Aromatherapy: The surprising connection between mind, body and scent

Aroma Oil in Bottles with Lavender, Pine and MintAromatherapy: it’s more than just a pleasant smell

Ever walk into a relaxing spa or a home kitchen when someone is baking, and instantly feel calmer because of the scent? Or the reverse—walking into a dentists or hospital’s waiting room and feel anxious for the scent that is there? That is Aromatherapy at work.

Aromatherapy is defined as a form of alternative medicine that uses volatile plant materials, known as essential oils, and other aromatic compounds for the purpose of altering a person’s mind,moodcognitive function or health. Plants are generally steam distilled to allow thier natural oils to be harvested. These oils carry with them the essence (or scent) of the plant they were distilled from, and carry with them not only the scent in concentrated amounts, but also the natural healing benefits those plants deliver.

Aromatherapy has been used to treat illness and injury since the eleventh century. A French surgeon, Jean Valnet, pioneered the medicinal uses of essential oils, which he used as antiseptics in the treatment of wounded soldiers during World War II, and is still being used today in some french hospitals as an air purifier.

How Aromatherapy is used

Essential oils can be applied topically to the skin, usually in a carrier oil to aid absorption, or can be inhaled from a diffuser or directly.

Applying Essential oils to the skin is purported to have many beneficial health qualities which include infection treatment of wounds or injury to the skin and reduction of eczema-induced itching. Stated uses of inhalation include pain and anxiety reduction, enhancement of energy and short-term memory, relaxation, hair loss prevention.  Tea Tree and Eucalyptus Essential oils are often used to combat fungus and bacterial infections of the skin, due to their anecdotal anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties.

Essential oils are often applied to the skin in a carrier oil during massage. The benefits of oils such as Lavender, Eucalyptus, and Sandalwood are often reported as aiding brain and body relaxation during the massage, making the body work that much more effective at easing stress. Oils such as Peppermint, Chamomile and Clove are natural pain relievers when mixed with massage oil and can aid in topical pain relief for sore muscles.

Choosing the right oil for you

Choosing the right Essential oil depends on your state of mind, mood, or health at the time. You may choose an oil to use as a daily energy booster, or one to inhale or apply to aid sleep at night. Some Essential oils can be applied topically to prevent fungal infections of the feet, or to use in the shower to uplift your mood in the morning. Below is a list of some Essential oils and thier applications:

Lavender: Balancing, soothing, clarifying, normalizing
Eucalyptus: Purifying, invigorating, balancing, cooling
Peppermint: Revitalizing, refreshing, energizing, cooling
Rosemary: Clarifying, warming, invigorating
Ylang Ylang: Sensual, euphoric, romantic, alluring, exotic
* Sweet Orange: Cheering, refreshing, uplifting
Bergamot: Uplifting, normalizing, confidence building
Lemon: Energizing, uplifting, refreshing, strengthening
Geranium: Uplifting, balancing, relaxing, normalizing
Patchouli: Romantic, uplifting, soothing

Analgesic (pain relieving) oils:  German Chamomile (Matricaria recutita), Roman Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis), Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus ), Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), Sweet Marjoram (Origanum majorana), Peppermint (Mentha x piperita), Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and Thyme (Thymus vulgaris ct. linalool)

The next time your massage therapist asks you if you want any Aromatherapy with your massage, consider the many benefits of Essential oils, think about what you want to achieve with the session, and choose an oil which will help the therapist get you there.


Topical Analgesics: What they are, what they do, how they help with pain, and a comparison of products.

What they are

Topical Analgesics are a category of products that are used to treat pain topically, when applied to an area of the body that is feeling topical pain such as a sprained or strained muscle, muscle cramping, joint or bone pain such as arthritis. These are over the counter (OTC) medications and can be sold by a pharmacy, a health care facility or an individual health care practitioner such as a Chiropractor or a Massage Therapist.

Topical analgesic products are available in a variety of formulations, including gels, ointments, creams, lotions, and patches, and are intended to be used for mild-to-moderate pain for no longer than 7 days, unless otherwise directed by a physician.

What they do + how they work
Topical Analgesics relieve pain at the surface nerve level of your skin, rather than “sinking in” to the muscle level (despite what advertisers may claim), however, the interesting part of how they work is that they STIMULATE the nerves there rather than depressing them, the way analgesics such as aspirin or topical anesthetics do, creating a “counter irritant” effect to the external nerves of your skin, providing temporary pain relief. Topical Analgesics may be used in combination with other oral analgesics such as aspirin or Ibuprofen when appropriate for extra relief.

Comparisons of product formulations 



Counter Irritant (Topical Analgesics) come in a variety of active ingredients. They vary in the way the active ingredient affects the nerves surrounding the application area. Some products such as Sombra Gel, used in many acute pain applications such as overworked muscles and sprains, rely on Capsicum or Capsaicin, which is the “heat” element that is found in hot peppers. The slight irritation that the capsicum gives to the skin and underlying nerves is then felt to our brains as “heat”, bringing blood to the area of the skin and providing pain relief.

Products such as BioFreeze provide a cooling sensation with the use of Menthol and Camphor, which It works on the premise that cold signals travel to the brain faster then pain signals. The brain puts its attention on the sensations of the cold signals instead of the pain signals. However, unlike ice, it does not constrict the blood vessels.

Products such as Aspercreme and Bengay contain aspirin as an active ingredient, which may cause concern for some individuals who cannot or do note want to take aspirin for medical reasons.

Contraindications and cautions
Areas treated with counterirritants should not be covered with tight bandages or occlusive dressings, and they should not be used over broken or damaged skin.  The use of these products should be discontinued if the patient experiences excessive redness or blistering of the skin. Patients should also be advised not to use heating devices in conjunction with topical counterirritants.1 Patients on anticoagulation therapy should be advised not to use topical products that contain salicylates, because use has been associated with prolonged prothrombin time.Patients should be advised to use these products as directed and to apply topical products only to intact skin. Finally, pharmacists should encourage patients to seek medical care from their primary health care provider if pain worsens or persists after 7 days of self-treatment.

1. Wright, Eric. Musculoskeletal Injuries and Disorders In: Berardi R, Newton G, McDermott JH, et al, eds. Handbook of Nonprescription Drugs. 16th ed. Washington, DC: American Pharmacists Association; 2006: 94-113. – See more at: