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
"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
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
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
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
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