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The Nose Knows: Are Aromatherapy Massages Worth the Cost?

  • Posted on March 18, 2013 at 11:00 pm

Last week, I touted the deliciousness of all things crème brulee. Today we’ll discuss the aromatherapy massage. Last year, at Mohonk Mountain House, in New Paltz, New York. I chose the 50-minute “aroma massage,” where I was given the choice of which essential oils I wanted rubbed on me. The choices were pure breathing, relaxation, or clear mind. It took up about half my massage time just trying to decide which one I wanted, but then again, I spend 20 minutes in the produce aisle picking out the perfect banana. The therapist told me that pure breathing would clear my sinuses, relaxation would calm me, and clear mind would awaken my senses and keep me alert. I chose the latter.

Ultimately, this was a visceral decision.I chose clear mind for its hearty scent, because I am nose-oriented above all else. I didn’t really believe it would do what its name promised, but I kept an open mind. Actually, I didn’t feel any more alert when I left than I did when I entered the spa. 

spa arrangement

Studies on the effectiveness of aromatherapy are mixed. We know that smell receptors are connected to the hippocampus and amygdala, the areas of the brain that store emotions and memories, so scents do affect us. But studies on whether peppermint oils can cure headaches or lavender oil can put us to sleep are varied. When I was in camp as a little girl, I was miserable, and the soap we always used was Ivory, and to this day, the smell of Ivory soap stirs sad emotions in me.

Deciding whether it’s worth it to pay the extra $5 to $15 dollars for an aromatherapy massage, for me, comes down to whether or not the scent of the oil pleases me. If it energizes me or helps me edit the next great American novel, perfect. If not, it didn’t cost much, and I might even love it.

Today’s Tip:

Before booking an aromatherapy massage, ask whether or not you will be offered a choice of oils. Ask what they are and what their effects are. Some spas use specific oils that change with each season. For example, the Willow Stream Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona, changes its scent each season. The Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, located between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, California, escorts you to their apothecary and lets you customize your own aromatherapy oil. Others use a variety. If you’re particularly olfactory-oriented, it’s probably worth the extra few bucks just to try something new.

 Please post here and tell me what you’ve discovered.