Meditation, massage, and medicine can all be practiced
via aromatherapy. The benefits of aromatherapy are well
documented, ranging from the treatment of mild sleep disturbances as an adjuvant treatment in cancer care, and
massage therapy. The therapeutic utilization of essential
oils, coupled with their skin penetration and inhalation exposure, can pose both enhanced benefits or significant toxicological concern, especially in terms of skin sensitization,
irritation, allergic reactions, and contact dermatitis. Relative to allergic reactions, a large number of essential oils
are used in cosmetics as aroma ingredients. In a literature
study of 517 cosmetics formulations, 11 substances recognized as allergens were found in the essential oils used as
An indiscriminate use of an essential oil or an aroma ingredient in a cosmetics formulation without the knowledge
of the toxicology of their chemical constituents or biological
effects is cause for concern. The knowledge of such information for cosmetics formulators, estheticians, and healthcare
personnel can be highly beneficial for the consumer. This article shall present natural essential oils that are beneficial
for skin and their application in topical body care applications and preservation of cosmetics formulations.
Massage Therapy for
Essential oils for massage therapy and topical pain management are well-documented from antiquity: myrrh being
the legendary example. In recent years, massage therapy
has emerged as one of the most important complementary
and alternative therapies for the management of a variety
The spectrum of benefits provided by aroma-based massage therapy include arthritis, headache, back pain, and
pain from cervical nerves (cervical radiculopathy). Aromatherapy massage improves cancer patients’ well-being.
Hand massage with aroma oils is reportedly beneficial for
menstrual pain relief. Aroma massage has proven beneficial
for sleep quality among women with hypertension.
Aromatherapy Massage for Pain Relief
Massage therapy is an art and a science. The safe, non-pharmacological method of aromatherapy massage can be
readily integrated into clinical practice. Well-known essential oils, such as rosemary, geranium, lavender, eucalyptus,
and chamomile have been safely used. However, training
and experience of aromatherapy and knowledge of the properties of essential oils used by massage personnel is critical
to achieving optimal results.
Massage and reflexology are simple and effective treat-
ments that can be used to help manage pain and fatigue in
patients with rheumatoid arthritis. A combination of aro-
matherapy massage and inhalation aromatherapy has been
clinically proven to reduce burn patients’ anxiety and pain.
In a clinical trial, 90 patients with osteoarthritis of the
knee were studied in three groups: 1) treatment: massage
with lavender oil; 2) placebo: massage with almond oil; and
3) control: without massage. Aromatherapy massage with
lavender essential oil was found most effective in relieving
pain in these patients.
In another clinical trial, comparing the effectiveness of
aromatherapy and acupressure massage therapies on the
sleep quality of women, all experimental groups (blend-
ed essential oil, lavender oil, and acupressure massage)
showed significant improvements in sleep quality. However,
a significantly greater improvement in sleep quality was
observed in the blended essential oil groups compared with
the lavender oil group. This suggests use of a blend of es-
sential oils to be better than a single entity.
In a study to determine the effect of aromatherapy mas-
sage on quality of sleep and physiological parameters in in-
tensive care patients, aromatherapy massage enhanced the
sleep quality of patients and resulted in positive changes to
their physiological parameters.
Abdominal massage with essential oils has been found
to be an effective complementary method to relieve men-
strual pain (dysmenorrhea).
The experience and knowledge of the massage therapist
and selection of the right composition of massage oil are
critical in the success of this ancient treatment method for
providing relief and relaxation to the consumer.
of Massage Oils
Skin occupies a rather large surface area (~1.5 to 2.0 square
meters). Exposure to any treatment with the massage oil
can cause consumers perceived discomfort from erythema,
irritation, and dermatitis.
Blended fragrances and natural essential oils have
been used in perfumery and cosmetics. While many essential oils are now known to cause skin sensitization and
dermatitis, the testing of fragrance oils that may contain
such essential oils, for example Santalum album, Cananga
odorata, Jasminum species, Mentha piperita, Melaleuca
alternifolia, tea tree oil, and Lavandula angustifolia, may
not reveal this potential safety concern (unless such essential oils are tested themselves).
Even certain essential oils approved by the FDA as OTC
external analgesics (for example, camphor, menthol, methyl
salicylate, and turpentine oil), are classified as counter-irri-tants by the FDA monograph on External Analgesics Drug
Products for Over the Counter Human Use. A number of es-