As an herbal treatment, lavender has its main role in aromatherapy. Aromatherapy uses the scent of essential plant oils to boost healing and well-being. Different oils have different effects. The light floral fragrance of lavender flowers is relaxing and soothing. Lavender in aromatherapy appears to have some benefits for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.
Aromatherapists use lavender to relieve anxiety, restlessness, depression and sleep problems. Research appearing in the “Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine” (August 2005) verified that lavender oil in aromatherapy reduces insomnia. Aromatherapy for the dementia patient may involve using a diffuser to send a light scent throughout a room. Another method is pinning a tissue with an essential oil onto the patient’s clothing or using a light spray on a small area of the bed linens. A caregiver also may apply lavender essential oil, diluted with a carrier oil, such as sesame or almond oil, during a simple massage of the hands.
Aromatherapy Improves Behavior of Dementia Patients
Lavender aromatherapy reduces agitated behavior in nursing home patients with severe dementia, according to research summarized by InteliHealth.com. It does not decrease resistive behavior, however, such as resisting attempts to help the patient with personal hygiene. Psychogeriatrics (December 2009) published researching showing significant improvement in certain types of cognitive function in dementia patients treated with aromatherapy. It included both lavender and orange oils in the evening and rosemary and lemon oils in the morning. Consequently, it is unclear how beneficial lavender in particular was, because the aromatherapy involved more than one essential oil.
A study published in the April 2002 issue of the “International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry” evaluated the effects of lavender oil aromatherapy with a diffuser on patients with severe dementia and agitated behavior. For 10 days, the aromatherapy was administered for two hours each day and alternated with a two-hour session of simple water diffusion. Nine of the 15 participants showed improved behavior during aromatherapy.
The 2002 study suggests that lavender aromatherapy may benefit most patients with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, but that it doesn’t work for everyone. Patients with asthma or other breathing problems should check with a doctor before using aromatherapy because they might experience lung irritation. While lavender teas and extracts are available for oral use, lavender essential oil can be toxic if consumed.