So you need to know how to use essential oils? if so, great…
You’re on the right place to read a definitive guide to this matter. Keep reading…
The most important thing to remember about essential oils is their potency.
They are so strong, absorbing them through the skin is ample for the magic of their medicine to work.
They must be diluted in some way.
It might be in a cream or lotion, a massage oil or even in a bath oil.
There are a great number of sites on the internet saying their essential oils are safe to ingest orally.
I would vehemently suggest you do not do this.
Many oils have irritant properties that could burn the passage down to your gut.
If you consider that together the large and small intestines measure about 28 ft in length, that could be a really painful episode.
To put it into context too, as professional aromatherapists, we have to take out insurances.
If we prescribe this as a way of administering essential oils our policies are voided and no longer cover any accidents that could occur. It is that bad an idea. Please do not do it!
How much essential oil to use
This is kind of a how long is a piece of string question, but in my experience the answer is always…less than you think.
It should really be one drop of essential oil to 25 drops of carrier, but frankly life is too short for any equation quite so fiddly.
The oils are very strong and trigger effects with very little help at all.
Some, like clary sage and valerian become stupefying in large amounts. Others actually change from being relaxing to stimulating if you use too much.
The old adage you were taught when cooking hold true here, you can always add a little bit more.
You will notice in the safety data for each oil, later in the book, sometimes there is a suggestion for a maximum dosage of particular oil.
This is based on Essential Oil Safety Data from Tisserand and Young.
It denotes the strongest dilution of an oil in trials that did not cause a skin reaction.
This is useful advice if you are worried about a particular set of effects being too strong.
Helichrysum oil, for example is listed as no stronger than 0.5%.
This means you will need 200 drops (10ml or about 2 tsp) of carrier to your one drop of essential oil.
When making a mix I would go for between 1-3 drops of an oil….three being if I think I need a sledgehammer.
One or two will usually suffice. This also means you have room in your mix for far more oils.
Often when I make a mix, I will make a lot.
I’ll use a 50ml bottle of carrier and add tons of oils to it. The industry standard for essential oils is that 1 ml = 20 drops (not an exact science because some oils are more viscous than others but it serves a purpose) 50mls then =1000 drops of oil. I can use 1000/25= 40 drops.
Recently I made a blend for a patient with Chronic Pelvic Pain Disorder.
I wanted to address the pain and the emotions psychologists suspected might be behind the problem.
Actually there are a few drops too many because, in total 43 drops of essential oil found their way in, but that’s not enough to worry about.
It does mean though, my patient can enjoy the effects of many oils little and often.
It’s very strong, but far more effective than doing a small mix which could contain fewer oils.
Start off small and add more if you are not seeing the effects you want.
If I make it to five drops and cannot see the desired effects, then I feel I probably have picked the wrong oils and blend again.
There are rare occasions when I use more, but they are few and far between.
You will see, in the blends by other therapists though, sometimes they will lean very heavily on one certain oil.
One of the reasons for this is to make it act on more levels. By adding more drops of an oil it raises its vibration and shifts it from physical uses to emotional and spiritual aspects.
Without fail your essential oils should be diluted in some sort of carrier.
The most common of these are – carrier oils.
These are macerations of oils, or sometimes they are cold pressed. Whilst they do not have the potency of an essential oil they do nevertheless have their own properties and can be extremely useful to add to your treatments.
Each oil looks very different and has a different texture and consistency to it too.
Calendula is bright sunshine yellow. Tamanu is a slightly unpleasant dark murky green. Sea Buckthorn is a sharp bright orange.
You will want to consider this when using for massage, and when you add to a cream or lotion it will change the appearance of that too.
We are not quite talking as drastic a mistake as massaging with beetroot juice, but even so there may be staining concerns.
They will not only enhance the properties of your essential oils but carrier oils improve creams and lotions no end.
They thicken the structure of the cream and add a luscious silkiness to it.
Best of all is how much cheaper they are than essential oils so you can add a brilliant new dimension to a cream without spending much money at all.
As a guide for measuring, you probably need about a teaspoon of carrier to each 4 drops of essential oil.
There is no need to increase the amount of essential oil by very much just because you add more carrier.
Remember it is the essential oils that do the heavy lifting, the carrier is nothing more than the cart to transport them.
Mess around with the carrier to get your consistency right and make sure that you have enough oil for each treatment.
A note of caution is the fact many of these oils are cold pressed from nuts.
Since it seems nut allergies are on the rise (or at least awareness of them seems to be, anyway) you should consider this each time you make a treatment for someone.
Be aware the kernel of a fruit can cause the same reactions as can the seed, so peach kernel, camellia, jojoba, tamanu and apricot kernel should be added to your use-with- caution list.
