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!
Advanced analysis of brain structure shape may track progression to Alzheimer's disease
26.10.2016 | Massachusetts General Hospital
Indian roadside refuse fires produce toxic rainbow
26.10.2016 | Duke University
Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.
This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...
Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion
Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
27.10.2016 | Materials Sciences
27.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
27.10.2016 | Life Sciences