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    You are here : Home » About MS » Multiple Sclerosis Treatments » Complementary Therapies » Aromatherapy


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    AromatherapyWhat is aromatherapy?

    Aromatherapy uses powerful, fragrant essential oils that have a positive effect on mind and body. They are used together with massage to make you feel relaxed, or energised. Essential oils are the 'essence' of a plant, extracted from herbs, flowers, shrubs or trees. Each essential oil is different, with its own fragrance and therapeutic use.

    The therapeutic use of essential oils has been known to man for many thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians especially were noted for their use of oils.

    The use of oils started to decline in Western Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire but some knowledge was kept alive and passed down in the Middle and Far East. It was not until 1927, however, that the word “Aromatherapy” was coined by Gattafosse, a French biochemist, during his research into the therapeutic values of essential oils. Since those early days the use of essential oils and other forms of complementary medicine has bloomed.

    People visit an aromatherapist for many different reasons. On the first visit a detailed case history is taken which may take up to an hour. Usually the patient will then have a soothing massage using essential oils specifically chosen to fit the patient and the condition. Sometimes the patient will be given a preparation to use in the bath or to be inhaled at home to back up the treatment. If a patient is too ill or frail to undergo massage and has difficulty with baths, then inhalation of the oils would be more appropriate.

    Aromatherapy cannot cure any disease. There is no “magic bullet” in complementary therapies. However, the therapy can help as a support therapy on different levels, both the mental and physical well-being of the patient. Each person is treated as an individual. This is especially important when dealing with MS where the disease may present in different ways.

    Essential oils are able to penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream. Some essential oils have anti-inflammatory properties; others bring about a feeling of relaxation; others are stimulating. Many are known to have such potent effects on the mind that they can change your mood in minutes.

    If you are using essential oils yourself, be careful to always dilute them in water or a carrier oil. Undiluted, they should not be put directly on the skin. You can add a few drops of essential oils into a bath. Or you can make a room vapouriser by adding a few drops of oil into a bowl of warm water, or a vapouriser with a candle.

    To get the full health benefits of aromatherapy, it is best to see a professional aromatherapist.

    Aromatherapy and Multiple Sclerosis

    Juniper or rosemary are good for MS.

    For a good night's sleep: lemongrass and orange. Place a few drops in a diffuser in your bedroom.

    There are a variety of oils which can help deal with the differing aspects of MS. Newly diagnosed people can be helped to work through the initial impact of the diagnosis. Neroli oil can be very useful and if there are neuro-muscular problems Rosemary is a good choice as it is a neuro-muscular relaxant. Hypericum (St Johns Wort) is another good choice for MS and it blends well with other oils as it has no noticeable aroma. For constipation, a gentle oil such as Black Pepper may be used to aid peristalsis. Where there is uncomfortable water retention, an oil with gentle diuretic properties such as Juniper may be used to stimulate the urinary system. Disturbed sleep patterns can be helped with Roman Chamomile which has excellent relaxant and sleep-aiding carminative properties.

    Green apple fragrance significantly reduces headaches in those who enjoy the smell. It is thought that the scent affects pain pathways in the brain. There are other oils an aromatherapist can use appropriately in other conditions. Essential oils are available from health shops, good chemists and department stores.

    There may be times when MS generates very low spirits. To help alleviate this, Grapefruit oil is not only uplifting but also an excellent digestive helping to improve the appetite.

    Although aromatherapy has not been scientifically tested for MS, it is now undergoing trials at NHS hospitals to see whether it can reduce pain and anxiety and treat infections. If the trials are successful, aromatherapy would become available in many hospitals for a range of conditions.

    Help for Carers

    Sometimes in caring for someone with MS, the carers themselves may be forgotten. The stress of looking after another person as well as a general day to day business may lead carers to neglect their own health and well-being. Aromatherapy can play a vital part in helping carers to recognise their own needs. An hours massage regularly with the appropriate oils will have immense therapeutic value for long-term carers.

    Use Qualified Practitioners

    It is important to find a qualified aromatherapist to ensure that you receive a proper assessment of your individual needs.

    The National Register of Aromatherapists is available from The Aromatherapy Council on 0870 7743477. You should ensure the aromatherapist is AC Registered for quality assurance.

    For more information please visit the the Aromatherapy Council Website:


    Aromatherapy can help reduce pain. A recent study carried out at the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago found that green apple fragrance significantly reduces headaches in those who enjoy the smell. It is thought that the scent affects pain pathways in the brain.

    This information is from The A to Z Guide to Alternative Therapies edited by Judy Graham.

    Further Information

    © Multiple Sclerosis Resource Centre

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