Using Aromatherapy in the Treatment of Cancer Patients

The use of essential oils in the practice healing is centuries old. It is believed that the ancient Chinese may have been the first culture to practice what would later become known as aromatherapy. The practices of using natural essences to promote physical and psychological health were furthered by the Egyptians and later, the Greeks. Both cultures experimented with and achieved great success with crude distillation machines, using them to distract the essential oils from various plants.

Aromatherapy can be a useful tool in managing the symptoms of cancer or the side effects of cancer treatments. Scents such as lavender, marjoram and chamomile are said to help alleviate the anxiety, stress and tension many cancer patients experience while undergoing treatment. The medical field has differing theories regarding exactly how aromatherapy works. One of the leading theories is that the smell receptors found in the nose respond to the scent of the essential oils, sending chemical messages along nerve pathways to the limbic system in the brain. This exchange affects a person’s emotions and state of mind.

Cancer patients and those interested in exploring homeopathic or holistic health as well as alternatives to Western medicine may benefit from learning to use essential oils. The process of combining oils and preparing recipes for a desired outcome is fairly easy and can prove to be rewarding with surprising health benefits. Consumers can purchase essential oils at many health food stores as well as through online purveyors, and need no prior knowledge or special training to successfully utilize the oils to their full potential.

Essential oils should always be purchased from a reputable source, making certain that the oils are 100% pure, natural and undiluted. Unfortunately, some essential oil manufacturers dilute, extended, cut, or otherwise alter the oils to cut costs, resulting in an inferior product. Consumers should only purchase pure, natural essential oils especially when the oils will be used for wellness or health purposes.

There are two basic ways to use essential oils, the first being through direct application to the skin. This is the easiest and most effective method, allowing the essential oils to pass easily through the cell membranes and disperse throughout the body in a matter of minutes. Some aromatherapy practitioners recommend applying the oil to the bottom of the feet due to the high number of nerve endings and large pores.

A very important tip to follow before using any essential oil with the direct method is to always perform a skin test before initial application. The skin test is essential in determining any allergic reaction to a particular essential oil. Simply apply one drop of the essential oil or blend to the skin, then wait 20-30 minutes to give the body a chance to respond before applying the full amount or applying a second oil.

The second most common way to use an essential oil is through inhalation. There are a few easy ways to practice the inhalation method:

1. Place a few drops of the essential oil into the palm of your hand, rub both hands together, cupping the hands together over the nose and mouth, inhaling deeply.
2. Add several drops of the essential oil to a bowl of hot, steaming water, inhaling the vapors as they rise. To intensify the effects, place a towel over the head, trapping the steam as it rises.
3. Apply 3 or more drops of the essential oil to a cloth, cotton ball or other absorbent material and inhale periodically.

There are many treatment options available for patients who are battling cancer. Adding aromatherapy to traditional medical treatments may provide welcome relief from the stress and anxiety that cancer patients often experience. Aromatherapy can give patients the ability to relax and maintain a positive state of mind, which just may be one of the best medicines available.

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