Home & Office/ALZEHEIMER'S
by Jeanne Rose
for Aromatherapy Quarterly, Spring 1998 issue
January 23, 1998

Is it Alzheimer’s or just normal thoughtlessness? Your grandmother doesn’t recognize you and calls you by the name of your mother, which is her daughter. Often she can not remember what she wants to say and will call her elbow, a knee. Sometimes, she forgets how to write a check and she is confused and repeats herself and often misplaces objects and accuses a member of the family of stealing. Sometimes your mother-in-law sees a beautiful piece of food such as a luscious salad and thinks of it as an art object, something to take home and looked at rather than eaten. Could this be Alzheimer’s disease?

Dr. Jerome Goldstein, MD directs the San Francisco Alzheimer’s and Dementia Clinic and states that a neurologist can indeed diagnose this incurable memory-destroying disorder with 90-95% accuracy. What is needed is a consultation with a neurologist and a battery of mental status tests. The neurologist considers the medical history and current symptoms as well as several factors that may predict the course of the disease. These factors include:

Loss of skills - such as the ability to perform or have interest in routine tasks.
Impaired judgment or lost interest in what was once interesting;
Personality change, an irritable person becomes complacent, a quiet person becomes irritable, other changes include being anxious, depressed, or restless;
Memory loss, impaired short-term memory, yet can remember events that occurred many years ago, such as the father who talks to his 50 year old daughter as if she were 15 and discusses the basketball game she is going to that actually happened 35 years previously;
Confusion, loses track of time and events, forgets when to eat or eats constantly because they forget they just ate, gets lost in familiar places, repeats stories endlessly, misplaces objects, forgets why they turned the oven on, forgets to bathe.
Besides the factors that predict the course of the disease there are risk factors that include:
Age - the potential for developing the disease increases with age.
Family history - having a relative with Alzheimer’s disease or Down’s syndrome.
Education level - Alzheimer’s is less common in people who have completed more years of education.

Some of the tests that Dr. Goldstein uses are: a test of cerebrospinal fluid that may detect abnormal proteins that are found in Alzheimer’s patients and other tests that can help rule out conditions that causes confusion, including alcoholism, thyroid disease, psychiatric disorders, stroke, cancer or head injuries.

How To Lower Your Risk. Alzheimer’s is a progressive degenerative brain disorder and causes devastation to the patient and to the family and caregivers as well. Impaired memory, behavior and thinking are the most common symptoms and it usually strikes people over 65 years of age. AD (Alzheimer’s Disease) currently affects over four million Americans and according to the Alzheimer’s Association, approximately fourteen million Americans will develop the disease by the middle of the next century unless preventative measures are found.

There is some research that indicates that certain measures may help lower the risk of developing AD and these are:
1. Take vitamin E. Taking high doses delays the progression of the disease.
Vitamin E may help reduce the nerve cell damage says Creighton Phelps, Ph.D., director of the NIAADRC program.
2. Take estrogen after menopause. According to a recent study of more than 1100 post-menopausal women, taking estrogen significantly lowers their risk of AD. Estrogen keeps brain cells healthy and prevents them from dying. Taking estrogen for AD prevention must be weighed against the possible increased risk of breast cancer and uterine cancer.
3. Take NSAIDs. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs taken instead of aspirin reduced the risk of AD by about 60% when compared with those who don’t take them. This was found in a recent John Hopkins School of Medicine/National Institute on Aging Study of more than 1800 people.
4. Keep learning and keep studying. This may create extra synapses, the region of the brain cells where nerve impulses that are involved in memory and cognitive functions are transmitted. Continue to do crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, word games, practice memorization techniques, develop memory skills.
5. Don’t use aluminum pots and pans for cooking. This is a controversial and unproved recommendation, but if it delays the onset of AD it should be considered.
6. Use Aromatherapy and Music Therapy to stimulate the mind and senses.
7. Ginkgo biloba found effective as a treatment. Ginkgo used for 5000 years for a variety of ailments may also be affective in treating AD, improve mental functioning and the social behavior of demented patients. A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association published in October 22, 1997 published findings that were the result of the first empirical clinical trial using extract of Ginkgo. The results were that a particular extract of Ginkgo, EGb appears to stabilize and improve the patient’s functioning for periods of 6 months to one year, effectively delaying the onset of AD by 6 months.

