by Jesscia North O’Connell
When I first began studying aromatherapy, I never even considered not also studying its use in massage. Massage is a very effective and pleasant way to use essential oils and the benefits as a healing technique are indisputable. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that not all aromatherapists shared my enthusiasm for massage!
Scented oils have been applied in massage by many cultures since ancient times, including the Chinese, Southeast Asians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and other Europeans. Massage lost its popularity in Europe when the dominant philosophy of the time discouraged “physical enjoyments,” but thanks to Per Henrik Ling, a 19th Century gymnast from Sweden, this wonderful practice has returned to common use.
As humans, it is natural for us to seek touch from one another, especially those near and dear to us. It is human instinct to practice the “laying-on-of-hands” with one another, whether it is in the way we massage a loved one’s sore shoulders, or pick up and hold a crying baby, or even offer a comforting touch to an upset friend. Years ago, I remember reading Ashley Montague’s book, Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin, in which he emphasizes the importance of touch among humans and how we suffer, even wither, without it.
Massage is relaxing to our muscles as well as our emotions. As a stress-reducing practice, it is supportive to the immune system, stimulating the release of the mood-modulating pentapeptide encephalin and neurotransmitter endorphins; it encourages deep breathing, which is known to relieve stress and can even help with sleep disorders like insomnia. Massage is a wonderful way to manage headaches and hypertension. Digestion and circulation may also be improved, as massage helps to release the waste products that accumulate in the muscles. Massage helps us to feel good, and the addition of essential oils can enhance its benefits to an even greater extent.
Though I trained in massage practice as a service to my aromatherapy clients, it is not necessary for us to take formal training in order to offer massage to our loved ones, and I enjoy suggesting ways that my clients and students can use massage to help their families. There are several good books available which illustrate massage techniques. Simple moves are good; a person does not need to apply complicated techniques in order for the massage to be effective. Just remember that it should feel good. If it doesn’t, to either the massager or the recipient, then it’s best to do something different. Remember to keep those parts of the body not being directly worked upon covered with a towel or sheet so that the recipient stays warm. Shivering while receiving a massage yields a counter-productive outcome!
Even if a person doesn’t want to give a full body massage, there is a lot of benefit from giving a foot or hand massage using essential oils in either a carrier oil or cream.
If you are going to recommend massage to your clients, teach them how to use their essential oils of choice properly, which means using them in the correct dosages. It is best for them to use blends specially formulated by an aromatherapist or else to use appropriate amounts of singletons, such as lavender, mandarin, sandalwood, chamomile Roman or German, or other relaxing and uplifting essential oils.
CAVEATS: Although massage is usually marvelous, there are times when it is not advisable: do not massage anyone who has an infectious illness or who has a fever. Do not massage those with a flu or cold, as this will usually accentuate the symptoms, so if they cannot just stay in bed for a day or two afterward, I would suggest other remedies, such as diffusing essential oils in the house or bedroom to combat congestion and achiness.
Avoid massaging anyone who has phlebitis or thrombosis; blood clots could dislodge and lead to a stroke. Avoid massaging over swollen lymph nodes, varicose veins, torn ligaments or muscles, sprains, broken bones, burns, swellings, ulcerated skin, boils, inflamed areas, (e.g., swelling due to rheumatism or arthritis), or the site of a recent surgery.
Those who are pregnant, or who are suffering from a serious illness such as heart disease or cancer, should check with their health care provider before getting a massage or using essential oils. However, it is sometimes permissible to massage them with a good quality vegetable oil, and the loving touch is usually very much appreciated.
Avoid giving a massage if you yourself are emotionally upset. It is too easy for us to inadvertently pass on our own feelings when we are around others who are open and susceptible.
Some essential oils are contraindicated for use with young children, or with ailments such as epilepsy, so it’s a good idea to do your own research and to give your clients a list of contraindications and recommendations to enable them to practice their aroma massages safely.
Share and enjoy your blessed loving touch and remember to receive it, too!
- The Bloomsbury Encyclopedia of Aromatherapy by Chrissie Wildwood is a good example.
Jessica North-O’Connell is founding Priestess of Faerie Mound Mystery School and Great Goddess Alive! Alchemical Arts & Services. She has been a practicing aromatherapist for 20 years, a Reiki and Soul Realignment practitioner, as well as a Tarot and Rune reader. She offers classes and programs and has aspirations of opening a Retreat center for creative recovery. Find her at www.facebook.com/jessica.northoconnell and www.greatgoddessalive.com