Essential oils have an ancient history of therapeutic use, dating back to ancient Egypt, India, and Persia. Whether to woo the Gods or treat human ails, the essence of a plant, its concentrated aromatic compounds, were believed to confer soothing properties.
As natural lore melds with modern science, our understanding of the potential benefits of essential oils continues to expand. As health professionals and patients widely acknowledge, these oils are a perfect balm for massage therapy.
This raises two important questions:
- What are the benefits of aromatherapy massage?
- Which essential oils are recommended for which type of massage?
Benefits of Aromatherapy Massage
Adding essential oils to a massage may increase the benefits of your patients’ experiences. As with all therapies, understanding the nuances can enhance the results and safety.
While massages typically relax sore, tired muscles, and calm the mind and body, adding essential oils can enhance your clients’ experiences.
The scent of essential oils during a massage can help calm the mood, reduce minor anxiety, encourage relaxation, and energize the space.
Aromatherapists have advised practitioners and clients to combine synergies of plant fragrances in order to avoid invoking a memory from a single scent. Combinations like frankincense, myrrh, and lavender work well to balance the five elements and harmonize the therapeutic space. Mixes of floral, spicy, and woody botanical scents are also remedial.
A study published in the Journal of PeriAnesthesia Nursing showed that lavender essential oil calms anxiousness in the high-pressure postoperative situation.
In another study, a blend of lavender and bergamot essential oils were applied to the skin. The effect was a decrease in pulse rate and blood pressure, and participants reported feeling, ‘calmer’ and ‘more relaxed.’
How Can You incorporate Aromatherapy into Your Massage Practice?
An estimated 25% of the population suffers from sore feet at any one point in time. While the foot can become injured and sore, the mechanism of dysfunction can remain frustratingly elusive. Yet, aromatherapy massage can provide much needed respite. Moreover, the feet are thought to have an abundance of reflexology points that connect to other organs in the body. The inner arches, for example, are said to be connected to digestion.
If you’re looking to soothe tired feet, you’ll fare best with cooling essential oils like peppermint or eucalyptus or warming essential oils like ginger or oregano. But lavender, tea tree, and rosemary are also foot favorites.
As the second cause of disability, millions of Americans seek respite for their back pain through their healthcare providers. Capsaicin, pine preparations, camphor, and menthol extracts are the only plant extracts listed on the FDA monograph for topical pain relief, however, they are not officially classified as essential oils due to their processing and refinement methods. They pair well with cooling essential oils like peppermint, clove, frankincense, eucalyptus, and tea tree for soothing an achy back. These essential oils are also known to enliven the senses for an uplifting experience.
Neck and shoulder massage
We’re sure you endlessly treat neck and shoulder problems in this compounded digital age, where people regularly slump over their devices. You can use the same oils mentioned above for the back like peppermint, clove, tea tree, and eucalyptus—but we recommend that you use lower doses since the neck has more sensitive skin. Additionally, black pepper, lavender, and marjoram are touted for soothing a tired neck.
Head tension and scalp massage
As you know, the many small muscles that cover the head and scalp can become tense and cause discomfort. Occipital neuralgia can be triggered when the occipital nerves are compressed by the suboccipital muscles at the base of the skull. The strong masseter muscles involved in clenching the jaw can become inflamed, fatigued and create local soreness. Trigger points in the temporalis muscle can precipitate tension headaches. The scalp may also experience increased nociception, elevating the experience of pain.
Consider the following when performing a scalp massage:
- Help your client relax his or her tension with calming oils that may ease everyday stresses like lavender, chamomile, and rosemary.
- Pair these essential oils with cooling peppermint along the pressure points on the temples and the upper neck to temporarily soothe pressure.
- Consider mixing these oils with a carrier oil and bottle them in small roller bottles for a convenient, professional-looking way to address tension headaches. Or you can mix the oils in a hair-friendly oil like jojoba seed oil or argan oil to soothe the top of the scalp.
How to Select the Best Essential Oils for Your Practice
As a health professional, there is an appropriate expectation that you will choose effective and expert essential oil products. We recommend against making your own, unless you have the equipment and skill to do so. There is also some difficulty ensuring the ideal therapeutic dosage when creating at-home recipes.
When selecting essential oils to purchase for your practice, we recommend the following to ensure they are of the highest quality:
- The label should always read, “pure.” There should not be any other ingredients included, especially vegetable oil, in which some brands dilute their essential oils.
- The label should also list the country of origin, the Latin name of the oil, and the common name. This limits your chances of buying a generic vegetable oil or extract mislabeled as an essential oil.
- The oil should come in a dark bottle, usually dark blue or amber-colored, to prevent light from seeping in and causing the oil to deteriorate.
- Choose a trusted brand and avoid discount retailers. As a general rule, if the cost seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Choose essential oils made from organic, wildcrafted or unsprayed plants.
If you choose to utilize massage oils containing essential oils, it is highly recommended that you choose a professional grade massage oil manufactured by an established company that ensures all products are tested by third-party laboratories and dermatologically tested.
CBD CLINIC™’s Massage Therapy Series draws upon the ancient practice of aromatherapy to create three different formulas with naturally derived essential oils and extracts so you can personalize your treatments. Sweet-smelling aromas like lavender and chamomile are combined with earthy scents like frankincense and sage. Wintery scents like clove, peppermint, and eucalyptus round out our formulas for relaxing, reviving, or ultimately restorative experiences.
When deciding which oils to select for your clients, please note that some are better suited for specific parts of the body (and best to be avoided near others), some people will react to skin application, and some are photosensitive.
For instance, when using a citrus essential oil like lemon, lime, or orange; ensure that your patients know they should avoid sun and UV exposure for at least 12 hours.
Additionally, essential oils may cause irritation, such as contact dermatitis, particularly if the essential oil comes in contact with the eyes, nostrils, or mucus membranes, even with sufficient dilution in a carrier oil.
It is also important to be mindful and aware of pregnant clients. While prenatal massage is generally accepted as safe, certain essential oils should be avoided when performing massages on pregnant clients as they might inadvertently cause negative side effects, including contractions.
[Please note: Individuals with a history of allergies and pregnant women should consult with their primary care physician before using aromatherapy. It is also important to note that some essential oils are dangerous to pets, especially cats. If animals are present during the use of aromatherapy, a veterinarian should be consulted].
Aromatherapy in the Modern Age
While essential oils have an ancient history, modern science continues to uncover why this prized knowledge has been passed down through millennia. As a health professional, providing therapeutic remedies that support patient wellbeing is always front of mind. By combining old with new, aromatherapy can help you achieve this.
Want to connect with other professionals in your field? Join the CBD CLINIC Professionals Facebook group and learn how other massage therapists are incorporating aromatherapy into their practices!