The use of aromatherapy oils in massage has been a popular treatment for over 5,000 years. The technique is believed to possess many healing effects both on a physical and psychological level and when looking specifically at skin problems, it has the ability to not only ease pain symptoms but also offer itself as an alternative medicine. But exactly how does this work anatomically and how does it affect the body?
Firstly, it is important to look at the skin as a whole, for it is the foundation of what protects all our vital organs and keeps us safe from harmful environmental chemicals. The skin is made up of two layers, the Epidermis and the Dermis and within these layers are structures such as sweat glands, hair follicles and sebaceous glands which all contribute to the overall protection of the inner body; sweat glands help the body with temperature control, hair follicles are designed to protect our outer layer of skin and increase sensitivity and sebaceous glands secrete oily matter to keep our skin and hair healthy.
Due to the delicate nature of the skin and its associated structures, occasionally this makes it vulnerable to surface manifestation and toxicities which can lead on to a number of skin problems; common skin rashes like Eczema, hives and sting bites are examples of this. Treatment of skin infection depends on the properties of the oils used and how they are applied. A study conducted at The Oxford Radcliffe Hospital (Blamey, no date) looked at the treatment of essential oils on an infected eczematous lesion over a 10-day period and the results recorded that the use of lemon, tea tree, bergamot and lavender oil once softly massaged into to the skin, had significantly helped in the healing process of the infected area. This shows that with the right combination of oils, aromatherapy can be a successful treatment for skin infections. So how do these essential oils anatomically treat the skin?
Some Essential oils contain anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties for example Eucalyptus and Tea Tree Oil. When applied to massage, the particles begin their travel through the outermost layer of the skin called the Stratum Corneum. This layer of skin has a natural barrier against water which means it will only allow very small amounts of liquid substances to be absorbed and equally very tiny amounts of oily matters. Massage Oil is a combination of essential oil and carrier oil making it easier to diffuse into the skin. Different Massage techniques help this process as the hands apply circulatory movements which create extra heat, allowing the oil to absorb into the skin at a faster rate. (Pedia, 2016) Once through, the healing properties of the oils are then passed into the blood stream and pumped around the body via the cardiovascular system. The nutrients and antibacterial elements of the oil then target the specific infected areas and together with the white blood cells effectively kill any unwanted bacteria.
One oil that has shown its antibacterial properties in skin treatment is Lavender Oil. First discovered to have healing properties back in the 1920’s (Rtisserand, 2011), it is one of the most commonly used alternate medicines to tackle burns and a majority of other skin disorders. Most recently it has been used in application to face massage to help with the healing of acne (Peacham, 2007). Other oils are also commonly used to tackle skin disorders such as Peppermint and Sandalwood.
In conclusion, the use of essential oils on skin application has proven to have its benefits. Its intricate anatomical journey through the skin and into the bloodstream shows us exactly how the healing properties work on skin conditions such as Eczema and thus demonstrates that when it comes to healing our body, natural remedies can often be better alternatives.
Blamey, C. (no date) ‘Case History of Infected Eczema Treated with Essential Oils’, Case History of Infected Eczema Treated with Essential Oils, 1(10.1102/1470-5206.2000.004), pp. 1–4.
Peacham, G. (2007) Health benefits of lavender essential oil. Available at: https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/essential-oils/health-benefits-of-lavender-essential-oil.html (Accessed: 18 October 2016).
Pedia, T.R. (2016) How are essential oils absorbed in body? Available at: http://www.theresearchpedia.com/health/aromatherapy/how-are-essential-oils-absorbed-in-body (Accessed: 18 October 2016)
Rtisserand (2011) Gattefossé’s burn. Available at: http://roberttisserand.com/2011/04/gattefosses-burn/ (Accessed: 22 October 2016