Carrier oils tend to come in between 100-500ml bottles. The temptation might be to buy a larger bottle for economy, but ensure you will use it enough.
Carrier oils mostly start to go rancid between 6-12 months because they oxidise pretty quickly.
All that being said, don’t feel you have to rush out and buy any of these.
The vegetables oils, grapeseed, sunflower, rapeseed or olive oils you have on the shelf to cook with at home are wonderful in their own rights.
Olive oil is thicker and so feels delicious for the person receiving the massage, but you will feel you have worked harder at the end of it.
Grapeseed is one of the thinnest oils, gives good slip on the skin and helps essential oils to absorb into the skin quickly.
Remember the most important uses of these carrier oils, over and above their properties, are to dilute the essential oils to a dose which your skin can easily handle, to help them absorb through the skin easily and to break them down small enough for your liver and kidneys to be able to assimilate them when it comes to eliminating waste.
There are many carrier oils on the market today, so I have included a short list of some of my favourites with their uses.
When you tire of using the sunflower, olive or groundnut oils you have in the cupboard, here are some more you may enjoy experimenting with:
This is a fab oil to add to blends that feel too thin. It is a thick robust oil and you only need about a teaspoonful to make the mix thick and luxurious to use.
It is very smoothing and plumping to the skin so is delicious to add to face masks too.
This is a medium consistency oil with a very pale peach-y hue.
It would be my choice to treat any problem where there is inflammation.
So, perhaps a swollen ankle, or very fiercely red skin might be good examples.
It is soothing and reduces inflammation very quickly.
I would use this for eczema as it has a high gamma linolenic acid content.
It is also extremely effective at cleansing the liver (which is also a concern with eczema. See The Essential Oil Liver Cleanse and The Aromatherapy Eczema Treatment). Borage is a thin and colourless oil.
A cheaper alternative to the essential oil this is a very caring skin healer. Of all skin healers, this is my favourite.
This thin, colourless oil is cold pressed from the seed.
It is bursting with Omega 6. This is a naturally occurring fatty acid that the body uses to regenerate tissues.
I love this oil for mature skins because it refines them, softens them and helps the body to bring younger, newer skin cells to the surface.
This is an emollient oil, and it helps the skin to retain moisture. Use, then, to thicken moisturisers.
This will work best if used in conjunction with regular facial massage to reveal fresher skin cells too.
Use also for hair treatments, nails and cuticles too.
This one is a book in its own right, there are so many uses.
Use for very dry and brittle hair to add moisture.
Excellent for sports massage because it helps the body to burn energy far more efficiently.
I use it mostly for carrying oils when I want an antibacterial kick though.
Coconut is antibacterial and antifungal.
Ooo this is deliciously thick unguent oil. The bright yellow hue betrays how laden it is with GLA.
This component is wonderfully healing to the skin.
It is a useful carrier to use in your treatments of eczema and psoriasis but also for gynaecological care too.
I would not suggest massage for broken skin conditions such as eczema, not least because it is likely to be embarrassing to the patient, but a cream or lotion with this added can be beautiful.
One of the nut oils, obviously, it oozes vitamin E so is a fabulous skin food.
By far its best action is the way it will exfoliate the skin.
Use it as your facial massage and after a moment or two you will feel grittiness under your fingers as the dead skin cells slough off.
Now this is one of my favourite carriers because if you know where to look it can be a delicious bargain.
Check out Asian grocery stores and even the Indian aisles in supermarkets.
It is a wonderful nourishment for the hair and is used extensively for daily treatments in Ayurvedic medicine.
It carries the same properties as jasmine essential oil so use it for preparations where there may be scarring, for gynaecological complaints that may include the need for a uterine tonic.
I would avoid using if for oily skins/ acne though, simply because this golden yellow oil is so very thick it is just too heavy for the already greasy complexions.
This oil is cold pressed from the seed. It is a very good skin stabilizer.
Treat both oily and dry skins with jojoba because it helps to balance sebum production, turning the tap on or off as needed.
This is another good carrier to moisturise cuticles.
It is especially helpful with false nails because it nourishes the nail beds too, which might otherwise become damaged.
This is the perfect match to go with Neroli essential oil when you are treating more mature skins.
It helps to plump the skin and smooth lines.
It has high concentrations of vitamins A & E and because it is a very thin and light oil, is better for skins that are prone to blocked pores too.
Again we have a skin regeneration product here.
Use on damaged complexions, rosacea and acnes, for instance.
I also find it useful after a wound has healed to avoid scarring.
This is a gentle oil and so would be my oil of choice for children, rather than jasmine which has a bit too much sass for kids, somehow.
