The most important thing in performing excellent aromatherapy massage is the choice of oil. As well, the quality of the oil is of utmost importance to the experience and the results. It is the inherent healing properties in herbs that lend the oils their magic and the scents that they impart have everything to do with how well someone feels afterwards. If you use a lousy oil or an impure oil the effects can be dramatically poor. In fact, you might even make someone feel worse if you massage them with a rancid or ineffective oil. So always be careful in the choosing and using of your oils and whenever possible make your own and use it fresh.
Although this blog is too small a format to go into the ins and outs of physical massage, such as where to rub or how hard, which is tantamount to technique. This is what is taught to those who choose to attend school for massage therapy and get a certificate for their trouble. It is extensive and involved, with lessons in biology and muscular anatomy as well as a metaphysical look at which area is affected by what oil or herb. If you wish to become a massage therapist there are many reputable schools that can teach you this trade but it isn’t going to be easy and it isn’t going to be free. However, here, in this format, I can teach you about the oils and how to make your own effective oils for the private massages you choose to perform on those special people in your life.
First of all, always good a good, cold pressed, organic vegetable based oil. The very best for all over body massage is Almond Oil. It has almost no odor, is very rich in protein, is emollient and nourishing and is slow to go rancid. Apricot Kernel Oil or Peach Kernel Oil , both are excellent choices, as well, but they are not as easy to find. Grapeseed Oil is my favorite. It is very fine and clear and has a satiny finish without being greasy. Hazelnut Oil is the most therapeutic. It penetrates easily and deeply and stimulates circulation. It is fantastic for dry or weathered skin but can be a bit rich for skin that is already oily. For skin that is already oily, choose Jojoba Oil. It is also a satiny oil with a smooth texture and can be used alone to treat acne. Although the smell is a drawback, Olive Oil is very calming, can relieve itching of dry skin and is great for massaging sore or arthritic joints. Also a bit smelly, Sesame Oil should only be chosen for skin problems like eczema or psoriasis and is not useful in general massage. Other oils are available and some of them are ok in a pinch. Corn, Safflower, Sunflower and Soy oils are acceptable. Of these, Soybean Oil does not become sticky while being rubbed and Sunflower Oil has the added boost of Vitamin E, which is great for the skin and overall health. Avocado Oil is penetrating and nourishing and is useful in deep muscle massage but it will get sticky when warmed by the skin. Calendula Oil is a more cosmetic oil and should be used primarily for chapped or cracked skin, such as on the feet. Carrot Seed Oil is rich in vitamins and can be rejuvenating. This oil should be used for neck massages. Evening Primrose Oil is expensive in large quantities but is extremely useful for dandruff and scaly skin problems. It is good for scalp massage. Oil extracted from Borage Seeds can be equal in effectiveness and less expensive in quantity. Last but not least, Wheat Germ Oil is a fantastic preservative and is rich in Vitamin E. It is way too oily to use on it’s own but you can add a teaspoon of it to your other oils to add antioxidant benefits to the massage. Add about a teaspoonful to every 2 fluid ounces of carrier oil to enhance the antioxidant properties and to extend the shelf life of your massage oil preparations. As a final note, although people love the smell of Coconut Oil it is not recommended for use in massage oils. It is far too sticky and clumping in texture and can cause any massage to become a deep tissue massage and can cause bruising and reddening of the skin.
Just as with perfumes, there are notes and tones to the aromas added to essential oils and each of these notes or tones influences specific areas of the body and specific diseases, as well. I will break this down with a list of ailment types and the essential oils that work for them. This is a list of conditions and the amounts of essential oils that should be added to 2 oz of carrier oil. First select your carrier oil based upon the descriptions and uses I have already noted and then add the essential oils as listed below. Remember to double or triple the amounts listed as you add an additional amount of carrier oil to the massage mix. These amounts are for 2 oz of carrier oil:
NOTE: For massage for Cellulite always use Hazelnut Oil as the carrier.
In other conditions, there is an opportunity to experiment and discover which essential oils work best with which carrier oils and to come up with your own recipes. If you are feeling creative and energetic, here is a baseline reference list for conditions you might be interested in tackling.
As a top note in a massage oil to be used to treat anxiety, consider using Basil Oil, Oil of Bergamot or Oil of Neroli. After choosing the top note, then you must select the middle note of the mixture and for anxiety, you should choose Oil of Hyssop. And then for the bottom of the mix, or the base, you can choose either Oil of Cedarwood or Oil of Patchouli. For the final blend, you would mix two parts top note to one part each of the middle and bottom notes. This creates a perfect aromatherapy blend. A lovely sample blend for anxiety relief massage would be 1 or 2 drops Basil Oil with 1 drop Oil of Hyssop and 1 drop Oil of Cedarwood. Never use more than 1 or 2 drops Basil Oil or you will end up irritating sensitive skin. If you prefer, you can exchange the Oil of Basil for Oil of Bergamot in this sample mix for the same results with less chance of skin irritation. But feel free to experiment.
