When you hear the word “aromatherapy”, what comes to mind? For some folks, it might be scented candles or smokey, incense-filled shops. For others, it may be a visit to their massage therapist or a walk in a sweet-smelling pine forest. Still others might be drawing a blank right now. Regardless of what popped into your head, did you know that aromatherapy may offer some relief for those undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment? Here are a few areas where essential oils may help. Just a small collection of oils can go a long way.
Nerve pain – Some chemotherapy drugs cause nerve damage (neuropathy), which can result in numbness, tingling or downright pain. To help with discomfort, add the following to 1 ounce of carrier oil (e.g., olive, jojoba, almond): 4 drops of Roman Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis), 6 drops of Palmarosa (Cymbopogon martinii), 6 drops of Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens), 4 drops of Frankincense (Boswellia carterii) and 4 drops of Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia, Lavandula vera or Lavandula officinalis). Apply where needed several times a day. One ounce should last about a week or so. Better yet, have a loved one apply for you…for instance a gentle foot or hand massage. For cold fingers or toes, try substituting 4 drops of Ginger in place of Frankincense.
Nausea – Aside from the fact that it feels awful, nausea can lead to nutritional deficiencies and dehydration due to difficulty keeping foods and fluids in. My go-to remedies for this are either teas or tinctures of Ginger, Chamomile, Peppermint or Catnip. For the tea, just sip it. For the tinctures, try blending 1-2 drops of each and adding to 1 ounce of water. Essential oils may lend further support. Consider 6 drops of Ginger (Zingiber officinale), 6 drops of Lavender and 3 drops of Roman Chamomile per 1 oz of carrier oil. Rub gently over abdomen several times a day and try sniffing it as well. Proceed with caution as some scents may trigger nausea, depending on the person.
Skin support – The best time to start working on this is before beginning radiation treatment. Try 5 drops Roman Chamomile, 5 drops of Lavender and 5 drops of Geranium oil per 1 ounce of aloe vera gel. Store in the fridge. Essential oils don’t dissolve well in aloe, so stir the blend well with a clean toothpick before using. Try to find out the areas that will be affected and start applying your blend a couple weeks ahead of time. Don’t use it on the days of treatment but do use it on the intervening days as well as for a month or longer after the treatment series is complete.
Hair loss – Want your hair to grow back thicker than before? Here’s an idea. Add 8 drops Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinale), 4 drops Lavender and 4 drops Palma Rosa to 1 oz jojoba oil. Massage into your scalp and leave on for half hour to overnight before gently washing out. You can do this several times a week if you’d like.
Tension – Essential oils can offer gentle support for stress, anxiety, and the blues in the context of a broader approach for support. All the oils mentioned here are both calming and mood enhancing, benefits that would come from any of the uses mentioned above. Another way to take advantage of the stress reducing properties of the oils I’ve mentioned is to mix a few drops with Epsom salts and take a warm Epsom salts bath a few times a week.
Some final notes – Essential oil quality is critical. I prefer obtaining my oils from small, specialty companies. If you want information on brands that I like, feel free to contact me (email@example.com). I don’t have any financial ties to any essential oil companies! Also, note that the liver must metabolize essential oils. So, give your liver a break, especially if in the middle of treatment, and avoid the use of undiluted essential oils or oral ingestion of essential oils.
Our Guest Blogger, Anna-Marija Helt, Ph.D., is a Clinical Herbalist and Aromatherapist who worked in cancer research for nearly a decade prior to her current work in natural health.
Disclaimer: We are truly appreciative of our guest articles. While they are potentially interesting to our staff and our readers, they may not necessarily represent or constitute the advice of CSC Southwest Colorado. The opinions of our guest bloggers and those who provide comments are theirs alone. CSC Southwest Colorado is not responsible for the accuracy of any information within our guest posts.