This is a super-oil. It is on my bucket list to find these growing naturally and squeeze the oil straight from the berry into my hand.
Use for any problem where there is congestion, phlegm, catarrh, constipation, even impacted skin…that list is endless.
It is a fiercely efficient skin healer, by that I mean it heals quickly, but is not gentle, so avoid on skins that are sore.
It has very low skin protection from the sun too, so is useful for moisturisers whilst you are on holiday. (It is not strong enough to replace a sunscreen though.)
It is too strong to use as a massage oil on its own and will severely stain the skin.
Use not more than a teaspoon in a mix or just a few drops into a cream or lotion.
St John’s Wort
This comes from the beautiful yellow flowered bush Hypericum. You may have noticed it has a scarlet bud and this is where the oil comes from.
The bright red hue of the oil betrays its source. It is a useful choice for conditions with aches and pains, whether that is rheumatism or arthritis even sports massage.
It is also helpful for treating symptoms of stress incontinence.
St John’s Wort is safe to use but can neutralise the effects of many drugs.
When I checked the database today there was 729 contraindicated drugs (5027 brand and generic names) and of course as more drugs come on the market I suspect that number will also grow.
This dark green oil has more clinical than beauty applications.
It is anti-inflammatory, anti-neuralgic and is skin healing too.
Again, this is too thick and green to be the only oil in your massage treatment, perhaps blend with grapeseed.
The very best walnut oil is Topaz blue, but it is rare to find this.
Mostly yours will be fairly translucent, and that quality is fine to use.
This is a very good oil to increase circulation and also to boost hormonal levels.
Where to apply essential oils
As explained, oils absorb through the skin, into the blood stream.
This means they can get to the spot that needs them wherever your place them onto the skin.
Here’s a nice experiment for you…
Rub a clove of garlic on the soles of your feet (not on a night of planned romance please!!!), then 20 minutes later garlic can be smelt on your breath.
That is because the essential oils have travelled around the body via the blood system.
It makes sense though, that the closer to the site of pain you can get, the more effective your therapy will be. I also find it helpful to apply the oils on two other spots.
Turn your hand palm up and you will notice blue veins in your wrist. This is an excellent blood supply close to the surface and so works very well for fast administration of oils.
For infection issues, coughs, colds etc I also rub down the side of the neck where the lymphatic system drains, just below the collar bone.
The lymphatic system has several functions but notably here it combats infection and removes waste cells and products from the system.
Ways to administer essential oils
Creams and lotions
This is a great way of using essential oils because it means you can administer little and often.
It is possible to make them, but it is fiddly and quite expensive to do.
Jill Bruce sells blank creams and lotions in her store, The Apothecary.
These are my preferred way of administering oils. You simply add however many drops you need to use and stir them in.
I have included a section on massage and of course this would be the preferred method of application for this, but actually massage oils can be used at any time.
The vegetable oil is nothing more than a means of diluting the oil to transport it through the skin.
In the bath
Wallow in luxury, and I promise you nothing else really comes close to the relaxation of an aromatherapy bath.
I tend not to make bath oils, rather a few drops straight in the water serves just as well.
If you do have a contact who is an aromatherapist, ask them to make you a bath oil, because you can benefit from several oils at once rather than paying out for bottle after bottle of more costly essential oils.
These have come a long way over the twenty years since I trained. Then you had to have a little candle under a warm bowl of water for the oils to diffuse.
Now there are electronic gadgets to do the trick and they are ace. Once the oils evaporate they entirely change the atmosphere of the room.
This is wonderful for also changing people’s moods, you can uplift, soothe arguments or even seduce. On a physical level this is useful for headaches, nausea, insomnia and breathing complaints in particular.
This is at the very forefront of my mind at the moment as I am designing a range to help with the emotional fall out from terminal illness.
They need not be used for anything quite so serious though. Simply choose uplifting oils, relaxing, stimulating or whatever effect you are looking for, to make your candle.
The easiest way is with a sheet of beeswax which you can buy from most craft shops or direct from a beekeeper. (Ebay quite often list them too)
The sheets come in rectangles and you can get 4 candles from each one. Cut the rectangle in half vertically and then cut each section diagonally to create two triangles.
Smear some essential oil down the vertical edge of your triangle. Let it dry for a few moments then take a piece of cotton string to make a wick.
Lay it along the same vertical side then crease a small line of the beeswax against the wick to hook it into place.
Roll the beeswax snugly around the wick. Wind it as tightly as you can against the string. Trim the wick to length.
Some people prefer to put the essential oil directly onto the wick but as it burns you lose the freshness of the scent that way.
