Making sense of scents

Aromatherapy has very much entered the mainstream over recent years, and is now used by people all over the world to relax tired minds as well as aching muscles. But the art of aromatherapy can actually be traced back over 5000 years to the Chinese, Egyptian and Greek civilizations. Methods of infusion were utilized to extract the oils from aromatic plants which were then used for everything from cosmetic and medicinal purposes to embalming.

However, now in Thailand aromatherapy is often associated with massage and body treatments. Massages which use essential oils tend to be gentle with long, restful strokes which induce blissful reveries. Essential oils are used to create a relaxing and soothing ambiance and each one has different properties which can be beneficial for people with medical complaints or just to alleviate stress, anxiety and general tiredness.

The Absolute Detox and Spa at the Absolute Sanctuary is one spa resort in Koh Samui which specializes in the use of essential oils and aromatherapy. The Lymphatic Drainage Massage – also known as the Absolute Detox Massage – is often put in combination with colonic hydrotherapy to completely rejuvenate the system and clear blockages. Juniper, grapefruit and eucalyptus essential oils are blended to create the ultimate detox indulgence.

The Wellness Host at the Absolute Detox and Spa, Khun Note has a profound knowledge of not only the properties of each essential oil, but of the way they all work together in combination. For example, he generally uses lavender oil as the base note for most massages because of its calming properties and because it combines superbly with nearly every other essential oil.

Essential oils cannot be applied directly to the skin because they are too strong, so they must be diluted by using a carrier oil such as almond. Only one or two drops of the essential oil are needed for every tablespoon of carrier oil. The oils are not only applied to the skin during a treatment but are also absorbed through smell. This is particularly exploited in the facial aromatherapy massages where inhalation is encouraged through the use of hot and cold compresses.

It is important to inform your massage therapist about any health issues or problems you have before undertaking any treatment. “For example, if a woman is pregnant we can use geranium, chamomile and bergamot oils but must stay away from fennel, basil and rosemary,” explains Note. “We always talk to our guests before the treatment to discover exactly how they are feeling. Then we can suggest the most appropriate massage or treatment and put the perfect combination of oils together.”

Below are some of the health giving properties of six of the most popular essential oils for aromatherapy massage:

Citronella is a refreshing oil with a woody or grassy aroma. It is often used as an insect repellant as well as to relive stomach and rheumatic pains. It combines well with cedarwood and bergamot.

Jasmine has a warm, floral scent and is used to soothe headaches and help coughs, laryngitis and catarrh. It also soothes sensitive or dry skin.

Sandalwood helps skin conditions such as eczema and acne. It has warming and relaxing qualities which calm sore throats and nervous tension.

Ginger is a warming essential oil which has a variety of uses, but it is particularly used to help relieve the symptoms of colds and flues, sinusitis, constipation and poor circulation. It has a woody, spicy scent.

Ylang ylang brings down high blood pressure and relaxes people who are stressed or anxious. It has a sweet, heavy aroma and is most famous for having an aphrodisiac effect so is sometimes used to help sexual dysfunction.

Lemongrass has a refreshing, toning effect with a sweet citrus scent. It combines well with cedarwood, basil and lavender and is often used to soothe aching muscles, fatigue, stress and indigestion.