How you can use essential oils in your practice

massage therapist essential oils

Therapeutic essential oils

Apart from the perfect table, the most important tools in the massage therapist’s arsenal are the therapeutic grade essential oils she uses in her practice. Skilled massage therapists understand the value, quality and powerful properties of therapeutic grade essential oils.

Certain oils have been used by practitioners throughout the ages to protect and enhance health naturally by killing bacteria, fungi and all sorts of viruses. But not just any oil will do. It’s important to understand how these concentrated, aromatic substances are derived. Understanding how your oils are made will benefit both you and your clients.

Essential Oils: Where do they come from?

An essential oil is the product of volatile, lipid, soluble portions of fluids containing odiferous compounds, made from the seeds, stems, needles, roots, bark, flowers or leaves of plants. The oil is produced by various forms of extraction (ideally from steam distillation).

Tear a rose petal in half and you’ll discover its moisture, the most highly concentrated essential oil that comes from any plant. This moisture is the “essence” of the essential oils found in each plant. Oils may appear watery, feel thick and syrupy or look light or dark in color. No matter how they appear to the naked eye, these oils are filled with countless complex and unique chemical constituents (chemotypes) that give them their natural healing power.

These constituents are divided into two groups:

Among the key chemical constituents of the aforementioned rose are Citronellal, Geraniol, Nerol and Phenylethylic Alcohol. Those substances are merely the most prominent ones. The “average” essential oil may contain anywhere from 80 to over 300 different chemical constituents.

Imagine the tiny size of that rose petal and all the chemicals swimming inside, then think about how many of them it takes to make a pint (16 ounces) of pure rose essential oil. The answer is an amazing 5,000 pounds.

Looking at this size differential another way, the chemical potency of one drop of pure peppermint essential oil equals some 28 cups of the peppermint tea you can buy at your neighborhood grocery store.

How the plants are grown affects the oils

Not just any kind of plant can be used to produce pure therapeutic grade essential oils. Creating the purest oils that truly enhance your health starts with the growing conditions of the plants.

To achieve the best quality, producers of therapeutic grade essential oils grow their plants on virgin soil, untainted by pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers and fungicides.

Organic is always the best choice, not only for the foods you eat, but the pure therapeutic grade essential oils you use on your body and your clients.

The quality of the soil – enriched with minerals, enzymes and organic mulch – is as important as the water sources for the plants. Deep well, watershed and reservoir water are the best choices, far away from municipal or secondary runoff water that typically contains harmful chemicals like chlorine.

Methods of extraction

Processing makes the greatest difference in the quality of therapeutic grade essential oils.

Many essential oils – the ones you can find easily in grocery stores – are “extended” versions, extracted with solvents or oil-based chemicals and then mixed with odorless, colorless chemicals. These oils are no good for your health: the process dilutes the purity of essential oils and reduces their health benefits to almost nothing.

The four ideal ways essential oils are produced:

Choosing the best essential oils for your practice

So, if you can’t be at the manufacturing facility to ensure an essential oil is being made properly, how can you tell if it’s a therapeutic grade product? Behind the scenes, manufacturers can “extend” a perfectly healthy essential oil by filling it with odorless, colorless solvents that detection processes like gas chromatography can’t distinguish.

Nevertheless, you don’t have to be a chemist to find the best therapeutic grade essential oil for your health, if you follow these simple guidelines.

    1. Ensure the manufacturer submits their essential oils for testing by an independent third-party laboratory.
    2. Be skeptical about low-ball pricing! Therapeutic grade essential oils cost more to make than virtually any brand you’ll find at most health food stores, so don’t expect a cheap deal.
    3. Read and review product labels for the words “aroma” or “perfume”. If you see those descriptors, but can’t find “100% pure therapeutic grade essential oil” anywhere on the label, don’t buy the product.
    4. Trust your nose, literally, as pure essential oils smell fresher and crisper than synthetic replicas.
    5. Because the chemical composition of essential oils can be damaged by direct sunlight, avoid products stored in clear containers.

Do your homework and and test out several brands.  Know that you’ll need to invest in your oils; cheap is definitely NOT the way to go!  Look for a trustworthy company, with a great reputation and independent testing.


The Chemistry of Essential Oils Made Simpleby David Stewart, Ph.D., D.N.M.

Essentials Oil Desk Reference

Melissa Wood, ND