These are a great way to clean your surroundings. You might want to cleanse the air of bugs hanging about when the kids bring coughs and colds home, or perhaps simply refresh the scent of laundry and linen.
If you don’t like using chemical cleaning products, these are good to wipe down surfaces, telephones and light switches where dirt and germs like to breed.
Find yourself an atomiser spray. I use the ones you mist plants with. Use 12 drops of oil to a 50 ml bottle.
Now you can simply add the oils to distilled or tap water, but you will find the oils sink to the bottom.
To break down the oils a little I add a teaspoon of vodka into the mix which also prevents oily stains on your lavender scented linen.
Great for colds because it helps to unblock the sinuses, but I also do one of these once a week in my skin care regime to unblock the pores and really let the grime come away.
Any size bowl will do, but I use my pyrex apple crumble dish because it is big enough to get a good coverage of steam to my face but small enough to make a airtight tent with the towel!
Fill with boiling water, and add about 3 drops of essential oil.
KEEP A GOOD 6 – 8 INS AWAY FROM THE BOWL – any closer and you will scald your face.
Make a tent over your head with the towel so no steam can escape.
My record is 2 mins 56 secs….make sure you post in the comment below if you beat it!
No blowing your nose or wiping your face in the middle, mind! Let’s see who is made of the hardest stuff!
There are two types of compresses, hot and cold.
To choose which one to use, think about the effect you want to bring about.
Heat will open up and release tissues, cold will cease and tighten them.
Any condition where you would have stuck a bag of peas on, use a cold compress, to relax something, use warm.
Fill the washing up bowl with just warmer than hand hot water and then add 5 drops of essential oil.
Soak your compress and wring out well. Place on the affected part, and keep warm with a hot water bottle on top. Leave for 5 minutes.
Same as above with cold water and substitute water bottle for ice or that same bag of peas! Ensure you keep the patient warm because temperature can drop very quickly doing this.
It can be useful to use both. Imagine a rather revolting pus filled ulcer and we want to draw the poison out.
Then we would use warm to open the tissues, and cold to close them to rest, then when we open them again with a warm compress, it draws the poison must faster.
Alternating compresses makes a suction action which is very efficient.
What is important to remember is when you draw toxins out into a compress, it brings body salts with it.
These are very corrosive to towels!! Don’t throw your towel in the laundry basket and forget about it because when you come to wash it…it will be full of holes!
Wash out compresses immediately. Many people use pieces of muslin, I just use an old towel.
1/15th of a drop
This is one of my own favourite methods of using essential oils.
Sometimes an oil is too harsh (like camphor for instance) or would smell hideous in a blend ( you might think cade, I couldn’t possibly comment) but I feel I need “the vibration” of the oil.
Then I take some carrier oil and count out 14 drops and add one drop of essential oil.
I can then use just 1/15 of a drop. It is worth having a diluted bottle in your box or this becomes rather tedious doing it over and over again!
In France, where the therapists undergo a much more in depth training than anywhere else in the world, aromatherapists sometimes use oils neat on the skin.
These are in cases where the therapist has taken a very full case history and is working at a deep level with the patients.
It is best for the untrained therapist to remain within the confines of using diluted essences which are easily strong enough to do their jobs.
Many oils cause sensitisation through undiluted use (in particular Tea tree) and can become very painful experiments.
There are a couple of exceptions that prove that rule.
- Use lavender neat on a burn, pour it on with gusto, it will heal it far better than anything else will.
- Dab neat lavender onto teenage spots. It will balance the sebum production and attack any bacteria causing the break out.
- Use lemon and tea tree neat on warts and verrucae. Apply with a cotton bud and avoid the skin surrounding because lemon in particular can burn.
Otherwise, unless instructed by a qualified practitioner, please dilute the oils.
You may come across three alternative methods of application that seem to contradict me here. So I will cover each in turn simply for clarification.
In the States, Australia, and other countries, three methods of application have become popularised that use neat oils as a standard treatment.
The Raindrop Technique
This method uses 7 single essential oils and 2 essential oil blends placed strategically along the spine, the neck and the feet.
The oils are used neat and the treatment lasts around about an hour.
The idea of this treatment is very much about balancing and releasing the bodily systems.
Some therapists report the method is so relaxing to the spine that their patients are ½ ins taller after the treatment.
Neuro- auricular Technique (NAT)
This technique was first pioneered to help Parkinson’s disease patients by an aromatherapist Gary Young.
It involves using a rounded probe to massage neat essential oils into the base of the skull and certain vertebrae to connect the physical body and the emotional mind.
This method of massage involves massaging neat essential oils into energy channels in the body called meridians.
You might recognise these as the lines an acupuncturist follows to heal the body.
