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Can Essential Oils Help Treat Neurological Problems?

Essential oils are a centuries-old Ayurvedic and naturopathic remedy. Scientists and researchers have now found their use in conditions like dementia or autism spectrum disorders and anxiety problems as well. But can these oils really treat the problem? Or are they merely palliative care?

Essential oils bring to mind memories of an indulgent spa break, with the unmistakable aroma of a lavender or lemongrass essential oil wafting through the air. But there’s a lot more to these pure extracts of plants, flowers, and herbs. And their use doesn’t have to be confined to that annual (if ever) trip to the spa or salon for a massage.

Essential oils have been used for centuries by Ayurvedic practitioners and naturopaths to treat all manner of neurological and other ailments. Depending on the condition, they may be massaged into the body, used topically, inhaled as aroma vapors, or even given orally, usually diluted. Scientists and researchers have now found their use in conditions like dementia or autism spectrum disorders and anxiety problems as well. But can these oils really treat the problem? Or are they merely palliative care?

Treat Anxiety

This may seem plausible to even the layperson, given how relaxed or invigorated you feel when you inhale those soothing aromas of peppermint, lavender, or lemongrass. But science backs this up too. For instance, lavender is now well established as a sedative and mood stabilizer.1 It works by improving sleep and also calming the mind, reducing restless behavior. Some studies have compared its effectiveness to that of a 0.5 mg dose of lorazepam, taken daily.2

Ease Symptoms Of Alzheimer’s Disease

Animal studies have shown promise in the use of essential oils for treating Alzheimer’s, a condition that affects 5.4 million Americans.3 When administered via injection, the oil helped reverse some of the spatial learning deficits associated with the disease.4

Reduce Seizures in Epilepsy

Essential oils can also help reduce the incidence of seizures in epilepsy, a condition that 1 percent of the world lives with. It also lowers the duration of seizures when they do occur and reduces the intensity of an attack as well. The anticonvulsant effect has been demonstrated in studies on animal test subjects who were given lavender hydroalcoholic extract.5

Ayurveda’s Answer To ADHD

Ayurvedic remedy Brahmi oil is a popular herb for improving mental clarity and brain function. This has made it invaluable in treating not just Alzheimer’s, but also disorders like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). As studies have found, the herbal remedy can help improve attention span and treat hyperkinetic disorders through a combination of a sedative effect and cognitive enhancement.6

Ease Severe Dementia

Essential oils can also help with some of the psychological and behavioral symptoms associated with severe dementia. As some researchers found, lemon balm oil aromatherapy given to patients with severe dementia helped ease agitation, a common symptom linked to the condition.7

Treat Parkinson’s Disease

Essential oil massages can help ease the inflammation, spasms, and pain linked to Parkinson’s disease. Basil essential oil is antispasmodic and marjoram can relax affected muscles.8 Essential oils of sandalwood, frankincense, and cedarwood are said to be helpful in combatting these neurological symptoms and also easing anxiety. They can be applied on the spine, the muscles that are tense, or on the soles of the feet. Ginger, helichrysum, peppermint, and thyme are considered especially useful for relaxing muscles and easing pain.9

References   [ + ]

1. Koulivand, Peir Hossein, Maryam Khaleghi Ghadiri, and Ali Gorji. “Lavender and the nervous system.” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2013 (2013).
2. Woelk, H., and S. Schläfke. “A multi-center, double-blind, randomised study of the Lavender oil preparation Silexan in comparison to Lorazepam for generalized anxiety disorder.” Phytomedicine 17, no. 2 (2010): 94-99.
3. 2016 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, Alzheimer’s Association.
4. Kashani, Masoud Soheili, Mostafa Rezaei Tavirani, Sayyed Alireza Talaei, and Mahmoud Salami. “Aqueous extract of lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) improves the spatial performance of a rat model of Alzheimer’s disease.” Neuroscience bulletin 27, no. 2 (2011): 99-106.
5. Arzi, A., M. Ahamehe, and S. Sarahroodi. “Effect of hydroalcoholic extract of Lavandula officinalis on nicotine-induced convulsion in mice.” Pakistan journal of biological sciences: PJBS 14, no. 11 (2011): 634-640.
6. Sarris, Jerome, James Kean, Isaac Schweitzer, and James Lake. “Complementary medicines (herbal and nutritional products) in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): a systematic review of the evidence.” Complementary therapies in medicine 19, no. 4 (2011): 216-227.
7. Ballard, Clive G., John T. O Brien, Katharina Reichelt, and Elaine K. Perry. “Aromatherapy as a safe and effective treatment for the management of agitation in severe dementia: the results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with Melissa.” Journal of clinical Psychiatry 63, no. 7 (2002): 553-558.
8. Sajjadi, Seyed Ebrahim. “Analysis of the essential oils of two cultivated basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) from Iran.” DARU Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences 14, no. 3 (2006): 128-130.
9. Ali, Naheed. Understanding Parkinson’s Disease: An Introduction for Patients and Caregivers. Rowman & Littlefield, 2013.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.