Aromatherapy uses natural oils to help people achieve relaxation, energy, or other forms of self-healing. Many of the same essential oils can be used by massage therapists topically, as well, in order to enhance their therapy.
Uses of Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy can be used for medicinal purposes. It should be noted that ingesting essential oils should never be done without consulting a medical practitioner, or someone who is licensed in their use, as many of them can be toxic.1 The essential oils (which are concentrated plant oils), can be used for air freshening, for hygiene care, in saunas and showers, during therapies, and to inhale through steam or vaporization.2 People seeking alternative treatment for a wide variety of ailments may find aromatherapy helpful. The conditions treated can range from headaches and heartburn to nausea, digestive problems, flu, cold sores, leg cramps, ear infections, pneumonia, and more.3
How Aromatherapy Works
The essential plant oils can help patients achieve relaxation, stress relief, and other therapeutic benefits. While they are generally not taken internally, the oils can be applied via “massage, inhalation, bath, creams, (and) compresses”. It is believed that the oils “interact with the body chemistry”, and that helps the patient self-heal for a variety of conditions. In addition, the immune system can be boosted.4
Essential Oils Used in Massage
Massage therapists may use essential oils in two ways: topically and aromatically. When using essential oils on the skin, carrier oils are used to dilute the concentrated plant oils. These can include many neutral plant oils, such as wheatgerm, sunflower, peach kernel, soya, olive, hazelnut, grapeseed, avocado, almond, and apricot kernel. Some of the carrier oils have added benefits, themselves, including vitamins A, B, C, E, fatty acids, etc. This can assist patients who have brittle nails and hair, psoriasis, and eczema, those with dandruff and acne, and people with scar tissues and stretch marks.5 During the massage, the therapist may also employ “oils for the mind”, which would help clients, via aromatherapy, with various conditions. Patients may report relief from anxiety or depression, reduced irritability and fatigue, and decreased stress.6
Traditional medicine has been catching up with Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) in recent research. One study examined the benefits of aromatherapy and massage in relieving the symptoms of cancer patients. The rationale behind the research was to explore if patients had an improved “quality of life” and reduced “psychological stress”. Short-term benefits were found for some of the patients, especially in the area of anxiety. There were variable other benefits and results; more research, with longer follow-up, will be necessary.7 Another study explored aromatherapy/massage effects, combined with music, on the stress levels of emergency nurses, especially during the winter. The results were promising: “Aromatherapy massage with music significantly reduced emergency nurses’ anxiety”.8 Yet another interesting study showed that aromatherapy and massage reduced the amount of anesthesia needed during labor and childbirth. This not only benefits the mother, but it improves the child’s situation, as there are risks associated with anesthesia.9
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