Aromatherapy is an ancient practice that uses essential oils (essences from aromatic plants) to improve physical, psychological and emotional well-being.
Each essential oil has distinctive therapeutic properties that are used to treat body and mind. Specific oils are associated with common conditions such as fatigue, muscular aches and pain, joint stiffness, stress, headache, insomnia, depression and anxiety, as well as enhancing overall levels of relaxation and circulation.
Aromatherapy is a complementary medicine which treats the whole person, not just the symptoms. It is a holistic treatment which can promote health and well-being in many different ways at the same time.
How can it help in Parkinson’s?
People with Parkinson’s often turn to aromatherapy to improve their quality of life.
Even though there is little scientific research into the benefits of aromatherapy in Parkinson’s, benefits in the general population have been studied. Many people say they find it helps them to relax and is uplifting. If stress-related problems can be relieved then some Parkinson’s symptoms caused by stress may improve with aromatherapy.
There are two practical ways in which essential oils are administered:
- through the skin using massage or simple skin application
- through inhalation.
The molecules of the essential oils will travel into the bloodstream & metabolise in the body to promote physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
Aromatherapy is a specialised skill and individual requirements need to be considered when deciding which oils to use. Essential oils are extremely potent and must be used with care so always seek advice, follow instructions carefully and inform your doctor of any course of treatment.
The potential benefits of aromatherapy in Parkinson’s include:
- Physical: muscular aches and pain, joint stiffness and pain, weakness of limbs, constipation, poor circulation and cramp can be treated through massage - either to the whole body or locally around the affected area.
- Mental & emotional: depression, anxiety, insomnia, nausea and headache can be treated through massage and/or inhalation.
What should I expect at an appointment?
Aromatherapy is not regulated in many countries. It is therefore helpful to ask your doctor or other healthcare professional for recommendations. Friends, family, other people with Parkinson’s or your national Parkinson’s association may also be able to advice based on personal experience.
It is advisable to see a therapist who has experience of Parkinson’s so do ask about their experience of the condition as well as their qualifications.
Before the treatment begins, the aromatherapist will ask you about your current health, medical history and lifestyle – this will enable the therapist to create the correct treatment plan, specifically for you.
Following this consultation, the aromatherapist will prepare your treatment - including selecting and blending the appropriate essential oils for your treatment plan. The duration of treatment can vary from 45 to 90 minutes depending on the specific treatment to be given. You may find it useful to wear comfortable clothing with layers that you can remove during massage.
After your treatment, your aromatherapist may suggest home care recommendations as well as any further treatment required.
- Preen C. (2005) Today’s Therapist; (35): 2-4, substantiated by Aromatherapy Science, Pharmaceutical Press 2006, Chapter 7, p.78
- Randomized Trial of Aromatherapy: Successful Treatment for Alopecia Areata, Isabelle C. Hay; Margaret Jamieson; Anthony D. Ormerod, Arch Dermatol. 1998;134:1349-1352 - view abstract
- Buckle J. Use of aromatherapy as a complementary treatment for chronic pain. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine 5 (5): 42-51. Sep 1999 - view abstract
- Stevenson CJ: Aromatherapy, in Micozzi MS (ed): Fundamentals of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Melbourne, Australia, Churchill Livingston, 1996, pp 137-148 - view book information.
We acknowledge the help of the International Federation of Aromatherapists in compiling this information.