Aromatherapy & Massage - Therapists Guide to Using Essential Oils

Aromatherapy & Massage: Therapists Guide to Using Essential Oils

Aromatherapy and massage each offer unique health benefits, from the soothing power of massage to the aromatic benefits of essential oils. But when combined, these two therapeutic approaches can take the relaxation and wellness to a whole new level. If you’re a massage therapist looking to elevate your practice, differentiate your services, and offer a richer client experience, then introducing aromatherapy massage might be a great next move.

What is aromatherapy massage? Aromatherapy massage combines the therapeutic benefits of essential oils with manual therapy treatments. Specific essential oils are chosen based on their therapeutic properties and are then blended with a carrier oil and used to enhance relaxation, alleviate stress, and address specific physical or emotional concerns. The combination of the aromatic compounds and the physical touch of the massage enhances well-being and offers both immediate and long-term benefits.

In this beginner’s guide to aromatherapy massage and essential oils, we’ll cover everything you need to know to get started, from understanding the different types of essential oils and their benefits, to the practical application in a massage session. We’ll also address safety precautions, storage recommendations, and tips for sourcing quality oils. By the end, you’ll have a solid foundation for incorporating aromatherapy into your practice and providing clients with a holistic healing experience.

Why Use Aromatherapy with Massage?

Adding aromatherapy to a massage practice can be a win-win for you and your clients. Adding essential oils can upgrade a typical massage session and elevate it to a more relaxing and therapeutic level. Aromatherapy introduces a new layer of wellness benefits that clients appreciate, making it a valuable addition to your list of services.

Aromatherapy, also known as essential oil therapy, is the art and science of utilizing naturally extracted aromatic essences from plants to balance, harmonize, and promote the health of the body and mind. Originating from ancient civilizations of Egypt, China, and India, aromatherapy has been used for millennia as a holistic healing treatment. Essential oils, derived from flowers, herbs, and trees, were used for many purposes, including as medicine and in daily life by early cultures. As these traditions traveled through Greece, Rome, and the Middle East, they laid the groundwork for the modern usage of essential oils in therapeutic, spiritual, hygienic, and ritualistic purposes.

Here are 3 reasons why you should consider it:

  • Client Satisfaction: The added aroma and potential therapeutic properties can turn a regular massage into a more rewarding experience.
  • Health Benefits: From improving mood to offering potential relief from muscle pain and mental stress, essential oils can contribute positively to the overall therapeutic massage benefits.
  • Increased Revenue: Offering essential oil options can be an add-on service, giving you a way to increase revenue without taking much time, adding much work to your routine, or requiring the purchase of expensive massage equipment.

Integrating aromatherapy into your massage practice does more than just scent the room. Essential oils can provide specific health benefits such as reducing inflammation, improving blood flow, and enhancing mental well-being. This makes your service not only more enjoyable but also more comprehensive in addressing a variety of client needs. With this added layer of wellness, you’re better equipped to stand out in a competitive market and attract a broader range of clients.

Getting ready for the MBLEx? Our realistic practice tests can help you prepare.

Types of Essential Oils for Aromatherapy

Types of Essential Oils and Their Benefits

Let’s examine the essence of what makes each aromatherapy session unique and beneficial: the essential oils themselves. Understanding the unique properties of each essential oil empowers you to tailor every massage to meet individual needs more effectively. From calming the mind to relieving sore muscles, the right oil can amplify the effects of your skilled touch. Below, you’ll find a comprehensive table outlining 30 popular essential oils, their key properties, and how they can enrich your practice.

