lubricant massage

Massage is generally performed with a lubricant such as oil, lotion or cream to facilitate the movements of the therapist's hands over your muscles. Herbs and herbal extracts valued for their therapeutic and fragrant qualities are often added to enhance the effect of the massage. All cultures have herbal traditions--often that is all they could rely on for treatment of injuries and diseases. Some of these traditional uses have been confirmed by medical research, but they are not approved by the FDA.

Essential Oils

Essential oils are produced by steam distillation of herbs, a process which extracts their water-soluble therapeutic and fragrant components. Individual essential oils or blends are added to oil, lotion or cream to produce a fragrant lubricant with the healing properties of the herbs. Rosemary, cedar and pine are traditionally used essential oils for muscle pain. Lavender is traditionally used for skin inflammation and to reduce anxiety. Floral essential oils are used primarily for their fragrances, such as rose, geranium, orange blossom and patchouli.

Herbal Poultices

Fragrant herbs are wrapped in a muslin ball and steamed to heat them and release their water-soluble components. Your therapist will apply massage oil to your skin and then use the steamy herb balls to lightly press and massage your muscles. Herb balls contain herbs such as ginger, acacia concinna and tamarind, traditionally used in Southeast Asia for bacterial skin conditions and allergies. Lemongrass and Kaffir lime leaves are used for their citrus fragrance, while arnica, camphor or menthol are traditionally used to relieve muscle pain.

Expert Insight

Articles in the Journal of Perianesthesia Nursing report that topical application of lavender, ginger or sage reduces anxiety. Traditional oils for stress reduction include rose and orange blossom. An article in Holistic Nursing Practice reports that myrrh has antibiotic and analgesic properties. Tea tree oil reduces skin inflammation due to allergies, according to an article in the British Journal of Dermatology. Authors of an article in Food and Chemical Toxicology report that herbs with rosmarinic acid, such as lemon balm, rosemary, oregano, sage, thyme and peppermint, have antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions on skin.