8 Benefits of Aromatherapy for Cancer Patients
Aromatherapy might be an unlikely hero in our long struggles against cancer, that is, if we heard about it 5 years ago or so. The thing is, as years and years go on, science has been extending its relentless hands into the subject of aromatherapy for quite a while now. What seemed so mysterious and dubious about the subject is being made into light little by little. Nowadays, reports have sprung up from here and there about the effects of aromatherapy on overall body health, and without exception, the effects on certain ailments such as cancer.
The shift from chemical, scientific treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation towards more natural way is certainly welcome. Moreover, aromatherapy promises safer treatments with little to no side effects. Aromatherapy in question encompasses the usage of essential oils from many different variety of plants as well as application methods. The term itself is derived from the fact that the plants used as main ingredients are generally aromatic plants. René Maurice Gattefossé, a French chemist and perfumiér who coined the term in the 1920s suggested that aromatherapy could be used to treat diseases in almost every organ system.
Formerly acknowledged in its ability to treat depression and other emotional distresses, some other benefits of aromatherapy for cancer patients are getting unearthed. Some even claimed that the effects touched more than the emotional aspects. Therefore, without further ado, in the following paragraphs we will discuss the benefits of aromatherapy for cancer patients.
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1. Helps Reducing Pain
The most common reason why people especially cancer patients opted for aromatherapy is that they believe aromatherapy can alleviate emotional stress, relaxing the nerves and to some extent, relieving the patients from pain, especially when it comes to brain cancer patients. Studies have claimed quite mixed opinions about how effective aromatherapy really is as pain-relief for cancer patients. However, there are many ways in which aromatherapy works and each has their own way to achieve the same results. Judging from the chemical properties and composition of certain essential oils used in the therapy, the pain-relieving effects may vary depending on the type of oils.
More popular studies suggested that there is a connection between olfaction system (the nervous systems which deal with senses of smell) and limbic system in which the olfaction system becomes a part of. Limbic system mainly deals with emotions, motivations, behavior, and long-term memory. Thus, theories have been developed which assert the effects of aromatherapy on mood and emotions.
Unfortunately, those theories have been contested by the view which said that the brains can not distinguish between the odors produced by essential oils and those produced synthetically. Currently, the assumptions are mainly theoretical due to lack of actual neurophysiological studies which might explain the link between olfaction and the limbic system.
2. Alleviates Depression and Anxiety
Those who are into aromatherapy uses aromatherapy because it is pleasing to them. The pleasant memories associated with the smell can be really powerful, because of how direct the response towards the senses of smell is. Which is why aromatherapy is believed to have the ability to eases cancer patients from their depression and anxiety. As discussed on paragraphs above, studies have been linking the effects of aromatherapy on emotions.
Some studies concluded that aromatherapy has short-term benefits, which include increases in well-being and mood as well as reduced anxiety. However, apparently the same studies also concluded that the effects don’t last for long-term. With that being said, there is no doubt that the application of aromatherapy can help greatly in fighting depressions which are almost prominent in cancer patients. By getting rid of the unhealthy mental attitudes, hopefully those who are fighting against cancer will have more motivations and optimism to struggle for their health.
3. Works Great with Chemotherapy
The usage of chemotherapy has become the most popular method in treating cancer, it is even almost could be said that chemotherapy is the go-to treatment for cancer. Unfortunately, chemotherapy is not all pleasant to the patients. The therapy can cause some side effects, the most common ones being nausea and vomiting (conditions which are called CINV). Depending on the essential oils selected for aromatherapy, the usage of aromatherapy can work really great in tandem with chemotherapy.
Mentha spicata (spearmint) and M. piperita (peppermint) are few of the most popular essential oils there are. They have such a distinct effects upon inhalation or topical applications, including the cool sensations and the strong aroma. The cool thing is, they can also be used to reduce the nausea and the chance of vomiting which come with chemotherapy. That is because the menthol oil can help neutralizing the nerves which are activated in the event of nausea. Therefore, the presence of aromatherapy can greatly augment the overall procedures of treatments for cancer patients.