The Alliance of Aromatherapy recently released the following declaration:
Raindrop technique (RDT), Aromatouch and similar techniques do not meet the criteria for safe practice, as defined by the AIA Standards of Practice. There have been reported adverse effects regarding RDT, in particular. These techniques are typically practice as a one size fits all technique and may not be suitable for people with compromised liver and kidney function, those with heart disease, those on blood thinning medicine, those with allergies to aspirin and other disorders.
For the purposes of this article, I would like to state I agree with their stance.
I do use a very similar way of treating patients to Aromatouch, myself, but use oils that have been diluted.
Essential oils are extremely powerful medicines.
I’ll take you right back to where you and I came in and remind you…they have many benefits.
You have no idea of what lurks beneath the skin (I had a blood clot in my lungs that doctors suspect formed five weeks before on a plane journey….the body hides things for a long time before you notice them).
Please do not use essential oils undiluted on the skin, do not take internally, vaginally or rectally, unless prescribed by a qualified practitioner…and even then expect to regret the tea tree on a tampon treatment for thrush within seconds of doing it.
Every new aromatherapist has done it…..but only once.
If nothing else, your eyes water, and then if you are a complete wuss like me…you start to cry.
Essential oils are not suitable for everyone. The way they encourage the hormones in the systems to alter can create damaging effects in some groups.
The main people to have concerns are:
- Diabetes sufferers
- Epilepsy patients
- Pregnant women
- Breast feeding women
People with diabetes can safely use most essential oils with the exception of angelica oil.
It is worth keeping essential oils containing high ketone content to a minimum especially when the diabetes symptoms are erratic.
Oils high in ketones are:
- Peppermint – Mentha x piperita
- Rosemary ct camphor – Rosmarinus officinalis ct camphor
- Rosemary ct verbenone – Rosmarinus officinalis ct verbenone/camphor
- Sage (Spanish) – Salvia lavandulifolia
- Spearmint – Mentha spicata
- Spike Lavender – Lavandula latifolia
- Turmeric – Curcuma longa
- Valerian (Root) – Valeriana officinalis
- Vetiver – Vetiveria zizanoides
Dill and fennel however, are balancing to the pancreas and as such these are very helpful to suffers.
Neuro-toxic oils, dangerous not only to sufferers of epilepsy but also some types of schizophrenia too, are:
Rosemary, fennel, sage, eucalyptus, hyssop, camphor and spike lavender (Lavendula latifolia). These are best avoided by these sufferers.
The many actions that essential oils have, make essential oils dangerous in pregnancy.
All essential oils should be avoided during the first 16 weeks.
Throughout the rest of the pregnancy avoid Angelica, Black Pepper, Clove, Cypress, Eucalyptus, Ginger, Helichrysum, Marjoram, Myrrh, Nutmeg, Oregano, Peppermint, Roman Chamomile, Basil, Cassia, Cinnamon bark, Clary Sage, Lemongrass, Rosemary, Thyme, Vetiver, Wintergreen, White Fir.
The taste of essential oils oozes through into breast milk and so you may find it puts baby off feeding.
There are some oils however which the breast feeding mum may find useful.
Carrot Seed Oil enhances milk flow, geranium soothes engorged breasts and
Marigold heals cracked nipples.
All others should be used with care. If baby does stop feeding stop using oils for a day and see what happens.
Different types of massage
There are many different types of massage.
Aromatherapy massage is often offered in beauty salons.
The strokes in an aromatherapy massage are long sweeping strokes. The rest of the treatment benefits of course come from the essential oils themselves.
For deeper muscle work, seek out a therapist who offers shiatsu and may also implement acupressure points to help the body detoxify its self even deeper.
To alleviate the friction between the skin and the masseur’s hands, we use a carrier.
In aromatherapy we use vegetable oils but also talcum powder works very well to let the hands slip easily over the skin. This is often used in Swedish massage.
Benefits of Massage
What a world we live in. We have a fantastic playground close to where I live.
The children of tourists from all around the world congregate on the steps of the zip slide to have a go.
Most of them aren’t tall enough to get on, so they need an extra little shove up.
In years gone by you would have stuck a hand under their bum and given them a boost.
Life’s just not like that anymore and so the other parents just have wait slightly uncomfortably until the fed up kid’s mum or dad comes to the rescue.
Touch of any description is very taboo.
So who do we touch?
Our lovers; deep in the darkness of night?
Snogging in broad daylight seems to be OK for the youth.
The rest of us look on with slight discomfort and a tinge of envy that those days of gay abandon are behind us.
I suspect anyone who has found their way to this article, is fairly comfortable hugging a child. But there are many children who don’t enjoy the security of an innocent bed time cuddle.
