The Power of Inhalation: Diffusing Essential Oils

By Shellie Enteen , RA, BA, LMBT

The Power of Inhalation: Diffusing Essential Oils

By Shellie Enteen , RA, BA, LMBT

When using essential oils as part of a massage practice, most of the focus goes on properties that can help relieve muscles and joints when applied topically. But the power of inhalation itself is sometimes overlooked, as are other therapeutic uses for essential oils that rely on this method alone.

These methods are useful in certain circumstances, such as:

  • When clients don't want to add scent to their massage oil.
  • To provide a more subtle influence on the client's well being.
  • To protect and uplift the session environment for client and therapist.

While the efficacy and route of absorption of essential oils through the skin is a topic filled with speculation, there is no doubt about the instantaneous and powerful affect of inhaling aromatic molecules. When essential oils are exposed to air, they quickly transform from the liquid to gaseous state which makes it possible for them to enter the nasal cavity. From here, they can bind to olfactory cilia and develop into an electrical charge which is carried on the olfactory nerve into the brain, stimulating our aroma recognition as it reaches the olfactory bulb and continuing on to the hypothalamus where it influences the lower autonomic and endocrine systems and the hippocampus, where it stimulates or creates memories. It can also remain a gas, entering the respiratory system where it is absorbed into the bloodstream via the nasal mucosa or the alveoli in the lungs.

Diffusion is the method of releasing essential oils into the air. There are many ways to do this, including sprays and placing drops on cotton, but the newer forms of electric ultrasonic diffusers that produce a cool mist are currently the preferred method of delivery. There is no chemistry changing heat involved, the molecules created are smaller and disperse rapidly, and this can also be one of the least obvious and most cost efficient ways to incorporate one or a blend of essential oils into the client session. Some have optional light features that can be used to impart a color glow to the area if desired. These diffusers use very few drops of essences to produce an affect and can be timed to one hour or increased to cover more than one session. They are also very easy to clean, usually requiring only a wipe with a paper towel. And they are often filled with regular tap water.

Working specific to the individual, it is also good to have an ionizing air purifier in the room. Run this after the session to clear the build up of aromatic molecules between clients. That is also advisable after any other form of aromatherapy session. It considers the next client, but it also counteracts buildup for the therapist. Smaller sizes to cover the area of a massage room are often easily affordable.

I've included some recipe ideas for diffusion during a massage session.

Relaxation and anxiety relief without sedation:

  • 2 drops geranium (Pelargonium graveolens)
  • 2 drops sweet orange (Citrus sinensis var. dulce)
  • 3 drops grapefruit (Citrus paradisi)

Relaxation and pain relief:

  • 4 drops lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
  • 1 drop bergamot (Citrus bergamia)
  • 1 drop clary sage (Salvia scalera)

Revitalizing and uplifting:

  • 2 drops geranium (Pelargonium graveolens)
  • 2 drops peppermint (Mentha x piperita)
  • 2 drops lemon (Citrus limon)

And during cold and flu season, to protect the client and the therapist:

  • 2 drops pine (Pinus silvestris)
  • 2 drops eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus)
  • 2 drops lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

If clients respond well to the diffused blend, consider carrying small diffusers and premade blends for a potential retail opportunity.