Manage Dementia’s Side Effects with These 7 Essential Oils

Essential oils have been used for generations to ease symptoms of depression, anxiety and insomnia. Some caregivers are now using these trusted oils to ease anxiety, boost memory and improve the mood of loved ones living with dementia.Manage Dementia's Side Effects with These 7 Essential Oils

Learn which oils are best suited for people living with dementia and how to use each oil safely and effectively.

Manage Dementia’s Side Effects

As the search continues for a cure for Alzheimer’s and related dementias, some research suggests that aromatherapy and the use of essential oils may treat certain symptoms of the disease.

While research on the effectiveness of essential oils is somewhat limited, some studies have shown aromatherapy can:

  • Ease symptoms of anxiety
  • Offer relief from symptoms of depression
  • Improve the quality of life for people living with chronic health conditions

Oils may be inhaled, applied to the skin, or placed in food or tea depending on the type of oil and its level of concentration.

While oils have been used for generations and many are thought to be safe, essential oils are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so be sure to consult with your doctor before using to ensure oils will not have any negative interaction with medication.

In addition to the therapeutic benefits of the oils themselves, studies have also shown that sensory stimulation for people with Alzheimer’s can decrease agitation, improve sleep and improve the overall quality of life for those living with the disease.

7 Essential Oils That May Help Those Living with Dementia

Here are oils that have been shown to be effective in treating and controlling different symptoms of dementia:

1. Lavender

Lavender is thought to be calming and able to balance strong emotions. It has also been used to help with depression, anger and irritability, and can help in some cases of insomnia. Lavender can be directly inhaled, used a massage oil or sprayed on linens.

2. Peppermint

Peppermint is an energizer and can be used to stimulate the mind and calm nerves at the same time. Best used in the morning, peppermint oil can be inhaled directly, diffused in a room, used as a massage oil, sprayed in the air or even placed in a bath.

3. Rosemary

Similar to peppermint, Rosemary is an uplifting oil used to stimulate the mind and body. It may even improve cognitive performance and mood. Rosemary has also been known to ease constipation, symptoms of depression and also reinvigorate the appetite. Rosemary oil can be directly inhaled, diffused through a room or used as a spray.

4. Bergamot

Bergamot can be used to relive anxiety, agitation, mild depression and stress. This mood elevating and calming oil can also be used to relieve insomnia. To use bergamot oil, place a few drops in a bath, use as a massage oil, diffuse through a room or use a spray on clothing or linens.

5. Lemon Balm

While lemon oil may be among the more expensive oils, it is also one of the most studied and more effective oils. It has been shown to help calm and relax people who are dealing with anxiety and insomnia, improve memory and ease indigestion. Lemon oil can be dropped into a bath, inhaled directly, diffused, sprayed or applied directly to the skin as a massage oil.

6. Ylang Ylang

Ylang Ylang oil can help ease depression while also promoting good sleep. This is a great oil not only for a person living with Alzheimer’s, but also for caregivers struggling with restlessness and lack of sleep. Ylang Ylang is often combined with lemon oil and can be placed in a bath, inhaled, diffused or sprayed.

7. Ginger

Ginger oil is helpful for anyone struggling with digestion issues. Commonly used to treat a loss of appetite and constipation, ginger can help promote good eating habits. Ginger oil can be applied directly to the skin as an abdominal massage, inhaled, diffused, sprayed or placed on a compress.

Have you seen positive effects of essential oils in yourself or a loved one? Which oils worked best? Share your tips with us in the comments below.

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Please leave your thoughts and comments

  • Rosemary

    I would really appreciate suggestions for activities for men in an assisted living place. Lots of things are offered for women, but absolutely nothing at all for the men. My husband is bored to death.

    • pcarrieri

      Dear Rosemary:

      My experience with assisted living is that most of the residents are women so I guess that’s why so many of the activities are geared toward them. However, what type of activities would your husband like? Gardening? Putting? Maybe you could request that they try to incorporate some of these activities into their calendar. If not, is it possible for you to start some type of activity that he would be interested in, or to hire someone who can visit regularly and do some of these activities with him?

      • Imactrs

        Apologies…I meant to respond to Rosemary.

    • Imactrs

      That is unfortunate to hear. I am a recreation therapist and have worked with seniors most of my 30 year career. You should talk with the activity director about what opportunities he may not be taking advantage of. Most facilities hire well meaning staff with little understanding and few skills needed to provide meaningful activities for their residents. You might want to speak with the administration about offering recreation therapy for those who don’t fit into the cookbook activity programs offered in most long term care facilities. Good luck to you.

    • Jim Jackson

      My grandfather was all but gone until he found a woman “f” buddy. He seems 25 years younger. Men are simple creatures, whether 40 or 85. Give us food and sex and we are happy. Many women have difficulty understanding this.

