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Aromatic Camino™ - Pilgrimage for the Body, Mind and Spirit

by Pam Conrad(more info)

listed in retreats and travel, originally published in issue 213 - April 2014

Aromatherapy and the Camino de Santiago, a Feast for the Senses!

In 2003, returning home after two years in the picturesque village of Ashbourne, England, I pondered a future adventure. A local newspaper highlighted one woman’s journey to Santiago and the seed was planted. Ten years later as my children left for college, the call to the Camino tugged at my soul and the forgotten article resurfaced from my desk drawer.

Camino de Santiago

Pilgrims, the name given to individuals traveling the Camino, often seek spiritual/religious fulfillment or a novel physical challenge. A soul searching journey often appeals to those who’ve recently experienced relationship, career or health changes.   An incredibly long solitary walk, like the Camino laced with aromatherapy offers quality of life improvement on so many lasting emotional, physical and spiritual levels!


The Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrimage route traveled by Europeans for over 1000 years has only recently entered into the consciousness of Americans through inspiring documentaries, movies, books and blogs contributing to a 45% increase of US pilgrims 2012-2013. This increase is followed by a 64% increase in Australian pilgrims.

The increase in the English speaking countries 2012-2013 (Pilgrims office in Santiago)




Growth %













South Africa




United Kingdom








New Zealand





The Roman Catholic Church identifies this ancient pilgrimage route along with those to Rome and Jerusalem as worthy of receiving an indulgence; a pardon for sins. These days many pilgrims still attempt the Camino for religious or spiritual reasons, while many do it purely for the exercise or for a personal reflective time away from their crazy lives.


The entire Camino, beginning in southern France and ending at a stunning cathedral in Santiago, averages 33-40 days to complete.  With complicated, busy lives and limited vacation time many prefer the notion of experiencing the journey in 1-2 week stages.

The unrelenting calling and a mere ten days available, I opted to walk the last 120 km., (currently the most popular section) satisfying the minimum requirement to obtain a Compostela, the certificate for spiritual pilgrimage. As a regular fairly fit walker and runner, I knew the varied terrain and long days in boots would still be a challenge. Years of integrating allopathic and complementary medicine, accompanied by last minute doubts, I created a kit for successful completion!

Santiago trail

Aromatherapy and my Aromatic Camino™

In the past decade practicing as a nurse aromatherapist in local hospitals, essential oil blends were developed in the pharmacy to ease multiple conditions from the laboring mother to the cancer patient and injured athlete.  With my wanderlust spirit, the idea of combining these time tested blends for the Camino pilgrim emerged.  Having just completed aromatherapy research I yearned for this new data collection to begin on me. (Conrad P., Adams C. 2012) A pilgrims’ lantern shaped case filled with essential oil blends and lotions would support my journey.

Aromatic plants abundantly grace the countryside in France and Spain near the various Camino routes. These Mediterranean countries bless us with fragrant fields of lavender, rosemary, thyme, marjoram and chamomile to name a few. The majority of the most commonly used essential oils and expert distillers originate in this region of the world. The therapeutic properties of the essential oils distilled from these plants are emotionally calming, mentally focusing and pain relieving for muscles and joints: the perfect companions for the long, varied terrain of the Camino journey.

Santiago travel

Yellow arrows on trees, posts and fences painted by generous pilgrim groups guide your way. As a girl from the tornado region of the US, I often felt a bit like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz following the yellow brick road. It’s healthy and builds confidence to leave your comfort zone, continue to explore the world and challenge yourself. Studies continue to show that regular exercise is the best support for us emotionally and physically! Aromatherapy is a gentle, effective and safe therapy to enhance our journey!

Santiago travel

Pilgrimage, journey, challenge and very long hike all come to mind while reflecting on my 120 km walk along the ancient Camino de Santiago. Feeling blessed, honored and fulfilled as I vividly recall the magical eucalyptus and pine scented forests and frankincense filled cathedral all providing pure aromatic bliss. Thankful for the gifts of the amazing aromatic plants that made my journey possible!

Camino notes from my first Camino
A few notes on my experience that may be helpful to others.

  • Air, train and bus travel from the US prior to the Camino led to jetlag, digestive uncertainty and fatigue. Rested for a day prior to walking and inhalations of Energy Boost (mint, citrus, rosemary) eased nausea, refreshed my mind and focus.
    There will be discomfort, since most days of your life; you're not climbing up and down small mountains on varied terrain for 10-18 miles/day for many days in a row!
  • Everyday foot and leg massage before and after walking with Aches and Pains (Lavenders, rosemary and other Mediterranean oils in lotion) eased muscle pain, soreness, cramps and refreshed my legs.
  • Lavender essential oil on any reddened ‘hot spot’ areas immediately and every day before and after walks. Blister pads over area if boots seemed to be rubbing area. No Blisters!
  • I awoke the last morning with 12 miles to Santiago with a very painful knee and big toe? Fearful that I wouldn’t be able to complete my journey, I combined my Energy Boost mint blend with arnica gel and rubbed on my knee, lavender on my toe. After it dried, I applied the Aches and Pains lotion, a few prayers and fell back to sleep. I awoke without knee pain and minimal toe pain. I reapplied, dressed and walked to Santiago, so thankful that I thought to pack this kit!!
  • I always sprayed my sheets with lavender in water for sleep, the lovely scent and for the insecticidal protection!
  • Passing the fence of crosses, emotionally and spiritually  preparing to enter Santiago, inhalations of sacred Frankincense blessed this amazing journey
  • Sniffles emerged at the end of my journey and my antiviral eucalyptus blend, reminded me of the Camino forests, brought gentle relief and offered support on the long plane ride back home!

In 2014, join me as I accompany groups with Follow the Camino providing aromatherapy education and daily tips for successfully completing your Aromatic Camino! The Aromatic Camino Tours in 2014 with Pam will be:

  • May 24-31st ( 7 nights/8 days) Sarria-Santiago
  • Sept 18th-25th (7 nights/8 days) Sarria-Santiago

I will accompany the pilgrims providing aromatherapy tips, educational insights and self-help comfort measures for a successful journey! Arrangements can be made at    Dublin Ireland


Conrad P, Adams C. The effects of clinical aromatherapy for anxiety and depression in the high risk postpartum woman-A pilot study Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice  August 2012.

Pilgrim office statistics Santiago


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About Pam Conrad

Pam Conrad RN BSN PGd CCAP Certified Clinical Aromatherapist, Post Graduate Diploma Complementary Therapy Studies is originally from Indiana and has practised multispecialty traditional nursing for twenty years. After completing her Clinical Aromatherapy program in the US, she studied advanced aromatherapy and graduate complementary therapies for two years in the UK.

Aromatic Childbirth® was developed by Pam after practising clinical aromatherapy in a prenatal clinic and labour unit in London, UK. She currently is employed as a Consultant in an outpatient hospital pharmacy where she develops educational programs for the public and healthcare professionals. She compounds all aromatherapy products and proprietary blends in the pharmacy for patient use as well as retail purchase. She teaches complementary therapies and Clinical Aromatherapy at Indiana Purdue University and is a professional speaker locally and internationally. Pam is the NAHA Indiana director. Pam may be contacted at


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