Can Aromatherapy help Alzheimer’s disease?
There has recently been an upsurge in attention over the use of aromatherapy for Alzheimer’s disease. Several essential oils are proving effective for treating several symptoms of dementia in general including anxiety, sleep problems, and memory.
The use of essential oils has a history going back at least as far as the ancient Egyptians, who entombed their Pharaohs with jars of essential oils for use in the afterlife. The Chinese and Indians were probably the first to recognize the healing properties of the oils, and many cultures since those ancient times have used essentials for cosmetic and healing purposes. Aromatherapy is now getting an increasing amount of attention in the scientific and medical communities as an alternative therapy for people who have Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. What they are finding is that certain essential oils have a positive effect on mood, behavior, and even on cognitive functioning and memory.
“Aromatherapy” is a somewhat misleading term, since it is not necessarily the aroma of the oils used that creates the desired effect, rather a direct effect that the oils have on the body, whether through contact with the lungs (breathing), or the skin (massage or body oils and lotions). Aging and dementias can both diminish the olfactory sense, but since a direct pharmacological effect of the oils is responsible for the healing effects, a diminished sense of smell should not be a concern when considering aromatherapy.
What is Aromatherapy?
The term aromatherapy was first used by René-Maurice Gattefossé, a French chemist who discovered, purely by accident, that lavender oil had a healing effect on burns. Since then, many have studied the healing effects of different essential plant oils.
Aromatherapy is the use of volatile plant oils to improve psychological and physical health and prevent disease, and to affect mood. These oils are distilled from different parts of plants and contain the essence of the plant. Plants and herbs have a long and lustrous history in relation to our health. They have long been used for their healing properties, in herbal medicine, in our food, and as aromatherapy. Modern medicine has derived many of its most potent and important medicines from plants.
Essential oils are used in various ways. Inhalation is the most common and obvious: For this we offer three different diffusers which disperse the oil into the air to be breathed. Sometimes the effects of the oils are more pronounced when they are absorbed through the skin. Lavender is a good example. Massage a few drops into the hands before bedtime to promote sleep. Lotions and massage oils that are infused with essential oils are also a comforting way to administer their benefits.
The Oshadhi oils that we offer are among the best and purest available anywhere in the world. Impeccable care is taken in the growing, extracting, filling, and packing of these essential oils. All Oshadhi products are completely hand-crafted, from farm to bottling, without the use of electro-magnetic machinery to avoid disruption of their exquisite properties. We list only a few products that have been found specifically to aid Alzheimer’s and dementia symptoms, but we can make available a full line of aromatherapy oils and products. Contact us if you are interested in something related to aromatherapy that is not offered in our store, or just for information to satisfy your curiosity.
Some Essential Oils for Alzheimer’s and Dementia
Different healing properties are claimed for different essential oils. Some oils that are effective for different symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include:
- Lavender – One of the essentials most used in studies of the effects of aromatherapy on AD. Traditionally, lavender is said to be calming and to balance strong emotions. It is also antidepressant and useful in cases of insomnia. Use it in the evening to promote better sleep, or any time of day to promote better mood.
- Lemon Balm – Another essential oil that has been studied in connection with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, (Melissa officinalis) helps to calm and relax. It is helpful to those suffering from anxiety and insomnia. Melissa is probably the most studied of the essential oils for its affect on people who have Alzheimer’s disease, and it is very likely one of the most effective, but it is more costly than other oils that we offer.
- Peppermint – Used to both stimulate the mind and calm the nerves. It is said to rectify absent-mindedness. What could be better? Use it the morning to energize the patient and stimulate appetite.
- Rosemary – Stimulating and uplifting. Stimulates body and mind. A recent study by Mark Moss and Lorraine Oliver reported some compelling evidence that exposure to rosemary oil improves cognitive performance in both speed and accuracy measures. Furthermore, they found that higher concentrations of 1,8-cineole, the active part of rosemary essential oil, resulted in higher performance levels; this in addition to the improvement in mood they reported in the same study.
- Bergamot – Mood elevating, calming, and balancing. Relieves stress, anxiety, and mild depression. Refreshes. Relieves insomnia.
See our complete line of essential oils for Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Using Aromatherapy Oils
Essential oils are most commonly inhaled and absorbed into the linings of the lungs. They can also be applied directly to, and absorbed through, the skin. Care should be exercised when using and administering essential oils. Only diluted oils should be applied directly to the skin. Bath oils, facial oils, and skin care products containing essential oils are all appropriate for this purpose. Pure essential oils can also be diluted with carrier oils, also available on request.
Some methods of use and application suitable for people who have Alzheimer’s disease:
- Ambient Diffusion—Diffusers disperse essential oils into the air, either in a cool mist or by gently warming.
- Massage — Massage combines the therapeutic benefit of touch with those of essential oils. Massage relaxes and improves muscle tone, improves blood circulation and lymph flow, essential to the body’s immune response. Massage oil is 24 drops of essential oils (oils can be combined if desired) in 2 ounces of an organic carrier oil or unscented lotion.
- Body Oil—Best used after a shower or bath, body oils condition the skin, as they deliver aromatherapy treatment through skin absorption. Body oil can be prepared by mixing 6-10 drops of the desired essential oil in 2 ounces of an organic carrier oil, like Grapeseed or Sunflower oil.
- Bath—A good way to relieve muscular and emotional stress while soothing skin conditions. Use 8-10 drops in a full tub of warm water.
- Direct Inhalation—Put 2 or 3 drops of essential oil on a tissue and inhale through the nose. Pause, and repeat as desired.
- Foot Bath—2-4 drops of oil in a tub of water or a Massaging Foot Bath is a perfect way to soothe tired feet. Cool water is invigorating and energizing, warm water is relaxing. Soak feet for ten minutes and pat dry.
- Compress—Add 2-5 drops of oil to water (warm or cool) in a bowl or basin. Stir well, and soak a cloth in the water. Wring the infused cloth and apply to the skin.
- Misting is a convenient way to impart the aroma of an essential oil into the air. Add 20-30 drops of oil to 8 ounces of water in a mister bottle. Shake vigorously and mist the air.
Precautions When Using Aromatherapy Oils
Essential plant oils are relatively safe if certain precautions are followed. If you have a question or a concern about the proper or safe use of any aromatherapy product, please call (our phone number is at the top of every page on the Website) or contact us. Some general guidelines follow:
- If you, or the patient for whom you are considering aromatherapy, is under the care of a physician, consult that physician before introducing essential oil therapy.
- Never put an undiluted essential oil in direct contact with the skin. There are exceptions to this directive, but only under direct supervision of a trained aromatherapist.
- If there is an allergic reaction to any essential oil, discontinue the use of that oil immediately.
- Every essential oil has its own unique properties. Precautions for particular oils are listed with that oil in the store.
- If you are using a candle diffuser that was purchase elsewhere, be careful as you always would with an open flame.
Following is a small sampling of recent research that has investigated the effects of aromatherapy for Alzheimer’s.
Smell was used as well as music and touch to investigate the effects of sensory stimulation on the quality of life of 15 patients with advanced Alzheimer’s disease. As reported in the American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease in 1977, all three of the stimulation modes were effective in reducing the psychological discomfort of the participants.
The study tested Melissa officinalis (lemon balm) extract against a placebo to determine its effect on patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s. The lemon balm improved cognitive functioning significantly better than the placebo.
Aromatherapy using lavender oil was effective in the treatment of agitation in dementia patients. This study employed 15 patients with severe dementia in a long-term care facility and compared results to a placebo (water).