As a massage therapist, you may have learned how to use essential oils within treatments for your clients—but how often do you reach for these concentrated, natural substances for self-care? If the answer is “not enough,” consider these applications and become familiar with these oils on a more personal level.
According to Shirley and Len Price’s Aromatherapy for Health Professionals, Second Edition (1999), essential oils help energize, calm, clear sinuses and promote tissue regeneration, among other useful attributes. Here are some ways you can use those properties to take better care of yourself during your workday.
How to Use Essential Oils for…
Enhancing energy and focus
Before your first massage session of the day, add two or three drops of an essential oil to a tissue and seal the tissue in a plastic container. At the end of each session, before tackling other tasks, take this tissue out and hold it to your nose, then close your eyes and breathe deeply.
Choose oils that fit your needs for the day. If you are feeling agitated and unfocused, perhaps oils with a woodsy note, such as frankincense or oakmoss, are appropriate. If you need an energy boost, oils with a more clarifying property, such as peppermint or rosemary, are indicated. To fight that stressed-out feeling, look to lavender, chamomile or clary sage.
Between clients, spray your treatment room with an essential oil blend, using a ratio of 15 drops essential oils per ounce of water. This simple spritz will benefit you and the next client to come in. During a massage, bodies can emit odors that linger, which is not the greeting you want for your next client. Many common essential oils, such as rosemary and lavender, have antiseptic properties; and some, including tea tree, have anti-viral properties, according to Aromatherapy for Health Professionals, so diffusion can help keep airborne germs at bay.
Soothing sore muscles
What massage therapist doesn’t ever have sore hands or wrists? These appendages are our livelihood and deserve everyday care.
You can use this simple method of heat or cold therapy to soothe your most important tools, either after your workday is over or if you have a little extra time between sessions: Take a damp hand towel, microwave it for two minutes and remove. (A towel warmer is ideal for this, but a microwave will work in a pinch.) Apply 10 to 12 drops of rosemary and lavender essential oils to the warmed towel. Rosemary and lavender both have antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties; rosemary also has stimulant properties, while lavender works as an analgesic (Light Miller, N.D., and Bryan Miller, D.C., Ayurveda & Aromatherapy: The Earth Essential Guide to Ancient Wisdom and Modern Healing, 1996).
Wrap the towel around any area of pain, cover and leave on until the towel cools off. Heat, says Aromatherapy for Health Professionals, helps essential oils absorb more effectively.
This same practice can be utilized with coldness, by putting the damp towel in a refrigerator instead. Apply the same amount of oil, but choose oils such as chamomile, peppermint or lavender, for their anti-inflammatory properties (Miller and Miller, 1996).
Self-care is an essential part of being an effective massage therapist, and aromatherapy has much to offer that will enhance your efforts.
Holly Dunbar, L.M.T., R.H. (AHG), is the owner of New Moon Bodywork & Botanicals (newmoonbody.com), a holistic health practice in La Plata, Maryland, specializing in therapeutic massage, herbal medicine, aromatherapy and natural skin care since 1994. She is the creator of the New Moon natural product line.