Aromatherapy is a simple, but effective, way to help manage and relieve stress simply by using the powerful effects of scent. It’s easily accessible, easily manageable, and most importantly, it’s fairly inexpensive to get started if it’s something you’re interested in.
Interestingly, aromatherapy has been around for thousands of years. Ancient cultures in places like Egypt and China incorporated aromatic plants into things such as balms and oils, even though what we know as “essential oils” weren’t necessarily marketed until much later. Even then, they understood the power and effect that this kind of treatment could have.
So, how exactly could it be beneficial to seniors?
Scents Can Relieve Stress
Smells can instantly trigger memories as well as affect the body’s nervous system through the olfactory nerve. The olfactory nerve triggers the parts of the brain that control emotions, mood, and memory, and these parts control the part of your nervous system which is responsible for fight-or-flight and relaxation responses.
This is a big reason as to why scents can cause physical reactions – it’s literally wired into our DNA.
In fact, lavender essential oil is so powerful that not only has it been scientifically proven to be able to help heal burns, but it can also have a calming effect that can be nearly as powerful as some anxiety medications. That’s quite a feat!
Other Potential Benefits
Reducing stress is the most well-known benefit from aromatherapy, but there are other ways that seniors can benefit from it as well:
- improved sleep
- improved digestion
- reduced pain levels
- reduced anxiety and depression
- boost immunity
- fight bacteria, virus, or fungus
And, while it hasn’t been proven, aromatherapy is also said to be able to help reduce some of the challenging behaviors that come along with Alzheimer’s or dementia.
How Can I Start Using Aromatherapy at Home?
There are many ways to begin using aromatherapy in your treatment plan. It works through the sense of smell and through skin absorption, using some of the following products:
- bath salts
- body oils, lotions, or creams
- pillow spray
- diffuser jewelry
No matter your preference, there is likely some kind of product that you can find that will be just what you’re looking for when beginning your aromatherapy journey. In fact, aromatherapy candles, sprays, and even essential oils are pretty easy to come by in this Internet market.
Big box stores like Target and Walmart carry scented lotions and candles, so those are easy to find if you’re looking to get started right away. Bath & Body Works even has a fully dedicated aromatherapy section, so if you’re looking for products like lotions, candles, body wash, or pillow spray, that would be a great easy and affordable option for you.
If you’re interested in going in the diffuser route, there are several places to find a good-quality diffuser for a reasonable price. Once again, big box stores like Target and Walmart tend to carry these products, as well as places like Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Be sure not to buy a regular humidifier! A regular humidifier can get clogged by putting essential oils into it.
In order to find good quality essential oils, however, you’ll have to look at your local natural food store. While you may have to go a little more out of the way in order to purchase these, they will be much better quality than trying to find them elsewhere. If you don’t have a local natural food store, try a Whole Foods or even Amazon.
Popular Essential Oils
There are hundreds of essential oils to choose from, so it may be a bit daunting when you begin your aromatherapy journey to choose a couple of them. However, according to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, the most common essential oils are:
- clary sage
- roman chamomile
- tea tree
- ylang ylang
While this may seem like a lot, there is no need to go and break the bank in order to purchase all of these to start. Take a look at what exactly each essential oil is said to assist with, and go from there. There might be only a few that you need or that you believe may be beneficial!
As with anything, there are always potential risks or side effects when trying something new. Most essential oils and their products are safe to use, but there are some precautions you should take when using them, as well as side effects that you should be aware of. This is especially true for seniors, as some essential oils have the potential to disrupt medications if not used properly.
It is important to never apply essential oils directly to your skin. If you wish to apply an essential oil to your skin, always use a carrier oil like sweet almond oil or olive oil to dilute it first. Also, if you’ve never used a certain essential oil before, it’s important to do a skin-patch test to make sure that you aren’t allergic to anything. Even if you’re okay to use the essential oil’s derivative, having something with such a high concentration come in contact with your skin could be detrimental.
In addition, if you’re using a citrus essential oil, make sure to avoid being exposed to prolonged sunlight. These essential oils can make your skin more sensitive to the sun.
Some side effects of using essential oils include:
- allergic reactions
- skin irritation
However, as long as you take these simple precautions, you should have no issues at all using essential oils for your benefit.
What’s the Verdict?
In short, aromatherapy and essential oil usage can benefit not only seniors, but everyone. However, it’s important to pay attention to what the different oils are used for and how that use can affect you.
It’s also important to remember that while aromatherapy can be extremely beneficial, it is also just a supplementary treatment. You should always consult your doctor if you have any concerns or questions, and don’t forget that this should not be used to replace any current treatments.