What is it?

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, the oils stimulate positive effects on different systems in the body.

What to expect?

The aromatherapist blends essential oils and adds them to a base (carrier) oil to apply to your skin during a massage. The oils may also be used in an oil burner. Different blends have different effects on your mood or any symptoms you are experiencing, such as fatigue, pain, sleeplessness or nausea. If you find a particular aroma unpleasant, let your therapist know.

What is the evidence?

Some studies have shown that aromatherapy reduces anxiety in people with cancer. Studies in people with advanced cancer show that aromatherapy improves quality of life by aiding sleep.

Oils used in bodywork

Base oils and essential oils may be used in bodywork. Base (or carrier) oils allow the therapist to work on the skin easily. They are usually made
from kernels or nuts, such as almonds. Some therapists use mineral oil as it is odourless.

Essential oils, such as lavender or tea tree, can be added to base oils. They should not be swallowed or used directly on the skin undiluted.

Different blends of essential oils are suitable for different moods and energy levels, and may help a range of ailments, such as difficulty with sleeping.

Problems from oils are rare, but some people find they irritate the skin or the smell makes them feel nauseous. Let your therapist know if you have had reactions to oils in the past, or if you start to feel discomfort during a massage.

This information was last reviewed in May 2015
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