Mental health is one of the most talked about concerns in Western medicine, alternative medicine and in many aspects of the spa wellness industry. The question is, are you embracing this rapidly growing trend and meeting the needs of your customers? Clients are more in need of stress relief than ever before. Stand out from your competitors and build client loyalty by going the extra mile to provide small and simple complimentary stress relief solutions in every service. You can build a unique brand for your business, wow your customers and, in turn, create client loyalty and increased referrals.
When we enter the spa for relaxation and that getaway from the rush of everyday life, we have certain expectations. There is an ambiance that is created within the spa–the soft, relaxing music, pleasing to the eye décor and cozy treatment rooms. There also is a spa scent; the luxurious, gentle smell of essential oils that lulls you into that wonderful state of calm and relaxation and greets you as you enter the treatment room.
Consider the fact that aromatherapy is an established science, studied around the world and accepted by the medical profession. It can be used in many ways and in numerous treatments to include all members of the spa team. This article provides the truly important oils for overall mental health and compares them to their similar counterparts, so the spa practitioner can distinguish between them and make good, educated choices for their client.
Frankincense and Sandalwood
Frankincense and sandalwood have the ability to calm and center the mind. They are gently tranquilizing and have a deeply clarifying effect on the intellect. On a day-to-day level, these oils are suggested for states of mental agitation and worry, or whenever the mind is distracted and overwhelmed.
Sandalwood. The yogis describe sandalwood oil as the fragrance of the subtle body and the center of the highest insight and enlightenment. Sandalwood exerts a considerable, regulating effect and generally can be said to harmonize thinking, feeling and sensing. It centers, calms and grounds each of us, leaving us living fully in the present moment. Consider this oil for depression, nervous tension, restlessness, anxiety, guilt and a feeling of insecurity.
Frankincense. As a mild tonic, frankincense can help uplift the mind and is also an important anti-depressive essential oil. Like sandalwood oil, it is an ideal aid to meditation, contemplation and prayer, ceasing mental chatter and stilling the mind. Gabriel Mojay describes the action of frankincense as, “Facilitating a single pointed concentration, it allows the spirit to soar.”1
Frankincense is also particularly useful for anxious and obsessive states linked to the past. In the same way that frankincense heals the physical wounds of the body, it heals the emotional wounds, especially grief.
Geranium and Lavender
Both lavender and geranium clear heat and calm energy.
Geranium. This oil is one of the few essential oils in oriental medicine that may be considered as cool and moist in energy. Geranium clears heat and inflammation, relaxes the nerves and calms feelings of anxiety. Like virtually all the flower oils, it is an antidepressant. The Italian doctor Rovesti employed geranium oil in the treatment of anxiety states.
Geranium can relax the mind, calm agitation and ease frustration and irritability. It has a centering effect, conveying a feeling of calm, strength and security. Geranium oil is therefore beneficial for both chronic and acute anxiety, particularly where there is nervous exhaustion due to stress and overwork. It is ideal for the workaholic perfectionist who cannot relax, enjoy life or be in the moment.
In many texts, geranium is described as a sedative oil. Mojay describes the oil as calming anxiety, but Patricia Davis quotes cases where some clients have become restless and unable to sleep for quite a few hours after using geranium even in small amounts. She does not recommend using it later in the day.1
Lavender. While geranium is better suited for those whose rationality and personal drive deny a place of emotion and impression, lavender is suited to the individual in whom emotions overwhelm the mind. Geranium helps us reconnect to our feelings and enhances our capacity to communicate.
Neroli and Petitgrain
Neroli and petitgrain are derived from the same tree. Therefore, the oils do bear some resemblance to each other both in smell, chemistry and therapeutic actions. Both help calm anger and panic as well as treat depression; however, neroli has been found to be more effective at serious states at depression. One of the major differences is cost, with petitgrain being much more affordable than its luxurious counterpart.
