The Benefits of Indian Head Massage

Indian Head Massage is part of the ancient Ayurvedic healing system that has been a part of daily life in India for thousands of years. The very name of the treatment brings to mind the exotic and faraway lands and flowers of India. But Indian Head Massage is not just an ‘indulgence’ or a ‘treat’, it is an extremely effective massage therapy. It is an integral part of the Ayurvedic tradition and a key part of Indian family life.

Originating in the Vedic culture of India, Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old system of natural healing. Ayurveda has been enjoying a significant resurgence both in its native land and throughout the world. Traditional Chinese Medicine and Tibetan medicine both have their roots in Ayurveda.

Ayurveda is a science of life (Ayur = life, Veda = science or knowledge), the principle being that human beings are part of nature and thus health is the balanced and dynamic integration between our environment, body, mind, and spirit.

Ayurveda cites three fundamental energies that govern our inner and outer environments. These are known in Sanskrit as Vata (Wind), which gives movement, Pitta (Fire), which brings about transformation, and Kapha (Earth), which gives structure. These key forces are responsible for the characteristics of our mind and body. Each of us has a unique proportion of these three forces that shapes our nature. If Vata is dominant in our system, we tend to be slim, light, enthusiastic, energetic, and changeable. If Pitta predominates in our nature, we tend to be intense, intelligent, and goal-oriented and we have a strong appetite for life. When Kapha prevails, we tend to be easy-going, methodical, and nurturing. Although each of us has all three forces, most people have one or two elements that predominate.

Massage has always been a significant part of Ayurvedic medicine and daily life in India. It is an acknowledged method of cleansing and maintaining the health of the body. One of the important aspects to good health is having a body that both circulates nutrients and eliminates toxins effectively. Massage is works on and is helpful to all of the body’s systems, including the immune system. It brings about calmness and relaxation, and helps the release of stressful emotions that can become trapped in the body, causing pain and tension, and in extreme cases that can lead to disease. Regular massage rejuvenates the body.

Babies born in India are massaged every day of their lives until they are three years old, because the mothers know that this will stimulate and improve circulation and mobility. From the age of three, the routine changes and the children are massaged once or twice a week. At approximately six years of age, children are deemed old enough to massage and receive massage from others. They learn by practicing the massage techniques on their grandparents.

This therapy has gradually been extended in the West to include not only the head, but also the neck, shoulders, upper back, upper arms and face. Thus it covers some of the areas that are most vulnerable to stress in our Western society. Symptoms it is helpful with include mental fatigue, tension headaches and migraines, muscular tension and stiffness, depression, eye strain, anxiety and lack of focus and concentration. The massage strokes involve a combination of gentle and vigorous moves, depending on the receiver’s condition.

As mentioned above, this wonderful treatment can assist with a variety of physical and emotional issues and concerns. Here are some more details.

      1. Helps relieve migraines, headaches and back pain
      Often tension in the upper back, neck and head can lead to migraines, headaches and back pain, which can make for uncomfortable living on a day-to-day basis, and sometimes even lead to depression. Indian Head Massage provides general and specific relaxation for muscles, providing immediate relief from tension.
      2. Promotes scalp health and hair growth
      The massage increases nourishment and oxygen to the scalp and hair follicle, which in turns stimulates hair growth and improves the texture of the hair. It’s a great way to help maintain healthy and shiny hair!
      3. Detoxifies the body by stimulating lymphatic drainage
      Indian Head Massage stimulates and improves lymphatic drainage and blood flow to the neck, thus helping with the dispersal of toxins from tense, knotted tissues and the removal of waste products from the body.
      4. Relieves restlessness and insomnia
      The above are known side effects of stress and Indian Head Massage will immediately relieve stress and promote relaxation by releasing the physical tension. This release of tension creates space for relaxation at a deeper level, bringing about a sense of wellbeing and calm, helping to open your body to a better quality of sleep and rest.
      5. Eases symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression
      Massaging the head encourages the supply of oxygen to the brain. This is one of the best ways of reducing anxiety and of lifting one’s mood. The oxygen has a refreshing effect on the brain, helping you to think more clearly, calmly and creatively. Having an Indian Head Massage can make you feel brighter and help re-establish alertness, concentration and confidence.
      6. Renews energy levels
      An Indian Head Massage works with the Ayurvedic concept, placing emphasis on bringing balance to all aspects of one’s being. Working with the chakras (wheels in Sanskrit), energy centres located in specific areas along the midline of the body as part of the treatment, has a powerful effect in bringing the energy of the body back into balance.
      7. Promotes clarity of thought
      Often we can feel like our brain is in a fog, because in today’s busy world our brain becomes overloaded with a plethora of thoughts and ideas, making it difficult for us to efficiently assimilate and filter what we do and don’t need to think about or remember. As it dissipates mental fatigue, irritability and anxiety, Indian Head Massage helps us come back to Earth and pace ourselves. Sensual awareness takes over, thoughts quieten and we become more aware of how we are truly feeling and being. The treatment acts like a ‘reset’ button on your whole system.

