November 19, 2006 Aromatherapy is the use of scented oils to promote mental and/or physical changes in the body. The oils used in aromatherapy are highly concentrated extracts taken from parts of plants, like grasses, leaves, flowers, fruit peels, roots and wood. A pure essential oil is made in one of two ways. One method is through distillation of the plant components by water or steam. The essential oil is then separated from the water. The second method of production, cold pressing (also known as expression), uses mechanical pressing to "squeeze" oils from the plant. It is often used to capture oils from the rinds of citrus fruits. More than 40 different essential oils are used in aromatherapy. Some people combine more than one oil for specific effects. The oils may be inhaled (using steam, heat or a device called a diffuser), placed on an object (like a cloth or pillow), rubbed on the body, or placed in bathwater or lotions. Some of the most commonly used essential oils include: lavender, rosemary, eucalyptus, chamomile, marjoram, jasmine, peppermint and lemon. Use of Aromatherapy Health experts say aromatherapy is not a treatment for medical problems. However, it can be used to support patients by reducing depression and helping them cope with stress and chronic pain. For example, lavender is used to promote sleep/reduce insomnia and reduce stress. Lemon, orange and grapefruit oils promote happiness and peace. Jasmine, cyprus and rosemary boost confidence. People who are considering using essential oils should be cautious. Some essential oils are used in full strength doses while others are meant to be diluted in water, lotion or some other type of substance. There is also a great variation in the quality of the oils. Here are some things to keep in mind: Buy from a reputable source. The quality of an oil can vary depending upon the part of the plant from which it is taken, the area where it is grown and how it is processed. Read as much as you can and ask questions before you buy. Avoid products labeled as "fragrance oil," "perfume oil" or "natural identical oil" because these are not true essential oils. Some essential oils are very expensive. Ask if the seller can provide a sample before you make a purchase. Purchase and store essential oils in amber or dark colored glass bottles. Many essential oils break down in light. Light can easily pass through clear glass bottles and damage the oil. Avoid plastic bottles because the oil can cause the plastic to break down, eventually contaminating the oil. In addition, avoid bottles with rubber stoppers, because the oil can also dissolve the rubber. Follow the instructions carefully. Some essential oils are meant to be diluted and some can cause skin irritation. Citrus oils, in particular, can cause the skin to be more sensitive to the sun and, if applied directly to the skin, cause a bad sunburn. All essential oil should come with clear instructions on how they are meant to be used. Cherie Perez, BS, RN, CCRP, RMT, Research Nurse with MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, uses aromatherapy for cancer patients. She says spearmint helps with digestion and eases nausea and vomiting. Bay laurel is useful for skin rashes, joint pain and stomach problems. Perez says aromatherapy should be used cautiously by women who are pregnant or nursing and patients with medical conditions. Some essential oils can stimulate contraction of the uterus. Other oils may stimulate the nervous system or lead to a drop in blood pressure. Essential oils should also be diluted before they are used for children. AUDIENCE INQUIRY For information about the program at MD Anderson: Place of Wellness, (713) 794-4700 For general information on Aromatherapy: American Cancer Society, http://www.cancer.org National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, http://www.naha.org National Cancer Institute, http://www.cancer.gov AromaWeb™, http://www.aromaweb.com BIBLIOGRAPHY "Aromatherapy," Atlanta: American Cancer Society, downloaded from website (http://www.cancer.org), October 26, 2006. "Aromatherapy and Essential Oils (PDQ®)," Bethesda: National Cancer Institute, downloaded from website (http://www.cancer.gov), October 25, 2006. Sook, Moss, et al., "Aromas of Rosemary and Lavender Essential Oils Differentially Affect Cognition and Mood in Healthy Adults," International Journal of Neuroscience, January 2003, Vol. 113, No. 1, pp. 15-38. Dunning, T., "Applying a Quality Use of Medicines Framework to Using Essential Oils in Nursing Practice," Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, August 2005, Vol. 11, No. 3, pp. 172-181. "FAQ on the Aromatherapy Safety," Spokane: National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, downloaded from website (http://www.naha.org), October 25, 2006. Gedney, Jeffrey, Psy.D., et al., "Sensory and Affective Pain Discrimination After Inhalation of Essential Oils," Psychosomatic Medicine, July-August 2006, Vol. 66, No 4, pp. 599-606. "Good Scents," Nursing Standard, January 5-11, 2005, Vol. 19, No. 17, pp. 20-21. Kyle, G., "Evaluating the Effectiveness of Aromatherapy in Reducing Levels of Anxiety in Palliative Care Patients," Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, May 2006, Vol. 12, No. 2, pp. 148-155. Maddocks-Jennings, Wendy, and Jenny Wilkinson, "Aromatherapy Practice in Nursing," Journal of Advanced Nursing, October 2004, Vol. 48, No. 1, pp. 93-103. Murakami, S., et al., "Aromatherapy for Outpatients with Menopausal Symptoms in Obstetrics and Gynecology," Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, June 2005, Vol. 11, No. 3, pp. 491-494. Perry, N., and E. Perry, "Aromatherapy in the Management of Psychiatric Disorders," CNS Drugs, 2006, Vol. 20, No. 4, pp. 257-280. "What is Aromatherapy?" Spokane: National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, downloaded from website (http://www.naha.org), October 25, 2006. "What is Essential Oil?" Spokane: National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, downloaded from website (http://www.naha.org), October 25, 2006.