Alzheimer’s and dementia
As well as using the therapeutic properties of the oils themselves, Aromatherapy and massage can be used to promote relaxation, lower anxiety and add to the quality of life for people suffering from dementia. Massage has been used successfully to help reduce the effects of aggression (Snyder 1995), and disturbed behaviour in individuals with severe dementia (Brooker et al. 1997).
There is also much work being done into smell-memory to help with maintaining and reinforcing the short term memory process which is the most distressing symptoms of dementia-related illnesses.
People with dementia often feel confused and anxious – a gentle hand massage can evoke feelings of comfort and safety, particularly if used with a favourite scent reminiscent of childhood or their favourite perfume.
Tea tree has been proven to be effective in the treatment of acne, athletes foot, and onychomycosis nail infections (Bassett et al. 1990 and Duck et al. 1994).
Massage has an immediate effect on reducing cortisone levels (stress-related hormone) in children with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, and also lowered their self and parental assessed perceived pain levels over a 30 day massage programme (Field et al. 1997).
A 20 minute massage routine every day before bedtime has been found to improve the pulmonary function of children with asthma (Field et al. 1997 c)
Massage therapy can help with touch sensitivity, attention to sounds and tasks, and with pupil-teacher interaction (Field et al. (a)1997).
Many people with severe learning disabilities have a dysfunctional sensory system (Hatch-Rasmussen 1995, p1).
Autistic individuals are more than likely to rely on only one style of learning (Edelson 1999, p1), either visually, auditory, hands-on, or tactile. The experience of massage stimulates all the senses to help reinforce the learning process through tactile (touch); auditory (background music); olfactory (smell) and the tactile experience (the Interactive Sequence). It helps make the recipient feel safe and comfortable, enables the building of a relationship, and can initiate the process of developing effective communication.
Cancer and palliative care
Previously it was thought that massage was inappropriate for cancer patients as it would ‘spread’ the cancer. Nowadays, aromatherapy and massage are used alongside conventional medicine to help treat nausea, promote relaxation, and improve quality of life, particularly in palliative care.
The Marie Curie Cancer Care centre in London has conducted clinical trials showing statistically significant improvement in cancer patients receiving massage with an essential oil (Internet health library Cancer Research No date).
Complementary therapies including aromatherapy massage have a positive role to play in managing fatigue and anxiety in cancer patients (Maguire 1995).
The essential oils lavender, marjoram and Roman chamomile (no botanical names available) have also been used with massage to significantly help relaxation and anxiety levels in palliative care among 69 individuals self-assessing the benefits of a trial in palliative care (Evans 1995, Wilkinson 1995).
Unspecified oils with massage have also been shown to help with short term pain relief in cancer patients (Weinrich et al. 1990).
Some people with learning disabilities are very difficult to reach, particularly those with no verbal language skills, severe learning disabilities or an autistic spectrum disorder. Aromatherapy and massage can be used to facilitate communication, help to build relationships, reduce difficult and self stimulating behaviour, and offer more meaningful communication. The lack of appropriate tactile stimulation can contribute towards excessive self-stimulating and challenging behaviour. (McCray 1978).
The relaxation produced during a massage session can help to reduce challenging behaviour by reducing anxiety and stress levels (Bijou 1996). For clients with profound and multiple handicaps, massage and the use of aromatic oils can stimulate the senses and add to quality of life.
Due to their chemical make-up, essential oils have many natural antibiotic, antifungal, antiseptic and antiviral properties.
The use of appropriate oils applied with massage can help relieve aching joints and contribute towards mobility and skin integrity (Hitchen 1993).
Some essential oils and carrier oils are particularly suitable for use with dry or mature skin. Essential oils and massage can also help eliminate toxins from the body by stimulating circulation and lymphatic drainage (McGuinness 1998).
Aromatherapy and massage offer an ideal medium with which to achieve some of the intensive interaction sequences outlined in Hewett et al. (1993) ‘Access to Communication’. Hewett outlines a method of working with the severely disabled and withdrawn client by meeting them first on their terms, slowly bringing them out by interacting at an enjoyable level to encourage participation and communication.
Irritable bowel syndrome
The oral intake of peppermint oil has been shown to help people with irritable bowel syndrome (Dew et al. 1984).
Research has shown that lavender oil (Angustifolia) can reduce pain (Wollfson et al. 1992), and can also be used to reduce stress and anxiety (Buckle 1993).
A 20 minute foot massage using lavender oil with intensive and coronary care patients showed a reduction in heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure and perceived pain (Wollfson et al. 1992).
Lower back pain can also be immediately helped with lower back massage (Ernst 1999), and lavender oil (unspecified) has been show to reduced perennial discomfort over a 5 day period of use after childbirth (Dale et al. 1994).
Through using EEG testing, the essential oils of Ylang ylang and Rosemary have been shown to influence Alpha-wave activity (Alpha-waves are induced by relaxation), Rosemary suppressing activity, while Ylang ylang causing an increase – in line with the direction expected by their anticipated therapeutic properties (Jacob 2000).
The sedative effects of lavender inhalation (non specified species) have been proven in work by Buchbauer et al. 1991, and 1993) when investigating the linalool content. Linalool is a terpenoid constituent that his lipophilic (interacts with cell membranes to suppress cell action (Teuscher et al. 1990), the effects being mildly sedative in nature.
Stress and relaxation
Aromatherapy massage has long been used to help promote relaxation and treat stress – many illnesses of the mind and body are a result of inability to cope with stress therefore aromatherapy has much to contribute in maintaining health both physically and psychologically.
Massage will relax both the mind and body – massaging with essential oils enables relaxation and a feeling of well-being inevitable leading to a reduction in stress and anxiety. Clients will also benefit from the therapeutic relationship with their therapist. Friction from massage on the skin can stimulate or relax the body muscles (depending on the sort of massage and oils used), increase blood flow to peripheral areas, lower blood pressure and heart beat.
Massage with Neroli has been shown to have a significant psychological benefit when used over a 5-day period with post cardiac surgery patients (Stevenson 1994).
Touch is a way of connecting, exchanging information, and building a relationship – this forms the basis of all communication and is central to our work with all people who have severe learning difficulties (Sanderson et al. 1997).
Touch and smell are vital in order to understand the environment. They are also a basic behavioural need. Touch contributes towards a multi-sensory approach to help those with sensory impairment. It is supportive and comforting; it can help develop trust and relationships, so adding to quality of life (Nind et al. 1998).
The RCCM gives dozens of abstracts and references for research on touch (http://www.rccm.org.uk/massagetouch.htm)
Massage can also be used as a way of building up a relationship and developing trust between a client with learning disabilities and a key worker. Sanderson et al. (1997) talks about ‘interactive massage’ with people who have learning disabilities (page 7, 74 and 77) where massage is used as a communication tool to share, learn to trust, and help release emotions.
Your friendly Aromatherapist and holistic therapy enthusiast