Aromatherapy for Massage Students/Therapists

Basics: Aromatherapy is the art of healing using different aromas made from highly concentrated extracts of herbs, flowers, shrubs and other plants.  The oils contain substances that have been found to be therapeutic when inhaled or applied to the skin with a carrier oil.

Storing of oils:  Essential oils should be stored in a cool, dark place to ensure their effectiveness and reduce spoilage.  A dark glass bottle is best.  Plastic bottles will deteriorate with time. A glass bottle with a dropper in it will also deteriorate, so it is best to store the dropper separately.  If properly stored, oils may last for approximately one year.

Uses:  Essential oils should not be used without mixing with a carrier oil such as jojoba, grapeseed, or sweet almond oil.  Oils are very potent at full strength and may burn or cause irritation. The use of oils over a long period of time (more than 12 weeks) may make the oil ineffective as the body builds up a resistance to that oil.

  • Use in a bath- add 8 or so drops to bath while running water to mix thoroughly.
  • Use in a diffuser made especially for essential oils
  • Add to a humidifier  1-10 drops.
  • Add to a spray bottle filled with water.  Be careful not to spray on wood surfaces as it may damage the wood.
  • Place a few drops on a tissue and inhale.
  • Use in a sauna or steam
  • Use in a candle or place candle under oil holder.

There is some controversy about the use of oils in a diffuser that heats the oil or placing drops on a light bulb, or in or under a candle.  The heat increases the dispersion of the oil but may also change the properties and effects of the oils.

Aromatherapy is much more than the simplified sections in this website.  It usually takes 2 years of training and a lifetime of experience to be knowledgeable in aromatherapy.

Precautions: Do not underestimate the power of these oils!!

Carrier Oils for Aromatherapy

Oils have been used in massage treatments throughout history.  Homer wrote about an ” oily medium” used for massage as early as 1000 B.C.   Plato and Socrates wrote of ” anointing with oil and rubbing to ease pain”. 

Today there are many types of oils with many uses.  It is necessary to experiment with the many types and try them on a variety of skin types to develop your own sense of use and personal preference.

The purpose of using oil in a massage is to facilitate the gliding over the client’s skin.  The various oils contain ingredients for nourishing the skin and promoting health.  Essential oils (fragrant oils distilled from plants, trees, roots, seeds) can be added for further enhancing the treatment.

When buying oils, look for cold-pressed or expellier-pressed ( made with the least amount of heating and processing) as they last longer.  ( A rancid oil can cause free radical damage to your self and client.) 

 Keep large quantities of oils refrigerated or in a cool place (below 65 degrees) when not in use to delay spoilage. Vitamin E added each month to the oil will help prevent spoilage.  Use about 300 IU of vitamin E per pint of oil. A rancid oil will have an unusual smell to it and taste bitter.

These are the basic oils and can be used in combination or alone.  Essential Oils can be added for additional therapeutic purposes. 

Online Articles:

Essential Oils Simply Complex What We Must Know By Karrie Osborn

Aromatherapy Precautions

  • Do not use essential oils without mixing them in a carrier oil.  Essential oils are powerful and may irritate the skin.

  • If you are pregnant, suffer from epilepsy or high blood pressure, you should always seek expert advice before using any essential oils.

  • Keep out of eyes and mucous membranes. (Flush with olive oil in case of contact.)

  • Use essential oils externally; do not ingest.

  • Keep essential oils away from children.

  •   Essential oils are contra-indicated during pregnancy and breast-feeding. It is strongly advised to consult a qualified practitioner before use.

  • Essential oils are highly volatile (flammable). Use only in burners designed for this purpose.

  • Oxidization and rancidity can cause toxicity


Essential Oil Safety Information – Aromaweb

Ethics of Practicing Aromatherapy or
Selling Aromatherapy Products in your massage practice.

Using aromatherapy can enhance our practice and provide another aspect of healing for clients.
Before you start each session with a client, it is important to ask them directly if they would like you to use aromatherapy in the session. 

This is part of the process of Engaging a Client to participate in their healing session and is essential in creating strong boundaries within your practice. It is also necessary to be aware that not everyone likes smells and that if you are storing many different oils in your room,  the mixture of scents can be overwhelming and even toxic.  You are essentially violating a clients’ boundary with the use of essential oils without having their informed consent. Being aware of the affects we have on clients is important in starting and building a massage practice.  

I had a client tell me a story about a bad experience with this situation.  The client was referred by her MD for treatment of back pain to a massage therapist.  The massage therapist had her room full of essential oils and proceeded to use them in the treatment.  The client was led to believe that she was going to this person for a medical treatment and while aromatherapy can be used medically, she had no understanding of it as a client.  She was overwhelmed by all the smells in the office and left feeling slightly ill and never went back to say the least.  

We also need to be aware of how most people will not tell you the truth about what they need.  They often come to us expecting us to know what is best for them and trust us to take care of them.  They won’t speak up easily.  

Selling Essential Oils to Clients

If you are considering selling aromatherapy products to your clients, please be aware of the ethical issues involved when selling products to clients.  Clients will often be easily persuaded by us because they perceive us to have more knowledge than them or may also feel an obligation to us because we have provided a nurturing experience for them.  This is called transference. When we try to combine this with selling oils (or any other products) we need to keep in mind whether we are selling this for our benefit or theirs.  When we ask clients to purchase something, we are asking them to further trust us.  

Aromatherapy Research from Pub Med

Non exhaustive sampling of literature on essential oils and adverse effects

Possible health and safety problems in the use of novel plant essential oils and extracts in aromatherapy.

Critical incident: idiosyncratic allergic reactions to essential oils.

Essential oils and miscarriage.

Aromatherapy risk to pregnant women.

Cytotoxicity of clove (Syzygium aromaticum) oil and its major components to
human skin cells.

Cytotoxicity of lavender oil and its major components to human skin cells.

Allergic contact dermatitis following exposure to essential oils.

Adverse reactions to fragrances. A clinical review.

Pharmaceutical and therapeutic potentials of essential oils and their
individual volatile constituents: a review.

The toxicity of essential oils.

The relationship between the chemical composition of three essential oils
and their insecticidal activity against Acanthoscelides obtectus (Say).

Mechanical irritation triggering allergic contact dermatitis from essential
oils in a masseur.

Aromatherapy in the management of psychiatric disorders: clinical and
neuropharmacological perspectives.

Aromatherapy Resources

Online Articles

Balancing the Therapist with Holistic Aromatherapy By Eileen D. Cristina : Massage and Bodywork Magazine


Aromatherapy Today Journal


Ethics of Practicing Aromatherapy in a Massage Practice

Information on Oils and their properties/qualities:

Aromacare UK

Emotional and Metaphysical Use of Aromas

Essential Oil Profiles – complete list of oils and their qualities, along with more information on how to use them.  List of safety concerns. Everything you want to know about carrier oils, history of aromatherapy and purity of essential oils.

Guide to the Therapeutic uses of oils


Aromatherapy Schools
Aromamedical – List of Aromatherapy Schools

Listing of homestudy aromatherapy classes 

Aromatherapy Careers 

Antibacterial and antifungal properties of essential oils. Kalemba D, Kunicka A.

Touch Research Institute

Inside Aromatherapy — How to Recognize and Offer High-Quality Aromatherapy
by Shellie Enteen,BA,LMT – Massage Today

Natural Scent Therapy How Bodywork Blossoms with Aromatherapy By Eva-Marie Lind Shiveley