Most massage therapists are familiar with aromatherapy the art and science of using aromatic plant extracts for physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Many of us use essential oils in massage lubricants for physiological effects that help us reduce muscle tension, ease musculoskeletal pain, and aid relaxation responses.
A large body of research demonstrates that aromas positively affect stress levels, cognitive processes, brain chemistry, behavior, perception, and emotional states. For example, changes in skin potential levels (which indicate a person's level of arousal) demonstrate that jasmine essential oil stimulates (increases a person's level of arousal). German chamomile essential oil sedates (decreases a person's level of arousal)? Studies that show rats take longer or shorter times to perform tasks after inhalation of particular plant essential oils indicate that lavender, rose, and valerian are sedatives (slow performance), while lemon, basil, and rosemary are stimulants (increase performance).
In one study, there was an increase of cerebral blood flow in humans after inhalation of 1.8 cineol that led to increased efficiency and precision on the work performance of office staff." Oils high in 1.8 cineol seem to increase mental clarity and cognitive processing. Significant amounts of 1.8 cineol occur in eucalyptus, rosemary, and bay laurel essential oils. Research also demonstrated that the inhalation of rosemary, lemon, basil, and peppermint essential oils caused the release of noradrenaline from the locus coeruleus, resulting in reports of increased energy from test participants."
Numerous studies on peppermint essential oil demonstrate that it promotes alert mental states, enhances the sensory pathway for visual detection, allows people more control over their allocation of attention, and increases word learning and recall when used in grade school classrooms at ambient levels (below conscious detection). In a study to show that scent impacts social relationships, people in photographs received higher "attractiveness ratings" when the test subjects were exposed to a pleasant aroma. Lavender, Roman chamomile, German chamomile, and sweet marjoram have been found to sedate the body and decrease stress because they stimulate the raphe nucleus, a part of the brain that causes the release of serotonin. The use of ambient lavender essential oil led to increased sleep and better waking moods in psychogeriatric patients under long-term treatment for insomnia in various studies. And ambient sweet marjoram improved the quality and amount of sleep people experienced. Over time, its regular use helped balance sleeping and waking patterns.
Massage & bodywork november/december 2021 article