Aromatherapy is a complementary therapy used by some people with multiple sclerosis.
Aromatherapy is the use of fragrances in the form of oils - known as essential oils, as they contain the essence of the plant from which they are taken. You can use oils in the bath (if heat sensitivity is not an issue), as a steam inhalation, in an oil burner or with a compress. Aromatherapy is sometimes used with massage - a few drops of the required essential oils are added to a carrier massage oil. It can also be used as part of a sleep routine.
There is very little research about the effects of aromatherapy on multiple sclerosis, but it can promote relaxation and wellbeing.
In 2021, a small study in Iran looked at the effect of aromatherapy with lavender essential oil on the working memory of women with MS. Two drops of essential oil were placed on a cotton ball, which was placed 5cm away from the nose and inhaled for 10 minutes. This was repeated twice a day for two weeks. Distilled water was used instead of lavender oil in the placebo group. The results showed a significant improvement in working memory in the group which inhaled lavender oil.
Aromatherapy oils are usually used with no problems. Some people are allergic to some fragrances and some oils may cause a rash if they are applied directly to the skin. You can do a small patch test first to check if this might be a problem.
- Complementary Therapies in Nursing and Midwifery 2002;8(3):138-141. Summary Will aromatherapy be a useful treatment strategy for people with multiple sclerosis who experience pain?
- Journal of Medicine and Life 2021;14(6):776-781. Full text The effect of aromatherapy with lavender essential oil on the working memory of women with multiple sclerosis.
Massage is used by some people with MS, often in combination with aromatherapy
Relaxation techniques can be helpful in MS for managing fatigue, relieving stress and promoting better sleep. Here are some ideas for you to try.
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