Lung cancer and mesothelioma patients face a wide range of challenges. Aside from dealing with the physical symptoms of these diseases, patients often have to navigate changing interpersonal relationships and tackle financial planning. While chemotherapy and radiation can help treat the malignancy, individuals may be left feeling drained of energy.
Some experts suggest that aromatherapy can provide stress relief in the comfort of one’s own home, or anywhere else it is needed, for that matter.
Global civilizations turn to plant oils
The National Cancer Institute describes aromatherapy as a regimen that uses oils naturally derived from certain plants, such as lavender, lemon, cedarwood, geranium and Roman chamomile. These “essential oils” are considered volatile because they evaporate very quickly after being exposed to the air.
Patients may undergo aromatherapy by placing a few drops of essential oils into a diffuser, inhaling the steam of hot water laced with oil or combining oils with skin creams or other dressings. Furthermore, some massage therapists use essential oils in their treatments.
Experts from the American Cancer Society say that aromatherapy has a history steeped in several ancient cultures. While the Egyptians used to bathe themselves – and embalm mummies – in scented oils, the Indians incorporated aromatic oils into massage as prescribed by Ayurvedic medicine.
In more modern times, aromatherapy became popular in the early 20th century after a French chemist reported using lavender oil to ease his pain after burning his hand. Alternative medicine experts in the U.S. took more of an interest in aromatherapy during the 1980s. These days, it is fairly widespread in New Zealand, Switzerland, France and England.
Aromatherapy can complement standard medicine
While a French chemist used lavender to help his hand nearly a century ago, what can aromatherapy do for cancer patients today? The NCI says that essential oils can complement regimens such as chemotherapy or radiation treatments by helping to alleviate stress and anxiety. Ultimately, you may experience a better quality of life with the help of aromatherapy.
Scientific research on the benefits of aromatherapy is still fairly new. However, there is some clinical evidence suggesting that aromatherapy may improve nausea, pain, blood pressure or respiratory rate. This may be important because some of these conditions are negatively affected by standard cancer therapy. More studies are needed to verify these effects.
The essential oils used in aromatherapy do not need the approval of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration because manufacturers usually do not attach health claims to them. However, you should pay attention to any symptoms that may be signs of an allergic reaction.
Remember, aromatherapy is not meant to replace standard medicine. If you’re interested in this regimen, you must continue to follow your doctor’s orders regarding chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Be sure to talk to your healthcare team about your interest in aromatherapy.
Be cautious about an unregulated practice
Although aromatherapy is generally regarded as safe, there are no state laws that require practitioners to be licensed or certified. However, those who are trained in aromatherapy are usually licensed to practice another form of therapy. These professionals include registered nurses, massage therapists, acupuncturists or even medical doctors.
Although there are no laws requiring licenses, organizations such as the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy certify training. The group’s website offers a list of schools that teach approved curricula.