An aging population means that we are seeing an increase in those suffering from the terrible effects of dementia. In fact the CDC estimates that as many as 1 in 9 people over the age of 65 is suffering from dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease which is by far the most common form of dementia.
While the search for a cure is ongoing, there may be some natural help provided by certain essential oils which can be used to improve cognitive abilities and ease some of the symptoms of dementia like stress and depression. This may be good news for both sufferer, families and professional care givers alike.
What is Dementia?
Dementia is characterized by the loss of cognitive, intellectual and also social ability to the point that it severely interferes with quality of life and daily functions. The most common cause of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s is caused by the steady degeneration and destruction of healthy brain cells and tissue causing an alarming decline in cognitive function and memory. As the population continues to age, so the number of sufferers rises and anybody with a family member affected by this terrible illness will be all too familiar with its horrendous effects which typically get worse over time.
What are the Signs?
The signs and symptoms of dementia include:
- Forgetfulness which becomes worse over time.
- Difficulty locating the correct word when speaking.
- Disorientation with regard to dates and location.
- Problems dealing with numbers.
- Poor judgment when dealing with everyday issues like cooking.
- Personality changes and mood swings.
- Anxiety, restlessness and aggression.
As well as Alzheimer’s, other conditions that sometimes lead to dementia include Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
How can Essential Oils Help?
The progressively worsening symptoms can be heartbreaking for family members and catastrophic for the sufferer which is why any remedy that can give some form of solace is worth looking into. Many people have found essential oils to be very effective in dealing with some of the symptoms of dementia.
While essential oils are not an absolute cure for dementia, they can do a great deal to improve quality of life. There is already some preliminary scientific research that has demonstrated the ability of certain essential oils to help treat many of the symptoms of the disease.
Certain oils have proven effect for depression, anxiety, restlessness, focus and insomnia all of which are symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other conditions caused by the onset of dementia.
A study published in 2009 set out to examine the effects of aromatherapy with various essential oils on 28 patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Following a control period, aromatherapy was used for a 28-day period.
The aromatherapy used in the experiment consisted of lemon and rosemary essential oil each morning with a blend of lavender and orange essential oil being used in the evening. The results of the experiment were very promising with all patients involved experiencing a significant improvement in personal orientation and cognitive function.
In addition, lab test results showed there were no adverse effects associated with the essential oil treatment. The researchers concluded that aromatherapy with essential oils was a potential efficacious treatment for dementia. (1)
The Best Essential Oils for Dementia
This list is not exhaustive and you may find that other oils can help you or your loved ones but the following oils have a demonstrable effect against many of the symptoms associated with dementia.
1. Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender is one of the most popular and diverse of all the essential oils. It is also among the most gentle and one of the few that can be used topically without dilution. Among its most popular uses is to calm the mind and help with symptoms of anxiety and stress common among sufferers of dementia.
- It can also be diffused near your bed or a few drops applied to your pillow to promote a good night of sleep making it a popular option for those with sleep issues like insomnia.
2. Rosemary Essential Oil
Rosemary essential oil has uplifting and stimulating properties which can help with improved cognition and mood. It is used by many people to deal with the symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression and as we have seen studies seem to confirm its efficacy.
- You can inhale rosemary essential oil directly whenever you feel the need or diffuse it throughout the day to restore mood, emotional wellbeing and improve your cognitive ability.
3. Peppermint Essential Oil
Peppermint essential oil has similarly energizing properties to rosemary oil and is used by many people seeking to calm their nerve s and improve brain function and focus. Another option with similar but slightly milder properties is spearmint essential oil.
- Peppermint essential oil is probably best used in the early part of the day as it may keep you awake when used at night.
- You can inhale it, diffuse it, add a few drops to the bath or dilute it in a carrier oil and massage it into your body to lift your spirits and improve your mental clarity.
4. Lemon Essential Oil
Lemon essential oil has been put to the test scientifically and its effects are well recognized. It was one of the oils used in the Alzheimer’s study I mentioned earlier and is commonly used to help people relax and deal with anxiety and nerves.
It is also used by people to improve their focus and memory when they are feeling fatigued and overworked. Many of these symptoms are common in sufferers of dementia so lemon oil may give you or your loved one some much needed respite.
5. Bergamot Essential Oil
Bergamot essential oil has various uses when it comes to the treatment of dementia symptoms. It is an excellent and popular option for relieving anxiety, nervousness, mood and even mild bouts of depression.
- It can also be diffused at night to help you combat insomnia and ensure a proper night of quality rest.
6. Ylang ylang Essential Oil
Ylang ylang essential oil is another great choice especially when it comes to calming the mind, combatting stresses, anxiety and insomnia. Unlike peppermint or rosemary, it does not have stimulating abilities and is unlikely to improve focus and concentration.
However, when used later in the day it can help considerably with many of the symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
7. Ginger Essential Oil
Ginger essential oil can stimulate the mind, improve mental clarity and focus. It is also a popular choice for those dealing with anxiety and stress and other mood disorders typical among dementia victims.
- It can be diffused, inhaled or diluted in a carrier oil to make a soothing massage oil. It is also well-known for improving digestion and appetite.
8. Other Essential Oil
The list above consists of the oils most commonly used to deal with symptoms of dementia but is far from complete. Other potentially excellent oils for this disease are orange, spearmint, chamomile and Spanish sage.
How to use your Essential oils for Dementia
- Direct Inhalation: The most convenient and easiest way to use your essential oils is to inhale them directly whenever you feel the need. Alternatively, you can add a few drops to your bed sheets or pillow at night.
- Diffuse: Diffusing your essential oils and breathing in their vapors throughout the day and night is an excellent option to keep you calm but focused through the day and relaxed enough for sleep at night.
- Massage: Before massaging these oils into your skin, you should first dilute them with a suitable base oil. Coconut, avocado, jojoba and sweet almond are popular choices but there are many more to choose from.
- Bath soak: Add a few drops of your chosen essential oil or a combination of oils directly to your tub. Make sure that the water is not running or you may lose much of the therapeutic goodness.
A Word of Warning about diffusing Citrus Oils.
There have been reports of citrus oils damaging some diffuser machines so please check your manufacturer’s recommendations before proceeding.