Birch Hill Happenings Aromatherapy

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Aromatherapy For the Cancer Patient
Essential oils may help during and after treatments etc.

by Penny Keay

Oh that “C” word. It wreaks havoc in peoples’ lives from the patient and all their family and friends. We are asked often if aromatherapy can help someone with Cancer.

First thing, we explain there is no scientifically documented evidence that using essential oils will fight cancer.

Ovarian Cancer Awareness

It doesn’t mean that it don’t exist, it just says there is no documented proof.

Essential oils can still help. However, what essential oils can do is to give supportive care, both physically and mentally. Not only to the patient, but also to all the caregivers and family members involved.

I hope that we can help you and your family with some of the most common issues and how essential oils might help.

First, we want to say, each cancer patient is individual and what works for one may not work for another. Everyone's chemical makeup is different and just like prescription drugs everyone can react differently to essential oils and their blends.

The suggestions we will start with are oils that help most everyone for the listed situations. If those essential oils/blends don't work, there are others we can add or try.

Remember this is aromatherapy - so for the most part we will be suggesting oils that should only be smelled from a Personal inhaler or diffused in the room.

If the patient would like massage oils that can help address some of these things we can make suggestions there too. We would want to see if he or she gets a response from the most commonly suggested oils before using alternates.

Before I start with suggestions for individual complaints, we want to comment on Sleep.

Sleep is so very important - as I'm sure, you are aware. Especially in someone that is ill. The body does its best healing while we are sleeping.

If you can get 'good' sleep, the other problems should improve and no longer be an issue.

There will be references to several articles previously written, as they will cover more in depth suggestions you may be able to use.

Please know that even if a cancer patient or anyone has lost their sense of smell and taste, they can still benefit from the use of essential oils.

Although they may not be able to smell them, the chemical constituents that make up the essential oils can still be utilized through inhalation and will work at the cellular level in the body.

Of course, the ability to smell will make it a more pleasant experience.

1. Sleep:

Most commonly used essential oil -  Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)  inhaling or diffusing this in the room about 30 minutes prior to bed time will start to set the mood.

A drop of  Lavender  can also be placed on the pillowcase, on either end, to help someone stay calmer and relaxed while asleep.

Just being able to relax will oftentimes help someone fall asleep. Sometimes we add  Roman Chamomile or Bergamot too but we like to start with plain Lavender.

Please see Winkin', Blinkin' and the Land of Nod (type this in the search box and it will show you the link) as it has many good suggestions about sleep. In addition, the importance of resetting your circadian rhythm so you can sleep at night.

2. Depression:

Oils that are uplifting and energizing can help. We usually suggest the client let us know what scents they like. Smelling something that can trigger a happy memory or moment can be the most helpful.

Citrus oils especially Orange and Lemon are uplifting. The mint family -  Peppermint and Spearmint can help too.

Again, we try to find oils that bring back happy times.

Dealing with deep depression can be more difficult. Please see my articles about depression if you haven't already.

One important essential oil that is very euphoric and makes almost everyone smile provided him or she like the smell, is  "Ylang-Ylang” (Cananga odorata).  They have to like the smell of it though. As in some folks, the smell of Ylang-Ylang is too unpleasant.

Most folks smell it as the sweet flower that it is, but some folks will only smell the unusual smell it emits. For some, it is very unpleasant. Again as stated above, for depression finding essential oils they like the smell of is a starting point.

Oftentimes, adding a Citrus oil to Ylang-ylang will usually bring a very happy response. We’ve seen folks get very ‘giddy’ smelling it!

3. Energy Level:

This of course can be related to the first two items you have listed. Sleep or lack thereof, will take a toll on your energy level and being depressed makes most folks want to just sit and do nothing.

Again, there are essential oils that can be very uplifting and energizing. Later on, we talk about appetite. This can also be a contributing factor to energy level.

Not eating and having unstable blood sugar can reduce the energy level. Essential oils of choice again are Citrus and Mints.