As a top note in a massage oil to be used to relieve headache, consider using Basil Oil, Peppermint Oil or Oil of Thyme. As a middle note in the mix, choose Oil of Lavender, Oil of Marjoram or Rosemary Oil. As a bottom note, or base, for this mix, choose Oil of Rose. An absolutely lovely blend that can be used to treat headaches would be 3 drops Peppermint Oil, 1 or 2 drops Lavender Oil and 1 drop Oil of Rose. Remember that massage implies all over body treatment so do not limit your massaging to just the area in question. For headaches, rub the neck and spine and shoulders, as well, which are common places for tensions to settle and are often the root of nerve compressions that affect the muscles surrounding the skull.
As a top note in a massage blend to be used to lift the spirits in someone who is depressed should be chosen carefully. Choose either Oil of Bergamot , Clary Sage Oil or Oil of Thyme. As a middle note in this mix, choose from either Oil of Chamomile or Juniper Oil. As a base note in this blend, choose Oil of Camphor or Oil of Jasmine. A really strong wake up blend that stimulates the senses and riles the emotions and can act as a stiff lift or pick me up would be 3 drops Clary Sage Oil, 3 drops Juniper Oil blended with 1 or 2 drops Oil of Camphor. If you aren’t looking for something so dramatic, but would prefer a subtle overall effect, then blend 3 drops Oil of Bergamot , 2 drops Chamomile Oil and 1 or 2 drops Essential Oil Jasmine . For depression, the mixtures can be tested and experimented with as the need arises. Some of the mixes, as I mentioned, will jolt somebody right out of a funk but can be too harsh for those with long term sadness who need to be brought back around slowly. So be sure to determine the nature of the depression someone is suffering.
As a top note in a blend to be used to help someone sleep, choose from either Clary Sage Oil or Oil of Neroli. As a middle note in this mix, choose from Chamomile Oil or Marjoram Oil. As a base note in the blend, choose Oil of Camphor or Oil of Ylang-Ylang. I would think a fantastic mix might be blended from 3 or 4 drops Oil of Neroli, 3 drops Chamomile Oil and 1 or 2 drops Oil of Ylang Ylang . This should put somebody to sleep or, at the very least, cause total relaxation.
Fatigue or Exhaustion
As a top note in a blend meant to lift the energy level, you should choose Peppermint Oil, Oil of Thyme or Sage Oil . As a middle note you should choose Rosemary Oil. As a base note, choose from Cinnamon Oil or Oil of Sandalwood . Always use 3-5 drops of top and middle notes mixed with a few drops of base notes. Experiment with these blends until you find the one that works for you.
Menstrual Problems (PMS, Menopause, etc)
As a top note, use Clary Sage Oil. As a middle note in this blend, choose from Chamomile Oil, Oil of Fennel , Essential Oil Geraniumor Oil of Melissa. As a base or bottom note choose either Jasmine Essential Oil or Oil of Cypress. An excellent blend to treat menstrual pain is made from 7 drops Clary Sage Oil, 7 drops Chamomile Oil, 7 drops Oil of Cypress and 4 drops Jasmine Essential Oil. Feel free to experiment. In post menopausal women, skip the Clary Sage and make a mix of middle and bottom notes only.
Remember to diagnose the problems someone is experiencing very carefully. What looks like fatigue could be depression and what appears to be anxiety could be simple tension or stress. If someone is panicky or agitated, be careful how you approach the treatment and make every effort to calm the person before starting. Give tea or sympathy. The same goes for other conditions. Make sure, double sure, that the patient has a previous diagnosis of certain conditions before treating. Someone is fibromyalgia is far different that someone who has arthritis and you should make every effort to differentiate the source of their pain or suffering. Read carefully the list below of the times when you should never give a massage. If you are thoughtful and careful in your massage work, whether it be for friends and family or for paying customers, you will always err on the safe side. This is the best result, even if it means losing a paying customer in the short term.
Please realize that massage is not always appropriate. In fact, under some circumstances, it can make the problem much worse. So you should never massage under the following circumstances.
1. After a very hot bath, steam bath or sauna. General massages without essential oils can be given but the body goes into an elimination mode after exposure to heat and steam and it is great for detox but can cause essential oils to be wasted because the body will not absorb them. This is a waste of time and money.
2. If it causes discomfort. If the person begins to complain about pain, irritation, anxiety or agitation, STOP. Always listen to the person and always err on the safe side. Do not massage any longer, even if your purpose is to relieve anxiety and the person is still anxious or getting worse. Further massage at this time is not recommended.
3. If a person has a temperature, fever, viral illness or other infection. When you massage the body you move the lymphatic tissue around and the possibility of spreading the problem further throughout the system is present. Also, do not massage if the person is suspected of having cancer for the same reasons. Until these illnesses are being treated, massage might cause further damage.
4. Never massage someone has recently had surgery. Wait until all wounds are healed and stitches are removed.
5. Be very careful around areas where there are fractures, sprains, broken skin, bruises, swelling, rashes, torn muscles or ligaments. Do not directly massage varicose veins.
6. Avoid persons with heart problems or current back pain.
7. And never massage anyone right after a meal.
8. Rule of thumb: If in doubt, DON’T MASSAGE.