One of the most exciting new frontiers in health research involves an ancient therapy – aromatherapy.
Studies of the benefits of essential oils and aromatherapy now demonstrate that these treatments hold exciting potential for dealing with health issues that have perplexed mainstream medicine for decades.
For example, one group of researchers has evidence that aromatherapy could be useful for dealing with lung infections that resist treatment with antibiotics. And other studies suggest that essential oils could provide a tool for coping with Parkinson’s disease and memory problems.
So, read on to learn more about how the ancient art of aromatherapy can help you…
Studies in Japan show that an essential oil derived from turmeric could help defend brain tissue against deterioration caused by Parkinson’s disease.
In these lab tests, aromatic turmerone (ar-turmerone) was discovered to support the function of neurons that produce dopamine, the neurotransmitter that’s in short supply in Parkinson’s patients.
As Parkinson’s progresses these neurons – called dopaminergic neurons – die off. When they stop processing dopamine, communication among important parts of the brain breaks down which can lead to tremors, the inability to move, rigid muscles and other movement impairments associated with the disease.
The Japanese scientists believe that ar-turmerone helps to protect the neurons by reducing inflammation in microglia, immune cells that are supposed to attack pathogens and eliminate damaged neurons in the brain.
When they’re inflamed, microglia can cut off dopamine production. But ar-turmerone may restrict this harmful inflammation and, as an antioxidant, reduce problematic oxidative stress.1
In addition, the researchers note that studies have shown that ar-turmerone may also help protect against brain tumors.2
Other recent research suggests that healthy microglial function is critical to maintaining a sharp, clear memory as you age. In fact, in this newsletter next week you’ll read about some of this research which confirms that older folks with higher numbers of well-functioning microglial cells have sharper memories than older folks with fewer microglial cells.
But it’s only the beginning. Yet another brain health benefit of essential oils is stress relief.
Managing Stress with Aromatherapy
The wafting scents of aromatherapy can act as a significant stress reliever according to tests at the West Virginia University (WVU) School of Nursing.
In an eight-week study, 19 nurses who work with cancer patients at the Infusion Center at the WVU Cancer Institute carried aromatherapy patches attached to badges worn on lanyards around their necks. The patches were infused with a blend of various essential oils including orange, pink grapefruit, lime, peppermint, lemongrass, and lemon.
Interviews with the nurses showed that after wearing the patches they felt significantly less stressed, anxious, fatigued, and overwhelmed.3
“Oncology nursing is a stressful job,” says researcher Laurie Theeke, who directs the nursing PhD program at WVU. “You’re dealing with life or death or chronic illness every day. And people in all of the health professions are stressed. This doesn’t just have application to nursing. It’s about workplace stress.”
There’s also some remarkable research about the benefits of essential oils in dealing with respiratory infections.
Breathe Easier with Essential Oils
According to researchers in South Africa, combining certain essential oils and using these combinations in aromatherapy offers great promise in dealing with respiratory infections that have been tough to treat with antibiotics.
The scientists report that they’ve analyzed the effects of 369 different mixtures of essential oils to identify their ability to eradicate microbial pathogens, help the body eliminate toxins and control inflammation.
In their lab tests, the researchers found that the most potent formula that works against certain microbes is a combination of coriander and cinnamon.4 And they also found that combining bergamot with rosemary and ginger could be effective against pathogens that affect the lungs.
In addition, these scientists point to tests showing that peppermint oil can be useful as an adjunct therapy in the treatment of tuberculosis, a disease which is making a comeback in a number of areas around the world.5
If more studies into aromatherapy continue to turn up positive results, as this research does, it might not be long before essential oils become available in mainstream medicine. Until then, though, you can find essential oils at most health food stores and online.
And, if you want to take a quick aromatherapy break without having to buy a diffuser to use at home, researchers suggest taking a walk through a wooded area. They report that the essential oils released by trees can boost your immune system by supporting extra activity of natural killer cells. Perhaps most remarkable, in some of the tests, the increased immune activity lasted seven full days after a single walk through the park!6