Passive therapies often work best in situations in which patients are unable to actively participate in treatment. For that reason, aromatherapy in hospice and palliative care environments is just what the doctor ordered. If the doctor is a homeopathic or holistic doctor, that is. Holistic medicine, more and more, is embracing the benefits that certain essential oils have on our health. In fact, I am seeing aromatherapy reviewed in more mainstream medical publications more than I did just ten years ago.
Essential oils, like lavender, frankincense, rosemary, melissa, bergamot, and others have properties beyond their marvelous fragrance. Lavender promotes sleep and augments mood while reducing stress. It is calming and balances emotions. There is evidence that frankincense reduces arthritis, eases asthma, and may even fight cancer. Rosemary improves cognitive performance and memory, relieves pain, and improves general mood. Bergamot relieves stress, anxiety and depression. Like lavender, bergamot relieves insomnia. The essential oils listed here and below are antiseptic and antibacterial, and help to keep surfaces and air clean.
A host of other essential oils are useful in medical treatment environments like hospice and palliative care. The mentioned oils are available here and give you an assortment that will benefit those in your care as well as your staff.
Some Essential Oils for Hospice and Palliative Care
It is often prescribed that an essential oil be applied directly to the skin. For example, we even advise below that a few drops of bergamot at the temples can reduce hypertension. Bergamot is a fairly mild oil, but some, like cinnamon, thyme, and oregano, can irritate the skin. While this is a standard and accepted practice, use caution. Don’t put an oil on the skin that hasn’t been so prescribed. Even if applying to the skin has been suggested, test a single drop before proceeding. The best bet is to consult a certified aromatherapist if there is any doubt.
You can purchase the oils listed here on our store. We carry a line of very high quality oils – Oshadhi. Sometimes these can get expensive if you run a diffuser a lot. We do sell other lines of essential oils in larger quantities. They are all good oils.
If you are interested in an aromatherapy oil not in this list, let us know. We have a full line, we just advertise here those we think are most beneficial for hospice and palliative care .
- Lavender – Worldwide, lavender is the most used essential oil. Lavender is antibacterial and antiviral. Use this oil to clean and disinfect surfaces and the air. 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. It is known to soothe inflamed skin and promote healing. Lavender has been widely studied and found to relieve many of the symptoms of dementia including Alzheimer’s disease. As with many essential oils and aromatherapy in general, modern science is beginning to catch up to what the ancients knew about lavender. Recent clinical studies1,2 confirm this herbs benefit for general vital signs and for sleep quality, as well as its effect on Acute Inflammatory Response and other health benefits.
- 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 perhaps best known for its ability to heal cold sores. It is used to treat eczema and generally improves skin health. Put 4-6 drops of oil in 1 ounce of a carrier oil or moisture cream and apply directly to the skin. (See below for ways to use essential oils.) Melissa shares many of lavender’s characteristics. It is antiviral and antimicrobial, improves mood, and is helpful to those suffering from anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Studies4 show it is effective for treating the agitation associated with Alzheimer’s disease. It is possibly an anti-cancer agent, and may relieve hypertension.True melissa can be quite expensive; it can take as much as 7 tons of the lemon balm leaf to produce one pound of oil. Inexpensive versions often contain cheaper oils, like citronella.
- Peppermint – This will likely be the most recognizable aroma in your essential oil repertoire. Peppermint is stimulating and is used to both stimulate the mind and calm the nerves. It is said to rectify absent-mindedness, and studies3,6 show it improves memory and cognitive performance. Diffuse it in the morning to energize the patient, clear respiratory passages, and stimulate appetite. As a massage oil or lotion peppermint relieves fatigue and muscular tension. Also soothes stress and irritability. Use it in a bath to improve circulation, invigorate, and soothe inflamed skin.
- Rosemary – In act 4 of Hamlet, Ophelia says, “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.” Indeed, the memory improving effect of rosemary was known for thousands of years before Shakespeare’s time. Modern science is beginning to recognise what the ancient Greeks and Romans knew long ago. Rosemary does indeed improve memory and cognitive processes. Stimulating and uplifting, rosemary positively affects both body and mind.
A recent study5,6 by Mark Moss and Lorraine Oliver reported some compelling evidence that exposure to rosemary oil improves cognitive performance in both speed and accuracy measures.5 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. Other tested benefits of rosemary are its antiseptic, anti-microbial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and anti-oxidant properties.
- Bergamot – Refreshes. Relieves insomnia. Used in Ayurvedic medicine and Italian folk medicine for digestive problems, for skin health, and to relieve fever. Bergamot’s benefits include mood elevating, calming, and balancing, and stress and anxiety relief. Use in a diffuser to get relief from mild depression and reduce blood pressure. A few drops at the temples can also reduce hypertension. To relieve pain, rub a few drops on the affected area, or massage with an oil or cream created by adding a few drops of oil to a tablespoon of a carrier oil.
- Ylang Ylang – Antidepressant, antiseptic, antispasmodic and sedative. Used topically or internally, phytochemicals in ylang ylang possess antibacterial and anti-fungal properties. The oil also improves human immune function and is anti-inflammatory. One recent paper3 published in the International Journal of Neuroscience reported improve cognitive performance when ylang ylang was used together with peppermint. The more medical science learns about diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and many others, the more inflammation is seen as a contributor. Natural methods of inflammation reduction are always good additions to a health regimen.