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The Aromatic Message

By Shellie Enteen, RA, BA, LMBT

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Aromatic Allergy Relief

The end of summer and early fall is often a time when people exhibit symptoms of allergy (allergic rhinitis). There are blooming weeds and even sensitivity to mold that forms on fallen leaves. Sometimes, it's hard to tell whether the itching eyes, congestion, sneezing and even sore throat are this allergic response, rather than the common cold. But, fortunately, in either case, essential oils can provide relief.

For the massage therapist, this information is helpful when you have your own symptoms of allergy and don't want to alarm your clients or take over the counter medicines that can also make you drowsy. It can also be a benefit to both you and the clients who show up for their appointment, bleary-eyed and congested.

A ground-breaking piece of information came to my attention recently, provided by Robert Tisserand, via the Tisserand Insitute. It has applications for many conditions, including allergic response. "Some very new research has revealed that the brain is 'drained' by lymph vessels, showing for the first time a direct connection between the brain and the immune system. This suggests that inhaled essential oils could have effects on our immune system, which could have great relevance, again, in the treatment of some neurological diseases." (

allergy relief - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark We know that both allergies and colds are related to the immune system — in the former, the immune system produces histamine when it comes into contact with a certain substance; in the latter, the immune system is not strong enough to resist a viral load. How wonderful to have this evidence now that simple inhalation of essential oils can positively affect the immune system. Inhalation is also the fastest and most direct method of essential oil delivery, too. For the massage therapist, this means all you have to do is diffuse essences in the office or treatment room in order to create a therapeutic effect on the client and yourself. To increase exposure for the client, adding an essential oil to the massage blend prolongs the inhalation of essential oil molecules, even when the client no longer notices the aroma. Once an essential oil has exhausted the olfactory nerve and delivered its information to the brain, the experience of aroma is lowered, or disappears. However, essential oil molecules remain in the air, diffusing from the skin, where they are still inhaled and have effects.

Aromatherapists have often said that essential oils "boost the immune system." And that comment could mean anything from the ability to create white blood cells, to the stimulation of white blood cells already present, to taking an active role in overcoming the invasion. For allergies, there are several oils that are able to lower histamine levels. Certain essential oils also have anti-inflammatory and decongesting properties. Since there are many to choose from, the LMT can make a blend and vary it, too. That is a bigger benefit for the therapist, who is breathing the essential oil molecules in the same location for a long time. But it also allows for more specific effects to be selected, both on physical and mental/emotional levels, and targeted for the best outcome for a client's immediate needs.

When dealing with a known allergic respiratory response, there are two essential oils that are said to lower histamine levels: German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and Blue Tansy (Tannacetum annum). Fortunately, one or two drops of either is sufficient, as both are blue in color and will turn massage oils this color. I've used German chamomile (also called chamomile blue) in high dilution without creating issues with clothing or linens. Of the two, the tansy has a sweeter scent, but even German chamomile is acceptable when blended with other essences.

For those who suffer from allergic bronchial asthma, an uncommon essential oil from Morocco, Amni Visnaga has proven effective. It appears to stabilize the mast cell and prevent histamine release, and has also shown promise with allergic bronchial asthma because it is said to dilate the bronchia and relieve bronchial spasms. Use this sparingly because it is also photo-sensitizing, hepatotoxic in large, prolonged doses, and is said to have a very unpleasant aroma.

More common anti-inflammatory essential oils include: Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), and Roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis). Both of these would be preferred in blends for children. In the decongestant category, there is: Atlas Cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica), Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus), Juniper Berry (Juniperus communis), Laurel leaf (Laurus nobilis), Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia), Peppermint (Mentha x piperita), and Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ct. 1,8 cineole). Adding a citrus essential oil to the blend creates relaxation and relieves anxiety. It can also make the blend have a more pleasant aroma. Sweet orange (Citrus Sinensis var. dulcis) is often chosen as it is not considered photosensitizing.

A sample diffusion blend might include, 5 drops per small area nebulizing diffuser:

  • 8 drops Lavender
  • 6 drops Orange
  • 4 drops Laurel leaf (Laurel leaf must be used in very high dilution if applied to the skin as it has known sensitizing qualities, and is best used in diffusion.)
  • 2 drops German chamomile

A sample massage oil might include, in 1 oz carrier:

  • 6 drops Lavender
  • 2 drops Orange
  • 2 drops Eucalyptus
  • 2 drops Rosemary
  • 1 drop German chamomile
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