30 Popular Essential Oils for Massage: Properties & Benefits

Name (Botanical name)Description of the ScentCommon Uses and Benefits; Therapeutic PropertiesNotes, Tips & Suggestions
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)Sweet, floral, fresh, herbaceousPromotes relaxation & aids sleep (sedative), relieves stress (anti-anxiety), anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial / antibacterialBlends well with citrus oils, rosemary and eucalyptus
Peppermint (Mentha piperita)Cool, fresh, minty, invigoratingEnergizing & stimulating, aids digestion, reduces headaches, eases nausea; soothes muscle pain, enhances alertnessPairs well with lavender, eucalyptus, bergamot; coconut oil enhances absorption, avoid in pregnancy
Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus)Refreshing, camphorous, invigoratingEases respiratory issues & clears congestion, clears mind, antibacterial, muscle pain relief, boosts moodAvoid on young children; Blends with rosemary, lavender; suggested carrier: almond oil
Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)Medicinal, medicinal, pungentAntiseptic, acne treatment, antibacterial, antiviral, anti-fungal, dandruff remedyExternal use only; blends well with lemon, peppermint; spot test on skin before extensive use; suggested carrier: jojoba
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)Sweet, fruity, warmAnti-inflammatory, calms anxiety, soothes skin irritation, promotes sleep, eases digestionMatches with geranium, bergamot, lavender; suggested carrier: coconut oil or grape seed oil to amplify calming effects; allergy caution
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)Woody, herbaceous, evergreenBoosts memory, stimulating, enhances memory and mental clarity, eases muscle pains, improves mood, aids digestionBlends well with peppermint, lavender; Carrier: grapeseed oil; Limit topical use, avoid during pregnancy
Lemon (Citrus limon)Fresh, citrusy, zesty, refreshingUplifting and energizing, cleansing, natural disinfectant, aids digestion, skin rejuvenator rich in vitamin CCombines well with eucalyptus, lavender, tea tree; consider jojoba oil as carrier; protect from sunlight after use (photosensitive)
Frankincense (Boswellia carterii)Warm, spicy, woody, earthyPromotes relaxation, anti-inflammatory, boosts immune system, anti-aging properties, helps in meditationBlends with myrrh, orange and other citrus oils; great for diffusing; suggested carrier oil: almond, or coconut oil to enhances its skin-softening attributes
Rose (Rosa damascena)Floral, rich, deepCalms emotions, anti-aging skincare benefits, balances hormones, promotes glowing complexionBlends with geranium, chamomile, jasmine; apricot kernel oil accentuates skincare properties; jojoba is a good carrier oil; costly due to extraction process
Jasmine (Jasminum grandiflorum)Sweet, floral, exotic, warmCalming, moisturizes dry skin, eases depression, soothes coughsBlends with rose, sandalwood, ylang-ylang; use in moderation; carrier oil suggestions: coconut oil or jojoba oil
Bergamot (Citrus bergamia)Fresh, citrusy, spicy, floralUplifts mood, energizing, cleansing / antiseptic properties, purifies skin, relieves stress, aids digestion,Pairs with lavender, eucalyptus; photosensitive (sun exposure post-use might cause sensitivity); Carrier: jojoba oil, or almond oil boosts its skin benefits
Ylang-Ylang (Cananga odorata)Sweet, floral, tropical, exoticCalming, promotes relaxation, lowers blood pressure, maintains skin moisture, regulates heart rateBlends well with jasmine, bergamot; suggested carrier oil: sweet almond oil accentuates its calming properties; headache caution
Sandalwood (Santalum album)Woody, rich, smooth, earthyEnhances mental clarity, good for meditation, anti-aging, antiseptic properties, soothes skin, anti-inflammatoryBlends with frankincense, rose; often used in incense; Carrier: jojoba, or argan oil boosts its skin-soothing effects
Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens)Floral, rosy, sweet, fruityBalances hormones, alleviates anxiety, anti-aging, skincare & antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, enhances blood circulationCombines with lavender, orange, rose; harvested from leaves and stems; carrier: coconut oil, or hemp seed oil to amplify its hormonal balancing effect
Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea)Herbaceous, nutty, floralPromotes relaxation, hair health, combats skin issues, antidepressant properties, eases menstrual crampsAvoid in pregnancy, blends with juniper, bergamot, lavender; carrier: sweet almond oil; consider steam-distilled variety
Cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica)Woody, warm, balsamicImproves focus, grounding, relaxing, soothes skin, natural insect repellent, helps with insomnia, supports respiratory functionBlends with rosemary, lavender oil, sandalwood; carrier oil: jojoba; valued in perfumery
Ginger (Zingiber officinale)Warm, spicy, earthy, zestyRelaxes muscle spasms, relieves nausea, aids digestion, pain reducer, anti-inflammatory, warms the body, stimulates circulationCombines with eucalyptus, sandalwood, lemon; consider using fractionated coconut oil as carrier oil
Marjoram (Origanum majorana)Warm, spicy, herbaceousEases muscle pain, promotes relaxation, supports digestion, may lower blood pressure, alleviates headachesComplements lavender, cedarwood; preferred in steam distillation. Carrier oils: Grapeseed oil, or with flaxseed oil to aid muscle relief
Neroli (Citrus aurantium)Floral, citrusy, sweet, exoticReduces anxiety, rejuvenates skin, eases insomnia, alleviates menstrual discomfortBlends with jasmine, chamomile, rose; originates from bitter orange blossoms; carrier: jojoba, or argan oil enhances its skincare properties
Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin)Earthy, musky, sweet, woodyRelaxing, addresses skin issues (antiseptic & anti-inflammatory), mood stabilizer (antidepressant), aids in meditationBlends with sandalwood, geranium, clary sage, aging improves its potency; carrier: almond oil
Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)Fresh, herbaceousSupports circulation, eases muscle pain, astringent properties, detoxifying, cleansing, anti-inflammatory, assists respiratory system, antispasmodicBlending with lemon, bergamot, lavender, harvested from young branches; carrier oil: jojoba, or sesame oil to enhance circulatory benefits
Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanioides)Earthy, woody; smokyGrounding and calming, promotes sleep, antioxidant properties, aids scar healing, natural insect repellantCombines with patchouli, sandalwood, ylang-ylang; roots are the source for this essential oil; carrier: coconut, or sunflower oil captures its calming essence
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum)Warm, sweet, spicyEnergizing, stimulating, boosts immune system, natural antifungal and antiviral, warms the body, enhances circulationSkin irritant; blends well with orange, clove oil; derived from the inner bark of the tree; carrier: grapeseed oil or sweet almond oil
Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha)Warm, earthy, smoky, resinousAntiseptic, promotes skin health, oral health aid, helps in meditation, supports respiratory health, anti-inflammatoryPairs with frankincense, lavender; sourced from tree resin; carrier: jojoba, or olive oil boosts its skin benefits
Clove (Syzygium aromaticum)Spicy, warming; rich, woodyNatural antiseptic, relieves dental pain (analgesic), antioxidant properties, boosts immune system, aids digestionSkin irritant; complements cinnamon and lemon oil; contains eugenol; carrier: coconut oil, or grape seed oil for dental applications
Orange (Citrus sinensis)Fresh, citrusy; sweet, fruityEnergizing, uplifts mood (antidepressant), natural antiseptic, promotes relaxation, aids digestion, skin revitalizerBlends with bergamot, eucalyptus; cold-pressed from orange peel; carrier: almond oil or apricot kernel oil to amplify its aromatic profile
Pine (Pinus sylvestris)Fresh, forest-like, resinousEnergizing, invigorates body, eases respiratory issues, soothes sore muscles, antibacterial, natural disinfectant & antisepticComplements eucalyptus oil, cedarwood; extracted from pine needles; carrier oils for massage: grapeseed or coconut oil
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)Warm, herbaceous, slightly sweetStimulating, supports immune system, aids digestion, relieves respiratory conditions, has antimicrobial / antiseptic properties, boosts moodPotential skin irritant; blends with rosemary, lavender, bergamot; carrier: jojoba for massage, or olive oil enhances its therapeutic effects
Juniper Berry (Juniperus communis)Fresh, balsamic; woody, slightly fruityCleansing & detoxifying properties, soothes joint pains, supports urinary tract health (diuretic), relieves skin issues, mood enhancerAvoid in pregnancy; blends with cypress; matches with rosemary, grapefruit, cypress; sourced from berries; carrier oil: almond oil, or try sesame oil to boost detox effects
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus)Citrusy, lemony, fresh, grassyEases digestive issues, reduces anxiety, muscle pain relief, antifungal properties, natural insect repellentBlends with eucalyptus, lavender. Hemp seed oil enhances its skin benefits. Steam-distilled from lemongrass plant
Aromatherapy Products