Our pets get a fairly good deal on the stroking front, but people not so much nowadays. In many cases a nurse even has to don a protective pair of rubber gloves to protect herself and her patient.
The age of innocence is gone. So touch, from a relative stranger, is quite an extraordinary thing if you think about it.
To enjoy a massage you have to submit your trust completely to a person. It is not easy for many people to do.
In some strange way I suppose you could think of it a bit like the dominatrix and her client.
He lies there because he no longer wants to be in control, even just for a few moments, he wants to submit.
Massage is the non-sexual version of this. Take off your clothes, strip away responsibility for half an hour.
The mind switches off…if you are lucky, but it is not an automatic response.
If a person is having a massage for the first time, they may giggle.
Vulnerable at lying with no clothes on, and of course it could be the therapist has not judged their hand pressure correctly…and it tickles!
Try to be the opposite of the hair dresser when you are massaging someone. Don’t try to engage them in conversation, just let them drift.
Occasionally check your hand pressure is not to hard or too light, ensure they are warm enough, and of course let them know if you want them to turn over.
The Physical Effects of Massage
The skin is the largest organ in the body.
It is covered in tiny pores which allow essential oils to enter your body and start doing whatever good you require of them.
By rubbing the skin, you warm it. One of the skin’s functions is to control body temperature so, as it rises, the pores open more.
This allows even quicker admission for the oils. The chemicals speedily enter tiny capillaries on the base layer of the skin and flush around the blood system.
Beneath the skin are muscles. There are several different types of muscle which are all constructed in different ways (for example cardiac muscle) but the ones sitting atop your bones are constructed from many bundles of fibres.
When a muscle works it creates a waste product called lactic acid.
This should be removed from the body by the lymphatic system. If the muscles have been working harder than normal though, not all the acid is removed.
Over time this crystalises and becomes painfully trapped between the fibres of your muscles.
Try rolling your neck, can you feel some crunching?
Lactic acid crystals. These crystals disintegrate quite well under finger tip touch and so massage is vital for keeping muscle stiffness at bay.
A good masseur listens to their fingers to feel where knots and tightness appear under them.
Even though there is a script to a massage, the skill is in knowing where to take a moment to concentrate on a painful spot.
Massage increases both circulation and lymphatic drainage.
The job of the lymphatic system is to rid our bodies of waste but also to increase immunity.
The system circulates the body in a similar way to the blood system, except where circulation has a pump (the heart), the lymphatic system does not.
It relies on muscle compression to move it around the body.
It follows then, if someone is lean and fit their immunity is going to be better, but massage actively improves lymphatic efficiency and therefore immunity too.
Breathing plays a vital part in massage. We all know slowing down our breathing reduces heart rate and we feel calmer. But…
The reason we have inspiration and expiration (breathing in and out) is we expire (breathe out) the gas exchange that happens in the blood.
We take in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. As you break down knots, you release toxicity and deep breathing evicts the waste gases from the body.
This is a knack. If you ask someone not to hold their breath in any parts of the massage that hurt…they’ll think about their breathing and suddenly not be able to breathe easily.
I find a technique called mirroring helps. I actively match their speed of breathing as I massage, and I breathe very deeply and deliberately.
Then, I gradually slow down my breathing. As a rapport builds, the patient relaxes into my rhythm and matches with it. Try it; it is a very helpful technique.
Issues in the Tissues
Those who go on to read others of my books will begin to see how much I love the magic that crackles in your hands under a bottle of essential oil.
There are lots of things that work as a catalyst for this to happen. The release of memories is one of them.
Believe it or not, memories not only stay in your head. They go into the organs and they also go into the muscles.
In the Essential Oil Liver Cleanse I get almost embarrassingly excited by how transplanted organs have had memories and experiences from the donor transported to their new host body.
Athletes will tell you about muscle memory too. They actively use repetition to get their muscles to form memories and so therefore habits.
Memories stay lodged in the muscles and even after the mind has moved onto something else, they lie there waiting.
Massage twists the fibres, and digs into them and this can disturb, awaken and unlock these hidden memories.
Don’t be surprised if the person starts to weep for apparently no reason.
The memory may not even unfold so they recognise the scene playing out. Only the emotions may come to the surface to be released. Massage on.
I would love to be able to outline the physiology that leads to this strange aspect of healing…but in some ways it’s a bit like the magician sawing his assistant in half.
I’m not sure I want to know, because analysing it would take that magical crackle away. Massage releases memories. It just does!
Contraindications of massage
There are times when massage is not the appropriate course of therapy to choose.
