Aromatherapy is the use of scented essential oils that are distilled from plant materials. These materials can include the leaves, bark, berries, fruit or flowers. These essential oils are then used to promote improved health plus physical and mental well-being. They can be used in a variety of ways from inhalation to bathing. One of the most popular uses is through massage.
Aromatherapy has been around for thousands of years. It is believed that Hippocrates himself used scented massage. Much later, in the 1930s Rene Maurice Gattefosse, a French chemist, came up with the word aromatherapy to explain the use of essential oils in therapy. He became inspired by their use after burning his hand and using lavender oil to treat it. It was a treatment that left him with no scars. During the Second World War essential oils were used as antiseptics. But it was years later still that Madame Marguerite Maury began to promote their use in massage therapy.
In aromatherapy massage the essential oils are used to alleviate discomfort, quell pain or merely to relax. Based on what the purpose of the massage is the therapist will decide what essential oils to use. Then by mixing them together in what is referred to as carrier oils, a scentless base, they will use up to five oils to get the desired result.
The first thing the therapist will do is to ask you why you are there. This is usually done in a short interview, though it can take up to thirty minutes, where it will be determined what you are hoping to achieve through your session. You will be asked if you have come because of particular problems, sleeping issues for example or headaches. You will also be questioned about your health and diet. With your answers the massage therapist will ascertain your needs and then prepare the right combination of essential oils to prepare you for a body massage. At this point the therapist will leave you alone to disrobe. You will then lie down on a table, usually padded for your comfort, and then cover yourself with a sheet or blanket that is there to offer you both warm and privacy. Once you are ready the therapist will return to begin your massage.
There are several massage techniques that can be used during the approximately sixty minute session. The therapist will usually use Swedish massage. This is a soft tissue massage. Then there is shiatsu, which uses the thumbs for deep pressure massage to reach deep down to the ligaments, nerves and tendons. As well, there is effleurage massage, which is gentler, slower, and more rhythmic. These are all put together, so the client does not notice the changes. They just lie there and relax under the trained hand of the therapist.
During the session the therapist will use the mix of oils to give the client relief from various concerns. The oils will definitely be affective on any skin conditions that may be a problem. But they will also be inhaled while the client is relaxing during the massage and this will stimulate other reactions. The oils can be soothing or stimulating based on the desired results of the session.
Many studies have proven that the relaxing effects of massage can be very beneficial. They can ease stress and with the increased blood flow, and therefore oxygen flow, the body and so the mind feels better.
Adults are not the only ones who can benefit from aromatherapy massage. Already used in Eastern and African cultures, infant massage is not only health promoting but can also help the bond between parent and child. With the right combination of essential oils a parent can learn to use massage to alleviate colic or constipation. You can also help baby sleep better; longer and deeper sleep will help make a healthier happier infant. Massage also develops baby’s sense of non-verbal communication. Studies have shown that infants who receive regular aromatherapy massage sessions from their parents cry less, develop faster, and have better weight gains often with superior motor and intellectual skills.
The advantages of aromatherapy massage to one’s health and well-being definitely make it an alternative worth exploring!