The Promise of AROMATHERAPY for AD patients. AD is one of the most-horrible of modern curse’s, an aspect of life for many hundreds of aging parents, wives, husbands, lovers, friends. We live longer than our brains can tolerate and they stop functioning. Consciousness dims , faculties are lost, once bright minds fade into a space and are lost to friends and family, cursing the healthy to continue care and attention to a beloved person who may no longer recognize the caregiver.

How to Use Aromatherapy for AD: forgetfulness, anger, aggression, mood swings, confusion and combativeness.

Essential oils can be used as blends (synergies) or simples where only one essential oil is used for any occasion. These oils and blends will be mentioned later in the this article. But here it would be well to review how we can use these oils in various situations. Since AD patients can either be at home or in a palliative care facility, you must choose the method that will work best for your personal situation. In a facility, nurses, doctors and aides simply may not have the time to perform a full-body massage, but there may always be a moment when a 30 second hand massage is adequate. Often the caregiver may need to apply the essential oil to themselves, to their own hands prior to touching a patient. In this way, the magic of the essential oil will be transferred in a single touch.

1. Inhalation. You can breathe the essential oil straight from the bottle or via the diffuser. You can apply a drop of essential oil to a hankie and give it to the patient to hold and inhale as needed. The EO can be applied to the collar of a pajama or to a pillow or sheet. Clean scents such as Lemon EO can be diluted and sprayed onto napkins at mealtime. Every time the patient’s mouth is wiped, they will inhale the odor that you have chosen. EO can be used via steam using a towel as a tent, especially when there is respiratory trouble or congestion. Diffuser can be electric, candles, or light rings. They are a wonderful way to infuse your environment with stress-relieving or depression relieving scent. Set the electric diffuser on a timer in the patients room so that it emits scent at regulate intervals throughout the day to coincide with the emotional state you are treating. If a diffusing device is not available, small bottles of synergies can be carried, to be inhaled from at any time. Simply open the bottle, waft the bottle lightly under the nose and inhale deeply. A drop of stress relieving blend can also be placed on a hankie to be carried. At home, 3 drops of synergy are placed in a pot of steaming water. Allow the steam to gently play upon the face while inhaling.
2. Compresses. Moisten a handkerchief with warm water to which has been added several drops of your essential oil. Wrap loosely around the neck, for inhalation purpose or wrap around the body part that needs attention. Some AD patients have very dry skin and small cuts and scratched on their body. A compress applied is a way to apply aromatherapy via both inhalation for mental care and application for skin care.
3. Bath/Shower. Enhance the effects of the bath experience by dimming the lights and lighting candles. You might even warm the towels on a radiator, or place a few drops of the chosen blend on the collar of the patient’s robe for inhalation after the bath. Draw a bath of pleasantly warm water. Add 2-5 drops of blend to the bath, swish the water to disperse, soak at least 20 minutes. One may also dissolve 2-5 drops of synergy in a 1/2 teaspoon of perfume alcohol for more complete disbursement in the water. You may use aromatherapy in the shower by palm blending 3 droops of EO plus 1/2 teaspoon carrier oil together. While in the shower the blend may be used to apply all over the body.
4. Lotion. 10 drops of synergy or single EO are added to one ounce of unscented lotion. Carry the lotion with you for on-the-spot relief to you or the client throughout the day. Always keep the lotion close by. Remember to make the lotion regularly in small batches rather than all at once so that the EO can be changed to suit the condition.
5. Massage. Utilize the healing powers of touch as they have been practiced for centuries. Simple self massage can be used. Put the blend in your palms, rub them together and apply around the nose, ears, neck, shoulders, arms. As Candace Welsh says “make the nose-brain connection first”. For massage to others put the blend in your palms, apply some under the patients nose and then rub the mixture on the body. This is a good time to learn a simple hand massage technique. Much can be accomplished by gently massaging someone else’s arm in long slow strokes from elbow to fingertips.
AromaHerbalist Jeanne Rose recommends the following essential oils and blends for mental conditions.

ESSENTIAL OILS  - May be used for all these mental states including Alzheimer’s.

