This form of alternative therapy uses aromatic compounds found in essential oils like eucalyptus, Jasmine, camphor, cedar, sandalwood, ginger, orange and lemon to help people relax and lower their blood pressure and relieve pain. These essential oils are extracted from plants and flowers, making them a natural alternative to medications that accomplish the same goals.
There are several aromatherapy methods. The essentials oils can be added to the bath so that the hot water releases their fragrance, they can be burned as incense, or they can be rubbed directly into the skin.
The various uses for aromatherapy include:
- Using certain essential oils for relaxation and stress relief
- Using oils that are natural stimulants in place of other types of stimulants like caffeine
- Applying oils directly to the skin to relieve pain and decrease inflammation
- Massaging specific essential oils into the skin to aid in digesting food
Aromatherapy is Increasingly Used as an Alternative Treatment for Cancer Patients
The inclusion of aromatherapy in a cancer patient’s treatment is gaining wider acceptance. The National Cancer Institute explains when this treatment is used, how it works and its advantages:
- Aromatherapy is used by patients with cancer primarily as supportive care for general well-being.
- The effects of aromatherapy are theorized to result from the effect of odorant molecules (molecules that give off a smell) from essential oils on the brain’s emotional center, the limbic system. Topical application (massaged into the skin) of aromatic oils may exert antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic (pain relief) effects.
- Aromatherapy has a relatively low toxicity profile when administered by inhalation or diluted topical application.
- Aromatherapy products do not need approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration because there is no claim for treatment of specific diseases.
Researchers Find that Essential Oils Can Aid in Relieving Constipation Associated with Advanced Cancer
Scientists from the Oncology Department at Princess Margaret Hospital in Hong Kong conducted a study to see if massaging essential oils into the skin could relieve the constipation experienced by patients with advanced cancer.
Their findings published February 2011 in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice indicated that cancer patients who were given aroma massage therapy experienced less severe constipation than those that did not receive it. In addition to the improved bowel movements, these patients also experienced improved quality of life not only on the physical level, but also on a spiritual level.
Study Examines the Use of a Unique Method of Delivering Aromatherapy
In an article titled Aromasticks in cancer care: an innovation not to be sniffed at, published May 2011 in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, researchers evaluated a new method of delivering aromatherapy to cancer patients called an aromastick that is similar in design to the Vicks® Vapor Inhaler®.
One hundred and sixty patients took part in the study. Of that number, 123reported experiencing at least one benefit from using the aromasticks.The following list shows the breakdown by symptom:
- 65 percent of patients experiencing anxiety said they were more relaxed
- 47 percent of the patients experiencing treatment-related nausea said the aromasticks settled their stomachs
- 55 percent of those experiencing sleep disturbances said the aromasticks helped them sleep