What is Aromatherapy?
Chances are you have been introduced to the sensation that is right at the tip of your nose. Aromatherapy can best be described as the inhalation or bodily application of fragrant essential oils for therapeutic purposes. These scents traditionally come from flowers, fruits and tree wood; furthermore aromatherapy is a perfect way to influence all of your senses with stress releasing intentions during your massage.
Aromatherapy and Massage
Adding essential oils to your massage creates a balance of the mind as well as your body, as your muscles begin to relax and your skin begins to reap the benefits and healing properties of the essential oils added.
The science Behind Aromatherapy
But what exactly are those healing properties? Is aromatherapy something you can feel or something that you can quantify?
Well the answer is both! If you are connecting with a certain essential oil (not to be confused with fragrance oil) you just cant seem to get enough of, then go for it! But it would not be in Inner Sanctum fashion to not include the quantifiable scientific data conducted in the name of aromatherapy research.
The International Journal of Neuroscience (Vol 96 issue-4) published in 1998 a case study that included 40 adults who were given three minutes of aromatherapy sessions. One group was given lavender essential oil treatment, one group was given rosemary essential oil, and another was the control group, given nothing. An electroencephalogram (EEG) is a tool that detects brain activity in the form of electrical pulses, and is the tool used in this case study.
Aromatherapy positively impacts patients moods, alertness and even math computations! the patients who were given lavender essential oil showed increased levels of beta power, which would suggest and increase in relaxation. They also reported less depressed moods and were able to preform the math computations faster and more accurately after the aromatherapy treatments. The rosemary group displayed decreased frontal alpha and beta power, which would suggest an increase in alertness. These participants also report a feeling of relaxation while being alert. When it came to the mathematical computations, the rosemary team was able to compute faster, but not more accurately than the lavender team.
More information regarding this case can be found here.
Potential Risks of Essential Oils
There is no peer reviewed published scientific evidence against the use of essential oils at this time, however since everyone is different, everyone has different levels of sensitivity when it comes to essential oils. Always remember to use a carrier oil and preform a patch test with your essential oil in order to avoid any skin irritations or unknown allergic reactions.
To preform a patch test, mix approximately half a teaspoon of carrier oil with about 3 drops of the essential oils you would like to test. Use a carrier oil such as grape seed or avocado oil; olive oil would not be good because it has its own robust smell and would effect the experience of the aromatherapy. Do not mix essential oils during the patch test, if you were to have an adverse reaction to an essential oil, you would want to know exactly which one.
Some side effects of essential oils may be rashes or skin irritation. Some signs that you may be using essential oils too often are headaches, nausea and asthma attacks.
The take away
Always use good judgement when working with essential oils. If you truly do not feel comfortable or have more questions, your primary care practitioner is always a great place to start.