    At Subtle Aromatics we offer Indian Head Massage either with or without oils. The treatment is typically 20 – 30 minutes long, making it perfect for a quick lunchtime or end-of-the-day stress buster treatment.

    Indian Head Massage is a seated massage treatment, focusing on the upper back, shoulders, neck, head and face. It can be applied through clothes or directly on to the skin using oils. Oils can be applied to the head and to Marma points (equivalent to oriental acupuncture points) to release energy blocks as well as to relieve physical symptoms. They can also be applied to the hair, a wonderful way to nourish it if it is dry or brittle. The oils used can be a simple base oil, such as Sweet Almond or Jojoba oil. Alternatively, a mix of base and essential oils may be blended together to create a specific aromatic blend for your requirements on the day.

    For more information or to book a treatment, click here.

    Compiled and written by Eve Doyle Dip.ITHMA MIFPA, Aromatherapist.
    © Subtle Aromatics 2016

    About the author / more information
    Eve Doyle is a Dip. ITHMA Aromatherapist. She practises as a therapist in the Bath and Bristol areas in the UK.


Adding a little Romance with Essential Oils

As Valentine’s Day approaches, the focus is very much on romance and love. A lovely way to add a romantic atmosphere to your Valentine’s evening, or indeed any romantic occasion is by the use of essential oils.

There are a huge variety of essential oils, with many wonderful, healing properties and stunning aromas. If you are creating a massage blend for your partner for your romantic evening you should consider adding some of the essential oils mentioned below, as along with their comprehensive range of properties, they are all reputed to be aphrodisiac in nature; meaning that these oils will stimulate and relax the body, as well as raise the libido – ideal for a romantic interlude.

We have listed some of the most popular and noteworthy aphrodisiac essential oils here. These also have been chosen because of their skin moisturising and healing properties.

Like fresh flowers, floral essential oils are often an important part of any romantic evening. This range of essential oils are emotionally uplifting and can to help moisturise and heal the skin too. Many fall into the higher price range as it takes many flowers and petals to produce a small amount of the essential oil. We have also added a couple of woody, resinous oils for a little variety and depth to the aroma of a blend.

Rose essential oil (Rosa damascena)
Roses and their essential oil are thought to be native to ancient Persia, but the essential oil is now mainly produced in Bulgaria and Turkey.
Rose is the flower associated with the heart and thus love. Historically it was highly sought after by the Ancient Persian, Egyptian, Indian, Roman and Greek civilisations for its amazing range of therapeutic properties and its exquisite soft,sweet, slightly bitter and floral aroma.

Rose essential oil is one of the gentlest of the oils. It suits most skin types, but is particularly good for mature and sensitive skin and at healing dry, inflamed skin conditions and eczema. On an emotional level, its calming, harmonising and nurturing properties make Rose essential oil perfect for soothing anger, treating depression, shock, grief and heartbreak.

True Rose essential oil is expensive because it takes as many as 60,000 rose petals, that is 57kg/120lb in weight, to distil just one ounce (28g) of rose essential oil. Be careful that you’re not fooled by a cheaper, adulterated rose oil that has been extended with another essential oil or synthetic chemicals. Buy your oils from a reputable supplier, who should be able to tell you the origin and source of the essential oil.

Combine rose oil in a massage lotion or oil for a fantastic sensual massage with your partner, or add a few drops to a romantic bath. Rose essential oil, with its rich, deep base notes, floral middle tones and sweet, slightly leafy top note, is a complete perfume in itself.

Jasmine oil (Jasminum officinale)
Jasmine is native to Northern India, Iran and China, but is now cultivated in the Mediterranean and North Africa. Egypt is the world’s most prolific producer of Jasmine oil. In the East, Jasmine has been revered both as a medicine and a perfume for centuries. Along with Rose, it is mentioned often in Sufi poetry as a symbol of love.

The oil is extracted form the beautifully fragrant flowers. The scent of the Jasmine flowers is strongest after sunset and the flowers are harvested very early in the morning, right before they close up for the hottest hours of the day.

Jasmine essential oil has a warm, sweet, intensely floral, and slightly musky scent. As well as its renowned aphrodisiac qualities, its soothing, warm sweet aroma helps relieve nervous anxiety, depression and reduce stress. It is also a great oil for the skin and is useful in the treatment of dry, irritated and sensitive skins.

