Essential Oils for Dementia

If you're caring for someone with dementia, you're probably looking for ways to find relief, both for yourself and for the person you care for.  Dementia, a syndrome characterized by a deterioration in memory and ability to perform everyday activities, is very common. In fact, the World Health Organization reports that about 50 million people worldwide have dementia and that this number is increasing by about 10 million every year.  While there is currently no cure for dementia, there are ways to improve the lives of people with dementia and their caregivers. Today we'll look at how a number of essential oils could help provide relief for some of the symptoms of dementia, including anxiety, cognitive impairment, and problems sleeping.

Essential Oils to Use for Dementia:

Below is a list of essential oils you may find useful if you're caring for someone with dementia.  In particular, these oils may help to improve sleep and provide focus and relaxation for your loved one.  If you are a caregiver, I would recommend trying some of these oils for yourself as well, as caring for someone with dementia is often a stressful and emotional experience.

  • Lavender

  • Lavender is a soothing and balancing essential oil, making it one of the best oils for dementia. An antidepressant, lavender can have an uplifting effect on your mood and is also an excellent oil for sleep. If someone you care for experiences a great deal of anxiety and agitation, I would recommend giving lavender oil a try.

  • Peppermint

    When I need a boost of energy, peppermint is one of the first essential oils that comes to mind. Besides being a wonderful pick-me-up, peppermint also stimulates the mind and fights anxiety, making it a wonderful oil for someone with dementia. Because of its stimulating effects, I advise using peppermint in the morning as it may disrupt sleep if used too late in the day.

  • Rosemary

  • Rosemary is one of the best known essential oils for mental stimulation and memory. An energizing oil, rosemary can also act as an antidepressant and can awaken the appetite. Grapefruit essential oil is also wonderful for appetite stimulation.

  • Melissa

    Also known as Lemon Balm, Melissa essential oil is ideal for calming nerves and enhancing one's mood. As it can also soothe an irritable stomach, Melissa may be able to help with the decrease in appetite that is sometimes associated with dementia.  Melissa is, of course, one of the more expensive essential oils so if you're on budget, try a 5% solution.

  • Ylang Ylang

  • If you're caring for someone with dementia who is experiencing anxiety, Ylang Ylang essential oil may be able to help. Ylang Ylang has a calming, sedating effect on both the body and mind and gives off a cheerful and uplifting aroma. Ylang Ylang could be used help to ease daily stress or to encourage peaceful, deep sleep.

  • Frankincense

    Frankincense is essential oil that has long been used for its balancing, calming and grounding effects. Frankincense promotes sleep and improves mood, making it a great choice for people with dementia.

Research on Aromatherapy and Dementia

I compiled the list above by reflecting on my own experiences and knowledge of essential oils as well as by consulting research on the effects of aromatherapy on dementia. While essential oils certainly will not cure dementia, several small studies have shown that they can, indeed, help to soothe some of the symptoms, including agitation and problems with cognitive function. Here are a few studies I found particularly interesting and heartening.

One study focused on the effects of rosemary, lemon, lavender, and orange essential oil on elderly people, many of whom had Alzheimer's disease. After 28 days of exposure to rosemary and lemon in the morning and lavender and orange in the evening, patients showed significantly improved cognitive function.

Another study focused on the essential oils of ylang ylang and peppermint and their effects on mood, energy levels and cognitive function. Results showed that peppermint aids with memory and increased alertness. In contrast, ylang ylang had dampening effects on memory and slowed processing speeds, but had a very calming effect on test subjects.

Melissa essential oil has also been seen to ease symptoms associated with dementia. One study focused on Melissa and the management of agitation in 71 people with severe dementia. Half the patients were treated with melissa essential oil and the other half received a placebo of sunflower oil. The oils were combined with lotion and massaged into the patients arms and faces twice a day for a month. The results of the study showed that the patients treated with melissa essential oil saw a reduction in agitation and spent less time socially withdrawn and more time engaged in constructive activities.


Recipes & Ideas

Relax Blend

4 drops lavender essential oil
2 drops geranium essential oil
3 drops frankincense essential oil

Use this blend in a diffuser, portable inhaler or dilute in carrier oil and use as a massage oil.

Sleep Blend

6 drops lavender essential oil
3 drops vetiver essential oil
3 drops ylang ylang essential oil
1 drop bergamot essential oil

Use this blend in a diffuser, portable inhaler or dilute in carrier oil and use as a massage oil.

To Ease Agitation and Anxiety

Try spraying melissa flower water around the home or dilute 6-8 drops of melissa essential oil in about an ounce of lotion or carrier oil base to massage into hands and neck.

Focus Blend

4 drops peppermint essential oil
5 drops sweet orange essential oil
3 drops frankincense essential oil
2 drops rosemary essential oil

Use this blend in a diffuser or portable inhaler.


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