Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils to promote healing and a feeling of well-being and relaxation in the recipient.The essential oils are extracted from the parts of herbs and plants and contain all the properties of the plants themselves. There are several ways of applying the oils, including adding the oils to your bath, or inhaling them, but the most popular and effective is through massage.
How the Oils are chosen and blended?
In choosing the oils for an aromatherapy massage, the aromatherapist generally creates a synergistic blend of three oils which are then added to a carrier oil. A synergistic blend means that when a particular set of oils are combined together, they enhance each other’s properties, and make a pleasing scent. According to the International Federation of Aromatherapists: “A blend of Lavender and Ylang Ylang can be more effective in normalising blood pressure than either of the oils used on their own.”
How the Massage is Performed?
Once the oils are blended together the massage can begin. It can be a full body massage, taking in the back, chest, arms, legs, head and stomach, or a simple back massage or even a facial beauty massage. An aromatherapy massage should be gentle, but firm. It usually begins with the back, buttocks and legs before you turn over and the therapist massages the front.
The Techniques of Massage
The oil is applied in long sweeping strokes which warm the skin and muscles and prepare the body for deep tissue massage. Once the muscles are warmed, the masseur will continue with deeper massage, rolling and squeezing the skin and underlying muscles between the hands. Again, this should not be painful, but deeply relaxing.
The Benefits of Massage
During aromatherapy massage, the skin is warmed and the blood drawn to the surface, increasing circulation and encouraging the elimination of toxins from the body, which has the consequence of speeding up recovery time from any illness or injury. The manipulation of the muscles continues the process, whilst at the same time releasing tense knotted muscles by dispersing the build up of lactic acid which often occurs after exercise.
As the circulation increases, the oils are absorbed through the skin and carried round the body, allowing their healing effects to permeate to all the major body organs. Says Ali Headeach, aromatherapist from Margate, UK: “By the time the massage is over you should be deeply relaxed, and feeling calm. Sometimes people even fall sleep.”
The After-Effects of Massage
The effects of an aromatherapy massage can last up to 48 hours, depending on the oils used. The skin may feel slightly greasy, but the overall effect is one of deep calm and relaxation. It is not recommended to drive or drink alcohol after massage. You may be feeling too sleepy to drive, and some oils can increase the effect of alcohol, making you feel lightheaded after only one drink.
Very often, the benefits are immediately noticeable after a massage, but over time, it may be noticed that underlying or long-term problems have also been eased by massage. It is not recommended to have a full body massage more than once a week, but a weekly massage is an excellent way to keep the body relaxed and free of toxins.
Are There Disadvantages to Aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy is an alternative healing technique that promotes the healing power of essentials oils that are extracted from plants. The application methods vary, with some practitioners heating the oil to inhale it, while others massage it into the skin. The practice is used to relieve stress and treat ailments such as swelling and fungal infections, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. While there are many benefits to aromatherapy, there are some disadvantages as well.
A small number of people experience an allergic reaction to the essential oils used in aromatherapy. Reactions vary in intensity and can occur by both touching the oil or inhaling it. Those who have spring or fall allergies due to weeds or suffer from asthma may have an increased reaction to some essential oils. Allergic reactions are typically mild, with only mild irritation, redness and other allergy symptoms.
Some essential oils make you more sensitive to the ultraviolet rays from the sun. This makes you photosensitive and causes sunburns to develop faster and more severely than normal. According to the University of Minnesota, citrus-based oils applied to the skin are most likely to cause this. Avoid sun exposure after using these oils and apply a sunscreen with a sun protection factor of at least 30.
Headaches, Lightheadedness and Nausea
Some people experience nausea, mild or severe headaches or lightheadedness when undergoing aromatherapy treatments. These typically resolve themselves once the person washes off the oil or leaves the area.
Some Oils Mimic Estrogen
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, oils like fennel, aniseed, sage and clary-sage, have estrogen-like compounds that mimic natural estrogen in the body. Other oils such as lavender and tea-tree oils also have estrogen-like properties. For this reason, those with breast or ovarian cancer should not use these oils, as these cancers are hormone based. Small children and those undergoing puberty should also avoid these oils, as they can cause excessive breast growth in boys, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Avoid Aromatherapy During Pregnancy
While there have been no studies to prove that aromatherapy is harmful to pregnant women, most doctors still advise avoiding it for the duration of the pregnancy. Breastfeeding mothers should also avoid aromatherapy. Essential oils do have the ability to pass from the mother’s body through the placenta to the baby. Midwives have used aromatherapy during labor and delivery successfully, but women should consult with their physicians carefully before starting.