I've recently been hearing rumblings within the aromatherapy community telling us that the often repeated recommendation to use essential oils on our feet was a useless method and now declared a "myth". The reasoning I've read is that the bottom of the foot is thicker than other areas of the body and the skin is a “barrier”. I read a few blogs where colleagues were repeating this, but intuitively I knew that this method has worked for me, my friends, family and customers now for over 10 years - so I was intrigued and wondering why they were saying it didn’t work? I put this thought in the back of my mind as I went about doing things that were further at the top of my to-do list. I did mention in a couple of places that I knew it (the foot rub) worked and I'd have to "ponder" it.

Light-bulb duh moment!

Then it was the proverbial light-bulb moment as I was doing a "foot rub" on myself before going to bed. I do this often for myself and my husband. We then cover the area with thick socks to enhance absorption. This time, as I was rubbing my feet, I'm thinking DUH!! Now do me a favor and take off your shoes and socks and look at your feet - what do you see? Veins!! There are arteries very close to the surface as well. This is one of the most vascular places on your body! This vast and intricate system of veins and arteries are also VERY close to the surface without additional subcutaneous tissue to have to penetrate - and this includes the bottom of your feet. Take a look at the picture above! Why do we nurses start IV's in the hands and feet? Because that's where the veins are close to the surface and there are a lot of them! 


The Mythical Debate:

I believe the argument addressed mainly the BOTTOM of your feet and that the skin in this area is “thicker”. Well, this is true; however, when I do a foot rub for myself or when I would do it for my patients and husband, it is a full foot rub - top, sides, bottom and ankles, and when I tell people to do a chest rub, back rub and foot rub - that is what I mean. I don't really know of anyone who just rubs anything ONLY on the bottom of the feet. I need to ask some of my massage therapist friends, but regardless, a foot rub with essential oils diluted properly in carrier oil is not only very satisfying and relaxing, the essential oils are absorbed very effectively due to the extensive vascular system in that area. The other reason I always liked foot rubs for my patients was that it was not as invasive as rubbing a back or chest. In the hospital environment of pokes, prods, and open doors at all times of the day and night, it was just an easy way to bring comfort to patients. Hand rubs (massages) are also very effective for some of the same reasons - the hands are non-invasive and vascular, clothing doesn’t have to be removed and it takes very little time. You also don’t have to be a Licensed Massage Therapist to do it. So - please do continue to do "foot rubs" with your essential oils. It has also been proven that it does work so much better if you cover the area where you are applying the essential oils as absorption is increased many fold. I don't think we need research studies to tell us why that would be true, but there are some available.


Other Aromatherapy Opinions

I did take another look through some of my favorite aromatherapy books and I found that Kurt Schnaubelt, Shirley Price and Jane Buckle all talk about foot massage and how effective it is. Shirley Price in her book “Aromatherapy for Health Professionals” also gives detailed instructions with pictures of how to perform a foot and lower leg massage. Jane Buckle mentions in a discussion about foot and hand massage that “touch has been shown to reduce blood pressure, reduce lower back pain, relieve anxiety and alleviate depression.”

I had a very difficult time finding pictures that I could legally purchase and use for this article. I even scanned some pictures from some of my textbooks, but decided that probably wasn't legal either. So here is a link that shows an assortment of pictures of the vascular system for our feet. 


So there the "myth" has been de-mythed!  


Thanks for listening!



Ann's mission statement is to provide health and wellness information to you and your family that you may not find in your every-day newspapers or Prevention magazines. Her college studies, certifications and passionate self-study have provided her with a huge spectrum of understanding of the intricate issues and debates concerning health and nutrition. Ann is a Critical Care Registered Nurse, a Certified Clinical Aromatherapy Professional, and has been studying nutrition, aromatherapy, skin care health and medicinal herbalism for at least 13 years. Not so surprisingly, all of these interact for health and wellness at a level we all want to achieve. She is an ardent pursuer of verified research and information and spends huge amounts of time searching for information that is relevant and evidence based. We sincerely hope you benefit from her efforts.