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Massage Today
April, 2008, Vol. 08, Issue 04

Office Scents Make Sense

By Shellie Enteen, RA, BA, LMBT

This month's Aromatic Message is appropriate for those who don't use essential oils to enhance bodywork treatments, as well as those who do. Simply introducing essential oils into the air of your office, waiting room and restrooms can clear, uplift, protect, relax and/or invigorate, depending on which oils you choose. Major spas certainly know and practice this subtle method of influencing clients and creating the desire to return. The method is called diffusion. Inhalation is the most immediate way to deliver an aromatherapy experience on all levels, so air diffusion has as powerful an effect as applying essential oils to the body. Although you won't run into issues of skin sensitivity with diffusion, there still are some important things to know and certain safety practices to follow.

Methods of diffusion range from simple to sophisticated and inexpensive to costly. Simple methods include placing drops of a pure essential oil or blend onto a material such as a cotton ball, piece of felt or unscented potpourri ingredients and letting the aroma fill the room. An air-spray can is made using essential oils and distilled water (put essences into a small amount of food-grade alcohol, like vodka, before adding water for greater dilution of essences.) Simply spray an area briefly two or three times a day. Direct the spray onto an air intake vent and it will fragrance the whole space if heat or air-conditioning is being used.

Heat accelerates the mobility of the aromatic molecules. To take advantage of this, a potpourri pot that keeps water hot but not boiling delivers an immediate effect. Simply add drops to the hot water from time to time. Unless you are extremely vigilant, it is best to avoid the "cup over candle" method in an office or waiting room due to the hazards of fire. However, a ceramic light bulb ring to which a small amount of water is added before your essential oils is appropriate. (Turn the light on, of course!) While they seem to be an easy alternative, I have found that the type of diffusers which use a cotton pad enclosed in a device that plugs into an outlet have the tendency to burn the oil and make the aroma less pleasant. Burning also will change the properties. (To avoid the "burn," water is added first to the light bulb ring or cup over a candle.)

More sophisticated and costly methods involve the use of electronic diffusers or "nebulizers." Some of these also come with a time-release setting, which I would suggest using. The aroma of a true essential oil will not be detected once the message of the essence is sent to the brain. However, the molecules remain in the air and will be detected by anyone entering (or re-entering) the area. Constant diffusion overloads the space and leads to negative responses such as headaches, lethargy or agitation. And the amount of essential oils required for continuous diffusion is an unnecessary expense.

Some important ideas to consider when choosing an essence or blend are: Don't choose essential oils known to sedate, such as lavender, marjoram, chamomile or clary sage, which is an "intoxicant" for the waiting room or reception area. Do choose them for the treatment room, unless you are doing aromatherapy blends in your treatment. Ylang ylang causes negative responses more rapidly if diffused on a continuous basis. Be cautious when using major stimulants such as rosemary. Add eucalyptus, thyme or bergamot to blends during cold and flu season. Stay away from those that have a history of allergic response, such as flowers, grasses and pine. Instead, opt for essences that are commonly encountered in life, such as citrus, spice, woods and geranium, which is a balancing, uplifting essence and common ingredient in cosmetics. Create a signature blend or vary your essences with the seasons or your own personal needs.

If you choose quality soap with essential oils, this alone can fragrance a restroom. Drying the peels of organic oranges, limes or grapefruit, and then placing small pieces in a pretty bowl with dried rose petals, lavender buds and pieces of cinnamon, clove or anise, is another attractive, natural way to fragrance an area.

Why should you choose true essential oils instead of fragrance products like plug-ins and scented candles? Recent studies have shown that certain chemicals in plug-ins and synthetic products can cause health problems. Many people are sensitive to the synthetic fragrances in scented candles and will react with sneezing or headache, even if the candle isn't burning. A soy candle with true essences will not have this effect unless the essences are specific allergens for that individual. Your clients may not be aware of these issues or even the reason for a negative response, but they will notice and appreciate an office fragranced with pleasing, natural aromas.

Hidden Hazards of Air Fresheners (NRDC Online Newsletter)

Could the floral scent of your air freshener contain toxic chemicals known to cause birth defects? NRDC recently tested 14 different air fresheners and found that 12 contained chemicals called phthalates (pronounced tha-lāt), which can cause hormonal abnormalities, birth defects and reproductive problems. Even air fresheners marketed as "all-natural" or "unscented" contained the hazardous chemicals.

In addition to phthalates, air fresheners might contain allergens, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), as well as cancer-causing chemicals such as benzene and formaldehyde.
Click here for previous articles by Shellie Enteen, RA, BA, LMBT.


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