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Massage Today
April, 2012, Vol. 12, Issue 04

The Business Side of Adding Aromatherapy to Your Practice

By Shellie Enteen, RA, BA, LMBT

While I usually focus on the therapeutic benefits of adding aromatherapy to the massage session, I receive many queries asking practical questions about resourcing quality oils and the retailing potential.

Here are some helpful pointers and advice on the business aspect of adding aromatherapy to a massage practice.

Important Facts About Quality

Other archived articles I have written discuss how quality and price of essential oils is based on where and how a plant is grown, how difficult it is to harvest or extract the essential oil and, of course, the ever-changing issue of supply and demand. The manufacture of essential oils is a very large and well established industry. Most of the oils produced are purchased in large quantities by the cosmetic and food industries. That leaves a much smaller portion for other buyers, like aromatherapists. Naturally, the bigger buyers get the lower prices. No essential oil retailer has exclusive access to a certain product, unless they grow their own plants, and this requires huge amounts of land in prime locations. It is highly unlikely that any company could own enough land to manufacture some 350 known extracted botanicals, or even the fifty most commonly used in aromatherapy. In fact, no such retailer exists. For the most part, there are long established, well known suppliers who service a growing number of retail essential oil companies.

How Much Will it Cost?

aromatherapy - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark True essential oils will have different prices for the same quantity. In other words, 10 mls of Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) might cost $16 or more, while 10 mls of Orange (Citrus sinensis var dulcis) costs $6 or less. The price of certain essences, such as Rose (Rosa damascena) at $45 or more for 5 ml, or Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis or Matricaria recutita) at $22 to $33 or more for 5 mls, might discourage therapists from purchasing and using these very helpful substances. But we must realize that we work with drops, not whole bottles. And we may add only one or two drops of these more expensive oils to the massage blend. Once the cost per drop is discovered, the costlier oils might be within reach.

It is very easy to calculate how much it costs to use each essential oil by dividing the price, by the number of mls to get the one ml price, and then dividing this by 25 as the number of drops in a ml (an approximate measure that is standard). Example: Lavender 16.00 divided by 10 mls = 1.60 per ml, 1.60 divided by 25 drops = 0.064, a little over six cents a drop. If you used 5 drops of Lavender in a 1 oz carrier oil blend, it would cost 0.064 x 5 or 32 cents. A drop of Rose would be 36 cents (45 divided by 5 = 9.00 per ml, divided by 26 equals 36 cents per drop). You might use one drop in the blend, possibly two. Generally speaking, the cost of any blend that includes some essences that are less expensive per drop and some that are more costly will come to or under $5 (including factoring in the cost of the carrier oil). In order to cover the cost or make a profit, it is necessary to charge at least $5 to $10 to add aromatherapy to the massage session. $10 is really best, as the client is also paying for your education and expertise in creating the blend.

How can you resource quality you can trust?

Apart from high profile multilevel companies whose prices can be much higher due to payments for the upline, there are many very reputable companies who retail essential oils. If you research resources online and find a company that belongs to a major aromatherapy organization like the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA), (which gives you information including Latin binomial, country of origin, method of extraction and says their oils are periodically tested by GCMS analysis), there is a good reason to trust their quality. Further investigation of other such companies will show that prices for specific essences will be very similar. Pay close attention to the Latin binomial to be sure you are looking at the same plant. A wide difference in price for the same amount might indicate a different plant, method of extraction or country of origin, or a specific chemotype. If you see a company with very low prices on essences that are usually costly, it is unwise to make the purchase, even though the price is tempting. Very low prices (unless wholesale or wholesale direct from distiller) frequently indicate a diluted or adulterated product.

Can I retail essential oils in my office?

Many massage therapists will not have the time to deal with all the issues of creating their own essential oil company. Apart from legal matters to register the business name and get the retail license, there is the time consuming process of resourcing and storing wholesale bulk essences, bottles and other apparatus. Then there is pouring them into smaller bottles, and labeling with the right information to provide protection from lawsuits. If you don’t wish to dedicate that kind of time, there is the potential to represent an essential oil company. Naturally, your profits are smaller, but so is your workload and your potential liability. If interested, contact me for the names of reputable companies that have representation opportunities.

Other than retailing the essential oils themselves, you can charge a higher amount for the aromatherapy massage if you utilize a custom blend and give what is left over to your client to take home. Inclusion in the session cost circumvents the whole issue of retail. If you are going to do this, make sure you clean off the plastic massage bottle, or pour into a glass bottle with a dropper insert. An individual blend can be added to bath salts or used on the body. Also be sure to provide instructions for use which include adding to the bath and the fact that once the essences are in the carrier, they need to be used within a month. Be sure to keep a record of the blend recipe. Your client might ask you to use it again.

It is important to remember that most massage insurance coverage does not extend to any essential oils or blends that you sell. It will usually cover any reaction to an essence used during treatment, unless the treatment includes a method that is recognized as unsafe use. Be sure to check with your insurance to find out if it covers techniques that are done with undiluted essential oils.

Click here for previous articles by Shellie Enteen, RA, BA, LMBT.


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