Did you know that you can massage away your belly fat? Seriously. It’s true! Two scientific studies out of Korea showed that it’s possible when doing self-massage with certain aromatherapy essential oils for an extended period of time. So, when I found out about them, I knew I just had to share them with you!
A 2007 study demonstrated that post-menopausal women who used a combination of five essential oils, including grapefruit and cypress, to self-massage their abdomen twice daily for six weeks had a significant reduction in subcutaneous fat, reduced their waist size, and even improved their body image. And a previous scientific study done in 2000 showed that aromatherapy massage not only reduced fat and waist size, but even helped reduce appetite in middle-aged women. Wow! Sounds great, huh?
Considering abdominal weight gain is a problem area for many women, including yours truly, I was also convinced I had to try it. Now, I was already very well acquainted with the many therapeutic benefits of aromatherapy and massage therapy due to my holistic health training, but I honestly never tried to use them together to target just one specific part of the body—namely, the belly. So, these studies prompted me to come up with my own recipe for an aromatherapy massage oil to reduce abdominal fat and to give it a go. It’s a happy, uplifting blend that would be equally pleasing to both men and women.
Read on for all the details, including how to make your own massage blend, when to use it, how to use it, why it works, the kind of essential oils you should use, options, and more. I think you’ll be convinced to try it, too!
Ingredients & Supplies
4 drops of grapefruit essential oil (Citrus paradisi Macf.)
4 drops of cypress essential oil (Cypressus sempervirens)
4 drops of juniper berry essential oil (Juniperus communis)
4 drops of sweet orange essential oil (Citrus sinensis)
1 – 2 drops of sage essential oil (Salvia officinalis)
1 oz. of almond oil (or another carrier oil such as sunflower oil)
1 massage bottle
This recipe makes 1 oz. of massage oil.
Essential oils can be found in the personal care section of most natural grocery stores or on-line from sources such as Amazon.
Pour the almond oil into a massage bottle and then add in your essential oil drops. Shake well before each use. Store out of direct heat and sunlight, which degrade the essential oils.
Therapeutic aromatherapy massage oil blends may contain up to a 3% concentration of essential oils, which is what I used in the above recipe. However, when using aromatherapy with children or the elderly, the amount used should be cut down substantially to anywhere from a .5% to 1 1/2% concentration depending on the age of the person. Also, please note that sage oil is not recommended for children, so leave it out if making the blend for a child. Please modify your blend accordingly. (See more safety precautions in the “Warning!” section below.)
Also, the above measurements are based on the assumption that there are about 600 drops of essential oil per ounce in a bottle with a euro-dropper. However, the size of drops can vary, especially if you’re using something such as a plastic pipette. So, when in doubt, measure using milliliters instead of drops to be accurate. Aim for 1 ml. (.9 ml to be exact) of essential oil per 30 ml. of massage oil to get a 3% concentration.
Don’t have all the essential oils on hand? No problem. Feel free to substitute them with some of these: carrot seed, sweet fennel, ginger, juniper berry, rosemary, sage, lemon, sweet-orange, cold-pressed lime, and tangerine.
When to Use It
Using this aromatherapy massage oil for stomach weight gain and cellulite is pretty obvious, but it would also be helpful for water retention. It may also be useful if you’re going through hormone fluctuations, such as those experienced during peri-menopause and menopause, and beginning to notice differences in how your body distributes weight.
Even if you’re not going through “changes in life,” sometimes xenoestrogens (synthetic or natural chemical compounds that mimic estrogen in your body), build up in the body, affect your metabolism, and cause weight gain. And this is true for both men and women. So, this massage oil could be used by men, too, even though the research has focused on women.
How to Use It
Even though the researchers used an aromatherapy massage blend to just target subcutaneous fat on the abdomen, I would think that massaging other common problem areas would be helpful as well. So, maybe give it a try if you have other spots you want to work on. Also, use it twice a day for at least six weeks as that is the time period that was proven effective in the 2007 Korean study discussed in the “Why the Essential Oils Work” section below.
By the way, before using it, warm the oil slightly by placing the massage oil bottle in a cup of hot water if it’s cold. Otherwise, you will shock your body and be stressed — the opposite of what you want to achieve! And when massaging your abdomen, move in a clock-wise motion.
In addition, to be really effective, I’d probably incorporate this belly-busting massage into a daily holistic health routine to support weight loss, which I will go into in detail in a later post. But for now here are a few quick tips: First thing in the morning I’d drink a glass of lemon water and continue to drink plenty of water throughout the day, such as cucumber spa water, to support detoxification and reduce water retention. Before showering, I’d do dry skin brushing, because that improves muscle tone, reduces cellulite, and more. I’d also be sure to exercise, meditate, and eat plenty of healthy foods, including a boat load of organic fruits and veggies.
