BERLIN — Lauren Andrews, owner of AroMed Aromatherapy and CBD Shop in downtown Montpelier, has opened a second store in the Berlin Mall, just five miles away.
Why open a second store so close to the first? Andrews believes that many Berlin Mall customers don’t shop in downtown Montpelier and could benefit from the products sold in her store.
“We have a loyal and ever growing fan base at our State Street, Montpelier store, but recognize that people in other central Vermont towns like Barre, Berlin, Northfield and Williamstown, don’t have easy access to CBD (cannabinoid) and other organic, plant-based health and body care products. We wanted to remedy that,” she said.
According to Andrews, AroMed has the largest selection of organic “essential” oil remedies and CBD offerings in central Vermont. CBD is the non-psychoactive cannabinoid made from the industrial hemp plant.
Andrews, a registered nurse and clinical aromatherapist, is a recent graduate of the University of Vermont’s Cannabis Science and Medicine Certification Program. UVM was the first medical school in the nation to offer a professional certificate in cannabis and medicine. The seven-week, online professional certificate was “designed for physicians, dispensary personnel, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, physician assistants, edible creators, regulators, and bud tenders,” according to the program website.
Andrews also received her aromatherapy certification from Andrea Butje, founder of Arrowhead Institute, and studied with Robert Tisserand, author of “The Art of Aromatherapy and Essential Oil Safety.”
“We offer 100 percent pure, organic and sustainably wild-harvested essential oils, therapeutic synergies and Vermont CBD products,” she said.
Aromatherapy is the practice of using the natural oils extracted from flowers, bark, stems, leaves, roots or other parts of a plant to enhance psychological and physical well-being. Proponents say the inhaled aroma from these oils stimulates brain function and promotes whole-body healing.
AroMed makes many of its own products from hemp oils purchased from Vermont farmers and from oils it buys directly from the suppliers in India, South Africa and other locales.
“I was uncomfortable buying from middlemen. I was concerned about adulteration, misleading marketing slogans and overpricing,” Andrews said.
Prior to opening her Montpelier store in 2013, Andrews worked for 13 years at the psych unit at Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin. That work convinced her about the need for alternative treatments for mental health and stress-related illnesses and led her to research what she said is a “compelling and growing body of scientific evidence supporting the use of essential oils in clinical settings.” What she learned, she said, is essential oils and aromatherapy have “beneficial impacts” on a wide range of problems ranging from respiratory illness and skin problems to mild depression, anxiety and insomnia.
CBD has similar wide-ranging benefits, she said.
“CBD has been shown to have significant and far reaching medical benefits that address anxiety, muscle and joint pain, migraines, fibromyalgia, insomnia and more. These chronic conditions can so negatively affect a person’s quality of life, and any measure of relief can make a huge difference,” she said.
The American Medical Association urges caution when using alternative medicine such as aromatherapy and CBD products, suggesting patients who choose alternative therapies should be educated about hazards that might result from postponing or stopping conventional medical treatment.
Jessa Barnard, executive director of the Vermont Medical Society, which represents Vermont’s physicians, said VMS has not taken an official position on aromatherapy but generally supports the AMA position that well designed, controlled research should be done to evaluate the efficacy of any alternative therapy and that herbal products should contain accurate labeling and disclaimers.
Andrews agrees that more study is needed but says the federal government classifying cannabis a “schedule one” drug, on the same level as heroin, makes independent study difficult.
Another problem, she said, is deception on the internet. Some of the CBD products sold on the internet are fake and could be dangerous, she said, which tarnishes reputable retailers like her store.
“All of our CBD and essential oils are third-party tested to ensure purity and potency. Our customers deserve that level of accountability and transparency that is sorely lacking in the general marketplace. The CBD market is the ‘wild west,’ as CBD is largely unregulated. It is a buyer-beware market,” Andrews said.
Andrews also offers workshops on the benefits of aromatherapy at the Berlin Mall’s HUB space, a free space for community events.
“There is a welness-driven renaissance of sorts happening at the Berlin Mall, with Planet Fitness bringing in hundreds every day. The mall’s close proximity to multiple medical practices that are already referring their patients to us, along with Central Vermont Medical Center and Blue Cross, made the decision to open at the mall relatively easy. There is undeniable convenience that customers can benefit from,” she said.
One of the biggest differences between products she sells and traditional perfume is all her products are natural, whereas most perfumes are made from synthetic materials.
“Synthetics can cause respiratory and skin problems. Everything we make and sell is 100 percent natural,” Andrews said.