Essential oils to help dementia and Alzheimer’s patients

Let’s make it clear right now – no essential oil will cure Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. However, there is scientific literature confirming that specific essential oils can help manage mood and cognitive function in patients suffering from these diseases. Essential oils can not and should not replace pharmaceutical management of dementia, but using essential oils in day-to-day care management can be incorporated into the plan of care.

Lemon balm and lavender have been shown to help reduce physical non-aggressive behavior. Additionally, lemon balm has been shown to reduce social withdrawal and increase constructive activity engagement. Part of the therapeutic benefit from that study may also be that the essential oils were applied in a carrier lotion to the skin twice a day, which maintained contact with the oil more effectively. It’s also important not to discount the power of touch; healthy therapeutic touch is beneficial physically and emotionally for all age groups, regardless of health status.

Diffusing lavender for 20 minutes twice a day helped reduce agitation, especially in dementia patients aged 70 to 85. For dementia patients over age 85, the difference was noticeably less. My theory on that is that the sense of smell had reduced too much to be therapeutic for that age group, but increasing the dosage of oil in the diffuser might counteract that. Lavender oil placed on bedding also helped patients sleep better and longer.

In one study, rosemary and lemon were used in combination in the morning, along with lavender and orange in combination in the evening. That study showed an improvement in cognitive function of personal orientation. Rosemary helps you “remember who you are” and citrus oils in general uplift mood. Lavender is more sedating, so it’s a better choice to help calm dementia patients for the evening and aid sleep.

In animal studies, thuja (Tetraclinis articulata) oil inhaled by male mice helped them navigate mazes better. In worms, rose essential oil inhibited dementia-like symptoms.

What’s the best way to use essential oils on the elderly?

Because many elderly lack healthy touch and emotional connection, I think incorporating essential oils in a nut-free oil or lotion is the most beneficial. The standard dilution for elderly or children is one percent essential oil to the carrier oil, or six drops per ounce. It’s also important to use an essential oil and not “fragrance” or “perfume” which usually contain a few top notes but not the entire chemical signature of a true essential oil. Because everyone’s skin integrity and sensitivity is different, it’s important to test on a small area of skin and also consult the patient’s health care team before implementing.

Diffusing essential oils in water vapor is the easiest method of application, and can affect the most people in the shortest period of time, so this is a great idea for common areas or individual rooms. Any essential oil has the possibility of triggering allergies or asthma attacks, so knowing the health history of everyone who would be exposed to the oil is important.

If implemented with care, essential oils can be part of a dementia or Alzheimer’s patient’s plan of care to help them experience a better quality of life.

Disclosure: I also sell essential oils. You can learn more on my Doterra web page.

Nicole Noles Collins is a licensed acupuncture physician at Vitalichi Acupuncture. Nicole has two bachelor’s degrees – Alternative Medicine and Professional Health Sciences – as well as a master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine. She has a passion for both writing and natural health. Please visit her website at and like her Facebook page at Vitalichi Acupuncture. For more information, call 941-979-9793.



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. J Clin Psychiatry. 2002 Jul.

A randomized controlled trial of Lavender (Lavender Angustifolia) and Lemon Balm (Melissa Officinalis) essential oils for the treatment of agitated behavior in older people with and without dementia. Complement Ther Med. 2019 Feb.

Tetraclinic articulate essential oil mitigates cognitive deficits and brain oxidative stress in an Alzheimer’s disease amyloidosis model. Phytomedicine. 2019 March 15.

Evaluating the effects of diffused lavender in an adult day care center for patients with dementia in an effort to decrease behavioral issues: a pilot study. J Drug Assess. 2017 Jan 23.

Effects of Inhalation Aromatherapy on Symptoms of Sleep Disturbance in the Elderly with Dementia. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2017.

Rose Essential Oil Delayed Alzheimer’s Disease-Like Symptoms by SKN-1 Pathway in C. elegans. J Agric Food Chem. 2017 Oct.

Effect of aromatherapy on patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Psychogeriatrics, 2009 Dec.

The psycopharmacology of European herbs with cognition-enhancing properties. Curr Pharm Des. 2006.

Living stress free with lavender

preparation of herbs, homeopathy, dried flowers, bannerLavender has such a variety of uses that it should be a staple in every home. The dried lavender flowers can be used to make scented sachets, relaxing eye pillows, dried flower arrangements and herbal bath balls. You can also find lavender in your tea and spices. Check the ingredient label on your favorite stress tea, and lavender could be there. Those of you who cook with the French spice blend Herbs De Provence already know how yummy lavender can taste in chicken and fish. Lavender scones and breads are popular too, although the flowers are usually finely ground when used for cooking.

For more information about cooking with lavender, check out “The Lavender Cookbook” by Sharon Shipley. Look for culinary grade lavender and organic as well.

When it comes to essential oils, lavender may be the most well known aside from tea tree oil. (Both oils are the only two that are safe to apply neat, or undiluted, on the skin.) With its reputation for relaxation, lavender is to go-to oil for people suffering from insomnia or stress. It’s a wonderful oil that can relax you and give you focus. Just one drop on the wrists or on a tissue tucked in your pillow can melt your stress away. You can also make your own linen and room spray by adding 10 drops of lavender oil to a small spray bottle along with a few drops of vodka (optional) to keep the oil dispersed. Just shake and spray to give your living areas a whole new level of calm. You could also add up to 10 drops of oil to your bath if the flowers are too messy for you. Just remember that the oil is far more potent – you only need a few drops to get its benefits. A drop on insect bites can take the itch out. Lavender also has antibacterial properties which makes this oil a wonderful addition to health and beauty products.

When looking for an essential oils, the best quality oils are gas chromatograph tested for purity and will tell where they were made. The prices of individual essential oils are different, and cheaper isn’t better in this case.

With lavender in your life and in your home, you are sure to have a blissful and relaxing day!

Nicole Noles Collins is a licensed acupuncture physician and massage therapist at Vitalichi Acupuncture in Port Charlotte, Florida. Nicole has two bachelor’s degrees – Alternative Medicine and Professional Health Sciences – as well as a master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine. She has a passion for both writing and natural health. Please visit her website at and like her Facebook page at Vitalichi Acupuncture. For more information, call 941-979-9793.