    • Sue Sutherland

      Music ? Dancing ? Gardening if possible ? I also found that men with alzeimers often respond well to hand massage with a natural skin cream which has essential oils such as cedarwood and lemon or lime added.
      There have been some amazing studies done on the effect of music with memory and mood. x

    • Sue Sutherland

      There have been some amazing studies done with using music to help assist memory and ease the mind.
      I’ve also found that men respond well to hand massage with essential oils such as cedarwood and lemon or lime in a natural cream base.

  • pcarrieri

    I am so glad I came across this blog as I recently started using essential oils with my 89 yo mother who is in early late stage alzheimers, I am so thrilled about the improvements I have seen and experienced in her that I want to tell everyone who has a love one with alzheimers. I started experimenting with Serenity, it is a doTerra blend oil, a few months ago and within a few days both the caregiver and myself noticed significant improvement. Now after a few months, everyone who has known my mom, but has does not see her on a regular basis is absolutely flabbergasted at the difference in her appearance, her alertness, and her overall mood and level of engagement. Before using the oil, my mom would sometimes sleep 22 out of 24 hours, now she rarely even naps. I can’t say enough about the improvement the oil has made not only in my mom’s life, but in ours as well as my mom lives with us. I’ve also found that chamomile tea at sundown wards off sundowning and what a blessing that is for all of us as well. Hope this helps. Check out the essential oils. Find someone who is knowledgeable in how to use them and read everything you can about them and I trust you too will experience the difference they can make in one’s life.

    • clra

      Did you diffuse the Serenity or how did you use it?? Very interested in trying this for my dad!

      • Sue Sutherland

        “serenity” is a blend of several different essential oils mixed with fractionated coconut oil.
        You can use essential oils in a diffuser for a gentle mood enhancing effect, or mix a few drops into a good quality natural skin cream for a lovely hand massage. Start with only one or two drops as essential oils are very strong and see how he responds before making the blend stronger.

    • Pam

      thank you for sharing your experience. I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2013 & interested in trying these oils.

      • Karen

        I am sure you will love using essential oils. My mother is now in an assisted living facility, and I am approaching the facility to use essential oils in their main gathering room. I am an educator on essential oils, and avid user myself.
        If you would like to learn more about pure, therapeutic-grade oils, and ones that I believe are the best on the market, you can contact me at any time and I’d love to educate you. Blessings, Karen

        • Sue Sutherland

          by “educator” do you mean that you hold an aromatic medicine qualification ?

      • claire davidson

        Pam have you found the oils work? Sending you love xx

    • Heather oglesby

      Yes..I am a DoTERRA Welnees Advocate and started using the oils when my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s last year at age 65. We use Frankinsence for mental clarity. We definitely see her more alert. I diffuse balance and serenity in her room for good sleep and eucalyptus when she catches colds.

      • Gill Tritter

        How do you administer Frankincense?

        • Diamond J Pouncil

          I dilute it with coconut oil and apply it to the bottoms on the feet. Works very well. I use Young living oils for everything.

    • claire davidson

      Hi can I please ask for help from pcqrrieri my mum has just been diagnosed with early stages of dimentia I am going to robustly go through everything I can which could help her can you please give me adovice in which oils to buy and where I can get them? I know time is precious so I thank you for yours in advance with love Claire

    • Kathleen Navarre

      I wish you would say more about doses and how you use the Serenity. I’m in Doterra. My mom is also 89 with dementia.

  • DeeAnn

    I have used DoTerra oils for almost a year now with great success for my health concerns but hadn’t thought about it for my 89 year old mom who lives with me. I am excited to use the oils mentioned for Alzheimers. My mom has never been diagnosed with it but is showing signs of the disease. Thanks for the suggestions.

  • mturchi

    Thank you so much for this discussion! My mom has dementia and I found diffusing an oil blend with basil, peppermint & rosemary at night helps with her mental clarity. As with anything, it is important to know how the oils are made so the quality is assured.

    • Connie

      Mturchi, How long did you use the oils before you could see a difference in your Mom?

    • Sue Sutherland

      I would have thought that peppermint and rosemary would be better during the day. They may prevent sleep if used at night. I found that spearmint essential oil was very good when I worked as an aromatherapist at a Nursing Home, as it is softer and more gentle than peppermint.

      • Bonnie Kline

        Sue, may I ask you what schooling you completed to become an aromatherapist? 🙂

  • Janet McGee

    Do you mean Lemon Balm (Melissa sp., a member of the mint family which spreads quickly and can take over a garden plot seemingly overnight), or lemon oil? These are two distinctly different botanical entities.