4. Immune Support:

Just about all essential oils will help the immune system. Since all of them have anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties to varying degrees, they should help keep some infections to a minimum.

You may have noticed that several oils will fit many of the conditions you wish to address. Therefore, you won’t necessarily be using a ‘ton’ of different essential oils. Specifically to help, use Immunity Builder, Four Robbers or Pure Cleansing Blends.

5. Appetite:

The cause can be many. Nausea and the lack of activity will not stimulate the need to eat, or some types of medications just plain suppress appetite.

This again is influenced by lack of good sleep, depression and energy levels. It’s all kind of a vicious cycle.

No sleep, no energy, not eating, no energy, no sleep, depressed are all linked together and poor appetite so you are not getting nutrients needed to support the immune systems.

As for appetite – if the lack of appetite is due to nausea then a sniff or two of  Peppermint or Ginger essential oils can often help reduce the nausea.

These should be inhaled about 30 minutes prior to mealtime (or snack time too).

Avoid smelling Grapefruit as that is a known appetite suppressant.

Again, raising the level of happiness may help too. Smelling other citrus oils often might help.

Bergamot is used in depression and can help some folks eat more. Since, they use Bergamot in Earl Grey Tea; this is a simple choice that can help without actually using Bergamot essential oil – provided of course the patient likes to drink tea.

I wish we had time to really help you understand how Aromatherapy can and does work.

It is complementary – it is not going to replace anything you are already doing for the cancer patient.

However, if we can make suggestions that will help them deal with their situation and to get the rest they need to help deal with the depression, energy level and appetite, things may not seem so bleak.

Just having a brighter outlook may help the immune system too. Unless the patient cannot be allowed in the sun, getting some direct sunlight early in the day will help to reset the sleep mechanism and that in itself, can help to get a better night sleep. Better sleep, better health.

In conclusion:

Use  Lavender  to help calm, relax and rest better. Although, it can be used throughout the day, if it is going to be used to help relax for bedtime then use 30 minutes prior to bed and a drop on the pillow.

Use  Peppermint  for energy and for appetite stimulant especially if the person suffers from nausea. Discontinue using any stimulating or energizing oils and blends 3-4 hours before bedtime. As you don’t want them still stimulated when you want them to go to sleep.

Essential oils when inhaled typically will be out of the body within a few hours so discontinuing any energizing oils before dinnertime is suggested.

For energizing, try just about any citrus oil  Orange, Lemon, Grapefruit and Lime  are the best. However, you might not be able to use Grapefruit – although Grapefruit is energizing – it suppresses appetite so you won’t want to use when you want someone to eat!)

Peppermint and Spearmint are great – we have two energizing blends  Mint energizing and Invigorating.  They include essential oils that are both physically and mentally energizing. These may also increase or stimulate appetite.

We have several blends that may help to calm, relax, and help folks to drift off to sleep. Although the best is to begin with the single oils before using too many synergy blends.

If though the patient has an overabundance of anxiety causing the sleeplessness then the suggestion would be to try our  Anxiety Stop blend, Calming blend or Relaxing blend first.

Even though we have stronger blends to help increase sleepiness they may not be necessary if we can calm their anxiety and stress, get them some sunlight to reset their circadian rhythm etc.

We hope this may help you and your family. Cancer is serious and causes lots of stress.

Essential oils can help the patient and those around them to relax, feel calm inside, to sleep better and to even feel energized.

Essential oils have not been proven to help cure cancer but they can help in other ways.

Will they work for everyone?

No. Will they work for you or your loved one? We can’t tell you if they will.

Essential oils that you enjoy and that smell good to you will usually make the day a little bit better. Sniff away and truly enjoy!

Please never force essential oils or any complementary health modality on anyone. If they aren’t open to trying it, it may not be for them.

Before using essential oils on cancer patients on chemotherapy, please consult your health care practitioner.

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© 2023 Penny Keay All rights reserved Worldwide.
Please do not use my information without my permission.

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