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Use and Effect of Essential Oils

The first two articles of this series covered a variety of aspects of the art and science of aromatherapy. In the first article I gave a broad definition that can be summed up as the following: Aromatherapy is the therapeutic application of aromatic compounds extracted from plant material.


September 17, 2009
By Maggie Mann RMT Aromatherapist

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The first two articles of this series covered a variety of aspects of the art and science of aromatherapy. In the first article I gave a broad definition that can be summed up as the following: Aromatherapy is the therapeutic application of aromatic compounds extracted from plant material. In the second I discussed various theories as to why plants produce essential oils. In this article I will discuss the overall effects of using essential oils, and how to use them in a massage therapy practice.

There are two major effects that essential oils produce when applied to a living, breathing being, human or otherwise. Firstly, they affect us psychologically, our mind, our emotions and our spirit, as demonstrated by their use in spiritual and religious practice for many thousands of years. To achieve this effect we must be able to smell them. Therefore they must come in direct contact with the olfactory cilia in our nose. This means that they must be airborne. This is called environmental fragrancing, and there are many ways to accomplish it.

  • Essence diffusers, a candle provides heat to cause oils to evaporate from a dish suspended over it.
  • Scentballs, that plug into the wall and to which you add a few drops of essential oil.
  • A lightbulb ring placed over a bulb, with a few drops of essential oil added.
  • A tissue with a few drops of essential oil can be placed near a client’s head, or kept in a pocket for periodic “sniffing.”
  • A glass spray bottle with spring water and essential oil, 1 drop for each 5 mls of water, shaken before use, can be used between clients.

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Environmental fragrancing is used for many reasons: Citrus essential oils (orange, grapefruit, bergamot, lemon, tangerine): fights winter blues, mood elevating. Lavender: calming, a good “de-stressor.” Eucalyptus: kills airborne microbes, reduces airborne infections. Peppermint: headaches, clears the head, stimulating and refreshing.

The second effect of essential oils is physiological. To affect us this way they must be in our blood. However, we do not take them orally, we take them in via the skin.

The best “carrier” is an oil, or an oil rich lotion. As massage therapists use an oil or a lotion they are in an ideal position to apply essential oils and achieve beneficial results. The following are the appropriate dilutions that must be followed to apply essential oils safely:

For everyday use, general application 1%: 1 drop of essential oil for each 5 ml of massage lotion or oil. Specific treatment, e.g. arthritis, muscle strains/sprains. 3% For use in a small area for a short period of time: 1 drop of essential oil for each 2 ml of massage lotion or oil.

I would suggest obtaining specific bottles for your blends, such as a 50 ml bottle. Therefore you can correctly calculate the number of drops of essential oil to add to a full bottle. For example, to obtain a 1% dilution in a 50 ml bottle you divide 5 into 50, giving 10, so add 10 drops of essential oil, and shake well.

Not every massage therapist desires to be an aromatherapist, but all can enhance their client’s health and well being by incorporating them safely into their practices.

I have put together the following suggestions for different aspects of some conditions that are often seen
in a massage therapist’s practice: Arthritis; sports injuries and stress related conditions.


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