Clients seek your services for many reasons: to relax, ease pain and stiffness, or relieve the effects of various health conditions.

The massage techniques you choose are critical to achieving treatment goals—and you can enhance and prolong the effects of your work by adding essential oils.

These natural, health-boosting compounds can help set the mood, contribute to specific session goals, and become that little something extra that sets your bodywork apart and keeps clients coming back for the one-of-a-kind massage only you can provide.

The methods below can be safely practiced by massage therapists, provided you follow all essential oil usage guidelines, dilute the oils adequately and do a thorough client intake to avoid allergic reactions and other contraindications. If you’re also trained and certified as an aromatherapist, even more possibilities are open to you for creating beneficial combinations of massage and essential oils.

1. Start with Scent

First impressions are everything, so as soon as your client is comfortable on the table, it’s great to start the session with a little aromatherapy to set the mood of the massage. Select an appropriate essential oil or blend, place a few drops into a small amount of carrier oil or lotion in the palms of your hands, rub them together for a moment to warm up the molecules, then cup them ever so carefully near the nose of your client and ask her to take three slow, deeply inhaling breaths.

The oils will then be applied as you begin your massage and continue to have their desired effects.

Look for blends that contain one or more of the following ingredients to complement various types of massage, such as:

Invigorating essential oils for sports massage: rosemary; black pepper; peppermint

Calming essential oils for relaxation massage: rose; lavender; ylang-ylang

Detoxifying essential oils for lymphatic massage: juniper; cardamom

grapefruit; geranium

2. Create Blends to Use as Spot Treatments

Essential oils can be incorporated into spot treatments for specific conditions. When creating blends for small areas of the body, you can use a 3 to 5% dilution of essential oils in a carrier.

Try a sore muscle blend that includes ginger, myrrh, helichrysum or sweet marjoram for their anti-inflammatory and analgesic qualities; a soothing blend of ginger, cardamom, sweet orange or German chamomile; or a refreshing, invigorating blend of peppermint, rosemary, laurel or myrtle for a scalp massage that can help ease headaches, clear the mind and stimulate clarity of thinking.

3. Enhance Your Massage Lotion

The easiest way to add essential oils to a session is to dilute them into your unscented carrier massage lotion at a 1% concentration for a full-body massage. While this is more of a one-size-fits-all approach, you may find it suitable for helping create the ambience you are trying to achieve for your particular clientele.

If you tend to see more elderly clients, for example, incorporating sweet orange or lemon can be particularly refreshing and uplifting to their senses. If you provide massage at a fitness facility, you may want to tend toward more invigorating oils, such as rosemary, peppermint or spike lavender. For calming and sedating massages, you would more likely use lavender, palmarosa or geranium to aid in releasing tension.

4. Offer Add-On Treatments

Essential oils are often found in scrubs, which help stimulate circulation and remove dead cells from the skin’s surface. Look for scrubs containing oils such as geranium, cardamom, juniper or lemon.

This is a more specialized use of essential oils and may be incorporated as an add-on treatment for an additional charge, or included as part of a special session package.

5. Extend Benefits Beyond the Session

If you enjoy using essential oils in your massage practice, you may want to consider retailing them in your checkout area. If you can get wholesale pricing, you may make a considerable profit.

If your clients enjoy the effects of certain oils during their treatment, they can prolong those effects by purchasing complementary products to use until their next visit. When purchasing essential oil products, make sure to look for those that use therapeutic-quality essential oils for best results.

Cary Caster, LMT, is a botanist, certified clinical aromatherapist and founder of 21 Drops Essential Oil Therapy. Cary’s articles for MASSAGE Magazine include “Essential Oils for Sports and Deep Tissue Massage.”

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