Nature’s bounty long has provided human beings with ingredients not only to survive, but also to thrive. It is no secret fruits and vegetables contain the vitamins and minerals that help keep us healthy and have been proven to assist in staving off disease. Of course, our modern laboratories have created processed foods that certainly can be tasty, but they hold little of the same value as fruits and vegetables, in terms of nutrition.

Among massage therapists and bodyworkers, who often seem to emphasize the importance of staying in harmony with nature, this line of thinking can be applied even further. The tools used by professional touch therapists in daily practice can be carefully chosen, so that they tap as much of nature’s bounty as possible, thereby diminishing the use of synthetic, processed elements and ingredients.

For example, consider your massage linens. When you purchase this product, you have a choice. In fact, you have many choices. There are so many linens available that have been made from synthetic fibers, or at least partly from synthetic fibers. There also are linens available that are made from natural fibers, such as cotton. These days, it’s even possible to find massage linens made from natural fibers that were grown using no pesticides or other planet-threatening processes.

Massage therapists and bodyworkers also have choices to make when it comes to massage creams. For some, this decision may seem even more important, for these creams are applied to your clients’ skin each day, and they also coat your hands and arms in nearly every session.

Fortunately, the planet provides plenty of ingredients to make for lots of options in high-quality massage creams. It is true that synthetic ingredients may bring similar benefits to a massage cream, but for a large number of massage therapists and bodyworkers, natural nearly always is preferable to artificial.

An example of an ingredient often found in massage creams that is made only by Mother Nature is the nut. There are all kinds of nuts, and the manufacturers of massage creams use ingredients derived from the various types to craft massage creams with diverse benefits.

One nut-based ingredient quite frequently found in massage creams is shea butter. Shea nut butter comes from the fruit of a shea tree, and it’s extracted via the crushing and boiling of shea nuts. These trees are found throughout Africa, from Senegal to Uganda. They do not even begin to produce fruit until they are 20 years old, and they reach full production at around 45 years. Thereafter, the shea tree can produce nuts for up to 200 years.

According to the American Shea Butter Institute, shea butter comprises several natural anti-inflammatory agents, as well as a minor sunscreen agent. Those who routinely apply shea butter have reported relief from blemishes, itching, sunburns, small skin wounds, eczema, skin allergies and wrinkles. The fact that shea butter contains both vitamins A and E may account for its myriad reported benefits.

—Brandi Schlossberg