Aromatherapy Safe and Effective for People With Alzheimer's

Caregiver, patient expert

Alzheimer's disease can't be cured. There are medications that help slow the development of symptoms for some people, but the type of care that seems to help most people with Alzheimer's is  hands-on attention. This often means that caregivers need to use a tool-box approach to providing care. Thus, opening our minds to ancient medicine can give us additional options. One ancient technique that's been studied by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the use of aromatherapy.

The  NIH abstract on aromatherapy  reports that the trial consisted of having subjects inhale the fragrance of rosemary and lemon essential oils in the morning, and lavender and orange essential oils in the evening.

The results? Researchers found that aromatherapy is an "efficacious non-pharmacological therapy for dementia. Aromatherapy may have some potential for improving cognitive function, especially in AD patients."

The reason I went to the NIH for sourcing is that I wanted to overcome a common bias that alternative therapy only offers placebo effects. While there are alternative practices that people need to be cautious about - especially those that declare miracle cures- there are many alternative approaches that are valid and life-enhancing.

Combining the old with the new

Combining ancient, alternative health care with modern methods is referred to as complimentary or integrative medicine. You should inform your loved one's physicians about any plans to combine therapy through the use of alternative methods in case there is a chance of medication interaction or some other valid reason why this approach in counter-indicated.

Meditation, yoga and  tai chi  are three alternative methods that have proven to be beneficial nearly anyone's health. We can now add aromatherapy as a tool, not only for our own health but for managing our loved one's dementia.

Some other oils to try when working to enhance our elders' lives are ginger for digestion and peppermint oil, which can help joint pain when topically applied.

Remember that essential oils are powerful and, when used inappropriately, can burn fragile skin, harm eyes or cause internal issues. It's best to seek guidance from a naturopath or a chiropractor who uses these oils so that you can learn how to properly blend them with a carrier oil before applying them directly to the skin. A credentialed massage therapist may also be able to advise you.

Don't let a bias against alternative medicine put you off. While we now have the blessing of the NIH to use rosemary, lemon, lavender and orange by the inhaled method to help calm Alzheimer's symptoms, we can also seek advice from trained professionals who may help us make the most of any number of ancient practices for ourselves and our loved ones.

Carol is a  newspaper  columnist and the author of Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories. She runs award winning websites at _ www.mindingourelders.com  and_www.mindingoureldersblogs.com.  Follow Carol @mindingourelder and on Facebook: Minding Our Elders_  _

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