Interview with Abigail Hampton
Abigail Hampton smells of lavender, frankincense, peppermint and a little bit of dirt. Her world is one of dahlias and peonies and oils, extracted from the rocks of Somalia and lemon farms in Sicily. For Abigail, the earth is an infinite source of restorative powers, and she has dedicated her life to bringing plants and people together.
We sat down with the full-time floral designer and essential oils educator on a warm night in Spring. The birds and the bees were out, flowers in bloom. Abigail’s presence was tranquilizing and enigmatic; she drank Kombucha and repeatedly sniffed her palms, almost subconsciously, while professing she’d rather talk about us than herself.
From her purse she draws a pouch full of remedies. Inside lie bottles of some of the most powerful oils found in nature: geranium, juniper berry, grapefruit, cypress, eucalyptus, clove bud, wild orange and ylang ylang. Our noses caught her scents in the breeze.
If you think this sounds frilly, remember you are reading an article on floral design and aromatherapy.
But there is more than meets the nose to this graceful woman. Years ago, Abigail dreamed of going to art school for acrylic painting, but life got in the way. A few weeks before her high school graduation, one of her dearest friends commit suicide. Though Abigail wishes her friend had essential oils in her life, she was experiencing withdrawals from another chemical: cocaine. This experience prompted Abigail to seek out spiritual and emotional guidance. She traveled to India and Africa, where she witnessed poverty, malnourishment and suffering like she had seen before. While abroad, she discovered something else as well: the transformative powers of agriculture, art and compassion.
And so began an outpouring of love and a commitment to restoring everyone Abigail met in her path. She had given away all her belongings and spent over a year empting herself for the betterment of others, before she realized the importance of taking care of herself. Thankfully, Abigail found essential oils and began a journey of self-fulfillment and passion. Now, she designs arrangements at Wild Bunches Floral and teaches classes on health, wellness and aromatherapy around Austin, TX.
Before the interview began, Abigail took out a vile of “Passion/Inspiring Blend” from her pouch of remedies. The potion was composed of cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, clove, sandalwood, jasmine and vanilla bean. She instructed us to dab a few potent drops into our palms, hold open fists to our noses, and inhale.
Essential oils are a plant’s natural protection from environmental threats, insects, and decay. When we inhale an essential oil, we absorb the small and volatile molecules through our mucous membranes. It travels through capillaries, into the circulatory system and is dispersed throughout the body. The nervous system transmits signals to the limbic system of the brain—the area that houses emotion and memory. The result is various physiological functions, such as a release of hormones, relief from pain or a positive shift in mood.
While many discredit "herbal fanatics," some scientific evidence supports the health claims of these natural supplements. And whether it was Abigail’s conviction or the passion blend working, there was something undeniably enthusing in the air.
TF: Why are you drawn to both aromatherapy and floral design, and how do you see them as part of the same art form?
AH: I see a huge connection between the two because when you are taking care of yourself, you are enhancing your creativity inside of you. Plants have rejuvenating powers and the more you work with them, the more you are restoring yourself. I mean, Picasso was crazy and he died early, and Van Gogh cut off his ear. Michael Jackson! So even if you are a creative genius but you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re not going to achieve as much as you could. I see essential oils especially as being able to extend the length and quality of life.
TF: Can you describe how you came to be interested in health and wellness and how that brought you to essential oils?
AH: I segued into health and wellness because I wasn’t a healthy person, back in my day. Really, I gave of myself a lot. When I graduated from High School, I went to a bible college in Dallas and I fell in love with different cultures and groups all over the world, which led me to move to India, where I lived for four months. My eyes were awakened to human exploitation and human trafficking and malnourished children and poverty in third world countries and all these issues. I realized that I have a lot to offer because of the position I come from, being an American, I have a lot of opportunities to offer people who are less fortunate. So that led me to move to Africa for nine months, where I worked in a crisis care center for rescued traffic victims. When I was there I became really passionate about restoring people to their health mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually, as well. And so going through that process I became a person that was outpouring and outpouring and outpouring constantly, and I really neglected taking care of myself simultaneously, in terms of me working in a rehabilitation center overseas, I was very passionate about educating those girls on how to find their creative outlet. So we did a lot of art therapy and gardening therapy. And really just opening that gateway for them through a restoration process and then having an immediate action along with that, whether it was drawing something or planting in the garden or doing some sort of exercise, that was really where my passion led: self-care, and whatever that looks like for different people.
So when I left that area I was really burnt, as you can imagine. I had sold everything before I moved because that’s just in my nature—I’m so compelled to restore people. So when I got back, I was dedicated to restoring myself so that in the long run, I was capable of being that vehicle to help other people see their restoration fulfilled. So I went through a lot of therapy and physical/spiritual restoration. In the meantime, I was doing a lot of painting as a way for me to go through that healing process. Then, thankfully—thank God—essential oils came into my life about four years ago. There was an emotional shift, a healing shift. Now I’m very passionate about teaching people how to use oils and also the science behind how they are so compatible with our bodies and why every single person needs them. My passion is creativity and health and wellness, and when you combine those two, I see it’s the most effective in fulfilling your creative outlet and taking care of yourself.
TF: I like the idea that when you’re “outpouring and outpouring” you have to have something that’s pouring back into you and filling you up as well.
