Aromatherapy and Massage

When a client arrives at a massage appointment, it's relaxing for them to be greeted by soft music, a comfortably warm room and low lighting. It helps them know that this is a nurturing environment. What about relaxing through the sense of smell? Certain smells can take us back to our childhood, or to a favorite memory of a walk in the woods, or to an imaginary garden. The right aroma can completely change how we feel, and even help us relax. 

"A smell can bring on a flood of memories, influence people's moods and even affect their work performance. Because the olfactory bulb is part of the brain'slimbic system, an area so closely associated with memory and feeling it's sometimes called the "emotional brain," smell can call up memories and powerful responses almost instantaneously."-- from "How Smell Works" by Sarah Dowdy

That's part of what aromatherapy is all about.  

Aromatherapy uses the volatile essential oils in plants, either by diffusing them in the air, or by adding them to a neutral and fragrance-free massage oil and applying them directly on the client's skin.

The fragrance of aromatherapy oils is very unlike commercial fragrances. There are no chemicals or propellants. Some oils smell earthy or woody, others have a medicinal quality to their odor. Various oils can be mixed to combine their healing and soothing properties, creating unique scents that are indescribably wonderful. 

While some massage therapists use essential oils to help create a calm and relaxing environment for their clients, others use specific oils as a therapeutic tool that can address a client's individual needs. For example, do you wish you had more energy? Perhaps oil of rosemary or grapefruit will give you the pick-me-up you need.  Are you depressed? How about the uplifting scent of mandarin orange or pine? There is even an International Journal of Clinical Aromatherapy that explores emerging research on how the chemical properties in essential oils can address specific health conditions. 

Here at National University, students can take an elective course that gives an introduction to aromatherapy. Once a massage therapist is certified, there are many continuing education courses in aromatherapy offered by the American Massage Therapy Association and other professional massage organizations. 

Next time you plan to receive a massage, ask if you can try aromatherapy.  It may open up a whole new world for you. Who "nose?"