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The Aromatic Message

By Nyssa Hanger, MA, LMT, RYT

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Increase Circulation With Essential Oils

Many of our clients come to us because they need restoration. They're tired; they work too much; they're stressed. One body system that needs some additional support for so many of these clients is the circulatory system. This system helps give our cells food while also transporting waste products on their way out. Dysfunction in this system can lead to system-wide failure. But there's a reason they call heart disease the silent killer—because it can go unnoticed until it's too late.

There's much about our clients' health that we can't control. We can't make them exercise or eat foods that support a healthy system. But we can help them to create the change they need to move forward.

The circulatory system is all about movement, and it is movement that helps it function better. Massage facilitates lymphatic and blood flow through the manipulation of soft tissues with the techniques of effleurage, petrissage, myofascial release, and many other modalities. We can assist these processes by adding some essential oils to our massage oil, lotion, or crème that can increase circulation and make our treatments even more effective.

Stimulating the Tissue

Essential oils that help us increase circulation are called counter-irritants or rubefacients. Counter-irritants use their slightly irritant components to get just enough of a response from the tissue to stimulate greater circulation—this is accomplished by dilating the blood vessels. The trick with these oils is to use just enough and not too much.

Blending with these oils can be a fun and creative way to make safe blends that are enjoyed by both you and your clients. Some oils like Cinnamon and Clove provide an intensely warming effect, but can be irritant or sensitizing, and even cause an allergic-type reaction. So, here are three oils that are a bit on the safer side, but still promote good circulation.

Increase Circulation With Essential Oils - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) is distilled from the leaves, twigs, and needles of the Cypress tree and produces a woody scent. It is known to help with various viscosities and warming cold limbs. It might also be used for its astringent properties. This oil is known as a circulatory tonic, but it also might help with various cramps (muscle, menstrual, and more).

Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a more overtly warming oil. The oil carries that unique, spicy scent, and just as the tea might warm us up from the inside, the oil can do the same on the outside. I like to use Ginger when a client is stuck emotionally or can't seem to move forward in life. Ginger can also be good in a rub for a stomach ache; even just inhaling it may help in cases of nausea.

Black Pepper (Piper nigrum) can add a little more spice to any blend to help dilate vessels and increase local blood flow. This oil would be great in small amounts in blends for pain-relief, inflammation, and even to prevent colds and flus. Out of all three of these oils, this one is the strongest mental stimulant, so it could work great in the context of sports massage or massage in an office environment.

As always, I recommend diluting all essential oils that will be used topically. Due to the strong nature of these oils, each can be irritant if used undiluted. Use 15 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier (crème, lotion, oil, etc.). Try each of these oils together for a Get Up & Move blend:

  • 8 drops of Cypress
  • 4 drops of Black Pepper
  • 3 drops of Ginger

This spicy but grounding blend will further promote the circulatory effects of massage for your clients. It will most likely help keep you a little more alert as well—a plus when we work in such a relaxing environment.

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