Aromatherapy massage is massage therapy with essential oils (highly concentrated plant oils) added to the massage oil or lotion.
Inhaling essential oils through the nose is thought to promote beneficial changes in the mind and body by affecting the limbic system (a region of the brain known to influence the nervous system). Essential oils are also believed to be absorbed through the skin.Next:
Why Do People Get Aromatherapy Massage?
Since aromatherapy massage is a bit like Swedish massage but with scent added, people often get it for muscle- and joint-related conditions or for physical or mental stress.
Other conditions include:
- Digestive disorders
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
- Back pain
Each essential oil used in aromatherapy is said to have different properties. For example, some calm while others energize. Here are some widely used essential oils and their purported properties:
- Calming – chamomile, lavender, geranium
- Uplifting – ylang-ylang, clary sage, rose, neroli
- Energizing – rosemary
- Decongesting – eucalyptus, pine, tea tree
Your massage therapist may pick oils based on your symptoms.
The Benefits of Aromatherapy Massage
Aromatherapy massage appears to reduce the pain and discomfort of menstrual cramps, a 2015 study from the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology suggests. Participants did a self-massage with rose essential oil, an unscented almond oil, or no oil on the first day of menstruation for two menstrual cycles. By the second cycle, aromatherapy massage reduced the severity of pain compared to massage therapy with almond oil or no oil.
Massage with aromatherapy may also ease menopausal symptoms. In a study published in Menopause, researchers compared 30-minute aromatherapy massage (twice a week for four weeks) to massage with plain oil or no treatment and found that both massage and aromatherapy massage were effective in reducing menopausal symptoms (with aromatherapy massage being more effective than massage only).
Other research suggests that aromatherapy massage may not be helpful for some conditions. For instance, a report published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in 2016 evaluated the effects of massage with or without aromatherapy on symptom relief in people with cancer. Researchers analyzed previously published studies and concluded that "this review demonstrated no differences in effects of massage on depression, mood disturbance, psychological distress, nausea, fatigue, physical symptom distress, or quality of life when compared with no massage."
When comparing aromatherapy massage with no massage, they found that "there was some indication of benefit in the aromatherapy-massage group but this benefit is unlikely to translate into clinical benefit".