Having a relaxing massage is one of the most popular reasons for visiting a spa, and most massages now use some form of aromatherapy oil to make the experience even more relaxing. But what can you expect from an aromatherapy massage, and do they actually have the desired effect?
The Origins of Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy uses different plant oils to help with relaxation and healing, and this therapy dates back thousands of years. As far back as the Fourth century BC, Hippocrates was telling people that ‘The way to health is to have an aromatic bath and a scented massage every day.’
What is Aromatherapy Massage Good For?
Aromatherapy is another holistic therapy that is designed to treat the person as a whole, rather than their individual symptoms or illnesses. It’s a potent stress relieving treatment, and so it’s good for;
- Anxiety and depression
- sleep problems
- Digestive disorders.
It’s also claimed that aromatherapy is effective in relieving muscle pain, menstrual problems, symptoms of the menopause and colds.
What Happens in a Treatment?
Aromatherapy massage is the most popular way to use essential oils, and incorporates massage – touch therapies are well known to be relaxing and therapeutic. The therapist will usually just add a few drops of oil to a carrier oil, or in some cases there are ready prepared oil blends for specific massages – invigorating or relaxing, for example.
The massage often uses Swedish massage techniques which are especially relaxing, and also help boost circulation. Some tailored treatments, such as cellulite reducing massage, use stimulating oils and lymphatic drainage style massage which can be uncomfortable.
Is There Any Evidence?
Clinical trials have shown that some essential oils, like tea tree, have antibacterial properties and that peppermint oil can help to maintain a healthy digestive system. Additionally, some studies have also shown that essential oils can positively affect people’s mood and enhance feelings of well-being.
There is a certain amount of good evidence for the anti-inflammatory effects of tea tree and eucalyptus oils too. One study involving cancer patients who had developed foul-smelling ulcers found that using tea tree and eucalyptus improved their quality of life by getting rid of the bad smell very quickly.
What to Be Aware Of
- If you’re going to buy the oils and use them on yourself, don’t take them internally
- Don’t apply undiluted essential oils to your skin (except tea tree and lavender)
- Tell the therapist if you’re pregnant, as some oils aren’t suitable for pregnancy, and some massage techniques should not be used in the first three months.
Aromatherapy may also not be suitable for you if you suffer from
- food allergies
- frequent nosebleeds
- hay fever
- sensitive skin
- high blood pressure.
Even though they are natural, and gentle, some aromatherapy oils can cause side-effects, such as nausea, headaches or an allergic reaction. Some of the citrus oils such as orange, grapefruit and bergamot, can also make you more prone to sunburn as they can sensitise your skin to ultraviolet light.
How to Find a Good Therapist
Aromatherapy is largely unregulated, so anybody can legally call themselves an aromatherapist. To make sure that you’re getting someone with the appropriate training, consult a professional association like The Aromatherapy Council who have a ‘check your therapist’ section on their website:
Aromatherapy massage is generally safe and is certainly effective in relieving stress and promoting a feeling of calm and wellbeing. The bonus is that you’ll also leave the salon smelling absolutely delicious!