4. Boosts the Immune Systems
The world of aromatherapy is so vast, we should take care not to mistake one essential oil with another. Because in fact, there are few essential oils which are exceptional compared to the rest. One of them being frankincense. Frankincense is widely known as the most potent essential oils and strong antioxidant. Some researches have shown the link between the usage of frankincense in aromatherapy with the stimulations of the immune systems. Indeed, that’s one pf many benefits of aromatherapy for cancer patients.
5. Serves as a Powerful Antioxidant
Some essential oils, when applied the right way, can also greatly help cancer patients in fighting the free radicals. Many essential oils have these antioxidants properties, but the most prominent ones would be lavender oil. The presence of antioxidant can greatly support the therapy undergone by cancer patients.
Some researches conducted in China suggested that lavender essential oil can upregulate the antioxidants enzymes in the bodies. The enzymes include catalase (CAT), glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px), and superoxide dismutase (SOD). There is also Romanian research which concluded that the inhalation of lavender oil can have neuroprotective effects against oxidative stress, which might lead to the growth of cancer cells in the brain.
6. Relieves Headaches
Aromatherapy can generally induce the relaxing feelings, indicated by the relaxation of the nerves and the muscles. Some cancer patients, such as brain cancer patients, are prone to headache from time to time. The intensity of the headache can be agonizing if not treated right. Using aromatherapy can help relaxing the nerves of the cancer patients and in turn relieving them from the nuisances of headaches.
7. Might Help in Treating Sleeping Problems
Cancer patients are generally anxious and tense, due to the therapy they’re undergoing or some other causes. Often, the anxieties and tensions lead to much bigger problems, such as insomnia. As regular rests and sleeps are paramount to the effectiveness of the treatments, disturbed sleeping patterns can be detrimental especially for cancer patients.
Thankfully, aromatherapy can be used to treat those sleeping disorders. One of the popular methods is to mix the essential oil with bathwater, and let the fumes be inhaled while in bath. The applications in both topical and through inhalations can increase the effect and makes it more likely to succeed.
8. For Relaxation
When it comes to aromatherapy, studies on the essential oils incorporated in the therapy is indeed, essential. Some essential oils can have more benefits than the others. The point is, not all essential oils are created the same. Take for example, the essential oils derived from frankincense. People have sworn by it for its potent effects on anxiety treatment, immune systems, digestion and respiratory problems.
It is even said that current research has uncovered that frankincense might have anti-mutagenic and apoptotic abilities, which are the key factors in our fights against cancers. Unfortunately, the effects weren’t demonstrated on active cancer cells in humans, therefore, we still got long way to go in figuring out how aromatherapy can help saving us from cancers.
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Those are the main benefits of aromatherapy for cancer patients as suggested by many researches and medical studies. Turns out, the benefits themselves are no longer limited to nervous and mental relaxation, which is the main purpose of using aromatherapy in the past. The new knowledge, as well as increasing trusts in more natural alternatives should encourage us to strive more in uncovering the potential benefits of aromatherapy. The presences of pharmaceutical industries which market chemical products shouldn’t make us deterrent in seeking other alternatives.
Tips and Cations
However, as with many other methods, some cautions are still required in using aromatherapy for cancer treatments. While the usage of essential oils as main part of aromatherapy itself is generally safe with little to no adverse effect, there are some risks to put into accounts.
First, the ingestion of essential oils in the practice of aromatherapy is not advisable. As essential oils, especially in their purest forms, can be strong and toxic in effect. There is a case of phototoxic reactions as the result of ingestion of essential oil and exposure to UV radiations. The usage of certain essential oils is also known to cause irritation, such as dermatitis.
Lastly, repeated exposure to lavender and tea tree oils is reported to be associated with reversible prepubertal gynecomastia. Which means, those essential oils might be detrimental for patients with estrogen-dependant tumors.
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Upon learning all those information, hopefully we can now start incorporating aromatherapy for various purposes, including treatments for cancer patients. Granted, more and more studies still need to be conducted in order to discover the hidden potentials of aromatherapy for our well-being.
As for now, considering how little the risks and side effects that come with aromatherapy, usage of aromatherapy in moderation can be a great addition to our lifestyle. Finally, we thank you for reading, hopefully you can learn many things about aromatherapy especially for cancer patients. Keep learning new things and be healthy.
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