Essential Oils and Aromatherapy for Alzheimer’s Patients

Flanagan, Nina. The Clinical Use of Aromatherapy in Alzheimer’s Patients. Alternative & Complementary Therapies. November/December 1995:377-380.
Megan Carnarius, R.N., is pioneering the use of aromatherapy, the therapeutic use of plant-derived essential oils, with Alzheimer’s patients. Known in Europe to be an effective mood enhancer and stress-relieving therapy, aromatherapy is becoming more well-known here in the United States, although its clinical use is limited. In Alzheimer’s patients, it can increase quality of life by reducing the anxiety that often accompanies the disease; its therapeutic use, however, is of special interest because of the connection between the evocative sense of smell and memory.

The aromatherapy program that Carnarius has developed for her patients in the Alzheimer’s unit at Manor Care in Boulder, CO, involves the use of diffusers, spritzers, facials, and massage with essential oils. Lemon oil, which helps patients wake up and focus their energies, is used in the morning in the diffusers and put on washcloths for facials; chamomile used to calm patients down in the afternoon or when they become agitated. The scents also work partly because they change the environment of the nursing home, breaking the stagnation and stimulating the patients to feel and remember.

Carnarius has developed an aromatherapy kit for use with Alzheimer’s patients which consists of five essential oils: geranium, lavender, marjoram, rosemary, and ylang ylang. She has trained Alzheimer’s unit staff at 13 centers, and there are over 450 patients using aromatherapy. Measuring results is difficult, but Carnarius says, “Since our programming is very structured, I know that with the oils, people stay in activities longer-they are stimulated more in general.”

About SAGE oil:

“11-03:  New research has proved that sage can improve memory, confirming centuries-old theories. British scientists have carried out the first clinical trials with healthy, young adults and found that those who had taken sage oil capsules performed significantly better in a word recall test.”

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