AH: Right. For me, it was a spiritual connection with God. And some people call it the universe or Buddha or Allah, but for me it was Yahweh, God, and that was my one on one connection. I had to really see myself as the person I was created to be. And we are all creative in our own units, regardless of our titles and status. But we are created for a greater purpose other than just ourselves compacted in our bodies. Our minds are so powerful. For me, that fuel and energy that really sought me out through the restoration process, which I’m still going through—aren’t we all—was incorporating the spiritual with the physical, carbon—the oils.
TF: Can you tell us why you called yourself an unhealthy person in the past? Was it the experiences from India and Africa or was there something before that, in High School that actually led you down that path?
AH: I was an average, healthy teenager. But I had a friend who commit suicide a few weeks before we graduated and she was my dearest, best friend. She was having cocaine withdrawals so she went through a lot of therapy. And through that therapy—and I could cry, because I really wish she had these oils. I’ve seen a lot of people healed with these through their mental disruptions and health ailments. But she was really my inspiration for me to pour out myself, to give, and to help other people.
People think they have to do these great, creative things to broadcast themselves and get their names out there. But it really is in the smallest, purest action of loving yourself and caring for the person right in front of you. And I think that’s where people miss it. They think they have to have something extravagant to create, but it really is love. Loving yourself first, loving who you were created to be, and then that love for other people.
TF: Today we tend to see those two things in conflict—love for yourself and love for others. There’s this emphasis on egotistical love, not the idea of self care. When you say “treat others as you would want to be treated,” you have to first decide how you want to be treated. So how would you see self-love as actually healthy for you and others?
AH: Essentially, you have three brains: your mind, your heart and your body. And they’re all connected and there’s a chemical reaction that happens in your body between your mind, your body and your heart while you are going through life. And whatever you do, through these experiences, your brain subconsciously records that moment, whether it’s a huge emotion—positive or negative—your mind records that as a belief. And once that belief triggers, it stays there unless you recognize it. So when you are consumed with material possession and things that don’t last, instead of the things that are intangible—like love—you are producing a fruit that people can see that is egotistical. And you’re producing a fruit when you’re loving yourself and it can be beautiful and connect with other people, or you can produce something that’s really ugly and sour, and there’s a huge disconnect. So I think that egotism, you can’t hide behind that. And there is that disconnect in our culture because people think they have to be “great” so people fill themselves with tangible substances without discovering what’ true within themselves.
When you’re working with your hands, it’s all behind your soul and spirit; it’s beyond the body. And that’s why I believe essential oils are so impactful, because they enhance the quality of life—the cellular function, which makes you feel ground and therefore connected with other people and also inspires you to pursue your creative outlet. Oils are wonderful, but whatever form of self-care you posses and want to nurture—do that! And if it’s not working for you, find something else that can really enhance your creative outlet. But it’s truly beyond the skin, it’s what’s beneath you; it’s what’s going on in your mind and your heart and then your body reacts to that.
TF: We know a lot of people at this age who are going through the struggle of becoming the person they want to be and figuring out where they are in the world. Some tend to cling to unhealthy habits like drinking and smoking to relieve the stress. What is it about the oils that got you on the right path?
AH: Before essential oils, I can’t remember life! Just kidding. I’m not saying oils cure all your imperfections and your insecurities, but they do enhance the quality of your life. When you feel better, and are nurturing your health, you feel happier.
These are the purest forms of oils and they contain thousands of chemical compounds. Our bodies are made up of emotions, that are chemicals and that connect with our three brains. There’s a constant chemical reaction that happens, so when you introduce essential oils into your life, it creates a synergistic connection. People think ‘oh oils, they just smell good,’ and I thought that too. But no. They are biocompatible with our bodies. They can change your being, for the better.
Abigail provided us with a beginner’s guide to essential oils. Under the health concerns section, the guide instructs which to use for an array of ailments. Individual oils and combinations can be used for anything from bed-wetting to estrogen balance to head lice to sadness. The guide also contains recipes for happiness (bergamot, clary sage, lavender) and study time (peppermint, orange, rosemary) along with locations on the body to apply. More complex blends offer solutions for deeper emotional struggles: Forgive/Renew “assists in letting go,” the Blend for Women “promotes calm and feelings of beauty,” Console/Comforting Blend “promotes hope,” while the Motivate/Encouraging Blend “instills confidence.”
TF: It’s no secret people are skeptical of natural remedies and often dismiss the health claims of those deemed herbal “fanatics.” Does this bother you and how do you respond?
AH: I can respond to skeptics very well because I used to be one. I was using oils from the grocery store, where they use synthetics and fillers, since there’s no FDA governing body over oils, which is good because they’re plant products, but whenever I started using them I was a skeptic myself. I thought they just smelled good, but had no idea about the power or the science.
I have classes where skeptics come; they’re usually the people with their arms crossed, dragged there by their best friend. Usually they really care about that person and they’re going through something physically or emotionally, they really wanted to help that person somehow. I usually encourage people’s skepticism. I feel like people need to explore their options. And I’m confident that if people try them, they will love them… because they work. They’re effective. So when people come in and are like, ‘I’m not really sure about this stuff,’ I say, ‘You shouldn’t be sure about them! You should try them yourself.’
For artists who want to enhance creativity/motivation or overcome laziness and discouragement, Abigail recommends getting on a regimen of the 10 foundational oils: Frankincense, peppermint, lemon, lavender, oregano, deep blue, melaleuca, digestzen, onguard. In order to attend one of her classes or meet with her personally, you can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit mydottera.com/abbydiane.