Sourcing Quality Essential Oils

When selecting essential oils for your massage practice, it’s important to understand some of the key terminology and differences between the various types of essential oils available. As a massage therapist, focusing on the best quality and purity is your best bet to ensure both safety and efficacy.

  • Therapeutic grade (Grade A) essential oils are typically of high purity and are suitable for therapeutic applications in massage and wellness treatments. They are distilled and processed in a manner that preserves the integrity of the active compounds, ensuring maximum benefit when applied.
  • Food grade (Grade B) essential oils are deemed safe for consumption, often used in cooking or baking. While they maintain their aromatic qualities, they may not be the top choice for therapeutic treatments.
  • Cosmetic grade (Grade C) oils are crafted mainly for beauty and skincare applications. They can be wonderful for enhancing the scent and texture of beauty products, but they might lack the full therapeutic properties that pure essential oils can offer.

*Note: There are a lot of false, exaggerated and misleading claims in the essential oil industry, so do your research. For example, “Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade®” is a trademarked certification created by doTERRA, and is not an industry-wide certification. Many of the grades and labels on essential oils are actually only for marketing purposes and have no real bearing on the oil’s quality or purity.

Here are a few more things to keep in mind when selecting the best essential oils for aromatherapy massage:

Look for Purity: The best essential oils are pure, without any additives or fillers. When sourcing, always check for 100% pure essential oil labels.

Organic vs. Non-Organic: Organic essential oils are derived from plants that are not treated with harmful pesticides*. While they might be a bit pricier, they’re a safer bet for skin application, especially for clients with sensitive skin.

*Note: The USDA “organic” label signifies that a product has been produced following specific guidelines, but it doesn’t mean that no pesticides were used. The USDA permits certain naturally-derived pesticides and a few synthetic ones in organic farming, as long as they’re considered less harmful and more environmentally friendly. Additionally, for a product to earn the “organic” designation, any pesticide residues must be negligible, falling below specific thresholds set by the USDA. These standards ensure that any remaining residues are significantly below levels deemed potentially harmful, emphasizing the safety and quality associated with organic products.

The USDA “organic” labeling standards apply to essential oils as well. When an essential oil is labeled as USDA “organic,” it means that the plant from which the oil was extracted was grown following the USDA’s organic farming guidelines. This ensures that the plants were grown without prohibited synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, and any pesticide residues on the plants, and consequently in the oils, fall below the specified thresholds. It’s important to note, however, that the organic label primarily pertains to the agricultural practices and doesn’t necessarily speak to other factors like the distillation process or potential additives post-distillation. So, when seeking high-quality essential oils, the “organic” label is a good indicator, but other factors and certifications should also be considered.

