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Aromatherapy, which uses fragrant botanical essential oils to heal physical and emotional ills, may help calm agitation and improve the quality of life for people stricken with Alzheimer's disease or other dementia.
So concludes a review of three small studies published recently in the British Medical Journal. The review noted aromatherapy's safety and effectiveness, and it suggested that the therapy could help ease the behavioral problems that are so common in people with dementia.
But here's what really grabs attention: The fragrances of the two oils most often used to treat dementia, lavender (Lavandula officinalis) and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), have nothing to do with this therapy's potential success. That's important because age and illness can impair a person's sense of smell. Instead, aromatherapy's calming effects are probably caused by terpenes, components of many essential oils. These are rapidly absorbed through the lungs and could directly affect the nervous system.
Compiled from News and wire service reports.
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