Mental health articles

OF mental health care and mentally ill

Is there a role for aromatherapy in mental illness?

Massage in general is mainly used to promote relaxation, and reduce anxiety. There is some evidence that aromatherapy massage reduces anxiety scores in the short term. The healing properties of aromatherapy are claimed to include promotion of relaxation and sleep, relief of pain, and reduction of depressive symptoms, the rationale being that the essential oils have a calming and relaxing effect. Aromatherapy might particularly be of use as an intervention with people who are confused, have little or no preserved language, and for whom verbal interaction is difficult and conventional medicine is seen as of only marginal benefit. Aromatherapy may be useful in the management of disturbed behaviour in people with dementia.

Behavioural and psychological symptoms in dementia are frequent and are a major management problem. Ballard et al. conducted a randomized controlled trial to determine the value of aromatherapy with essential oil of melissa officinalis (lemon balm) for agitation in people with severe dementia.

Seventy-two people residing in NHS care facilities who had clinically significant agitation in the context of severe dementia were randomly assigned to aromatherapy with melissa essential oil (N = 36) or placebo (sunflower oil) (N = 36). The active treatment or placebo oil was combined with a base lotion and applied to patients’ faces and arms twice a day by caregiving staff.

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