Reputation of Suppliers: Do some homework on your suppliers. Established brands often have stringent testing and quality assurance processes in place. Reviews and testimonials can provide insights into the reliability of the source. Be careful when buying on Amazon since there may be sellers with counterfeit products.

Packaging: Good quality essential oils are usually packed in dark amber glass bottles. This packaging protects the oil from sunlight, ensuring it maintains its potency and shelf life.

Blending Essential Oils - Plants

Blending Essential Oils

Crafting the perfect essential oil blend is both a skill and an art. Each oil plays its part, contributing its unique aroma and therapeutic properties to the overall composition. Blending requires understanding each oil’s properties and how they work together to create the desired effect. With a bit of practice and knowledge, you can master the blending process.

Balancing the Notes

Essential oils are categorized into top, middle, and base notes. These notes refer to the oil’s volatility, or evaporation rate, and staying power of the oil’s aroma. Understanding how to balance these notes is key to creating an essential oil blend that offers a complex, evolving scent experience throughout your massage session. A well-rounded blend often includes oils from each category:

Top Notes: Top notes in essential oils refer to the oils that evaporate the fastest and are often the first aroma you detect when smelling a blend. They are typically light, citrusy or minty, and refreshing in nature, setting the initial tone for the blend. Many of these also have anti-viral properties, and they tend to be less expensive. For massage therapists, top notes can provide an immediate aromatic impact, setting the mood for the massage session and engaging the client’s senses right from the start. Here are a few examples of essential oils that are commonly classified as top note essential oils:

LemonSweet OrangeTea TreeLemongrassPine
AniseOrangeWinterLemon BalmSpruce

Middle Notes: Middle notes in essential oils serve as the main body of a blend, emerging once the initial impact of the top notes starts to fade. They have a more balanced evaporation rate, often bringing depth and complexity to a blend. For massage therapists, these oils play a crucial role in sustaining the therapeutic aroma throughout the massage session, ensuring a consistent and enriching experience for the client. Here are some examples of oils typically considered to be middle note essential oils:

LavenderRoman ChamomileBlack PepperNutmegCinnamon
RosemaryJuniper BerryFennelAllspiceRosewood
GeraniumClary SageMarjoramBayNeroli
Ylang YlangCypressCardamomPalmarosaClove

Base Notes: Base notes in essential oils are the foundational aromas that linger the longest due to their slower evaporation rate. So these oils will anchor the blend, giving it longevity and depth and leaving a lasting impression. These are often oils extracted from the bark or roots of trees, and they tend to be more expensive. For massage therapists, these oils ensure that the therapeutic aroma remains with the client long after the session concludes, deepening the overall relaxation and beneficial effects. This is a list of examples of base note essential oils:

FrankincenseMyrrhAngelica RootPeru BalsamCassia
VetiverRock RoseOakmossGingerJasmine

*Note: Classification of essential oils is a bit subjective, so you may see oils categorized differently in other online resources.

Practical Strategies for Blending Essential Oils

  1. Determine Your Goal: Decide the primary purpose of your blend (e.g., relaxation, energy boost, muscle relief) to guide your choice of oils.
  2. Start Small: Especially when experimenting with a new blend recipe, use small quantities to avoid wasting oils. Try the blend on a small patch of skin or diffuse it in a room to ensure you’re happy with the aroma.
  3. Document Your Mixes: Keep a record of your essential oil recipes and blend ratios, so you can replicate successful combinations or tweak those that need improvement.
  4. Use the Rule of Threes: Generally, pick one top note, one middle note, and one base note to ensure a balanced and layered aroma. Use a few drops from each category (top, middle, base notes) and adjust based on your preferences.
  5. Use a Ratio: A 2:2:1 ratio (top:middle:base) can be a good starting point. Another popular ratio is 3:5:2 – or 3 drops (30%) top note, 5 drops (50%) middle note, and 2 drops (20%) base note.
  6. Let It Meld: Once blended, let the mixture sit for 24 to 48 hours. This allows the oils to synergize, enhancing the final aroma.
  7. Experiment and Adjust: Don’t be afraid to adjust ratios based on feedback or desired effects. Sometimes, a simple tweak can greatly enhance a blend.
  8. Safety & Dilution: For topical applications, aim for a 2-5% dilution for most oils. This translates to about 10-25 drops of essential oil per 1 ounce of carrier oil.
  9. Patch Test: Before a full application, especially with new blends, apply a small amount to the skin to check for any reactions.
  10. Store Properly: Keep your blends in dark, amber glass bottles in a cool place to maintain their potency and longevity.
  11. Stay Educated: Keep learning about the properties of various essential oils. Some might have stronger properties and require less in a blend.