Neroli essential oil (Citrus aurantium)
Native to Southeast Asia, this essential oil is also now cultivated heavily in the Mediterranean region (Italy, Morocco, Egypt and France). Neroli is extracted from the fragrant white blossoms of the bitter orange tree. Once distilled, the yield is a pale yellow liquid.

Neroli, sometimes referred to as orange blossom, is thought to have been named after the Italian princess Anne Marie de la Trémoille (Orsini), who was duchess of Bracciano and princess of Nerola in the 17th century. She first introduced neroli oil as a fashionable fragrance to Italian high society and used it in the bath and to perfume her stationary, scarves and gloves. This beautiful oil has long been used in weddings because of both its aphrodisiac properties and its ability to calm agitated bridal nerves on the big day. Victorian brides wore a sprig of orange blossom in their head dress and carried orange blossom in their bridal bouquets as symbols of purity and virginity.

Neroli oil is very uplifting to the mood and healing to the skin. It is a useful addition to blends for treating scars, stretch marks and broken capillaries. It is anti-depressive in action and is great for helping to calm agitated states of mind.

It requires a large number of the orange blossom flowers to create an ounce of oil, so Neroli essential oil also in the higher price bracket.

Neroli essential oil has an intoxicating, heady aroma that is bittersweet and warm, with orange floral undertones, and, as in the case of rose, is a completely balanced perfume on its own.

Ylang Ylang essential oil (Cananga odorata)
Ylang Ylang, a tropical evergreen tree, is native to Southeast Asia but the essential oil is mostly produced in Madagascar, Reunion and Comoro’s Islands.
It is the freshly picked yellow flowers that contain the essential oil. In Indonesia these flowers are spread on the beds of newly-wed couples. It is a highly prized aphrodisiac.

This oil has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, as well as a balancing effect on the skin’s production of sebum, which make it ideal for treating skin conditions such as acne, as well as dry or chapped skin. Ylang Ylang has a sweet, floral, spicy, heady aroma and helps to soothe fear and anxiety, lift depression and restore a sense of calm.

The oil comes in different grades: Ylang Ylang Extra, Grade 1, Grade 2 and Grade 3. Ylang Ylang Extra is the top grade and thus the most expensive. However it tends to be less expensive than many of the aforementioned oils.

Patchouli essential oil (Pogostemon cablin)
Patchouli, derived from the Hundustan pacholi, is perennial herbal plant with soft, hairy leaves that give off the unique patchouli scent when rubbed. The plant is native to to Southeast Asia, but most of the world’s supply of essential oil is produced in Indonesia, with some also coming from China, Malaysia and India. It has a long history of medicinal use in India, China and Japan. In the 10th century it was used to scent Indian shawls and fabrics.

The oil comes from the distillation of the hand-picked, dried fermented leaves. The resulting essential oil is an amber or dark orange colour with a warm, rich, sweet, spicy and earthy scent. The scent and oil actually get better with age, Patchouli oil being one of only a few essential oils with that characteristic.

Patchouli oil has moisturising, wound-healing and tissue-regenerating properties and is an antiseptic; all of which make it helpful for rough and cracked skin, sores and wounds, eczema (weeping), dermatitis, oily skin and acne. Its warm, calming nature helps ground and stabilise the mind, easing scattered thinking and excessive worry.

Vetiver essential oil (Vetiveria zizanoides)
This oil comes from the rootlets of a tall perennial grass that is native to the Himalayas and Southern India as well as Malaysia and Sri Lanka. The essential oil comes from the steam- distillation of the dried and chopped rootlets and is mostly produced in the Reunion Islands, Haiti and Java. The best quality oil, “Bourbon Vetiver”, is the one from the Reunion Islands. The essential oil is a deep brown or amber viscous oil with a rich and resinous, smokey, earthy aroma. Like Patchouli, the quality and scent of the oil improve with age.

Vetiver is a great essential oil to add to a massage blend for the skin as it is good for dry, irritated or undernourished skin. It is also useful for muscular aches and pains, rheumatoid arthritis, and poor circulation. As one of the most grounding essential oils, classically it is recommended for mental and emotional burnout. It eases anger and irritability and is wonderfully soothing and nurturing during times of stress. It is fabulous for insomnia.

This is a very potent oil with a scent that you will either love or hate. So, if you have not used it before do start out with only 1 or 2 drops in a 25ml blend.

