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ESSENTIAL OILS AND ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE

essential oils alzheimers care respite caregiver care giving

Let’s face it, essential oils are not a new phenomenon.

Their use can in fact be traced back for thousands of years and they have a rich history of application in various cultures and civilizations around the world, for medicinal, spiritual and cosmetic purposes.

A quick glance through the pages of history reveals that ancient Egyptians were amongst the first to use aromatic oils for spiritual, therapeutic and cosmetic purposes. Essential oils were also widely used in ancient China, around 3,000 years BC, with aromatic plants and oils revered for their healing properties, with texts from this period describing widespread medicinal use. Further, the ancient Indian system of medicine, Ayurveda, has used essential oils for therapeutic purposes for thousands of years.

Ancient Greek phsyicians such as Hippocrates also documented the use of aromatic oils for medicinal purposes, and their use was widespread in the Roman Empire, with oils such as lavender, rosemary and chamomile highly valued and used in baths, massages and perfumes

Their use continued throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance period and has endured into the nmodern era, with scientific study of essential oils commencing in the late 19th century, with the term “aromatherapy” coined by a French chemist in 1937, wheh he discovered the healing properties of lavender oil. 

Let’s be clear though – it’s not possible, nor would it be correct, in 2024 to claim that essential oils can cure medical conditions. However, there is a significant body of research that indicates that they can help with symptoms of certain medical conditions, when used in addition to mainstream medical care, not in place of it

Documented benefits of essential oils range from stress relief and mental clarity, to easing muscle aches and pains.

So what about potential benefits to someone living with Alzheimer’s disease? Well, there are not many studies that have specifically researched the benefits of essential oils for individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease, but there are a number of studies that do suggest that the use of essential oils can improve symptoms such as insomnia, or anxiety, with few to no side effects.

The easiest way to use an essential oil is to place a few drops of the oil in an essential oil diffuser, together with water in the diffuser’s reservoir, and leave it on for 30 to 60 minutes. The mixture of oil and water is then diffused into the air and, when inhaled in this way, it stimulates the smell receptors, which carry positive (or negative) messages through the central nervous system to the limbic system, which is the part of the brain that controls emotions.

There are of course many different essential oils to choose from. Of them all, Lavender has been referred to as the mother of all oils, in part because it is usually well-received by almost everyone, from children to older adults, and because studies have shown that it can have a calming effect on people. There have been small studies that have shown that lavender can help improve behavior and also improve sleep in patients with dementia. There is also evidence that it can help with the management of agitation, which can sometimes manifest in someone living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

A few other oils and their potential benefits for Alzheime’rs are:

  • Lemon balm – studies have shown this oil as having potential benefits in reducing stress and anxiety.
  • Bergamot – it is an earthy scent, but can be uplifting and useful for helping people who are anxious or depressed, although the strong scent may not be to every individual’s personal taste
  • Ginger – has been shown to help alleviate symptoms of nauseas and upset stomach
  • Rosemary – rosemary oil can sometimes be used to help improve cognitive function and memory. While the evidence is not conclusive, some studies suggest that rosemary may have a positive effect on alertness and mental clarity.

CONCLUSIONS

  • While there is clearly a growing body of promising evidence, (and thousands of years of historical use), modern day research on essential oils and Alzheimer’s is still limited, and more rigorous clinical trials are needed 
  • Essential oils should not be used as a replacement for conventional treatments prescribed by healthcare professionals. They can, however, be considered as a helpful and complementary approach.
  • Essential oils clearly may offer some benefits for managing symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, particularly in terms of improving mood, reducing agitation, and enhancing sleep quality.

BEFORE YOU GO

  • If you have any comments or thoughts on this, feel free to email us at customerservice@amindtocare.com
  • If you’d like to dip a toe into the world of diffused essential oils, check out our new ultrasonic water-based essential oil diffuser here: 
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UCI Research into Aromas While Sleeping Showed Memory Improvement

aromas diffuser while sleeping research study shows memory improvement

UCI News reported in August 2023 that a University of California, Irvine, had announced that a research study into the impact of aromas while sleeping had sparked a 226% cognitive increase.

Research Excerpts Summary:

When a fragrance wafted through the bedrooms of older adults for two hours every night for six months, memories skyrocketed. Participants in this study by University of California, Irvine neuroscientists reaped a 226% increase in cognitive capacity compared to the control group. The researchers say the finding transforms the long-known tie between smell and memory into an easy, non-invasive technique for strengthening memory and potentially deterring dementia.1

The project was conducted through the UCI Center for the Neurobiology of Learning & Memory. It involved men and women aged 60 to 85 without memory impairment. All were given a diffuser and seven cartridges, each containing a single and different natural oil. People in the enriched group received full-strength cartridges. Control group participants were given the oils in tiny amounts. Participants put a different cartridge into their diffuser each evening prior to going to bed, and it activated for two hours as they slept.1

People in the enriched group showed a 226% increase in cognitive performance compared to the control group, as measured by a word list test commonly used to evaluate memory. Imaging revealed better integrity in the brain pathway called the left uncinate fasciculus. This pathway, which connects the medial temporal lobe to the decision-making prefrontal cortex, becomes less robust with age. Participants also reported sleeping more soundly.1

REFERENCES:


A Mind to Care’s Essential Oils and Diffusers available here.