Creating a Signature Blend for Your Practice

Developing signature blends for your massage therapy practice not only sets you apart but also offers an exclusive experience for your clients. Start by considering the core needs of the majority of your clientele. For example, if stress relief is a common theme, a blend emphasizing calming oils like lavender or chamomile can be the foundation. Keep the blend consistent in terms of the drop count for each oil. Track the feedback and adjust the composition as needed. Over time, this signature blend becomes synonymous with your brand, giving clients a unique aromatic experience they’ll associate with your sessions.

When crafting signature blends, it’s a good idea to use only essential oils that are generally well-tolerated by most people, minimizing the risk of allergic reactions and ensuring that it is something that the vast majority of your clients will enjoy. Popular oils with a history of widespread use and few reported sensitivities can make your blend more universally appealing and safe.

Here is a list of things to consider when creating a signature blend for a massage therapy practice:

  • Brand Identity: Your signature blend should resonate with the brand and image you want to project. If your brand emphasizes relaxation and tranquility, choose oils that are known for their calming properties. Conversely, if you position yourself as an energizing and revitalizing massage service, select more invigorating oils.
  • Seasonal Blends: Create different signature blends for different times of the year. For instance, a winter blend might include warming oils like pine, cedarwood, frankincense or juniper berry. A summer blend could be more refreshing with oils like peppermint, spearmint, eucalyptus, sweet orange, lemon or bergamot.
  • Therapeutic Focus: If you specialize in a particular type of therapy, such as deep tissue or Swedish massage, develop your blend to enhance the effects of that therapy. For instance, a blend designed for deep tissue work might focus on oils known to relieve muscle tension.
  • Client Feedback: Regularly solicit feedback from your clients on your signature blend. Their insights can help you refine the blend over time, ensuring it remains effective and appealing.
  • Consistency: While it’s good to tweak based on feedback, ensure that there’s a level of consistency to your signature blend. Clients will come to recognize and anticipate the specific aroma associated with your practice.
  • Educate Clients: Inform your clients about the benefits of the oils in your signature blend. This not only showcases your expertise but also helps clients understand the added value and therapeutic benefits they’re receiving. Also educate them in how essential oils can be used as part of their self-care routine.
  • Retail Opportunities: If your signature blend becomes particularly popular, consider bottling and selling small quantities for clients to take home. Or even using it to make your own product line (e.g., candles, lotions, balms). This can be an additional revenue stream and also serves as a marketing tool, as clients share and introduce your brand to others.

With these strategies in mind, the art of blending becomes an iterative process of learning, adjusting, and refining to achieve the desired effects and aromas for your massage sessions. Blending is a hands-on experience, and the more you do it, the more intuitive it becomes. Your clients will appreciate the personalized touch, and you’ll have yet another tool to elevate your practice. Blending essential oils offers an opportunity to enhance your aromatherapy & massage sessions, providing bespoke experiences tailored to individual needs.

Client Consultation and Customization

Initiating a thoughtful client consultation is the cornerstone of providing a tailored aromatherapy massage experience. Begin by discussing the client’s current physical and emotional state, health history, as well as any specific needs or concerns. Be sure to rule out any contraindications that the client may have for aromatherapy or massage. This communication can reveal pertinent details, from recent injuries to heightened stress levels or even sleep disturbances.

Once you’ve identified their needs, choose a combination of top, middle, and base notes that align with those needs. Remember to document each custom blend and include this information in your massage SOAP note or aromatherapy consultation documentation. This not only demonstrates professionalism but also ensures you can recreate the blend in future sessions, providing consistent and personalized care.

For clients new to aromatherapy, provide a brief overview, emphasizing how essential oils can enhance their massage experience and address specific concerns. For example, if someone mentions difficulty sleeping, you might suggest incorporating lavender or chamomile into their massage blend, known for their calming properties. You can also include some client education about this on your website.

*When discussing essential oils, it’s crucial to avoid making medical claims regarding their ability to cure diseases or specific medical diagnoses. Always stay within your scope of practice and focus on the general wellness benefits, avoiding any therapeutic claims unsupported by evidence.

Equally important is understanding any medical history that could influence oil choices. Ensure you’re aware of any client allergies, skin sensitivities, or medical conditions, like pregnancy, which might necessitate avoiding certain oils. Armed with this knowledge, customize the essential oil blends to align with each client’s unique needs. This personal touch not only improves the therapeutic benefits of the session but also boosts client satisfaction and trust in your expertise.

As a best practice, document these preferences and any feedback for future reference, enabling consistent and increasingly refined care with each visit. Lastly, always have informed consent forms tailored for aromatherapy, ensuring clients are aware of and comfortable with the oils used during their session.

Aromatherapy Applications

Practical Application of Essential Oils in Aromatherapy Massage

The versatility of essential oils allows for varied applications in a massage setting. The most direct method is the topical application, where oils are mixed with massage lotions or directly applied to the skin. This method offers the dual benefit of skin absorption and aromatic relaxation.

