” she said. “No one can teach you how to work with a plant; you’ve got to experience it yourself.”
A native of Red Lodge, Rossetto moved to Hawaii after her children were grown. She refers to the state as a “juicy, feminine place.”
“I was surrounded by exotic florals,” she said. “Hawaii just opened up another creative place within me.
“ Although Rossetto developed much of her practice on her own among the Birds of Paradise and yellow hibiscus, she also took aromatherapy classes in Los Angeles and is now a certified aromatherapist.
Rossetto said that while learning her craft is ongoing, many aspects of aromatherapy can’t be obtained from a book or in a classroom.
“Aromatherapy is such a misused word,” she explained. “People think it’s just a good smell. But it’s an ancient modality of healing. It’s the use of aromas from plants for healing – sometimes physical issues.”
According to the holistic online Web site, aromatherapy is used for everything from pain relief to skin care. It’s used to alleviate tension and invigorate the body. Essential oils can affect the mood, alleviate fatigue, reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. When essential oils such as lemon, lavender and peppermint are inhaled, they work on the brain and nervous system through stimulation of the olfactory nerves.
And aromatherapy is becoming more popular in the world of alternative therapy. In Japan, engineers have incorporated aroma systems into entire buildings. Scents of lavender are pumped into certain areas to calm down waiting customers, while lemon and eucalyptus are used to keep staff members more alert.
The mountains eventually called Rossetto back to Montana. Upon her return several years ago, she started her own aromatherapy business, Scents of Balance. Rossetto is quick to point out that “nature identicals” or man-made smells put into oils and candles, often don’t have the same effect.
“It’s very simple, really,” she said. “It would be like the body eating plastic. You always want to use organic essential oils. The highest quality usually has the best effect.”
Rossetto suggests scents such as rosemary or peppermint to stimulate the brain – maybe during a session of homework or if someone is feeling sluggish. Lavender has an opposite calming effect. They are also less expensive than some of the more luxurious and often imported oils, such as rose and jasmine.
Along with her aromatherapy consultations, Rossetto practices Reiki, a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that promotes healing. She also takes her talents to Perfect Balance Yoga and Massage, and teaches sporadically through Night Owls and the Montana State University-Billings Outreach program. Rossetto has even been known to offer gardening classes from her own home during the summer. And she hopes to work with kids in the future.
“I’d love to,” she said. “Kids know about computers, but so many of them don’t know about the Earth.”
Many of Rossetto’s clients discover her simply through word of mouth.
“I think we all come with these gifts, and things we’re good at,” she said. “I’m creative with plants, and I’m a resource for people.”
“I feel responsible for teaching people about nature. We’re so over-stimulated with everything else in our world. I use plants to bring my life into balance, and that’s what I teach others.”
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