Small studies show that certain essential oils may improve sleep and reduce restlessness in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
A range of oils can be used to improve sleep and alleviate anxiety, restlessness and nausea. Although they have been used for centuries, essential oils have grown in popularity in recent years. Their benefits range from stress relief and mental clarity to alleviating muscle pain. Essential oils are considered complementary therapy, which means they are used in addition to standard medical care, not in place of it.
Essential oils are not used to cure medical conditions, but rather to help improve symptoms. As with many complementary or alternative therapies, there are not many well-designed studies on the benefits of essential oils for people with Alzheimer’s disease, but several smaller studies suggest that using essential oils can improve symptoms like insomnia or anxiety with little or no side effects.
- 1 How are essential oils used for therapeutic purposes?
- 2 Essential Oils: Different Smells for Different People
- 3 Essential Oils for Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
How are essential oils used for therapeutic purposes?
Essential oils are most often used in aromatherapy, where the scent is inhaled, or applied to the skin, often as part of a massage. There are several ways to inhale essential oils, including these:
– Place a few drops of essential oil in an essential oil diffuser (with enough water to fill the diffuser reservoir) and let it run for 30-60 minutes.
– Take a puff from an aroma stick (also called an essential oil inhaler), a portable, usually plastic, stick with an absorbent wick that holds the oil.
– Place a few drops of essential oil on a cotton ball and sniff it.
When an essential oil is inhaled, it stimulates the olfactory receptors, which transmit positive (or negative) messages through the central nervous system to the limbic system. The limbic system is the part of the brain that controls emotions.
Essential Oils: Different Smells for Different People
An essential oil can help someone with dementia by triggering an olfactory memory, which can be very pleasant. An example of a pleasant olfactory memory would be the smell of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. It may bring back a happy childhood memory of relaxing while eating a hot cookie. Essential oils can create an emotional response that can bring up good or bad memories, according to the association.
There are certain smells that seem to trigger specific feelings or reactions in most people, but this can also vary from individual to individual.
It may be helpful for the patient or caregiver to share scents they enjoy or find soothing, so that therapy can be individualized to help manage a particular symptom.
Essential Oils for Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease
Some oils are more likely to have a beneficial effect than others, although personal preference always plays a role.
It’s been called the mother of all oils, in part because it’s generally welcomed by most people, from children to the elderly, due to its chemical composition. Lavender has a calming effect on people. It is probably the most used oil.
Several small studies have shown that lavender can help improve behavior and sleep in patients with dementia. It has also been shown to help manage restlessness, which can be a symptom of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, according to a March 2017 overview published in Hindawi, a journal of complementary and alternative medicine based on proofs.
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
It can be massaged into the skin or inhaled, and has shown benefits for reducing stress and anxiety. A placebo-controlled trial in people with severe dementia found that lemon balm improved restlessness when applied as a massage twice daily for four weeks, with no significant side effects.
The smell of lemon can be relaxing, but it can also be stimulating. Lemon can create a pleasant olfactory memory, like the memory of a summer day and the tasting of a good glass of very cold lemonade.
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita)
Spearmint, less strong than peppermint, can be used to help fight nausea. Peppermint is also a very stimulating oil.
Bergamot (Citrus bergamia)
This essential oil is often used in colognes and deodorants for men. It is considered an earthy scent. Bergamot essential oil can be stimulating and is used for people who are tense, anxious or depressed. Whether the smell is pleasant depends on the person’s individual preference.
Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Ginger essential oil is very useful for people with nausea. Although gastrointestinal problems are not a symptom of Alzheimer’s disease, they can be a side effect of many medications used to treat it.