Aromatherapy is Useful for Cancer Support, Not Cancer Prevention

Jul 15, 07:45 PM

By Katharine Koeppen, RA

I'm 4 years out from breast cancer treatment and want to know what oils I should use to prevent any recurrence of cancer.

The above is typical of e-mails I regularly receive from cancer survivors, and I am so very sad to read them, for a number of different reasons. Often the querent has some confusion over the difference between cancer support and cancer prevention.

Many self-styled health experts are widely promoting the use of essential oils to prevent cancer. If you do a quick online search, you will come up with numerous hits for "aromatherapy and cancer." Many of the sites are well written and appear quite legitimate. However, if you look at the site carefully, click on all the links, check out an author bio and do a little exploring, you'll usually find that it's a thinly veiled attempt on the part of a distributor to sell you any variety of products a so-called "natural health expert" has to offer: essential oils, vitamin supplements, t-shirts, Nutrabullet blenders, online classes... you name it. It's difficult if not impossible for the average internet user to determine what is legitimate and what is based on faulty or misinterpreted science.

The bottom line: Essential oils do not cure cancer, nor do they prevent recurrence of cancer. What happens with any given essential oil in a petri dish in a university laboratory currently has little bearing on the health of someone who is fighting this group of diseases. For further explanation, I'm including a link to an article by Robert Tisserand, a well-published expert on essential oil research and safety. It's specific to frankincense oil (the current internet miracle cure), but addresses many common misconceptions about aromatherapy cancer cures/prevention in general.

Cancer prevention is not the same as cancer support. Conventional cancer treatments cause a wide variety of side effects, many of which are more debilitating to the patient than the actual disease itself. Cancer support deals with multiple integrative approaches for helping patients manage the side effects of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. One of these approaches is clinical aromatherapy, and it can be highly effective for people who are undergoing active treatment for cancer.

This is a specialty area in which I've been employing essential oils for a long time, both in private practice and in traditional healthcare facilities. The treatment side effects which can be addressed by aromatherapy are many and vary according to individual patient health, type of cancer, and types of treatment being taken. These include (but are not limited to): depression, physical and emotional exhaustion, chemo-induced nausea, anticipatory nausea, radiation burns, "chemo brain," black hand and foot syndrome, lack of appetite, low RBC count, dizziness, surgical incisions and skin grafts, edema, mouth sores, malodor, constipation, CI peripheral neuropathy, reduced salivation, breathlessness and difficulty swallowing.

It's very important that a cancer patient who wishes to use essential oils seek out the assistance of an experienced clinical aromatherapist. Self-medication on the part of a casual or inexperienced user may interfere with various medications and treatments, causing a person to become more ill. Even if the patient is using an appropriate essential oil, incorrect dosing or application can cause further adverse effects. A person may also have other health problems, related or unrelated, which preclude the use of certain essential oils.

Equally important is engaging an aromatherapist from the very beginning of a cancer treatment journey. Timing is everything, because some side effects can emerge during the early stages of treatment. You can't usually minimize treatment side effects if you wait until the course of treatment has ended!

Essential oils have shown such positive results in the area of cancer support that several major cancer treatment centers and some hospitals are now incorporating aromatherapy as a key part of integrative oncology. To locate a registered aromatherapist in your part of the country, visit the Aromatherapy Registration Council website, or contact Alliance of International Aromatherapists.



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