What it is

The use of aromatic essential oils extracted from plants for healing relaxation. They are used mainly during massage but can also be used in baths, inhalations or vaporisers (oil burners).

Why use it

When inhaled or absorbed through the skin during massage, the oils have a positive effect on the body’s tissues.

What to expect

The aromatherapist blends essential oils and adds them to a base (carrier) oil before applying them to your skin during a massage. 


There is limited evidence that aromatherapy may have positive short-term effects on pain and anxiety in people with cancer. Studies in people with advanced cancer show that aromatherapy improves sleep and quality of life.

Oils used in bodywork

Base (or carrier) oils are usually made from kernels or nuts, such as almonds. Sometimes mineral oil is used instead as it is odourless.

Before being applied to the skin, base oils are diluted with essential oils, such as lavender or tea tree.

Reactions to oils are rare, but some people find they irritate the skin or the smell makes them feel nauseous or gives them a headache.

Let your therapist know if you have had reactions to oils in the past, or if you find certain smells unpleasant.

This information was last reviewed in May 2018
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