Our bodies have amazing defense mechanisms that, by and large, destroy the bad to protect the good. Our skin is the very first part of this line of defense, keeping us all wrapped up and safe from outside influences, while at the same time holding us together so we’re fit to step out in public. Our mouth and nose also work to keep us from ingesting potential dangers, with our sense of smell and taste working together to warn us of food gone bad and other possible perils.
Although our skin, nose and taste mechanisms do an amazing job of protecting us from harm, they are not impenetrable fortresses. In relation to the health benefits of essential oils, this is a very good thing. Let’s look briefly at three of the most common ways to derive benefits from essential oils – applying them to the skin, breathing them in and ingestion. This will help explain why essential oils are often a component of your treatment at Body Fix Therapies and why our Sacramento orthopedic massage therapists find them useful.
Our skin actually is capable of absorbing compounds and mixtures with the potential to benefit us. Skin is somewhat permeable, evident in the fact that pharmaceuticals such as hormone replacement lotions and nicotine patches work effectively despite being applied topically. The molecules with therapeutic effect that transfer across the skin are generally small and able to passively diffuse through the skin’s layers on their own.
Massage adds to the effectiveness of essential oils, as it first increases circulation to the skin, boosting the rate of absorption. For this reason, applying heat before introducing essential oil to the skin is also very effective and sometimes used. While the areas that have more sweat glands and hair follicles, such as the soles of the feet, head, armpits and palms, are the best at absorbing essential oils, they may also be applied directly to sites where their effects are needed most.
Breathing in essential oils through the nose and mouth is a most effective and pleasant way of benefitting from their goodness. Many adults remember one of the most enduring smells of childhood — our parents using eucalyptus or menthol chest rubs or vapor diffusers to help clear our stuffy head colds. Since essential oils tend to be pungent, inhaling them through the nostrils also has therapeutic effect during massage therapy. Why is this so?
When a scent reaches our nose, the olfactory system inhales actual air-born molecules of that substance. For essential oils, this means those beneficial molecules are getting directly inside us. Therapeutic molecules cause specific signals to be sent to the brain by the olfactory sensory neurons. This starts a natural chemical cascade that potentially provides positive effects on our breathing rate, blood pressure, pain sensors and mood.
Ingesting Essential Oils
It might seem logical that if essential oils are to be of the most benefit we should bypass the skin or olfactory system and go right to the stomach. In other words, why not just put essential oils directly into us, just as we eat food and drink water? Do NOT do this without the personal advice of an expert. Ingesting essential oils is not an area best left to Internet research, hearsay to the advice of friends!
Essential oils, while perfectly healthy if used properly, are extremely concentrated compounds. Some are even toxic to the liver or kidneys if ingested. Thus, all essential oils should be treated the same as any form of prescription or OTC pharmaceutical and kept out of reach of children and pets. Our professional massage therapists treat essential oils like powerful health aids and you should too. In addition, stomach acid actually destroys many essential compounds found in certain oils, eliminating their beneficial effect. Knowing the difference is obviously critical.
Seek the Assistance of Experts
Helping you gain the maximum benefit from the wide variety of essential oils available is an important part of the service provided by Body Fix Therapies during your massage session. We use products that are known to be effective and administer them in the right way to help relieve your specific condition. In addition, for your own home therapy program, we can advise you on how to best use the essential oils you need and the manufacturers we trust to recommend. The end result to you is improved wellness from applying the therapeutic effects of essential oils.