Aromatherapy Massage Makes Good Scents
The aromas of the holiday season all around us. Cinnamon, nutmeg, peppermint sticks, evergreen trees and a warm fire burning in the fireplace can elicit memories. Maybe it’s the turkey baking in the oven or warm coffee brewing that creates a warm feeling in your heart.
Have you ever wondered how a smell can do that?
Our ability to smell is the only sense that has 2 brain connections. The main nerve used in smelling is the olfactory nerve. The olfactory nerve winds its way to the top of the brain at the cerebral cortex (center for decisions, memory) and has another connection that travels through the thymus (our center for emotions). Sight, hearing, touch and taste do not have that.
There is a membrane above the sinuses with tentacle-like projections (cilia) that capture a scent (molecule). The nerve connections allow the brain (cerebral cortex) to decipher whether it is a danger to run from (fire) or not. Once there is no danger sensed, the emotions take over. This is where smell begins to create a memory associated with an aroma.
Essential oils are technically molecules from plants extracted from stems, leaves and flowers. They are not a true oil or fat.
When inhaling a rose, for example, the molecules from the petals float to the membrane that can differentiate between 2000-4000 different scents. Each molecule has a “key” that fits into the “lock” within the membrane.
Each molecule is unique and sends that signal to the brain where it “unlocks” the code to reveal the exact aroma. There are many combinations that the brain recognizes. When it senses no danger, like gas or fire, the emotion center takes over.
With aromatherapy, when you inhale an essential oil, it stimulates the central nervous system (cerebral cortex) and comes in direct contact with the nasal passages, sinuses, trachea and lungs.
This contact with the internal structures of the respiratory system has a lot of benefits:
- Can treat respiratory conditions like colds, flus, sore throat, sinus congestion and environmental allergies.
- Often the first portal for infections, the respiratory system can be protected from viral invaders.
- Essential oils cross into the bloodstream through lung tissue. It makes for a quick delivery system for the oils to be distributed throughout the body.
If you were to use essential oils in a carrier oil like jojoba or coconut oil in a massage therapy session, the molecules would still enter the bloodstream through the skin, only at a slower pace. You can still inhale some of the scent, but it allows for more direct contact to the area of concern.
Some other benefits include:
- It can nourish and heal skin conditions
- Can be great for healing tissue from an injury and as a pain analgesic.
- Continuous absorption during a therapeutic massage.
Essential oils should not be used on skin straight up without using a carrier oil, and they should never be ingested because they stick to the mucous membranes of the digestive system and cause irritation. You should seek guidance when selecting a particular essential oil for diffusing, inhaling, and skin contact from a Certified Aromatherapist.
Too much of a good thing can be bad for you and your body. The way the oils are produced, if they are adulterated with chemicals, and the way you mix/dilute them can all affect the outcome of your experience. Most oils, when used properly, can be therapeutic, healing, and calming.
Next time you want to do something special for yourself, try an aromatherapy massage. It just makes sense during the hectic holiday season to add a custom blended scent that will add to your pleasant memory bank. It is a wonderful gift to give yourself.