Why the Essential Oils Work
You may be asking yourself how essential oils can help facilitate weight loss exactly? Well, essential oils have many therapeutic actions due to the chemical constituents they contain. In the 2007 study summary, two essential oils were named specifically — grapefruit and cypress. So, lets start with those.
Grapefruit is known by aromatherapists to be beneficial for cellulite, weight gain, and water retention because it works well on the lymphatic system (i.e., our body’s “waste disposal system”) by increasing the flow of lymph, thereby facilitating the removal of water and toxins. Toxins by the way get naturally bound up in our fat tissue as our body’s way of protecting itself, so as the fat breaks down, it’s essential that something be done to support toxin removal.
Cypress is a diuretic and also has an astringent and tonifying effect on tissue. In addition, because it’s known to help menstrual problems and even help some menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, Cypress seems to help balance hormones. Because hormone fluctuations are one suspected cause for abdominal weight gain in women, it really is a useful in this regard.
In addition to cypress and grapefruit, though, there are other many well-known essential oils that are used by aromatherapists for cellulite, toxin removal, and water retention. They are carrot seed, sweet fennel, ginger, juniper berry, rosemary, sage, and some select citrus essential oils (e.g., lemon, sweet-orange, cold-pressed lime, and tangerine). So, I suspect that the scientists would have used some of these in their formula as well.
In my formula, I knew I definitely wanted to use grapefruit and cypress to replicate what was used in the study as closely as possible. And because I had sweet orange and juniper berry on hand, I also chose those as I thought they would complement the grapefruit and cypress nicely and make a pleasing blend. However, after mixing them in, I realized it seemed flat and needed a little something more—a little more complexity. Sage was calling my name, so I added in some sage. It gave it a nice touch of “spice” and seemed to make the blend come together and round it out somehow. After letting the blend sit for a few minutes, the scents melded nicely and I ended up with a bright blend. By the way, as aromatherapy also affects your mood, having something pleasing as well as functional is important, too.
Massage therapy is very therapeutic on many levels. In terms of weight loss, it’s beneficial in that it reduces stress, increases circulation, and improves lymphatic flow. Also, abdominal massage in particular helps improve digestion and reduce constipation.
Reducing stress helps reduce cortisol levels in your body. A recent 2014 study published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine showed that after just one aromatherapy massage salivary cortisol levels were significantly reduced. High cortisol levels from stress have been associated with increased abdominal weight gain, even in otherwise slim women, as shown in this 2000 study published in the journal of Psychosomatic Medicine. So keeping cortisol levels in check seems essential to preventing abdominal weight gain. And what better way to do it than with frequent daily self-massage using essential oils to support the process?
By increasing circulation and improving lymphatic flow, massage therapy helps bring vital nutrients and oxygen to cells throughout your body, and also helps eliminate toxins, carry away metabolic waste, bacteria, and more from your body, respectively. So massage really does help your body function better overall. A better functioning body is obviously more efficient at keeping water levels in check, eliminating toxins, regulating hormones, and more. All things great for a better looking—and healthier—body!
Essential oils are concentrated so they should be handled with care. Don’t let essential oils come into direct contact with your skin, eyes, or mucous membranes. (There are a few exceptions, such as lavender, that are actually beneficial to put directly on your skin.) If you get essential oil on your skin, wash with soapy water and rinse well. If some gets in your eyes, immediately flush your eyes with water for several minutes. If irritation persists, seek medical attention.
Some essential oils are contraindicated if you have certain medical conditions or are pregnant. For example, sage oil should not be used by pregnant women or those with epilepsy. Likewise it should not be used by children. Juniper berry oil is also contraindicated during pregnancy. On the other hand, sweet orange, cypress, are grapefruit are generally pretty safe. Please consult a qualified aromatherapist when in doubt.
So what do you think? Are you tempted to give this blend a try? If you decide to make it, let me know how you like it. And this is the important part—let me know if you notice any difference using it! That is, did you notice a reduction in fat around your mid-section? I’ll also be sure to report back on how well it worked for me.
Battaglia, S. The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy. (2003). 2nd ed. Brisbane, Australia: The International Centre of Holistic Aromatherapy.
Keville, K. (1995). Aromatherapy For Dummies. New York: Wiley Publishing.
This article was updated on April 20, 2019.
Copyright © Karen Peltier and Well Gal, 2014 – 2019. All rights reserved.
Photos © Karen Peltier and Well Gal, 2014- 2019.