Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils, including naturally aromatic plant oils, to improve a person's physical or psychological well-being. It's also a supplementary therapy to massage. Aromatherapy can be used to enhance standard massage practices to create a more enjoyable and beneficial client experience, combating and treating various health conditions. The aromatic oil therapy can be used to treat everything from sinus congestion to anxiety and depression, all without the reliance of drugs. This makes it a staple for many massage fans who prefer holistic, natural health methods.
With aromatherapy, the oils are either placed directly on the client’s skin or mixed with traditional massage oil. While the client is receiving a massage, he or she will simultaneously be exposed to the beneficial oils.
History of Aromatherapy
Historians believe the use of essential plant oils and extracts dates back thousands of years, with some of the earliest recorded uses being ancient Chinese, Indian, Egyptian, Greek and Roman civilizations. Back then, aromatherapy was used largely in perfumes, makeup and other skincare products.
There are three primary types of aromatherapy:
- Aerial diffusion: involves the release of fragrant compounds into the air and/or surrounding environment.
- Direct inhalation: breathing the fragrant compounds directly into the lungs.
- Topical applications: the fragrant compounds are placed directly on the skin (note: this is the preferred method for massage therapy).
How Aromatherapy Works
The fundamental principle behind aromatherapy is simple: the client inhales the essential oils while receiving a massage. The compounds in the oil then enter the client’s system, at which point they target or treat specific areas, such as the upper-respiratory system. It’s important for the massage therapist to discuss what (if any) conditions the client is suffering from before engaging in the therapy session.
In addition to the pharmacological effects of aromatherapy plant oils, there’s also a physiological effect. The brain responds strongly to the presence of fragrant aromas – a phenomenon that may benefit the limbic system (paleomammalian brain).
Powerful Plant Oils and Extracts For Aromatherapy:
- Lemon oil: known to reduce stress and anxiety. Researchers at the Ohio State University discovered that lemon oil, when used in aromatherapy, can help clients relax.
- Thyme oil: relaxes the veins and arteries; promotes a healthy heart. Thyme oil is also an expectorant, meaning it helps to treat chest congestion.
- Peppermint oil: one of the most commonly used oils in aromatherapy, peppermint oil, is known to relieve upper respiratory conditions, digestive problems, and ward off infection.
- Sage oil: extracted from the culinary plant sage, sage oil is yet another powerful oil used in aromatherapy. Studies have linked sage oil to improved memory and cognitive function.
Aromatherapy is a great massage supplement that will enhance your practice and your client's experience. By igniting the sense of smell, this therapy is a perfect addition for a seasoned massage professional.