Beauty & Brains
I’m Fiona, Head of Spa and Wellbeing here at the Hydro, and lover of all things aromatherapy! I’m guest blogging to share a bit of that passion with you, so get nice and comfy because you’re about to hear all about the method behind the massage…
Aromatherapy massage to be exact, as I said – I love it! And have done since I was a little girl, although back then aromatherapy just meant running my mum a bath and pouring a cocktail of nice smelling oils in! Fast forward a few years and I’ve travelled America and the Caribbean working as a Holistic Therapist, ran a wellness spa retreat working closely with doctors and nutritionists – and spent the past three years here at the Hydro. All thanks to bath time!
The reason I’m so passionate about aromatherapy is because I know first-hand the benefits that it can have for both mind and body. You might say; “that won’t work” or “it smells good but that’s it” or, my favourite, “that’s just a myth”. But hand-on-heart here – I promise you, it works. Aromatherapy massages are about so much more than just pampering (although it’s a pretty nice side effect) and I truly believe that aromatherapy is a necessity, and an alternative to modern day medicine in some situations. Why take a sleeping pill when you could have a ‘Deep Relax’ massage or a bath with essential oils that does the same job?
At this point I feel it’s only fair to warn you that things are about to get a little bit sciencey…
The essential oils used in our aromatherapy spa treatments work on an emotional and physical level to improve your health and wellbeing. Different essential oils can provide different benefits but they all enter the body in the same ways – either through ingestion, absorption or inhalation.
Ingestion (or eating them to you and me) isn’t really recommended and, regardless, is the least effective way of experiencing the therapeutic benefits of the oils, so we’ll gloss over that one (please don’t eat them.)
Our aromatherapy massages begin with inhalation. Well, technically they begin with you filling out a form to give me, or one of our fully trained and qualified therapists, a little information about your wellbeing. We’ll use this information to give you a choice of three Aromatherapy Associates essential oils, that’ll target your symptoms and give you the best results from your massage. But it’s your inhalation that makes the final decision! Once you’ve sniffed out your favourite of the three oils, it’s time to get up on that massage table.
Inhalation’s effects begin when you get that first whiff of an essential oil. Let’s take Aromatherapy Associates’ ‘Deep Relax’ as an example, it’s our miracle product for those in need of a good sleep. The oils used contain naturally calming camomile and vetivert aromatic molecules that, when inhaled, rise to the top of the nose and reach the olfactory membrane. The thousands of receptors within the olfactory membrane produce nerve impulses that travel to the limbic system, which controls our emotional and psychological responses. All this happens within fractions of a second, so you’ll start to feel a little sleepy pretty much straight away.
The limbic system is the oldest part of the brain and it’s linked to our long-term memories, which is why certain smells can trigger memories of a particular place or person (for me, Chanel No. 5 will forever be my Grandmother’s perfume). So when your nose selects that essential oil, it’s actually your limbic system’s association drawing you toward the scent of the oil that your body needs most at that time.
Now I’ll explain the effects of aromatherapy through absorption, which thankfully, is a little easier to understand…
We’ll take your chosen essential oil and mix it with a carrier oil (so that it’s not too concentrated) which will absorb into your skin throughout the massage. Massage is a general term for pressing, rubbing and manipulating your skin, muscles, tendons and ligaments, and the physical process of massages can have enormous benefits to the body itself. There are a number of different types and some are very specialised. You can even get some done by the therapist’s feet, but that’s a story for a different day – back to aromatherapy!
The oil is carried into the blood stream via your hair follicles. Once it’s in the blood stream it starts to effect change almost immediately. Most essential oils will start working within minutes, and although they leave the body after a few hours via the kidneys, their effects can last much longer within the tissues, so you’ll have plenty time to catch up on those Z’s.
I know what you’re thinking – how are therapists immune to these effects? Well, we’re not. But thankfully, there are very few hair follicles on our hands so we don’t absorb much of the product. I have to admit though, if I start my morning by giving an 80-minute ‘Deep Relax’ treatment, it can be quite challenging to have a productive day!
There you have it, our scientific secrets revealed! As with all things, everyone gets different results and it’s important that you make sure your therapist knows if you’re under medical care. Some oils can increase blood pressure for example, and some shouldn’t be used during pregnancy. So, you should always work with an accredited therapist that you can trust – and take appropriate precautions as recommended.
Beauty really is so much more than skin deep, and when you combine it with passion, good training, retraining, and a little aromatherapy – powerful things can, and will, happen.