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Essential oils and cancer treatment

Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils from plants to support and balance the mind, body and spirit. It is used by some patients with cancer mainly as a form of supportive care that may improve quality of life and reduce side effects of treatment. Aromatherapy may be combined with other complementary therapies like massage and acupuncture, as well as with conventional treatments for symptom management.

Essential oils (also known as volatile oils) are the basic materials of aromatherapy. They represent the fragrant essences found in many plants. These essences are made in special plant cells, often under the surface of leaves, bark or peel, using energy from the sun and elements from the air, soil and water. If the plant is crushed, the essence and its unique fragrance are released.

When essences are extracted from plants, they become essential oils. They may be distilled with steam and/or water, or mechanically pressed. Essential oils that are made by processes that modify their chemistry are not considered true essential oils.

When the oils interact with the other elements they can help patients with side effects and curb discomfort.

More specifically, essential oils may be used if you're experiencing pain, nausea and vomiting, anxiety, insomnia or for smoking cessation. When inhaled, essential oils trigger the limbic system. When applied to the feet, the active elements in the oils are absorbed. Some patients have described a change almost immediately. While essential oils are very safe when used correctly, Gundersen does not use them for children under age 2 or women in the first two trimesters of pregnancy. Staff at our Integrative Medicine Center can talk with you about essential oils and what may work best for you.

Learn more about essential oils and how they can be used complementary to conventional cancer treatment.

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