Another approach is using a diffuser to disperse the chosen aroma throughout the massage room, setting a mood that aligns with the client’s needs. If using a diffuser, start it a bit before the session, allowing the aroma to fill the room.

When opting for topical application, it’s vital to select an appropriate carrier oil. Carrier oils dilute the essential oils, making them safe for skin contact and enhancing their absorption. They also provide the lubrication or glide necessary for massage techniques. Common choices include sweet almond oil, jojoba oil, grapeseed oil, and fractionated coconut oil, each offering unique benefits. Your selection should be based on the client’s skin type, desired consistency, type of massage, and any potential allergies.

Equipping your massage room with the right tools ensures a seamless integration of aromatherapy into sessions. Essential items include:

  • Diffusers: Essential for dispersing the aroma in the room. Ultrasonic diffusers, in particular, are great as they break down oils into a fine mist for easy inhalation. (Only use essential oils and distilled water in the diffuser, not the carrier oils).
  • Droppers: Allow for precision when mixing oils, ensuring consistent ratios and optimal therapeutic benefits.
  • Carrier Oils: A selection of high-quality carrier oils to dilute and enhance the chosen essential oils.
Sourcing of Essential Oils

Storage and Shelf Life of Aromatherapy Oils

Preserving the potency, longevity, aroma and therapeutic benefits of essential oils requires proper storage. Here’s how you can maximize the shelf life of your aromatherapy oils:

Ideal Storage Conditions:

  • Dark Place: Essential oils should be kept away from direct sunlight, as UV rays can degrade their quality. An amber glass bottle is often the preferred choice, as it offers protection against light.
  • Cool Temperatures: Heat can alter the chemical composition of oils. Store them in a cool place, preferably away from heat sources. While not necessary, some therapists even opt for refrigeration for certain oils to prolong their life. *If you work in multiple locations, avoid leaving massage oils or essential oils in your car!
  • Tight Seals: Oxygen can oxidize oils, leading to a change in aroma and effectiveness. Ensure that the bottles are sealed tightly after each use.

Recognizing Expired Oils:
While essential oils don’t spoil like food, they can degrade over time. Here’s what to look out for:

  • Aroma Change: If the scent of the oil seems off or weak, it might be time to replace it.
  • Cloudiness: Any change in clarity, like cloudiness or sediment, is a sign of degradation.
  • Skin Irritation: If an oil that was previously well-tolerated suddenly causes skin irritation, it may be compromised.

General Shelf Life:
The shelf life of essential oils varies based on their type. Citrus oils, for example, have a shorter life (about 1-2 years) compared to oils like sandalwood or patchouli which can last up to 4-8 years. Always check with the supplier or manufacturer for specific shelf life details.

Label and Rotate:
To ensure you’re using oils at their peak, label them with the purchase date. This helps in rotating stock and using older oils first.

Make Small Quantities:
Mixing essential oils with carrier oils can influence the shelf life. When you blend an essential oil with a carrier oil, the resulting mixture often takes on the shorter shelf life of the two components. Carrier oils, being more susceptible to rancidity due to their fatty acid content, generally have a shorter shelf life than most essential oils. When mixed, the carrier oil can potentially decrease the longevity of the essential oil blend.

For this reason, it’s often advisable to mix essential oils with carriers in smaller quantities, based on immediate or short-term needs. This ensures that the therapeutic properties of the essential oils are maximized in your blends, and you aren’t wasting product. By mixing only what you need, you maintain the integrity and freshness of both the carrier and essential oils. If you do create blends in advance, it’s beneficial to date them and use them within the shelf life of the carrier oil. Regularly checking the aroma and consistency will also give hints on the blend’s freshness.

By adhering to these storage guidelines, massage therapists can ensure that their clients always benefit from the full therapeutic potential of fresh, potent essential oils. Proper storage is a small effort that yields significant returns in terms of results and client satisfaction.

Measuring Essential Oil for Aromatherapy Massage

Safety Guidelines for Using Essential Oils in Massage

Ensuring safety when applying essential oils in aromatherapy massage is crucial. As powerful concentrates of plant material, these oils can have strong effects, both beneficial and adverse if not used correctly. Here are some guidelines that massage therapists should keep in mind:

Dilution is Key. Never use essential oils undiluted on the skin. Always mix them with a carrier oil. A general rule of thumb is to use 2-3 drops of essential oil per tablespoon of carrier oil, but this can vary based on the specific oil and the client’s sensitivity.

Skin Patch Tests. If there are concerns about sensitivity, you can perform a patch test by applying a couple of drops of diluted oil to a discreet area of the client’s skin, such as the anterior wrist or elbow, and covering with a bandage or gauze. Instruct the client to avoid getting the area wet, and wait for at least 24 hours to see if any adverse reactions, like redness, itching, or irritation, occur. If any of these symptoms appear, the should go ahead and remove the bandage and wash with soap and water, and this particular essential oil should not be used with this client.

