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 http://www.pcacupuncture.abmp.com and like her Facebook page at Vitalichi Acupuncture. For more information, call 941-979-9793.

 

SOURCES FROM PUBMED.COM

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.

How I prepared my acupuncture and massage practice for Hurricane Irma

In 2017, Southwest Florida braced for impact from Hurricane Irma. I was on medical leave from my newspaper job as well as my acupuncture and massage practice after surgery, but I got clearance from my surgeon days before to resume light-duty activities. I spent a not-so-light weekend with my family preparing my home and my business for the worst.

Port Charlotte was lucky. Although some models predicted we would sustain a direct hit, Irma took a bit of a southward bend and hit Naples instead. It may seem like all our preparations were for naught, but I considered it a good exercise in disaster preparedness for my business. There’s a lot of articles about preparing your practice for a hurricane, but they don’t tell you anything beyond the basics that residents shouldn’t already know, and nothing about the specifics of what you should do before a storm to minimize your property losses….

So here’s what I did. Some of it is specific to acupuncture but most of it is good advice for acupuncture, massage, or a skin care practice, and good advice in general for a business. I’m assuming from this point that you have taken all reasonable precautions to secure your family’s safety and followed standard disaster preparedness protocols and still have the time to safely attend to your business storm plan…

BEFORE THE STORM:
1) UPLOAD DOCUMENTS TO A CLOUD STORAGE SERVICE: Save current pictures of all areas of your office, inside and out, insurance documents, equipment inventory, sharps logs, biohazard plan, licenses, NPI numbers, important contacts, etc. Make sure you have as much of that accessible on the cloud as possible in the event you need to file a claim.
2) BACKUP IMPORTANT FILES: June 1 is the start of hurricane season. Why not schedule your computer backups for the week before?

PRIORITY ACTION LIST:
1) SECURE SHARPS: When the storm tracking models started swaying our way, we still had a few days of lead time, so I contacted my sharps disposal company and had them pick up all of my sharps containers, even if they weren’t full. I remember after Hurricane Charley seeing tons of personal property strewn all over the streets, and there was no way I wanted one of my sharps containers to end up on the street, even if I did seal them first. Just because you safely secure your sharps inside your unit does not mean they will stay there if disaster strikes. Ditto for wall-mounted sharps containers. I consider it to be the most critical prep to cross off your list.
2) SECURE CLIENT FILES: During Irma, I was part of a holistic clinic at New Hope Chiropractic, and our client files were stored in a common area. There wasn’t much we could do to improve where they were or move them. I’m assuming you already have your files in the safest, most secure part of your office away from windows and in the interior of your unit. We covered everything in the front office with as many heavy-duty trash bags as we could fit to prevent water intrusion and wrapped everything else. But what about files you transport off site? A hard-shell, locking case is your best option. In the event your vehicle is compromised or in an accident, you want your files to have the best chance to stay intact and inaccessible to the public.
3) SECURE YOUR ELECTRONICS: Since most practices these days have electronic health records, it’s important to treat your laptops or desktops like patient files. This year, I plan to keep plastic bins on hand to store all the computer equipment, and to be double safe, I would double bag the equipment with heavy duty garbage bags before putting it in the plastic bin. A bit much, you say? Aside from your treatment table and professional supplies, your computer / client files are the second most important thing you need to get your practice up and running ASAP after a disaster. And wrapped equipment in opaque plastic bins won’t be as flashy in case looting becomes an issue post disaster. Ditto for modems, phones and credit card machines. I’m not so concerned about my printers, but we did cover them, too. If time permits, I would box these too.

PHASE TWO PREPARATIONS
1) SPECIALTY EQUIPMENT: Bag and wrap all high-end equipment, and if possible, relocate to interior closets away from windows and doors. Bonus points if you have locking closets.
2) UNUSED NEEDLES, LANCETS, ETC: I took those offsite but this year I plan to have a specific plastic opaque bin for my supplies.
3) TREATMENT TABLES: Bag and wrap all your treatment tables and relocate those to the safest interior spot in the unit. During Irma preparations, I couldn’t find my massage table carrying case, and my table ended up with some minor dings. Make sure you know where the cases and carts for your equipment are before a storm threatens.
4) PRESCRIPTION FORMULAS, HERBS, TOPICALS, ETC: Chinese medicinals are not vitamins. They are patient specific and definitely not candy, either. If you don’t already keep them in a locked cabinet, bag and box them and relocate to an interior closet. I used large zippy bags with handles so I could carry them off site. Secure the rest of your inventory depending on your time constraints.