- Over contagious or infections skin conditions
- Over the abdomen whilst in pregnancy
- Over the abdomen in the first two or three days of menstruation (discomfort)
- In cardio vascular conditions except under strict medical guidance: examples of these are thrombosis, phlebitis, angina pectoris and hypertension
Do not massage on:
- Areas of varicose veins
- Any strange lumps or bumps
- Recent scar tissue or open wounds
- Areas of unidentified pain or inflammation (medical advice to be sought first)
- Any condition being treated by a medical doctor unless he agrees
Do not massage over the spine.
There are five basic massage strokes
Effleurage are long, languid smoothing strokes. They either go deep into the muscles or superficially slide across the surface of the skin.
Always perform them with slow precision in the direction of the heart. These encourage lymph flow.
This sedative stroke also physiologically improves the functioning of the muscles by encouraging them to take in more nutrients from the blood.
My favourite effleurage stroke is done by standing at the head of the patient, facing their feet. Turn your hands down to face the floor. Touch finger tips and elbows out.
Place your hands either side of the patient’s spine. Push down into the body and then push the flesh away from you down to the hips.
Maintaining pressure swivel the hands to circle under the hips and pull the hands back towards you, up the side of the body to the head.
This effleurage motion is deep pressure. It is very relaxing and extremely efficient.
If you can stand up to do the massage (on a couch) let your body do the work. Step forward then step back onto a bent leg so the full force of your body moves the muscle.
Petrissage rolls or kneads the muscles. Twisting and squeezing the muscle fibres stimulates deep blood flow and it also strengthens the muscle.
Friction strokes are circular movements of the hands. They have a very penetrating action which breaks down very deep knots.
You’ll come across a great one of these in the back massage.
Lay your hands next to each other, and opposite, so your finger tips lie next to the heel of your other hand. Elbows out.
Lay your hands on the same side of the spine, on the back, and sharply pull your elbows into your side causing your hands to swivel outwards moving the flesh quickly with them.
We only use the forearm, hands and fingers to exert pressure onto a limb though Vibration.
This rapid movement helps to stimulate the nervous system.
Again in the back massage: Place the forearms across the width of the back and very quickly rub back and forth.
Tapotment are the aggressive movements everyone recognises in sports massage.
Using a cupped or open hand, the therapist makes a chopping, hacking, beating or cupping action.
These strokes stimulate the muscles and dependant on how long it is done for, may sedate or invigorate the tissues. (Short action wakes them up, repeating for several rotations is very sedative)
One of the many reasons I write about therapy more than I see clients is massage hurts my hands.
It is extremely rigorous and so you must ensure you correctly position your hands.
Whenever you want to exert pressure, use one hand on top of another and try to lean your weight into it rather than just pushing your hands into the muscle.
When doing little circles with your fingers, lay the fingers of the other had over the top for extra strength.
When using a pincer motion, as you would for massaging the shoulder mantle for example, use the strongest muscles of your hand.
To do this put your index finger and thumb at right angles and wiggle your thumb.
Where the flap of skin is at the join…that’s what you want to aim to be “pinching with”. Try it, it’s much easier to do than describe!
Always be aware of your back too. Keep it straight or by the time you get half way through you will feel like you need a massage too.
I have deliberately veered away from talking about the aura and chakras in this book, because they sit more happily in the next book about the mind body and spirit.
Ignoring it at this point, however, would be cavalier.
The aura is an energy field around your body. It is like a rainbow emanating around 18 inches from your body.
We all have it, even if you are not aware of it. Given the right environment, it can be a magnet for germs and emotional disturbances.
You must protect it not only from colds and flu, but also emotional trauma too. (Believe me, or believe me not…ignore this bit at your peril.
It won’t be long until you are laid up feeling ill because you have caught a bug.) Before every treatment visualise yourself getting into a bubble and surrounding it with light.
Let the light go entirely around your aura six times. I also imagine it zipping up like a banana skin around me.
I cannot stress how important this is. You need a separation from your patient.
From their emotional drains but also their colds, bugs whatever.
At the end of the treatment I imagine raindrops and washing the psychic gunk away.
Again, you will feel so much better if you get into the habit each time you treat someone.
Begin your back massage standing at the head of your patient.
Put your hands either side of the spine, finger tips pointing at each other and do a long sweeping effleurage down the length of their spine, out across the lower back and up the sides of the body.
Really push the muscle along and down and then pull it hard towards you.
Do this stroke three long, slow times.
Move to the side of the couch and reach right over to the other side of the body with both hands.
Slowly and deliberately pull one hand up and then the other and walk then down to the hips.
You are deeply stroking the muscles which surround the ribs.
Go up and down the body 3 times.
Keep your hand on the patient, walk up to the head and over to the other side of the couch.
