Aromatherapy massage is Swedish massage therapy using massage oil or lotion that contains essential oils (highly concentrated plant oils).
During an aromatherapy massage, you inhale these essential oil molecules or absorb them through your skin. They are thought to promote beneficial changes in your mind and body by affecting the limbic system, a region of the brain known to influence the nervous system.
The Benefits of Aromatherapy Massage
Aromatherapy massage appears to reduce the pain and discomfort of menstrual cramps, a 2015 study from the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology suggests. Participants did a self-massage with rose essential oil, an unscented almond oil, or no oil on the first day of menstruation for two menstrual cycles. By the second cycle, aromatherapy massage reduced the severity of pain compared to massage therapy with almond oil or no oil.
Massage with aromatherapy may also ease menopausal symptoms. In a study published in Menopause, researchers compared 30-minute aromatherapy massage (twice a week for four weeks) to massage with plain oil or no treatment and found that both massage and aromatherapy massage were effective in reducing menopausal symptoms (with aromatherapy massage being more effective than massage only).
Other research suggests that aromatherapy massage may not relieve symptoms in people with cancer. For a report published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in 2016, for instance, researchers analyzed previously published studies and concluded that “this review demonstrated no differences in the effects of massage on depression, mood disturbance, psychological distress, nausea, fatigue, physical symptom distress, or quality of life when compared with no massage.”
When comparing aromatherapy massage with no massage, they found that “there was some indication of benefit in the aromatherapy-massage group but this benefit is unlikely to translate into clinical benefit.”