Pregnancy and Medical Conditions. Certain essential oils are not recommended during pregnancy or for clients with specific medical conditions. Always research and potentially consult with a health professional if you’re unsure.

Adverse Reaction Protocol. If a client shows signs of an allergic reaction, such as redness, itching, or swelling, immediately cease the massage, remove the oil using a carrier oil, and then gently washing with soap and water. Advise them to consult with a medical professional in the case of a severe reaction.

Liability Risks. Be informed about the potential liability risks associated with using essential oils. Ensure you have informed consent forms for aromatherapy and that your massage liability insurance coverage encompasses aromatherapy services.

Stay Updated. With continuous research, new information about essential oils emerges. Regularly update your knowledge on oils, their benefits, and any new safety recommendations.

Taking the time to ensure the safe application of essential oils will not only protect your clients but also enhance their overall massage experience, building trust and ensuring they reap the full benefits of the therapy. Remember, safety first leads to satisfaction always.

Pricing and Marketing Your New Aromatherapy Service

Introducing aromatherapy into your massage therapy practice offers not only therapeutic benefits for clients but also an excellent opportunity for growth and additional revenue. Here’s how to effectively price and market your new service:

  1. Cost Analysis: Before setting a price, determine your costs. Factor in the price of essential oils, carrier oils, tools, and any additional training. Don’t forget to account for potential waste and the frequency of repurchasing supplies.
  2. Competitive Pricing: Research the pricing strategies of competitors in your area. Are you offering something unique, like a proprietary blend or a specific massage technique? Your price should reflect the value and uniqueness of your service.
  3. Upselling: Aromatherapy can be a value-added service. Consider offering it as an add-on to a standard massage at a reduced rate, which can encourage clients to try it out.
  4. Bundle Deals: Offer package deals combining aromatherapy massages with other services. This not only gives clients more value but also introduces them to your other offerings.
  5. Marketing Tips:
    • Educate Your Clients: Use brochures, blog posts, workshops, or email marketing to inform clients about the benefits of aromatherapy massage.
    • Social Media: Showcase client testimonials, share behind-the-scenes mixing processes, or even live sessions to engage potential clients.
    • Promotions: Introduce limited-time offers or discounts for first-time aromatherapy clients to generate interest.
  6. Loyalty Programs: Reward repeat clients with a loyalty program, offering them every tenth aromatherapy session at a discounted rate or even free.
  7. Collaborations: Partner with local businesses, like yoga studios or health food stores, to cross-promote each other. It’s a win-win for both businesses.
  8. Track Feedback: Regularly solicit feedback from clients. Understanding what they love or what can be improved helps refine your offerings and marketing strategies.

Incorporating aromatherapy into your massage practice can significantly boost your massage business, but success lies in effectively pricing and marketing your services. As always, ensure the quality of the service matches your promotion, which can result in creating raving fans and more massage client referrals.

Continuing Education and Aromatherapy Certifications

A commitment to lifelong learning can set you apart in the massage therapy profession, especially when it comes to aromatherapy. As the popularity of essential oils continues to grow, so does the need for trained professionals who can safely and effectively incorporate them into massage therapy sessions. Pursuing advanced education and certifications in aromatherapy can ensure you’re at the forefront of this massage niche, meeting both market demand and enhancing the therapeutic value of your services.

Advanced Courses:
Seek out advanced courses that focus on the therapeutic applications, chemistry, and biology of essential oils. Several professional massage associations and organizations offer training in aromatherapy massage. This deeper knowledge can enable you to serve clients with specific health needs more effectively.

Hands-on workshops can provide practical experience in blending, application techniques, and client consultations. Interaction with experienced professionals can offer invaluable insights.

While not mandatory, obtaining a certification in aromatherapy can lend credibility to your practice. Certified therapists often attract a broader clientele and can sometimes command higher prices for their specialized services. You can also include this credential in your massage bio.

Online Learning:
Many reputable institutions offer online courses in aromatherapy, making it convenient for working professionals to continue their education. Look for courses with good reviews and feedback.

Attend Conferences:
Industry conferences can be a great way to learn about the latest research, trends, and products in aromatherapy. Networking with peers and experts can also open doors to new opportunities.

Local Regulations:
Stay informed about any local or state regulations concerning the use of essential oils in a therapeutic setting. Requirements can vary, and it’s essential to ensure you’re compliant.

Investing in your education not only elevates your professional standing but also ensures the safety and well-being of your clients. By keeping your skills and knowledge up-to-date, you’ll be well-prepared to offer the highest quality service in the evolving field of aromatherapy massage.


Adding aromatherapy massage into your menu of services has the potential to enhance both your service offerings and the wellness journey of your clients. We’ve explored the basics of essential oils, from their history to their modern-day application in therapeutic settings.

