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.
Suzanne Grant, Senior Acupuncturist, Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW; A/Prof Craig Hassed, Senior Lecturer, Department of General Practice, Monash University, VIC; Mara Lidums, Consumer; Tanya McMillan, Consumer; Simone Noelker, Physiotherapist and Wellness Centre Manager, Ballarat Regional Integrated Cancer Centre, VIC; A/Prof Byeongsang Oh, Acupuncturist, University of Sydney and Northern Sydney Cancer Centre, NSW; Sue Suchy, Consumer; Marie Veale, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland, QLD; Prof Anne Williams, Nursing Research Consultant, Centre for Nursing Research, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, and Chair, Health Research, School of Health Professions, Murdoch University, WA.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.
Click below to download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Coping with cancer?
Speak to a health professional or to someone who has been there, or find a support group or forum
Looking for transport, accommodation or home help?
Practical advice and support during and after treatment