As a licensed massage therapist for 15 years, and a practicing aromatherapist, I have learned many lessons on how essential oils and massage therapy do not always mix. Massage therapists are often encouraged to use essential oils to add to the total massage experience. This can included both topical application and diffusion type methods. It is important to become educated on the use of essential oils before adding them to a massage therapy practice.
What I have learned is that not everybody likes aromatherapy, and some people can have adverse reactions to essential oils. Further, some people find specific aromas offensive, or may have allergies or sensitizations to certain plants. Whether it is a general aversion to aroma, or a specific issue with a certain essential oil species, it is important to know the best interest of the person to whom you are giving a massage!
Here are a few things to consider before offering essential oils as part of a massage experience.
- First – Ask permission to include a specific essential oil in an individual’s massage session. Example: “Is it ok if I put one single drop of this lavender and peppermint essential oil blend on a tissue in your headrest?” You may be surprised to hear someone say they are allergic to lavender, that peppermint gives them a rash, or that they are sensitive to smells and aromatherapy can trigger a migraine.
- Second – Know the general guidelines recommended by The National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy on the safe use of essential oils. For more information, read this Essential Oil Safety article and visit NAHA.org’s website. Also, consider gaining a higher level of knowledge about essential oils by taking NAHA or AIA accredited classes.
- Third – Know the contraindications of each specific essential oil you bring into your massage therapy practice. Peppermint, for example, is not appropriate for small children, pregnant ladies, and those lactating. Further, it should not be applied on damaged skin. A good book to have as a reference for possible essential oil contraindications is Tisserand and Young’s Essential Oil Safety.
- Fourth– Less is more. This is a common phrase among educated aromatherapists. With essential oils, I very small amount goes a very long way to be therapeutically effective, and too much is bad thing.
So, you may be wondering… what is a safe amount?
- With inhalation, do not run diffusers for longer than 30 minutes without giving a space a few hours to air out. Do not run a diffuser in a small enclosed room, such as a 10×10 massage room with no windows. If your workspace is small, apply a single drop of essential oil onto a tissue and place it below the headrest as an aromatherapy experience that can easily be removed if the aroma becomes too much. Click here to learn more about diffusing essential oils.
- With topical use, ALWAYS DILUTE! Never apply any essential oils onto a massage recipient neat; dilute in a carrier oil such as coconut, jojoba, sweet almond, or olive oil. I recommend diluting a massage therapy lotion to 0.5%, that is a one half of one percent essential oil dilution ration. This would equal about 10 single drops of essential oil per 4 ounces of carrier oil. Click here to read more about the importance of diluting and when it’s a good idea to skin patch test.
- Finally, don’t be that massage therapist who has the overpowering aroma of excessive essential oil use wafting from your massage room. Overexposure to aroma can leave a person numb to knowing when they’ve gone too far. Not only could it be unpleasant for the people walking by your room and unsafe to your massage therapy clients, but it becomes the biggest danger of all to YOU, since you are using the essential oils in your space for multiple appointments!