When you consider the time and effort we massage therapists put into our careers and clients, it is a relief to find a modality that is gentle to the therapist’s body while deeply relaxing to the client’s body.

Hot stones and aromatherapy are two such modalities—but have you considered combining them to enhance your massage sessions?

Aromatherapy massage with hot stones warms muscles and relieve aches and spasms quickly, while supporting wellness through the therapeutic and energetic properties of pure essential oils.

Some of the ways massage therapists can incorporate aro­matherapy into a hot stone massage include room diffusion; layering of diluted essential oils on the client’s back; adding essential oils to massage oil for full-body or spot treatments; and introducing hydrosols as body or room sprays.

Diffuse: Set the Tone for Aromatherapy Massage

Diffusion of essential oils can set the tone for the massage and help address client concerns before the hot stone massage even begins. There are many types of room diffusers on the market, from ultrasonic cool-mist diffusers with lights and automatic shutoff settings, to small plug-in or candle-heated diffusers.

Aromatherapy room sprays can be made by adding a few drops of essential oils to a spray bottle of water. Another simple means of diffusion is to place a drop of essential oil or oil blend on a tissue and tuck it under the massage sheet near the face cradle. These blends are suggestions to enhance the wellness of both the client and therapist: ylang-ylang, palmarosa and Roman chamomile to support relaxation and sleep; frankincense, orange and vetiver to address anxiety and stress; and tsara, eucalyptus and orange to combat cold and flu.

Layer: Prepare Essential Oils

Several hot stone massage protocols include layering diluted essential oils up the spine before placing hot stones over a barrier, such as a towel, on the client’s back. In these cases, essential oils are usually diluted in massage oil at a 0.1 percent to 1 percent dilution. (One percent dilution equals five to six drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil.)

A dime-sized drop of diluted oil is applied from the base of the spine to the neck with a gentle gliding motion. After the oils are layered up the spine, a barrier cloth is placed on the back and the hot stones are placed along either side of the spine, and covered. The therapist can then massage the client’s head, feet or legs while the soothing heat from the stones and essential oils relax the client.

Essential oils most commonly used in this aromatherapy massage protocol are thyme, basil, sweet marjoram, cypress, oregano, peppermint and wintergreen. These oils may help energize emotional well-being; ease muscle or joint discomfort; relieve stress and anxiety; reduce mental fatigue; support the immune, respiratory and nervous systems; aid digestive function; and enhance sleep and relaxation.

While there can be great benefit to using these essential oils in an aromatherapy massage, some of them can irritate skin or mucous membranes and are contraindicated for use with children, as well as with pregnant or breastfeeding women. Wintergreen, in particular, has several safety concerns and is contraindicated for people who have bleeding disorders, take anti-coagulant medication, are sensitive to salicylates or have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. All essential oils need to be used in compliance with essential oil safety practices.

Blend Stones and Scents

Massage therapists use a variety of carrier oils for hot stone therapy. Whether you use jojoba wax, a water dispersible massage oil or fractionated coconut oil, you can easily add an essential oil or blend to your favorite carrier oil. Therapists can discuss clients’ goals and concerns for the massage and select essential oils that are appropriate. For a full-body, aromatherapy hot stone massage, the suggested dilution is 1 percent to 3 percent for essential oils to carrier oil, or five to 15 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil.

You can also add aromatherapy to hot stone massage to address specific concerns and areas of the body. A client who is on her feet all day may enjoy a refreshing, revitalizing blend of peppermint and lemongrass added to massage oil, for hot stone therapeutic work on her feet and legs. A hot stone neck massage with frankincense, peppermint and spike lavender could aid in headache relief. A blend of Roman chamomile, cardamom and mandarin could be used for the abdominal part of the hot stone massage.

Whether using aromatherapy in a full-body hot stone massage or just a spot treatment with hot stones, the therapist also receives the benefit of the refreshing, relaxing, immune-supporting or pain-relieving properties of essential oils.

Spray Hydrosols

A practitioner can also add aromatherapy to a massage session by incorporating hydrosols, the water distillate that separates from essential oil when plants are steam-distilled. Many hydrosols, such as frankincense, helichrysum and German chamomile, are nourishing and refreshing for the skin. A facial spritz at the end of a hot stone aromatherapy massage may be both a balancing and cooling way to finish the session.

You might also like to spritz your own neck with peppermint hydrosol for a cooling effect after completing a hot stone massage. After the client has left and cleanup begins, you can use sweetgrass hydrosol as a room spray to refresh the space.

Educate Yourself

When you are ready to introduce aromatherapy into your hot stone massage routine, begin by enrolling in an aromatherapy course. Use pure essential oils diluted in a carrier, research the oils’ energetic and therapeutic properties, be aware of any safety concerns—and experience the added benefits to your clients and practice.

About the Author:

Ann Lohr is a certified aromatherapist, licensed massage therapist and spiritual director. She has served as vice president of Nature’s Stones Inc. since 2001, and has a private practice of integrative therapies, including aromatherapy consultations and education, in South Glastonbury, Connecticut.