Aromatherapy is a complementary therapy that involves the use of essential oils and plant extracts to improve both physical and emotional well-being. There is some evidence to suggest that certain essential oils may have positive health benefits, with growing interest in research initiatives on the subject in recent years.
Some studies have found that certain essential oils, such as lavender, peppermint, and tea tree oil, may have calming or analgesic (pain-relieving) effects when inhaled or applied topically. Other studies suggest that aromatherapy may help reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, and insomnia, and may improve quality of life for people with chronic conditions such as cancer and dementia.
For example, a 2014 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that inhaling lavender essential oil for 15 minutes could significantly reduce symptoms of anxiety in women with postpartum depression.
Another study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience in 2015 found that inhaling a blend of essential oils, including lavender, peppermint, and rosemary, could improve cognitive performance and mood in healthy adults.
In a 2016 study published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing, researchers found that using aromatherapy with lavender essential oil could help reduce pain and improve quality of life in patients with osteoarthritis.
A 2013 study showed the efficacy of lavender as a treatment for neurological disorders, citing its effectiveness as an anxiolytic, mood stabilizer, analgesic, and anticonvulsive.
Aromatherapy is often used during massage therapy because it can enhance the relaxing and therapeutic effects of massage, and add to the overall client experience.
When essential oils are inhaled or applied to the skin, they can have a range of effects on the body and mind. For example, some essential oils, such as lavender and chamomile, have calming and relaxing properties, while others, such as peppermint and eucalyptus, have invigorating and energizing properties.
When essential oils are used in massage therapy, they can be added to massage oil or lotion, or diffused into the air in the massage room. The massage therapist may select specific essential oils based on the client's needs and preferences. For example, if the client is experiencing stress or anxiety, the therapist may use lavender or chamomile essential oil to promote relaxation and calmness.
The combination of massage and aromatherapy can be a powerful way to promote physical and emotional well-being. In addition to enhancing the relaxing and therapeutic effects of massage, aromatherapy may also help to reduce muscle tension, improve circulation, and reduce stress and anxiety.
The best essential oils for use with massage therapy will depend on the specific needs and preferences of the client. Different essential oils have different therapeutic properties, so the massage therapist may select specific oils based on the client's physical and emotional needs.
Here are some common essential oils used in massage therapy and their therapeutic properties:
Lavender: Calming, relaxing, and can help reduce anxiety and stress.
Peppermint: Cooling, invigorating, and can help reduce muscle tension and pain.
Eucalyptus: Invigorating, can help improve breathing and reduce congestion.
Chamomile: Calming, soothing, and can help promote relaxation and sleep.
Rosemary: Stimulating, can help improve circulation and mental clarity.
Tea Tree: Antimicrobial, can help with skin conditions and muscle pain.
Ylang-Ylang: Relaxing, can help reduce stress and anxiety.
Ginger: Warming, can help with muscle pain and stiffness.
Bergamot: Uplifting, can help reduce stress and promote relaxation.
Of course, it's always important to check in with the client to see if they have any allergies or personal preferences for or against any products.
For further reading, here are just a few of the many studies which provide evidence of the effectiveness of aromatherapy:
Lavender and the nervous system.
Peir Hossein Koulivand 1, Maryam Khaleghi Ghadiri, Ali Gorji
PMID: 23573142 PMCID: PMC3612440 DOI: 10.1155/2013/681304
Biological activities of lavender essential oil.
Cavanagh HM, Wilkinson JM.
Phytother Res. 2002 Jun;16(4):301-8. doi: 10.1002/ptr.1103.
PMID: 12112282 Review.
Lavender essential oil in the treatment of migraine headache: a placebo-controlled clinical trial.
Sasannejad P, Saeedi M, Shoeibi A, Gorji A, Abbasi M, Foroughipour M.
Eur Neurol. 2012;67(5):288-91. doi: 10.1159/000335249. Epub 2012 Apr 17.
PMID: 22517298 Clinical Trial.
Exploring Pharmacological Mechanisms of Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) Essential Oil on Central Nervous System Targets.
López V, Nielsen B, Solas M, Ramírez MJ, Jäger AK.
Front Pharmacol. 2017 May 19;8:280. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2017.00280. eCollection 2017.
The Effects of Lavender Essential Oil on Wound Healing: A Review of the Current Evidence.
Samuelson R, Lobl M, Higgins S, Clarey D, Wysong A.
J Altern Complement Med. 2020 Aug;26(8):680-690. doi: 10.1089/acm.2019.0286. Epub 2020 Jun 24.
Lavender essential oil in the treatment of migraine headache: a placebo-controlled clinical trial
Payam Sasannejad 1, Morteza Saeedi, Ali Shoeibi, Ali Gorji, Maryam Abbasi, Mohsen Foroughipour
PMID: 22517298 DOI: 10.1159/000335249