Massage & Bodywork

March/April 2013

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ten FOR tOdaY aromatherapy the skilled use of essential oils By rebecca Jones 1. what is aROMatheRaPY? Valerie Cooksley, registered nurse, clinical aromatherapist, and cofounder of The Institute of Integrative Aromatherapy in Houston, Texas (, defi nes aromatherapy as "the skilled and controlled use of essential oils for physical and emotional health and well-being." It is not, she notes, simply adding a fresh fragrance to the massage room while you work. In fact, Cooksley warns that synthetic fragrance formulas are considered among the top five known allergens and can trigger asthma attacks. 2. aiM FOR ResULts Massage therapist and founder of Terre d'Essence ( Joachim Creten also warns therapists not to rely solely on their noses when doing aromatherapy work. "You choose your oils based on the goal you want to achieve," Creten says. "If you use an oil just because it smells good, that's not aromatherapy." 3. ease intO it Consider how best to introduce clients to new aromas, but always ask permission fi rst. "I begin on clients' feet," says Charlynn Avery, a licensed massage therapist and aromatherapy educator with Aura Cacia ( "That's the point on their body that is farthest away from their nose, so they can experience the physical benefits of aromatherapy fi rst without the aroma." Stephanie Whittier, founder of Tranquility Spheres Inc. (, suggests an alternative approach. "I advise not using a new oil on clients' skin until they have had a chance to smell the aroma fi rst to see how they react." 4. Be sensitiVe Another good rule for aroma-sensitive clients: fi nd out if a client wants to be left with a scent on his or her body after the massage ends. If not, try using a scent in the treatment room rather than something actually applied to the skin. A spritz of an aerosol scent on the face cover is a great alternative, suggests Brenda Stansfield, clinical aromatherapist and owner of Clear My Head ( "What we use opens up sinuses, but not everybody wants to go back to work smelling like the oil," she says. 5. KnOw the COntRaindiCatiOns Be wary of the hazards and possible allergic reactions posed by aromatherapy. "Any client who has a history of hypersensitive, diseased, or damaged skin should be treated with caution," Cooksley warns. Use of stimulating oils is also not advised on pregnant women or people with certain medical conditions, including uncontrolled high blood pressure or epilepsy. And remember that some oils, particularly citrus oils, can cause photosensitivity, and clients should avoid direct sunlight for 12–72 hours after exposure.

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