Anger – to soothe

Matricaria recutita (German Chamomile), Cananga odorata (Ylang-Ylang #1)

Anger– unexpressed

Rosmarinus officinalis  (Rosemary)



Citrus bergamia (Bergamot), Citrus spp.  Citrus oils


Pogostemon patchouli  (Patchouli), Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary)


Salvia sclarea (Clary Sage), Citrus bergamia (Bergamot),  Jasminum officinalis (Jasmine)


Salvia sclarea (Clary Sage)


Origanum majorana (Marjoram), Lavandula angustifolia (Lavender), Cananga odorata (Ylang-Ylang #1)


Picea mariana (Spruce), Pinus spp.  (Pine) or any Fir


Pelargonium graveolens  (Geranium), Juniperus communis (Juniper),

Grief/Children's pain

Cananga odorata (Ylang -Ylang), Rosa spp. (Rose), Citrus reticulata (Mandarin Orange), Mentha x piperita (Peppermint)

Low self-esteem

Rosa spp. (Rose), Spikenard, Grapefruit


Cypress , Nardostachys jatamansi (Spikenard)

Mental Stress

Ocimum basilicum (Basil), Citrus spp. Citrus oils, Citrus aurantium (Neroli), Cymbopogon citratus (Lemongrass)


Lavandula angustifolia (True Lavender), Bergamot,  Ylang-Ylang and Marjoram


Jasminum officinalis  (Jasmine), Peppermint,  Basil and Conifer oils


) Lavandula angustifolia (Lavender), Pelargonium graveolens (Geranium), Citrus bergamia  (Bergamot)



(Easing Formula)






Ylang -Ylang x or #1







Emotional Shock, Grief











Nervous Tension, Nervousness

Orange peel




Ylang-Ylang x or #1






Add 10 drops to one ounce carrier oil for massage or undiluted into a bath or into the diffuser.

Essential oils to use for AD, a Basic Selection


Calming                  Stimulating                         The Good Old Days

Lavandula spp.      Basil                                   Vanilla

                                Rosemary                          Peppermint



Alertness              Contentment                    Clear Thinking and Breathing

Ginger                   Rose                                    Douglas fir

                              Lavender                              Pine


The above is a basic selection of essential oils that will treat the symptoms of AD. Since every patient is an individual, you may find that other oils will need to be substituted or added to your repertory of EO. Those that can be added are listed in the charts and include a calming oil such as Petitgrain of Orange an Mandarin (leaf oil), an assertive oil such as Cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica), a soothing confidence builder such as Linden blossom, a meditative and aggression reducer such as Frankincense, something to calm anger such as chamomiles, pure happiness is Orange peel, joy can be induced by Mimosa, all types of anxiety can be smoothed by Bergamot, confusion can be cleared by Ginger.

This overview of AD can be supplemented by writing to the organizations listed in the Sources as well as looking in your local phone book for an organization or aid society near you.

1. Dr. Jerome Goldstein, MD, San Francisco Alzheimer’s and Dementia Clinic at (415) 673-4600; 909 Hyde St., Ste. 230, San Francisco, CA 94109
2. Zaven Khachaturian, Ph.D., director of the Alzheimer’s Association’s Ronald & Nancy Reagan Research Institute in Chicago, Ill.
3. NIAADRC is National Institute on Aging & Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centers Program.
4. ROSA. Resource Organization for Scent & Aromatherapy, 219 Carl St., San Francisco, CA 94117. Aromatherapy kits and education.

1. LifeTimes, Autumn 1997 c/o CHW West Bay, 1900 Sullivan Ave. Daly City, CA 94015-2200.
2. Women’s Day, 9/1/97. ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE, How to Lower Your Risk by Maureen P. San Georgio
3. Remedy, July/August 1997. PARTING THE CLOUDS OF ALZHEIMER’S by Mort Alper.
4. NNFA TODAY, November 1997, Vol 11, No. 10, call 800/548-9362.
5. Rose, Jeanne and Susan Earle, editor. THE WORLD OF AROMATHERAPY, Frog, 1996 see the article entitled “Memory loss and Alzheimer’s Disease” by Deanna Wolf. 219 Carl Street, San Francisco, CA 94117.
6. Rose, Jeanne. The Aromatherapy Studies Course. 1998. A variety of charts and graphs are listed with essential oil usage.
7. Alternative Health Practitioner, Vol. 3, No. 1, Spring 1997. Three Essential Oils for the Medicine Cabinet by Candace Welsh.
8. HERBS IN THE NEWS, Herbs Research Foundation. vol. 2, No.3 1997. 1007 Pearl
St, Ste 200 Boulder, CO 80302.

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