Aromatherapy uses extracts from plants called essential oils to relieve stress and tension. These oils can be inhaled or rubbed into the skin.
The therapist will usually mix the oil with a carrier oil, which dilutes it and provides lubrication for the massage. They will also ask general questions about your health and well-being.
How to use essential oils
Unlike the fragrant spices, fruits and plants that we enjoy in foods and beverages, essential oils are highly concentrated and potent. They contain volatile aromatic compounds that stimulate the senses and can have both physical and emotional healing properties.
There are many ways to use them. Aromatically, a few drops on a cotton ball or tissue placed in the room can help to clear the air of germs and freshen it. Many people like to put essential oils in an oil diffuser, following the instructions for a proper oil-to-water ratio.
Some people apply the oils directly to the skin, usually after diluting them first with a carrier oil such as jojoba, sweet almond or avocado. These oils are absorbed through the pores, and can have both physical and emotional effects, such as alleviating pain and anxiety. The oils can also make the skin more sensitive to sunlight, so they should be applied before going outdoors.
How to find an aromatherapist
You can find an aromatherapist in many places, including spas, yoga studios and health clubs. The therapist should have an in-depth knowledge of essential oils, as well as human anatomy and physiology. It’s also important to have excellent communication skills and be able to make clients feel comfortable.
Ask the therapist where they received their formal education and ask to see certificates or diplomas for that training. A good aromatherapist will be able to answer these questions confidently and easily. If they seem hesitant, or if their answers sound vague and unspecific, move on to another practitioner.
It is also helpful to ask the therapist how long they have been practicing aromatherapy and whether they are certified by any professional organizations such as the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy or the Alliance of International Aromatherapists. Ask the therapist to explain how they select the oils they use for treatments and what the benefits of each oil are.
How to choose an oil
Aromatherapy is a powerful, noninvasive and natural form of therapy. It uses aromatic plant oils to balance the body and mind. The therapeutic effects can be achieved by inhalation and applying the oils directly to the skin.
Choose organically-grown or wildcrafted essential oils whenever possible. These are more likely to be pesticide-free and will contain the highest concentration of therapeutic properties.
Evaluate a supplier’s reputation for quality. Avoid oils sold at rock-bottom prices; they are often adulterated with chemicals. Look for a label that clearly lists the Latin name of the plant and provides details about purity. Avoid blending oils; this dilutes them and reduces their therapeutic properties.
Look for dark-colored glass bottles for storing and shipping your oil. Essential oils are highly concentrated and can dissolve plastic bottles over time, which can taint the oil. It is also wise to keep empty bottles on hand for transferring your oils to smaller containers. Be cautious of suppliers that market their essential oils as “therapeutic grade” or “aromatherapy grade.” These terms are not regulated by any government agency and may be misleading.
How to use an aromatherapy massage
An aromatherapy massage uses a combination of physical massage and essential oil therapy. The massage warms the oils and makes them more permeable, allowing you to absorb them faster and more thoroughly. The oils are then able to stimulate or relax your body.
Aromatherapy massage is also a great way to relieve stress and tension. It can help you to sleep better, improve your mood and boost your immune system. You can use a variety of essential oils for this purpose, including chamomile oil, which has calming effects, peppermint oil, which can help ease pain and eucalyptus oil, which is a natural anti-inflammatory.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, it is advisable to consult your doctor before getting an aromatherapy massage. This is because the effects of some oils may cross over into the placenta and cause fetal harm. It is also important to avoid a full stomach prior to your massage, as it could disrupt the absorption of the essential oils.