Essential oils have been used for generations to ease symptoms of depression, anxiety and insomnia. Some caregivers are now using these trusted oils to ease anxiety, boost memory and improve the mood of loved ones living with dementia.
Learn which oils are best suited for people living with dementia and how to use each oil safely and effectively.
Manage Dementia’s Side Effects
As the search continues for a cure for Alzheimer’s and related dementias, some research suggests that aromatherapy and the use of essential oils may treat certain symptoms of the disease.
While research on the effectiveness of essential oils is somewhat limited, some studies have shown aromatherapy can:
- Ease symptoms of anxiety
- Offer relief from symptoms of depression
- Improve the quality of life for people living with chronic health conditions
Oils may be inhaled, applied to the skin, or placed in food or tea depending on the type of oil and its level of concentration.
While oils have been used for generations and many are thought to be safe, essential oils are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so be sure to consult with your doctor before using to ensure oils will not have any negative interaction with medication.
In addition to the therapeutic benefits of the oils themselves, studies have also shown that sensory stimulation for people with Alzheimer’s can decrease agitation, improve sleep and improve the overall quality of life for those living with the disease.
7 Essential Oils That May Help Those Living with Dementia
Here are oils that have been shown to be effective in treating and controlling different symptoms of dementia:
Lavender is thought to be calming and able to balance strong emotions. It has also been used to help with depression, anger and irritability, and can help in some cases of insomnia. Lavender can be directly inhaled, used a massage oil or sprayed on linens.
Peppermint is an energizer and can be used to stimulate the mind and calm nerves at the same time. Best used in the morning, peppermint oil can be inhaled directly, diffused in a room, used as a massage oil, sprayed in the air or even placed in a bath.
Similar to peppermint, Rosemary is an uplifting oil used to stimulate the mind and body. It may even improve cognitive performance and mood. Rosemary has also been known to ease constipation, symptoms of depression and also reinvigorate the appetite. Rosemary oil can be directly inhaled, diffused through a room or used as a spray.
Bergamot can be used to relive anxiety, agitation, mild depression and stress. This mood elevating and calming oil can also be used to relieve insomnia. To use bergamot oil, place a few drops in a bath, use as a massage oil, diffuse through a room or use a spray on clothing or linens.
5. Lemon Balm
While lemon oil may be among the more expensive oils, it is also one of the most studied and more effective oils. It has been shown to help calm and relax people who are dealing with anxiety and insomnia, improve memory and ease indigestion. Lemon oil can be dropped into a bath, inhaled directly, diffused, sprayed or applied directly to the skin as a massage oil.
6. Ylang Ylang
Ylang Ylang oil can help ease depression while also promoting good sleep. This is a great oil not only for a person living with Alzheimer’s, but also for caregivers struggling with restlessness and lack of sleep. Ylang Ylang is often combined with lemon oil and can be placed in a bath, inhaled, diffused or sprayed.
Ginger oil is helpful for anyone struggling with digestion issues. Commonly used to treat a loss of appetite and constipation, ginger can help promote good eating habits. Ginger oil can be applied directly to the skin as an abdominal massage, inhaled, diffused, sprayed or placed on a compress.
Have you seen positive effects of essential oils in yourself or a loved one? Which oils worked best? Share your tips with us in the comments below.
Please leave your thoughts and comments
I would really appreciate suggestions for activities for men in an assisted living place. Lots of things are offered for women, but absolutely nothing at all for the men. My husband is bored to death.
My experience with assisted living is that most of the residents are women so I guess that’s why so many of the activities are geared toward them. However, what type of activities would your husband like? Gardening? Putting? Maybe you could request that they try to incorporate some of these activities into their calendar. If not, is it possible for you to start some type of activity that he would be interested in, or to hire someone who can visit regularly and do some of these activities with him?
Apologies…I meant to respond to Rosemary.
That is unfortunate to hear. I am a recreation therapist and have worked with seniors most of my 30 year career. You should talk with the activity director about what opportunities he may not be taking advantage of. Most facilities hire well meaning staff with little understanding and few skills needed to provide meaningful activities for their residents. You might want to speak with the administration about offering recreation therapy for those who don’t fit into the cookbook activity programs offered in most long term care facilities. Good luck to you.
I am so glad I came across this blog as I recently started using essential oils with my 89 yo mother who is in early late stage alzheimers, I am so thrilled about the improvements I have seen and experienced in her that I want to tell everyone who has a love one with alzheimers. I started experimenting with Serenity, it is a doTerra blend oil, a few months ago and within a few days both the caregiver and myself noticed significant improvement. Now after a few months, everyone who has known my mom, but has does not see her on a regular basis is absolutely flabbergasted at the difference in her appearance, her alertness, and her overall mood and level of engagement. Before using the oil, my mom would sometimes sleep 22 out of 24 hours, now she rarely even naps. I can’t say enough about the improvement the oil has made not only in my mom’s life, but in ours as well as my mom lives with us. I’ve also found that chamomile tea at sundown wards off sundowning and what a blessing that is for all of us as well. Hope this helps. Check out the essential oils. Find someone who is knowledgeable in how to use them and read everything you can about them and I trust you too will experience the difference they can make in one’s life.
Did you diffuse the Serenity or how did you use it?? Very interested in trying this for my dad!
thank you for sharing your experience. I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2013 & interested in trying these oils.
I have used DoTerra oils for almost a year now with great success for my health concerns but hadn’t thought about it for my 89 year old mom who lives with me. I am excited to use the oils mentioned for Alzheimers. My mom has never been diagnosed with it but is showing signs of the disease. Thanks for the suggestions.
Thank you so much for this discussion! My mom has dementia and I found diffusing an oil blend with basil, peppermint & rosemary at night helps with her mental clarity. As with anything, it is important to know how the oils are made so the quality is assured.
Mturchi, How long did you use the oils before you could see a difference in your Mom?
Do you mean Lemon Balm (Melissa sp., a member of the mint family which spreads quickly and can take over a garden plot seemingly overnight), or lemon oil? These are two distinctly different botanical entities.
Frankincense is also amazing for those suffering with Alzheimer’s
Peppermint and Lavender oils work great for migraines. Apply to temples
I have been using EOs through several stages of my mom’s ALZ care. What I have seen is remarkable. Mom’s disease took her language first, so for years we created strategies for communication while her memory stayed in tact. During her agitation stage, we diffused lavender along with other blends that had lavender in them. I placed a diffuser at her bedside and was able to have the nurse create orders for caregivers to start diffusing 2 to 3 times per day: nap time, bedtime. When sickness spread through the building we diffused a blend which supported her immune system. (Not only did this benefit her, but others in the memory care area received the same support unintentionally.) The sickness didn’t travel to that living area. The use of EOs became so successful that caregivers began diffusing in their stations. When my mom was diagnosed with a UTI we combined her medication with Lemongrass. Now once or twice a week we diffuse Lemongrass to support UT health. We have successfully used a blend which has ginger, peppermint and fennel for constipation. Peppermint was supportive during a period of little responsiveness. Hand massages stimulate brain activity. EOs have been so helpful because of the option of topical use and aromatic use. Mom refuses most medications so the molecules from the EOs can support her. Mom is NOT getting better…she still has a disease which is snatching parts of her away, BUT EOs have supported her in so many different areas. I only wish that I had known about them years ago. I would have started her on Frankincense. Grateful for this article.