Repeat 3 times.
Now do sets of three tapotment up and down the muscles either side of the spine. Cover them thoroughly.
First cup the hands to be like half a coconut and pummel up and down the spine three times. This is called cupping.
Then, using the sides of your hands, chop like they are knives. This is called hacking.
Now put both your hands twisted on the patients back.
The hands are immediately next to one another with fingers pointing at the other arms elbow (imagine 5th position in ballet but with your hands) Press down hard and then let your hands twist away from each other so they exert a twisting mechanism on the muscles. We call this twisting or friction.
Now we want to massage the muscles surrounding the actual shoulder blade. First gently smooth in deep clockwise circles over the massage.
Do a series of tiny circles where basically your fingers are probing for knots and breaking them down.
Now we are going to lift the shoulder bone to get under it. You must do this with confidence!
Put one hand under the patients elbow and take their hand with the other. Gently fold their arm back and up, so the hand is lying on their back, near to their neck and spine, the elbow should be at right angles to the body.
Keep a hold of the elbow and with the side of the other hand “saw” under the scapula gently.
Periodically break off and make your hand into a rigid spider and drum the surface of the scapula with the spider to encourage blood flow.
Gently, stroke an effleurage over the muscle to smooth it down. We call this Petrissage.
Do this cycle three times.
Go to the head, retain contact and then do the other shoulder blade.
Come up to the head again and so some gentle work massaging the shoulder mantle.
These muscles will be tight and sore so work gently at this point as we return to them later as we work down the front of the body.
Finish the back with 3 very long slow effleurages.
There are many benefits of facial massage treatments:
- Exfoliate the skin, sloughing off old cells and revealing youthful new cells below
- Relaxation of the muscles
- Stimulation of decongestant pressure points to empty sinus congestion and soothe stress
- It moves sluggish lymphatic fluid, draining away puffiness from the face.
- It feels incredible!
First let’s look at what a Facial Massage involves.
By no means, is it an exact science. Don’t feel you have to follow the book, just get a gist of the motions and then go with the flow.
It helps to remember to do each step three times. This will mean the cells get worked well and blood flow will be well stimulated too.
There are three main parts. The first is working the muscles. The second is releasing pressure and the third is moving fluid beneath the skin.
What you must do is always work in circular motions in a flowing manner. This will help to release the dead skin cells.
Start at the centre of the forehead right at the hairline. Using the index fingers in both hands exert fingertip pressure and begin tracing tiny circles in a line out towards the ears.
Line under line keep drawing your circles, gradually working right across and down the forehead until you reach the eyebrows.
Then smooth out the forehead using the thumbs.
Then work along the eyebrows and you may feel some spots which feel very sore.
These are acupressure point. Hold the pressure on them until they empty. When you have worked along the top of the brows, repeat underneath them.
Next move down to just under the cheek bones and you will find you can hook your finger under.
Work along again and empty any sore points out. As you move along the cheekbones you will arrive at the temples, beside the eyes. Using very light finger tip pressure, gently circle these, which is very relaxing.
Now let’s move down the chin. Using your thumb, really work the chin will, releasing muscles but also working the oils deep into the cells.
Then work along the jaw towards the ears.
Use your thumb and forefinger in a gentle pinch to squash the tension out of the cells.
You may find the outer part of your jaw to be very tender as we tend to store anger and frustration here (grit your teeth?) so work gently, softly and thoroughly.
If you can manage to massage your own neck I would always recommend to do so.
Be aware not to rub across the spine, instead focus on releasing the tension in the muscles which sit either side and on your shoulders.
For a moment, just look at your hand. You see the fleshy part between the thumb and forefinger?
Use that muscle to pinch into your shoulders you find it far more effective than hurting your fingers!
Under the eyes can become puffy and saggy due to a build up of lymphatic fluid beneath the skin.
Using your two index fingers next to each other we will move the fluid on one eye and then the other.
Lie your fingers next to each other and gradually push the fluid across toward the ears, down the side of the face, down the side of the neck and then into the collar bone.
Your action will be a bit like a tiny “one potato, two potato” game down the face.
Fluid of this nature drains back into the body at this point in the collar bone which we call the subclavian.
Now move to the ears and from the top, gently pinch down the side of the fleshy part. Did you know no-one is born with curled up ears?
They bunch up through tension so gently try to unroll them to release the tension.
Be mindful though the ears hold all the same reflex points as the feet do (reflexology) so be careful not to over stimulate any by working them too much.
Lastly now use the flat of your hand to do long fluid relaxing strokes across the entire face. Work upwards so as not to drag the skin down.
In total this would take 20 minutes in a clinical setting.