Aromatherapy won’t cure your arthritis, but it may ease certain symptoms and help you feel better. For example, lavender is sometimes used to relieve anxiety and promote sleep. Some research shows aromatherapy may even have benefits for pain. Two small studies found aromatherapy massage with lavender or ginger and orange oils led to short-term relief of knee pain.
“It doesn’t work for everyone, but some have good outcomes,” says Sue Cutshall, a Mayo Clinic integrative health clinical nurse specialist. However, as with other “natural” treatments, you should exercise caution when using them; in rare cases, they can be hazardous.
Essential oils are the foundation of aromatherapy. The oils – extracted from plants, flowers, herbs and trees – are most often used for their scent, but they can also be mixed with lotions or alcohol and used as bath or massage products.
Most essential oils have few side effects or risks when used as directed, but some can cause harm. Undiluted essential oils can provoke skin problems, and citrus essential oils can increase sun sensitivity.
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Because your sense of smell is linked to the areas of the brain where emotion and memories are processed, you can use scents and fragrant plants to give yourself an emotional boost, relieve pain, and conjure up pleasant memories.
“Aromatherapy is effective because it works directly on the amygdala, the brain’s emotional center,” says Mehmet Oz, MD, director of integrative medicine center at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. “This has important consequences because the thinking part of the brain can’t inhibit the effects of the scent, meaning you feel them instantaneously.” Of the many uses of aromatherapy, pain relief is only one; anxiety reduction and rejuvenation are other common objectives.
“Aromas can heal by enhancing our memory and changing emotions that affect the body’s stress response,” says Esther Sternberg, MD, a rheumatologist and author of Healing Spaces. “If you can identify a fragrance that reminds you of a peaceful, pleasant place and puts you in the mood to say, meditate, it can have a very positive effect.”
Continue reading Try Aromatherapy for Pain Relief
Research shows that aromatherapy can have a powerful impact on your well-being, including your level of pain. “Certain scents activate smell receptors in the nose, which triggers a reaction in the nervous system,” says Julie Chen, MD, an integrative medicine physician in San Jose, Calif. This, in turn, stimulates the part of your brain that controls emotion, triggering the release of hormones such as feel-good dopamine.
Continue reading Aromatherapy for Pain Relief