From the smell of your mother’s homemade chocolate-chip cookies baking up in the oven to the scent of freshly cut grass wafting through open windows on a sunny summer morning, aroma is a powerful thing.

More and more, researchers are looking at the power of certain smells to evoke beneficial feelings, from calm and relaxation to refreshment and concentration. As a massage therapist or bodyworker, you can integrate aromas into your practice to enhance the results of your hands-on work.

In the world of complementary health care, this is known as aromatherapy, and there are experts who make this healing art the sole focus of their daily work. As you contemplate using aromatherapy in your own session room, you may wish to make an appointment with a respected aromatherapist in your area, not only to experience the effects of scent firsthand, but also to ask his or her advice on products and how best to use them.

Another great way to get started with scents in the session room is to sign up for a continuing education course that focuses on aromatherapy. This class should teach you the basics, in terms of what constitutes a high-quality product, how much of each scent should be used, the results you can expect and much more.

However, even if you’ve never taken a course in aromatherapy or made an appointment to experience it for yourself, there’s a good chance you already incorporate this angle of healing into your practice as a massage therapist or bodyworker.

For instance, if you use scented candles in your waiting area and practice room, your clients may be reaping the benefits of those scents. In addition, if the massage lubricants you use contain any scented essential oils, that’s a form of aromatherapy as well.

The strategic use of aromas, though, can be far more powerful than any incidental use in candles or massage creams. By listening to each client’s goals for the hands-on session, you may be able to select a scent that can help achieve his or her desired state.

One great example is relaxation. Many clients stroll through the doors of a massage practice looking to relieve stress and reach a relaxed state. In this case, a popular choice in aromatherapy is lavender. A long list of studies point to the relaxing effects of this well-known scent.

One such study, “The Effects of Lavender and Rosemary Essential Oils on Test-Taking Anxiety Among Graduate Nursing Students,” was published in a recent issue of Holistic Nursing Practice.

Results of the study showed a significant reduction in test-taking anxiety, as well as pulse rate, among those students who used an inhaler that contained a piece of cotton infused with three drops of lavender essential oil.
The same study showed that rosemary essential oil achieved these effects as well, without relaxing the students to the point where things were “even fuzzy at times,” as was reported with the lavender inhalers.

Therefore, if your client is looking for a session that is relaxing and rejuvenating, you may wish to go with such a scent as rosemary.

—Brandi Schlossberg