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.
How does aromatherapy massage work?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 properties:
- calming chamomile, lavender, geranium
- uplifting ylang ylang, clary sage, rose, neroli
- energizing rosemary
- cleansing rosemary
- decongesting eucalyptus, pine, tea tree
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
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 fill 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.
PrecautionsMassage 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.
Barclay J, Vestey J, Lambert A, Balmer C. Reducing the symptoms of lymphoedema: Is there a role for aromatherapy? Eur J Oncol Nurs. 2006 Mar 21
Imura M, Misao H, Ushijima H. The psychological effects of aromatherapy-massage in healthy postpartum mothers. J Midwifery Womens Health. 2006 Mar-Apr;51(2):e21-7.
Soden K, Vincent K, Craske S, Lucas C, Ashley S. Palliat Med. 2004 Mar;18(2):87-92. A randomized controlled trial of aromatherapy massage in a hospice setting.