Best Essential Oils for an Aromatherapy Massage

If you want to incorporate the physical and emotional benefits of aromatherapy into a massage session, you may wonder where to begin.

The top essential oils are not necessarily the best oils to have on hand in a massage practice. You may want to buy every essential oil, but a serious investment in essential oils is not cheap!

I narrowed this list to ten and changed my mind several times.  Here is my pick of ten of the best essential oils for massage, and just a few reasons you should consider keeping them by your massage table.

    Lavender Essential Oil

  1. Lavender
  2. I cannot imagine the flack I would receive if I left lavender off the list. I imagine myself being blacklisted from the aromatherapy massage community.  I almost left it off intentionally, just for fun. However, it is too valuable to even joke around about; it is that good.

    Lavender is an adaptogenic / balancing oil; it does what the body needs it to do. It is very effective for pain relief, insomnia (that is how I dropped chamomile from the list), and stress.

    Most clients have a “take or leave it” attitude about lavender, so it is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea.  Make sure you buy true lavender and not spike lavender, lavandin, or lavender fragrance (Not even in the same ballpark!).

    Mandarin Essential Oil

  3. Mandarin
  4. Honestly, I can say mandarin is one of my favorite essential oils.  It has a subtle floral aroma for a citrus oil (less sweet than tangerine).  It is extremely gentle and very reasonably priced.  It is not as therapeutic as neroli or petitgrain, but a great substitute considering the price of neroli.

    Mandarin is useful for scar tissue, anxiety, insomnia, children, or just for adding a light aroma.

    Frankincense Essential Oil

  5. Frankincense
  6. Frankincense is considered a precious essential oil for a reason. It is often used for grounding, to deepen breathing, soothe coughs, aid in meditation, and just for relaxing.  It has anti-inflammatory and antidepressant properties.

    Frankincense makes a good base for blends and smells great on its own. For and easy blend, try it with a drop of lavender. 

    Vanilla Absolute Essential Oil

  7. Vanilla Absolute or CO2
  8. Vanilla is pretty low on the therapeutic level, but it smells absolutely divine. Most people enjoy the aroma of vanilla.

    It makes a lovely addition when combined with other essential oils. Just add a couple drops to lavender, mandarin, sweet orange (smells like a sherbet pop!), or jasmine for luxurious addition to a blend.  Your clients will thank you.  Your pocketbook, not so much.

    bergamot Essential Oil

  9. Bergamot
  10. Bergamot is a versatile essential oil with a pleasant, spicy citrus aroma. It is often used to relieve feelings of depression, improve mood, or aid in fighting addictions (including food).

    Bergamot is photosensitizing, meaning your clients should be instructed not go out in the sun or tan after use.  Sun-safe or BF-free bergamot is available.

    Geranium Essential Oil

  11. Geranium
  12. Geranium makes a wonderful middle note to hide in blends.  Why hide it?  It is not that fantastic on it own in my opinion, but it has great therapeutic benefits.

    If your massage clientele is mostly female, then geranium is an oil you should have on hand. It can be helpful with menstrual-female issues, including menopause.  Like lavender, it is an adaptogenic (balancing) oil.  It is frequently included in skincare products because it is a great tonic for the skin.

    Sandalwood Essential Oil

  13. Sandalwood
  14. You may be surprised at the number of clients that will really enjoy the warm, sweet, wood-like scent of sandalwood.  It is a good base for blends, but again works well as a single note. Traditionally it is said to be helpful with coughs, anxiety, depression, or stomach/digestive complaints.

    Green reminder: buy sustainable sandalwood.

    Eucalyptus Essential Oil

  15. Eucalyptus
  16. During cough and cold season, it is a must to have eucalyptus on hand.  Not only does it help ward off germs, it eases chest and sinus congestion.

    There are many, many types of eucalyptus (E. smithii, E, globulus, E. citriodora), so investigate the type you are buying and review the benefits and contraindications.

    Peppermint Essential Oil

  17. Peppermint
  18. Peppermint is a treat for tired feet, cooling for athletes or hot flashes, and stimulating for the mind. Additionally, many find it helpful for breathing and focusing.

    The scent is intense; a little goes a long way.  

    It is not as gentle as many think it is. Use sparingly with adults and never use with children.

    Grapefruit Essential Oil

  19. Tie: Grapefruit or Lemon
  20. Sorry, I could not decide, so you can choose one. It is a matter of personal preference.

    Both of these essential oils are invigorating, immune boosting, fun and fresh. Both are said to boost circulation, help fight colds, banish oily skin, and combat feelings of depression or fatigue. These oils smell just like you are cutting up a grapefruit for breakfast or slicing a lemon for tea.

    They are great top notes for blends and very gentle. Like most citrus oils, they are photosensitizing. Remind your clients to stay out of the sun for the day.

Honorable Mention

It is not easy choosing just ten essential oils.

I had to leave some other fantastic essential oils off this list: Jasmine, Neroli, Petitgrain, Palmarosa, Rose, Chamomile Patchouli, Helichrysum, Marjoram, Black Pepper, Clary Sage, Sweet Basil (just to name a few).

What are your favorite oils for massage?  Or, share a favorite blend for massage in the comments below.


Adding Aromatherapy to your massage practice

I think you will find no matter what massage modality you practice, even medical massage, clients really appreciate pleasant aromas.  Using aromatherapy and essential oils is a natural and easy way to keep your clients coming back.

If you are new to aromatherapy, you’ll want to learn in more detail about the benefits and contraindications of aromatherapy and massage.

I have put together a 6 CE hour course detailing the use of aromatherapy specifically for massage.

The course details 15 common essential oils, teaches proper dilution and blending techniques, and includes tips on introducing aromatherapy to clients.

You can learn more right here.


Photo Credits: djbiesack, chooyutshing, oh contraire, djwtwo, adamcclark, annblairsphotos, superkimbo, sauer-thompson, wonderferret, debschultz


  1. Aromatherapy Blog Carnival – January 31, 2011…

    Welcome to the January 31, 2011 edition of aromatherapy. Scott Dixyy presents Top 50 Healthcare Industry Blogs posted at Comments on: The Ultimate Guide to the Nurse Practitioner Career, saying, “There are a number of blogs that report on the hea…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *