Does Aromatherapy Enhance Massage?Mildred Leonard
Have you ever stopped to inhale the fragrance of a flower and noticed a momentary smile and feeling of calm and peace come over you as you did?
The physiological response to scents has been used for thousands of years to provide healing and enhanced wellbeing to human life. This knowledge forms the basis for the practice of Aromatherapy. Aromatherapy uses unique concentrated extracts (essential oils) that have been distilled from the blossom, fruit, leaf, stem, bark, wood or resin of various plants to soothe and positively affect mental, emotional and physical health. Essential oils are widely used both therapeutically and personally as a way to enhance the environment and improve wellness.
History of Aromatherapy
The ancient practice of using plant oils for healing has evolved throughout the world over centuries. Egypt, China, Greece, India and France have played significant roles in advancing the knowledge and use of essential oils in treating disorders. It wasn’t until the early part of the 20th century that a French chemist, Rene-Maurice Gattefosse coined the term ‘Aromatherapy’ to refer to the use of essential oils in treating various illnesses and adverse conditions.
How essential oils work?
The absorption of specific essential oils into the body takes place either by topical application or through inhalation. Essential oils possess a property of ‘volatility’ that allows them to be act quickly no matter what delivery system is used. Ultimately, when the essential oil is applied/inhaled, it has an immediate effect on the brain (limbic system). Through its connection to the central nervous system, this area of the brain is responsible for controlling emotion and generating corresponding physiological responses in the body. Depending on the essential oil used, the brain activates neural messaging that changes breathing, blood pressure and heart rate and activates other healing responses in the body and mind.
Numerous studies (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=aromatherapy) have supported the efficacy of aromatherapy and its defined use of essential oils in healing and supporting improvement in many health disorders and conditions.
Whether it is relief from anxiety, stress, depression, pain, nausea, breathing issues, sleep issues, menstrual or post-menopausal conditions, arthritis, asthma, headaches, aging issues, skin care infections, or open wounds, aromatherapy has the potential to alleviate the symptoms and restore balance to what has become chaotic or out of balance in your body and mind.
Aromatherapy and Massage
When aromatherapy is used in conjunction with such massage therapy techniques as Swedish, lymphatic, neuromuscular, acupressure or reflexology, the application of oils onto the body as well as the inhalation of the scents within the massage environment combine to provide an enhanced effect of the treatment. Often, the massage therapist will use a blend of essentials oils in an aromatherapy ‘bomb’ to support a client’s multiple conditions and to promote holistic healing. Such treatments may include:
- lavender for pain and as an anti-microbial
- clary sage or lemon for stress
- lavender and sandalwood for anxiety
- chamomile, clary sage, marjoram or patchouli for insomnia
- ylang-ylang, orange, eucalyptus, grapefruit, lemongrass and rosemary for energy
- nutmeg, lemon, bergamot and anise for depression
- ginger, spearmint, peppermint and cardamom for nausea
Other oils can have purifying, calming, aphrodisiac, antibacterial, soothing and even euphoric effects. Even at home, you can add a few drops to your shampoo, to your bath or to your diffuser to promote well-being.
SAFETY NOTE: Essential oils can be contraindicated if you have sensitivity to any of the scents, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding or have open wounds. Always consult with your health care provider and discuss conditions with your massage therapist.
The natural world is always in support of our healing. Every essential is a miraculous concoction of naturally occurring chemicals that number anywhere from 50 to 500! Each unique combination of these chemicals provides each essential oil with its signature healing properties. Massage therapy when used in harmony with the wisdom enfolded in aromatherapy can connect us to the essence of wellbeing and health of the natural world that surrounds us and always supports us.