What is Aromatherapy Massage?
Aromatherapy massage is massage therapy but with highly concentrated plant oils, called essential oils, added to the massage oil or lotion.
The nostrils are attached to a part of the brain called the limbic system. The limbic system controls emotions and influences the nervous system and hormones.
When you inhale essential oil molecules, messages are transmitted to the limbic system and affect heart rate, stress level, blood pressure, breathing, memory, digestion, and the immune system.
Essential oils are also believed to be absorbed through the skin.
Each essential oil has different healing properties. For example, some calm while others energize. Here are some widely used essential oils and their purported properties:
- calming – chamomile, lavender, geranium
- uplifting – ylang-ylang, clary sage, rose, neroli
- energizing – rosemary
- cleansing – rosemary
- decongesting – eucalyptus, pine, tea tree
The use of essential oils for therapeutic, spiritual, hygienic and ritualistic purposes goes back to a number of ancient civilizations including the Chinese, Indians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans who used them in cosmetics, perfumes and drugs.
Oils are described by Dioscorides, along with beliefs of the time regarding their healing properties, in his De Materia Medica, written in the first century. Distilled essential oils have been employed as medicines since the invention of distillation in the eleventh century, when Avicenna isolated essential oils using steam distillation.
The concept of aromatherapy was first mooted by a small number of European scientists and doctors, in about 1907. In 1937, the word first appeared in print in a French book on the subject: Aromathérapie: Les Huiles Essentielles, Hormones Végétales by René-Maurice Gattefossé, a chemist. An English version was published in 1993. In 1910, Gattefossé burned a hand very badly and later claimed he treated it effectively with lavender oil.
A French surgeon, Jean Valnet, pioneered the medicinal uses of essential oils, which he used as antiseptics in the treatment of wounded soldiers during World War II.
>Aromatherapy is the treatment or prevention of disease by use of essential oils. Other stated uses include pain and anxiety reduction, enhancement of energy and short-term memory, relaxation, hair loss prevention, and reduction of eczema-induced itching.
Two basic mechanisms are offered to explain the purported effects. One is the influence of aroma on the brain, especially the limbic system through the olfactory system. The other is the direct pharmacological effects of the essential oils.
Why do people get aromatherapy massage?
Aromatherapy massage is particularly suited to conditions involving stress or improving emotionally-related conditions.
- Stress and stress-related conditions such as insomnia
- Digestive disorders
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
- Back pain
Here are a few examples of the research that is being done on aromatherapy massage:
- Self-massage significantly improved symptoms and wellbeing in people with lymphedema. It also slightly, but not significantly reduced limb volume. However, carefully chosen aromatherapy oils did not appear to be more effective than massage without aromatherapy oils.
- Sixteen first-time mothers received a 30-minute aromatherapy massage two days after delivery, while 20 mothers received standard post-partum care. The aromatherapy massage group had significantly decreased ratings of post-partum blues and anxiety and had increased vigor and attachment to their babies.
- Research suggests that patients with cancer, particularly in the palliative care setting, are increasingly using aromatherapy and massage.
What can I expect during an aromatherapy massage?
After the consultation, one or more essential oils are selected based on what you need and are mixed in with the massage oil or lotion.
The subtle aroma of the essential oils fills the air around you during the massage.
After the massage, the massage therapist may suggest a blend that you can use at home in between massage treatments.
Massage is not recommended for certain people:
- infectious skin disease, rash, or open wounds
- immediately after surgery
- immediately after chemotherapy or radiation, unless recommended by your doctor
- prone to blood clots. There is a risk of blood clots being dislodged. If you have heart disease, check with your doctor before having a massage
- pregnant women should check with their doctor first if they are considering getting a massage. Massage in pregnant women should be done by massage therapists who are certified in pregnancy massage.
- massage should not be done directly over bruises, inflamed skin, unhealed wounds, tumors, abdominal hernia, or areas of recent fractures.
If you are considering getting aromatherapy massage, talk with your doctor first.
Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.