PHASE THREE PREPARATIONS:
If you get all the other stuff done, here’s some non-essential prep ideas that could come in handy if your area is hit:
1) STRIP THE WALLS: I took everything off my walls that had glass, and wrapped all my diplomas. I worked hard for those diplomas; to me, the originals would be irreplaceable. Aside from making sure there would be a minimum of glass breakage, it was purely an emotional preparation for me, taking care of the items close to my heart. It’s totally skippable if the situation is urgent.
2) HYGEINE SUPPLIES: Toilet paper, paper towers, feminine items… if you have extra time and an extra garbage bag, bag those up. If you have water intrusion and the area is cut off from normal transport lanes, dry goods will be a godsend. During Irma, gas was scarce for a while, even for areas that did not receive a direct hit. In a storm situation it’s best to assume that supplies of all kinds might be hard to come by even if damage isn’t bad in your area. So save what you’ve got.
3) BACKUP FOOD, WATER AND FIRST AID SUPPLIES: We all know when storm season is coming. So if you’re on target with your personal preparations, why not have backup in the office, too?
4) BACKUP YOUR FILES, ONE MORE TIME: In case it’s been a few weeks, or months, since your last one.

This emergency plan may or may not make sense for your practice, but it can start as a template for writing your own. Don’t assume you will remember to do everything in an emergency; make whatever preparations and lists are appropriate for you and keep them handy for when you need it. Here’s hoping you don’t….

Nicole Noles Collins is a licensed acupuncture physician and massage therapist in 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 www.pcacupuncture.abmp.com and like her Facebook page at Vitalichi Acupuncture.

Addressing pain with the five pillars of Chinese Medicine

Pain is usually an unwelcome visitor. Whether pain is a short- or long-term guest in your life, by addressing your health issues with the five pillars of Chinese medicine, you can make lifestyle adjustments that encourage your body’s ability to heal and cope.

First of all, keep in mind that pain is not the problem; it’s merely a signal that something in your body needs attention. We would be in trouble if we had no way to sense or respond to pain. It’s a survival mechanism. But that’s not much comfort when you have a sprained ankle or chronic back pain. That’s why it’s never a good idea to ignore your body’s pain signals; if your symptoms are severe with quick onset or do not improve within a reasonable amount of time, then it’s important to seek medical advice and help.

Chinese medicine addresses all health issues, including pain, according to the five pillars of diet, exercise, bodywork, herbal medicine and acupuncture. Each pillar has a contribution to make in strengthening the body’s ability to heal or deal with pain.

Diet
With every bite of food you eat, you are making a choice to either fight disease, or fuel it. So when it comes to eating to reduce pain, think inflammation.

A basic anti-inflammatory diet reduces intake of dairy, red meat, sugar, coffee, alcohol and soda and increases water intake and healthy, unprocessed foods. You don’t have to switch from carnivore to vegan overnight, but making smarter food choices that reduce inflammation helps your body heal faster and better.
Remember that everything you consume will end up being the building blocks of new cells and tissue, so build wisely by eating wisely. Your health care team can help you design an eating plan that fits your specialized needs.

Exercise
Most people who are in pain limit their motion, and, most of the time, this is a smart idea. But if you are dealing with chronic pain, you may need to slowly increase your range of motion and activity level under the supervision of your health care team.

Tai chi or qi gong are gentle forms of exercise that can be adapted to any activity level and can be good places to start increasing your activity level.
Yoga is also easily adapted to different levels of activity.

The main goals of exercise are to improve a person’s strength, overall conditioning, range of motion and flexibility.

It’s not a contest. Go slow, go smart and keep going. Inactivity can compound pain issues over the long term.

Bodywork
In Chinese medicine, bodywork, or tui na, is a combination of massage and chiropractic techniques. 
Here in the U.S., we leave chiropractic work to licensed DCs, but still use a variety of massage techniques to help relieve pain. This can include tui na, gua sha (a type of scraping of the skin), cupping or even Western-style energy or massage techniques for those of us who hold dual licensure.


Healthy, therapeutic touch has great potential to relieve emotional and physical discomfort and is an important tool in pain management.

Herbal medicine
When it comes to pain relief, there are more options than just aspirin. Your acupuncture physician may prescribe a Chinese herbal formula to help relieve pain, reduce inflammation and promote healing after doing a thorough intake of your current medications and supplements.

When it comes to using Chinese herbs, it’s important not to self-diagnose and buy off the Internet. For one, it may not be an appropriate choice for your individual needs.

Acupuncture physicians prescribe based on the individual’s pattern of expressing illness, not the illness itself. Second, some medications are not appropriate to combine with Chinese herbs. The quick no-go list of meds includes Warfarin, lithium and seizure-controlling medications or generic counterparts.

Acupuncture
Because acupuncture works with the nervous system, it can be an effective way to mitigate pain and retrain your brain how to deal with it. Acupuncture is used as an anesthetic in China in emergency situations or surgeries, but is more commonly used for non-emergency acute or chronic pain management here in the States.

Sometimes relief comes quickly with acupuncture. More often than not, it takes a series of sessions to make progress with pain management.

Acupuncture is not designed like a pill to be a quick fix; it’s more like going to the gym the way it stimulates the body to heal more efficiently over the long term.

If pain has overstayed its welcome in your body, Chinese medicine may give you some new tools to help.

Nicole Noles Collins is a licensed acupuncture physician and massage therapist in 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 www.pcacupuncture.abmp.com and like her Facebook page at Vitalichi Acupuncture. For more information, call 941-979-9793.