Are you feeling stressed and in need of a massage? Does the thought of a deep, muscle-kneading rub-down sound more painful than relaxing? An aromatherapy massage could be just the thing. But what is aromatherapy massage?
An aromatherapy massage uses the natural properties of essential oils to help relax your body and mind. It combines the benefits of massage and aromatherapy to create a totally “zen-like” experience. Read on to discover everything you need to know. It just may be time to treat yourself to some relaxation.
What Are Essential Oils?
Essential oils are compounds extracted from plants, herbs, and flowers. The oils capture the plant’s aroma or “essence.” Different types of essential oils have different beneficial properties and aromas.1
There are several ways to use essential oils, including sprinkling oils in a bath or putting them in a diffuser and breathing them in. But one of the most popular and effective ways to reap the benefits is through a therapeutic massage.
What Is Aromatherapy Massage?
An aromatherapy massage is simply a massage that uses essential oils to enhance its benefits.
People may seek out this type of massage to help regain energy, ease muscle discomfort, or feel an overall sense of relaxation and a positive mood.2
With an aromatherapy massage, your therapist will create a blend of essential oils and mix them with a carrier oil. The carrier oil will help dilute the essential oil mix and ensure that it is safe to use on your skin. Your therapist will likely pick oils that have complementary properties and aromas.
How Does Aromatherapy Work?
Inhaling essential oil molecules stimulates your olfactory system (i.e. your sense of smell), which is connected to your nose and brain. Molecules that enter through the nose or mouth pass through the lungs, and then on to other parts of the body.
As the molecules reach the brain, they affect your limbic system, which is linked to:
- Your emotions
- Heart rate
- Blood pressure
- Hormonal balance
In this way, essential oils may affect almost your entire body.3
Massage Techniques That Can Be Used With Essential Oils
With aromatherapy massage, the actual style of massage matters less than the beneficial properties of the oils. A classic Swedish massage is typical, but a spa may offer an aromatherapy massage in any of these styles:
- Swedish massage
- Deep tissue
- Hot stone massage
- Prenatal massage
- Lymphatic massage
What Are The Most Common Essential Oils To Use In Massage?
There are more than 3,000 types of essential oils, each with their own set of potentially beneficial properties.5 Massage therapists will typically reach for a much smaller set to give you the positive effects of aromatherapy.
Here are some of the most popular essential oils and the benefits often associated with them:
- Lemon: used to cleanse, support healthy digestion, and more.
- Peppermint: used to support energy, and help to ease nausea and sore muscles.
- Lavender: used to help ease stress and skin irritation.
- Sandalwood: used to support relaxation and focus.
- Ginger: used to support healthy digestion and regular bowel movements.
- Rose Essential Oil: used to support relaxation and a positive mood.
- Chamomile: used to improve mood and support more restful sleep.
- Bergamot: used to support healthy stress levels, a positive mood, and healthy skin.
- Ylang-Ylang: used to support libido and help with, nausea, and skin issues.
- Tea Tree Essential Oil: used to support immune function.
- Jasmine: used to support mood and help ease menstrual discomfort.6,7,8
Does Aromatherapy Massage Work?
What happens when you add an aromatherapy massage oil to the mix? Does it make a difference? Here are the benefits of aromatherapy that are backed up by research.
Stress And Anxiety
Many studies show that essential oils can work with traditional therapies to help with anxiety and stress.9,10 One study found that aromatherapy massages may help improve mood and relaxation.11
Enhanced Sleep And Relaxation
Studies show that essential oils – specifically lavender oil – positively affects sleep habits. Lavender oil has also been shown to improve the sleep quality of some people.12,13
What To Expect When You Get An Aromatherapy Massage
When you visit a spa for an aromatherapy treatment, the therapist may select a mix of oils for your specific needs. They may also have pre-mixed oils. If you’d like to request a specific essential oil, call the spa in advance to see if they can accommodate you.
A massage for relaxation and stress relief will likely include lavender oil. While a massage for fatigue may include peppermint oil. Your massage therapist should be able to select a mix that is right for you. The oils will be mixed with a carrier massage oil before they’re applied to your skin and rubbed into your muscles.
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of receiving a massage before, this will feel quite similar. The therapist will leave the room so you can disrobe and lie face down on the table. You will typically lie under a sheet.
When the massage starts, your therapist will diffuse the oils or add a few drops to your massage oil. As the massage begins, you will notice the aroma almost immediately.14
Are There Risks?
For most people, there are few risks associated with an aromatherapy massage. One thing to consider is a skin allergy to specific essential oils. Possible symptoms of an allergic reaction include:
- Itchy skin
- Sneezing or congestion15
If you’re unsure about a particular oil, you can try a skin patch test at home. You can also ask the massage therapist to diffuse the oil instead of applying it directly to your skin.
If you’re pregnant, ask your doctor before you get an aromatherapy massage. There could be risks with specific oils.16
It seems like everyone is talking about self-care these days, and for good reason. Many of us live busy, stressful lives. It’s important to take a beat and do something that helps you relax every once in a while.
If you’ve been feeling stressed, overworked, or anxious lately, an aromatherapy massage may be just what the doctor ordered.