Neroli. Famous for its ability to relieve emotional depression as well as acute and chronic stress and anxiety, neroli also helps with shock and instilling a feeling of peace. Along with its hypnotic and euphoric effects, it can help reconnect the link between mind and body. Neroli calms highly charged emotional states, and it is recommended for those who may be unstable and easily alarmed or agitated. This person has the potential to become emotionally exhausted, often resulting in depression. If there is unexpressed anger or feelings of unconscious resentment, depression may turn into deep, all encompassing despair. Neroli brings comfort and strength in this, assisting in release of repressed emotions.
Mojay recommends neroli for “deep emotional pain that robs us of hope and joy.”1 Together with rose, lavender and melissa, neroli is one of the best essential oils to calm and stabilize the heart and mind.
Suzanne Fischer-Rizzi describes neroli as “Reaching deep down into the soul to stabilize and regenerate. It provided relief and strength for long standing psychological tension, exhaustion and seemingly hopeless situations.”1
A recent clinical trial in England involved the use of Neroli oil and foot massage for cardiac surgery patients. The result of the trial confirmed Neroli’s antispasmodic properties. Neroli was effective in diminishing the amplitude of heart muscle contraction, thus benefiting people who suffer from palpitations and other types of cardiac spasm.2
Petitgrain. This oil still carries the rich, well balanced aroma of its more exotic sister, while being easy to blend with and affordable. Petitgrain is an oil that is recommended for those new to custom blending essential oils.
Petitgrain is a balancing oil that relaxes the body while lifting the spirits. It has a sedative effect on the nervous system, and it is indicated for calming anger and panic like neroli. It also shares neroli’s indication for rapid heartbeat and insomnia. It has a particular affinity to the male psyche and can be helpful in treating male depression and work-related fatigue.
Sweet Orange and Mandarin
Both sweet orange and mandarin are considered happy oils. Both oils are sedatives and assist in sleep, especially when combined with lavender.
Sweet orange. Considered the traditional Chinese symbol of good luck and prosperity, sweet orange is loved by everyone. It is an excellent oil to start the day, uplifting the mind with a clean, fruity aroma yet placing the body in a calm state.
Sweet orange conveys warmth and happiness, which helps us all to relax and unwind. More specifically, it is highly recommended for the efficient, hard-working individual who strives for perfection and achievement and has little tolerance for mishaps and mistakes. They are generally excellent planners who find it difficult to delegate, and they become tense and irritable as a result. This plus a reluctance to call upon others for help and advice often seems to bring about stress-related symptoms that can send them spiraling downwards.
Mojay describes the action of sweet orange as, “Help[ing] us to take a more relaxed approach, encouraging adaptability and smooth handling of events. This oil covey’s warmth and happiness, helping people relax and unwind Associated with the Planet Jupiter, the planet of optimism; it also instills a more positive attitude and approach to difficult situations.”1
Mandarin. Being soothing and gentle, mandarin is highly recommended as a great oil for use with children. Consider mandarin for restlessness, intense anxiety and its tranquilizing effect to calm temper tantrums and hysteria.
Lemon and Lemongrass
Lemon and lemongrass are two fresh, clean and lively oils recommended for use in the spa. Together, they provide a clean aroma and gentle lift in mood to start the day.
Lemongrass. This oil is strong, lemony and more herbaceous in its aromatic fragrance to create a wonderful, uplifting aroma as the client enters the spa. Its invigorating properties stimulate, revive and energize to benefit both the staff and the guests. It clears the head, revives you when fatigued and can be recommended to clients for jet lag.
Lemon. The refreshing and cooling sharp, citrus scent of lemon is recommended when you feel hot and bothered and cannot think clearly. Research in Japan has found that lemon improves one’s ability to concentrate. In one study, it was found to reduce typing errors by 54% when the oil was vaporized in the air. Lemon oil stimulates and clears the mind and aids the decision-making process.3
Please remember that all essential oils are not created equal in quality. You need to ask your supplier key questions about chemistry and country of origin. If you don’t understand how to distinguish one oil from another, take a class from a nationally certified professional.
- S Battaglia, The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, 2nd Ed., Perfect Potion: Brisbane, Australia (2004)