The Whitworths of Arizona, bringing science to you in everyday language.

Friday, January 4, 2019

More Relaxing Essential Oils

Well, the holidays are over for another year. But the stresses often remain, especially for a person with limited ability to deal with all of the excitement--and for the care partner who must deal with the behaviors that are often their loved one's main way of expressing their discomfort. Our new book, Responsive Dementia Care talks about a variety of ways of relieving this stress. One of them is by using essential oils.

This blog is the third in a series about using these oils. My favorite way is via a diffuser but adding a few drops to your massage mixture can be very helpful and enjoyable for both the person receiving the massage and the person giving it. This week's blog is a quick rundown of some of the most relaxing or otherwise helpful oils:

Citrus oils, like lemon and orange, tend to be uplifting. Bergamot is another citrus oil with an especially sweet, floral scent that can also be very soothing. Lemon is also a great disinfectant. Use it for cleaning surfaces and the air. I start my morning with a half a cup of water and three drops of lemon oil and use sweet orange in my diffuser just to add a nice scent to the air where I work.

Peppermint is known for its invigorating qualities. It mixes well with other oils, especially lemon. Peppermint's menthol content makes it a good oil to use during cold and flu season to sooth sore throats and open plugged airways.

Cinnamon leave essential oil is spicy, hot and sharp. Use it to make your home feel warm and cozy. It relaxes and encourages positive feelings--mix it with Ylang Ylang, which as similar qualities.

Pine, can bring scent reminders of the holidays, like Christmas trees, and is even more uplifting and energizing than cinnamon.

Geranium and rose oils have similar qualities. Besides being pleasant floral scents, they both relieve stress and tension. Try spraying one of these, or a mixture of both on your pillow at night. It's like sleeping on rose petals!

Thanks to The Organic Goat Lady for the above suggestions.

If you are into mixing oils, you might try one of these blends suggested by the Chopra Center. Store the blends in in tightly sealed, colored glass bottles to protect against ultraviolet light. Use 5 to 8 drops in a candle warmer, 10 to 15 drops in an ultrasonic diffuser, or the full batch in a nebulizer.

Spicy Citrus Blend. Try this to encourage calmness:
  • 20 drops sweet orange
  • 4 drops cinnamon bark
  • 4 drops nutmeg
  • 4 drops clove

Evergreen Blend. Use this to purify the air and improve breathing, or to freshen the air in the stuffy, overheated rooms that we so often have in winter.
  • 20 drops cedarwood
  • 10 drops juniper berry
  • 10 drops cypress
  • 10 drops Siberian or balsam fir

Bath Blend, Salt Scrub for Shower. Use this in the bathtub for a rejuvenating soak after a rough day and feel your stress fade. Your loved one likely doesn't take baths but you can make up the salt scrub version and use it for your loved one's shower. Frankincense is very good for the skin and is used for boosting the immune system. Our old favorite, lavender adds its own relaxation magic.
  • 8 drops lavender
  • 5 drops frankincense
  • 3 drops vetiver
  • ½ to 1 cup sea salt or epsom salts
  • 1 tablespoon almond, jojoba, coconut any carrier oil you prefer
Mix the essential oils into the carrier oil first, stir all into the salt, then add to the bath water, and relax. Add more almond oil to make the salt scrub. Warning: Use a no-slip bath mat and use extra care getting in and out of the tub. The oils will make the tub or shower floor slippery.

Sinus-Clearing Steam Blend.  These oils can be very helpful during cold and flu season. Many of the cold and allergy drugs are anticholinergics...discouraged for people living with dementia--or anyone at risk for dementia, which means almost anyone! Try pouring 1-3 drops of this blend into a mug of boiling water instead:
  • 12 drops eucalyptus globules
  • 5 drops cedarwood
  • 5 drops tea tree
  • 3 drops oregano or thyme
  • 3 drops frankincense
For the best results, tent yourself under a towel, hold the mug under your nose and take long deep breaths of the blend for as long as you feel comfortable doing so. If your loved one can't do this, diffuse it as close to them as you can. The steam is a big part of the treatment, but the oils work even without the steam.

Choosing a brand. If you wonder where to get your oils, check out Adrienne's blog, The Whole New Mom. In a seven-part series, she reports the research we'd all like to do but few have the needed time, energy or even the know-how to do it well. If you already have a favorite supplier, you may not agree with her results but she will definitely give you some ideas about what you want to look for in the oils you buy. Essential Oil Haven offers a shorter review, with some good comparisons. By the way, their final recommendations were similar to Adrienne's.

For information about Lewy body disorders, read our books:
A Caregivers’ Guide to Lewy Body Dementia
Managing Cognitive Issues in Parkinson's and Lewy Body Dementia
Responsive Dementia Care: Fewer Behaviors Fewer Drugs
Riding a Roller Coaster with Lewy Body Dementia: A Manual for Staff

Helen and James Whitworth are not doctors, lawyers or social workers. As informed caregivers, they share the information here for educational purposes only. It should never be used instead of a professional's advice.

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