Sandalwood oil (Santalum album)
The Sandalwood evergreen tree is native to southern Asia, but it is Mysore, in Eastern India where most of the world’s Santalum album is grown. The essential oil is extracted from heartwood of the tree. This exotic oil is a pale yellow, greenish or brownish colour with a woody, balsamic, sweet and slightly spicy and musky aroma. Sandalwood has a long tradition of cultural and spiritual use in Asia. he wood was carved into furniture and temples and burned as incense.

Sandalwood oil is very useful in skincare for dry, chapped skin, as well as for itchy, inflamed or irritated skin. It can be helpful for eczema and psoriasis. It is also helpful for respiratory issues and insomnia. This oil helps still the mind as well as helping to lift depression and bring a sense of peace.

All the above are safe essential oils and are non-toxic, non-irritant and non-sensitising, but should be diluted before being applied to the skin.

Notes about creating fragrance or massage blends
When creating a blend it is best to just pick a three to four essential oils that suit the focus of your blend intention. This way you will avoid creating a blend that has too many different notes and where the the intention of the blend gets lost and the resulting aroma is overwhelming.

The average blend is usually just 7 – 10 drops of essential oils per 25ml / I fl.oz base oil. The above aphrodisiac oils mix well together, however most of them are middle or base notes. To round out your blend you might want to add a few oils that are top notes, such as Sweet Orange, Lemon or Bergamot. These blend well with the oils discussed above. Lemon is a cleansing and sharp oil which, like Bergamot suits oily skin types, whereas Sweet Orange and Bergamot have a sweeter aroma.

Choosing a base or carrier oil for your blend
The majority of essential oils need to be diluted before being applied to the skin. The best oils to add to your blend of essential oils to are natural, cold-pressed nut and fruit oils such as Sweet Almond, Apricot Kernel, Jojoba or Avocado oil, which are good, skin-nourishing base or carrier oils for massages. If you are making a perfume and would like to use an oil base, we would recommend Jojoba oil – technically this is a liquid wax – as it is a stable oil with a long shelf-life.

For a massage, than it is best to start with 50 ml of the base or carrier oil of your choice. We like a combination of Sweet Almond (35ml) and Jojoba (15ml) oils. To this add 15-20 drops of essential oils. Do not exceed more than 20 essential oil drops per 50ml of carrier oil. Mix the blend well and store in a sealed container, ready for the occasion.

For a facial or foot massage you won’t need this much carrier oil. A smaller amount, 30 ml of carrier oil should be enough. To this add between 7-10 drops of essential oils. Again, do ensure that you mix the blend well.

Massage blends
For the Man in Your Life
To a 50 ml base add:
5 drops of Bergamot essential oil
3 drops of Cedarwood essential oil
4 drops of Patchouli essential oil
3 drops of Vetiver essential oil

Add a Lil’ Spice blend
To a 50 ml base add:
3 drops of Ginger essential oil
4 drops of Sandalwood essential oil
5 drops of Sweet Orange essential oil
2 drops of Ylang Ylang essential oil

Ultimate Luxury Blend
To a 50 ml base add:
5 drops of Bergamot essential oil
2 drops of Jasmine essential oil
4 drops of Rose essential oil
3 drops of Ylang Ylang essential oil

Sweet Calm Blend
To a 50 ml base add:
5 drops of Cedarwood essential oil
3 drops of Rose essential oil
4 drops of Sandalwood essential oil
2 drops of Ylang Ylang essential oil

Refresh and Uplift Blend
To a 50 ml base add:
5 drops Bergamot essential oil
3 drops Black Pepper essential oil
3 drops Neroli essential oil
3 drops Sandalwood essential oil

Perfume Blend #1
To 20 ml Jojoba add:
3 drops of Jasmine essential oil
4 drops of Rose essential oil
1 drop of Vetiver essential oil
1 drop of Ylang Ylang essential oil

Perfume Blend #2
To 20 ml Jojoba add:
2 drops Jasmine
3 drops Neroli
3 drops Sandalwood
1 drop Ylang Ylang


Battaglia, Salvatore, (1995). The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, Queensland, Australia:The Perfect Potion
Lawless, Julia, (1995). The Illustrated Encyllopedia of Essential Oils, Dorset, UK: Element Books
Mojay, Gabriel, (1996). Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit, London: Gaia Books Ltd
Price, Len, (1999). Carrier Oils for Aromatherapy and Massage, UK: Riverhead Publishing

Compiled and written by Eve Doyle Dip.ITHMA MIFPA, Aromatherapist.
© Subtle Aromatics 2016

About the author / more information
Eve Doyle is a Dip. ITHMA Aromatherapist. She practises as a therapist in the Bath and Bristol areas in the UK.