How Aromatherapy Massage can Make a Difference?

Article by G Rieger

Go to Essential Oil Index

Many people ask "how does an aromatherapy massage work" and "what makes it different from any other massage"?  To answer these questions it is necessary to understand how essential oils interact with the body.  There are well over 3000 identified essential oils in nature each with a unique set of properties many of which are therapeutic to our human biology.  Essential oils are common elements of both Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine.  The use of oils to nourish the skin, mind, body and soul have centuries of use within many cultures as old as the Romans & Egyptians and even farther back.

Unlike other types of massage which are usually about working the muscles and releasing tension in tendons, aromatherapy full body massage focuses on the properties of the chosen essential oil to stimulate the limbic, nervous, lymphatic and other systems of the body.  The massage strokes are designed to be light to firm in nature and to activate the lymph and blood flow, while applying the essential oil to the skin.  The skin is the largest organ of the body and is innervated with nerve endings designed to capture an incredible number of sensations from our environment.

Not all aromatherapy massage entails a full body massage, often a specific essential oil is applied to a specific region of the body.  A skilled aromatherapy practitioner will schedule a consultation prior to the actual treatment and spend time developing a specific treatment plan designed to focus on each client's unique needs.  The massage may follow the consultation or may be scheduled for another day.

A certified aromatherapist may use other methods to deliver the therapeutic benefit of the essential oil to the body.  These methods may include topical application to specific meridian or acupuncture points, along the chakras with polarity therapy or Ayurvedic medicine.  They may include water immersion such as a bath or hydrotherapy massage to increase the effects of the chosen essential oils. 

The most obvious use of aromatherapy is inhalation.  A diffuser can be used in the treatment room and can be used at home to support further benefit.  In addition, small bottles of a particular essential oil or blend can be used when the client feels they may obtain additional benefit from an olfactory response.  The olfactory nerve directly stimulates the limbic system of the body. 

The limbic system supports a unique variety of functions in the body.  These functions include behavioral response, emotion, long term memory and olfaction.  Although there is some research that indicates the adjunctive benefit of aromatherapy with other conventional forms of treatment.  There is very little allegorical research evidence to support the specific claims of aromatherapy. 

The connection between olfaction and emotion via the limbic system, which is comprised of several structures in the brain, has been used to explain our response of emotion and memory when we are exposed to familiar scents.  These memories may include favorite family activities or holidays.  The limbic system has a great deal to do with the formation of memories and recall and is intimately influenced by the smell of essential oils.

It is believed that aromatherapy has a powerful effect on this system and can generate a positive mood shift, relaxation and a sense of wellbeing.  The evidence that does exist in support of aromatherapy as a viable alternative treatment method is listed at the bottom of this article.  It is recommended that those looking for scientific findings and evidence take the time to read through them.  The evidence does show a connection between emotion, mood and wellbeing.  Aromatherapy massage is a luxurious experience and a must do when considering a spa weekend or vacation.

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"Julia Lawless's Encyclopedia of Essential Oils is rightfully regarded as one of the primary reference books for anyone who wants to explore essential oils and their uses in aromatherapy. Beautifully  organized and wonderfully easy to use, it is far and away the most  frequently-consulted volume in my aromatherapy library." review

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