Scan the shelves of the local bath and body stores and one is sure to find products labeled for aromatherapy. Many might be surprised to learn the science behind it. So what is aromatherapy, how is it used and will those products actually work?
Cherie Perez, a supervising research nurse in the Department of Genitourinary Medical Oncology, teaches a monthly aromatherapy class to answer those questions for cancer patients and caregivers undergoing treatment at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. Perez's classes are offered free of charge through M. D. Anderson's Place... of wellness, a center within the institution that focuses on helping patients and caregivers deal with the non-medical issues of living with cancer, and is the first complementary therapy facility to be built on the campus of a comprehensive cancer center.
Perez, who first became involved with aromatherapy to help relieve the physical pain and discomfort caused by fibromyalgia, shares her professional knowledge of the basics of aromatherapy, safety precautions and interactive demonstrations in each hour-long class.
Oils and healing
While essential oils may not directly stimulate the immune system, they can complement cancer treatment by boosting the system's ability to fight off infections, says Perez.
Certain oils can also stimulate lymphatic drainage or have antibacterial properties. Since it has many potential uses ranging from managing anxiety and nausea to helping with sleep, general relaxation, memory and attention, many individuals, including cancer patients, can benefit from aromatherapy [See Sidebar 1: Five Oils to Reduce Stress and Relieve Ailments.]
There are a variety of different products and methods of diffusion to obtain the healing benefits of oils. Some oils - like lavender, ylang ylang and sandalwood can be applied directly to the skin - while others are too concentrated and need to be diluted into carriers such as massage oils, bath soaps and lotions [See Sidebar 2: Everyday Uses for Aromatherapy.] Most typically, Perez advises patients to put a few drops of an oil, or a combination of oils onto a handkerchief and "fan themselves like Scarlett O'Hara." Burning oils or incense is not recommended because most are poorly constructed and give off unhealthy fumes and soot.
Who should, or shouldn't, use oils?
Widely sold in health food stores and beauty chain stores, essential oils do have chemical properties that can affect the brain and enter the bloodstream, and for some patients may be toxic when combined with common cancer therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Perez says essential oils, like many medicines, can increase a person's sensitivity to the sun and should be used with caution. Patients should always inform and discuss with their physicians before using aromatherapy oils to complement a medical condition.
People with high blood pressure should avoid hyssop, rosemary, sage and thyme, while diabetics should avoid angelica oil. Women who are pregnant or nursing should avoid a number of oils that stimulate the uterus including star anise, basil and juniper to name a few and should use with caution peppermint, rose and rosemary in the first trimester. According to Perez, pediatric patients can use aromatherapy essential oils in very low concentrations. [See Sidebar 3: Tips for Buying Oils.]
Aromatherapy's role in cancer treatment
"The nature of aromatherapy makes it challenging to study due to the fact that it is difficult to create a placebo and every person is different in their nasal sensitivities and skin absorption rates," says Perez. In the future, however, she would be interested in designing research to examine how aromatherapy can be used to treat/heal burns caused from radiation treatment safely and effectively, soothe pre-treatment anxiety and manage loss-of-memory issues in cancer survivors.
Lindsay Anderson | EurekAlert!
23.03.2017 | Technische Universität München
How prenatal maternal infections may affect genetic factors in Autism spectrum disorder
22.03.2017 | University of California - San Diego
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
23.03.2017 | Life Sciences
23.03.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
23.03.2017 | Earth Sciences