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I was recently introduced to essential oils, and have become very interested in their therapeutic properties. Up to this point, my experience had been limited. I knew they smelled good and that lavender was said to decrease stress and improve sleep, but it didn’t go much further than that. It was really conversations with a few friends that piqued my curiosity.

Why Essential Oils?

Essential oils are nothing new; in fact, they’ve been around for centuries. However, with increasing concerns over use of harmful chemicals in everything from household cleaners to shampoo, there is definitely a heightened interest in natural alternatives. Oils have many practical household applications, but I’m most interested in what they can do for our mind, body, and spirit.

In the last few weeks of my mom’s life, I used a lavender balm on her temples in hopes that the scent would have a calming effect. Now that I’m learning more about the oils, I wonder if diffusing oils like lavender, vanilla, or bergamot would have helped when she was particularly agitated.

Simple Self-Care for Caregivers

My own personal experience over the past couple of months has moved me to reflect on how helpful essential oils might be for caregivers as well. Consider these facts from the Alzheimer’s Association:

  • Nearly 60% of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers rate the emotional stress of caregiving as high or very high.
  • About 40% of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers suffer from depression.
  • Due to the physical and emotional toll of caregiving, Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers had $9.7 billion in additional health care costs of their own in 2014.

In no way am I suggesting that essential oils are the be-all and end-all for caregivers, but I do think they can aid in relaxation, improve sleep, enhance focus, and even help strengthen the immune system. Here are some oils you may find beneficial.

  • Stress – lavender, vetiver, clary sage, chamomile, sandalwood
  • Depression – lemon, grapefruit, sandalwood, orange
  • Sleeplessness – lavender, vetiver, valerian, chamomile, clary sage
  • Focus & Energy – peppermint, lemon, rosemary, orange
  • Mood – lemon, lavender, rosemary, orange
  • Immune System – lavender, lemon, eucalyptus, melaleuca (tea tree).

Getting Started

When purchasing, always look for 100% pure therapeutic grade oils. Drug store oils are often diluted, weak, or impure. Like most things, you get what you pay for. Where essential oils are concerned, I strongly believe it’s worth it to spend a little more for quality.

As with any natural remedy, it’s a good idea to speak with your physician if you have concerns about a particular ailment or potential drug interactions.

If you’re interested in learning more about essential oils and how to use them safely, a quick Google search will yield tons of information. When applying essential oils topically, remember they are highly concentrated and some oils require use of a carrier oil. A carrier oil is generally a vegetable- or nut-based oil, such as grapeseed or coconut (fractionated) that “carries” the essential oil without diluting its effect.

There are also many excellent books on the subject. My current favorite is The Complete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy by Valerie Ann Worwood.

Are you a caregiver who uses essential oils? If so, I’d love to hear from you. What are your favorite oils? How do you use them? How have they made a difference for you or your loved one? Please leave a comment and share your story!

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