From understanding the importance of quality sourcing to mastering the art of blending, and ensuring safety in every session, the benefits of these natural oils are evident. Stay committed to continuous learning and always prioritize your client’s well-being. With the right knowledge and tools, you’re well-equipped to elevate the massage experience.

Additional Resources

Continuous learning will help keep you at the forefront of your profession. Here are some valuable resources to help you along your aromatherapy & massage journey:

National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) is a leading organization dedicated to promoting the comprehensive understanding and utilization of therapeutic essential oils in holistic aromatherapy. They offer various courses, from introductory to advanced levels.

The Aromatherapy Registration Council (ARC) is an independent organization that administers a national examination, ensuring aromatherapists meet a standard of excellence and professionalism in their field.

AromaHead Institute is an internationally recognized school that offers in-depth aromatherapy certification programs, courses and workshops aiming to empower students with the knowledge and skills in therapeutic uses of essential oils.

The Alliance of International Aromatherapists (AIA) is a leading association that advocates for academic and professional standards in aromatherapy practice while fostering essential oil research and education worldwide.

AromaWeb is a comprehensive online resource that offers a wealth of information, articles, and directories related to the field of aromatherapy and essential oils.

Young Living Essential Oils is a globally recognized essential oil company specializing in the cultivation, distillation, and production of high-quality, pure essential oils, promoting a holistic approach to health and wellness.


What are the best essential oils for studying, focus, memory and productivity?

If you are still in massage school or studying for the MBLEx exam, the best essential oils for enhancing concentration and productivity include rosemary, which has been linked to improved memory and cognitive function. Peppermint essential oil can invigorate the mind, boost alertness, and help maintain focus during tasks. Lemon essential oil not only uplifts and energizes but has also been shown to promote clarity and reduce stress, which can be a barrier to effective studying. Some other honorable mentions include eucalyptus, cypress, and clary sage.

What are the top 5 essential oils that I should start with if I’m just getting started with aromatherapy massage?

When getting started with essential oils & aromatherapy, look for widely-used and versatile oils. There are many that you could choose from, but here are a few suggestions:

  • Lavender for stress relief and calming the nervous system
  • Peppermint for energizing the body and soothing sore muscles
  • Sweet orange for a mood uplift and light citrus aroma
  • Cedarwood for grounding and its calming effects on the mind
  • Frankincense for its relaxation and immune boosting properties

How do I choose the right essential oil for my client’s needs?

Begin with a thorough consultation to understand their specific needs and preferences. Whether they’re looking for relaxation, pain relief, or an energy boost will guide your choice. Additionally, use online references and your knowledge on the properties and benefits of different essential oils to make informed decisions.

How can I best keep track of client preferences and any reactions to different essential oils for future reference?

Maintain a detailed client record system. Each time a client visits, note their chosen oils, any observed reactions, and their feedback. Digital tools, apps and software geared towards massage therapists can simplify this process, but a well-organized physical binder can work just as well.

Are there any certifications I should consider getting if I want to specialize in aromatherapy massage?

Yes, consider obtaining a certification from recognized bodies like the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) or the Aromatherapy Registration Council (ARC). This not only boosts your credibility but also equips you with in-depth knowledge.

How do I select the best carrier oil to use for specific essential oils or blends, for aromatherapy massage?

The choice often depends on the desired outcome, client’s skin type, and the essential oil’s properties. For instance, jojoba oil is versatile and great for most skin types, while fractionated coconut oil can be more moisturizing for dry skin. Other options include: apricot kernel oil, avocado oil, grapeseed oil and sweet almond oil.

How do I handle a situation where a client has an unexpected reaction to an essential oil during a session?

Stop the massage immediately. Remove as much of the oil as possible using a neutral carrier oil, then cleanse the skin with a gentle soap and water. Monitor the client’s symptoms, provide water to drink, and if the reaction is severe, seek medical attention.

How can I ensure the authenticity and purity of the essential oils I purchase?

Purchase from reputable suppliers, and always ask for a Certificate of Analysis, which will provide details about the oil’s purity and constituents. Research brands and reviews, and avoid prices that seem too good to be true.

Can I incorporate essential oils into other spa or wellness treatments like facials or body scrubs?

Yes! Essential oils can enhance facials, body scrubs, and other treatments. For example, adding a few drops of lavender oil to a facial can offer relaxation benefits, while tea tree oil can give an antibacterial boost to skincare treatments. However, it’s important to exercise caution. When combining different oils, their synergistic effects can intensify, meaning their combined effect can be stronger than the sum of their individual effects.

It’s always recommended to understand each oil’s properties and potential interactions. Additionally, avoid applying heat, such as using a hot pack, directly over areas where essential oils have been applied (and be cautious with hot stone massage). Heat can amplify the absorption rate and effects of the oils, possibly leading to skin sensitivity or other reactions. Always prioritize safety when integrating essential oils into any treatment.

Disclaimer: The content provided in this blog post is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare professional with any questions or concerns regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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