  • Karah Frances

    Frankincense is also amazing for those suffering with Alzheimer’s

    • Sue Sutherland

      I was head aromatherapist in a nursing home several years ago. It’s important to be aware of the strong memory associations involved with the sense of smell, especially with people with alzeimers conditions. I had one client freak out entirely with frankincense as he had had a bad experience as a child. Took the staff by surprise. Frankincense resin was used as incense a lot in the Catholic Church and it is one to be especially aware of when treating the elderly. I also found that Lavender occasionally triggered negative reactions in some people. These are just some of the reasons that there is such a thing as Diploma and Degree courses in Aromatherapy and Aromatic Medicine. It’s a lot more than just buying some MLM oils from someone who’s read a book.

      • Michelle

        There are many people, such as myself who are selling Young Living oils and DoTerra oils that also have their aromatherapist degrees and certifications. There are many qualified and certified holistic practitioners as well. Please refrain from zoning in on MLM companies and trying to portray yourself as the only knowledgable species in the use of essential oils.

        • Melissa A

          Thank you Michelle!!! As a Young Living member myself, I get so aggravated when people cut down companies just because they are MLM. As of right now I don’t even do the business side of my YL and I and my family and friends have benefitted GREATLY from Young Living! Just because you have a piece of paper that says you know something doesn’t make you God of it.

  • Mike

    Peppermint and Lavender oils work great for migraines. Apply to temples

  • CLBailey

    I have been using EOs through several stages of my mom’s ALZ care. What I have seen is remarkable. Mom’s disease took her language first, so for years we created strategies for communication while her memory stayed in tact. During her agitation stage, we diffused lavender along with other blends that had lavender in them. I placed a diffuser at her bedside and was able to have the nurse create orders for caregivers to start diffusing 2 to 3 times per day: nap time, bedtime. When sickness spread through the building we diffused a blend which supported her immune system. (Not only did this benefit her, but others in the memory care area received the same support unintentionally.) The sickness didn’t travel to that living area. The use of EOs became so successful that caregivers began diffusing in their stations. When my mom was diagnosed with a UTI we combined her medication with Lemongrass. Now once or twice a week we diffuse Lemongrass to support UT health. We have successfully used a blend which has ginger, peppermint and fennel for constipation. Peppermint was supportive during a period of little responsiveness. Hand massages stimulate brain activity. EOs have been so helpful because of the option of topical use and aromatic use. Mom refuses most medications so the molecules from the EOs can support her. Mom is NOT getting better…she still has a disease which is snatching parts of her away, BUT EOs have supported her in so many different areas. I only wish that I had known about them years ago. I would have started her on Frankincense. Grateful for this article.

    • Sue Sutherland


  • Gianna Romano Carrusca

    I’ve started using doterra essentials oils about 2 months ago. I have been on medication called Nexium for 6 years. 2 months ago I started taking Digestzen and it works well, I haven’t taken Nexium since. I also had the flu for 3 weeks and couldn’t shake it off, I used Ongaurd and my flu had gotten better in 3 days. I also find Frankincense is good rubbing it on your forehead when you have tension.

  • judy brinks

    how can i order do terra blend oils – seems that you need an ID #
    i simply want to place an order

  • AnitaRose

    Please be aware of contraindications involving medications your loved one may be using such as Rosemary and certain blood pressure medication. Confer with a professional aromatherapist to ensure safety and best practice I use of essential oils are maintained.

  • What a crock!

    • Sue Sutherland

      I used to work as head aromatherapist in a nursing home. We were able to get the people off many pain meds and sleep meds through using essential oils in skin cream blends and diffusers. Essential oils are very powerful substances. But it’s a shame that MLM companies are just cashing in on the science that has been done over the years and so people are now less likely to take them seriously.

  • Tresha

    What’s the difference between diffused and sprayed?

    • Sue Sutherland

      A diffuser has an internal tube/bowl that is filled with essential oil and then a jet of air sends the essential oil into the room in a very fine mist. This method is especially good for use in a large room. If you spray the essential oil it generally needs to be diluted. Either way has it’s uses.

      If you want to soothe and refresh someone it can be nice to make a spray using rose-water as the carrier and spray it onto the face and body .. (make sure you use gentle oils for this .. such as lavender, sandalwood, geranium etc .. not lemon or oregano etc) . …
      If you want to create a calming and relaxing atmosphere in a room, as well as help protect against cold/flu viruses in the air then the diffuser would be best.
      The warming diffusers are just not anywhere near as effective in vaporising the oils .. and if you use one with a candle under it they can run out of water in the bowl and burn the essential oil.

      • caitlinburm

        Thank you for sharing those tips with us, Sue!

  • nancy

    Hey, lovely advice for dementia patients- essential oils would so expand and enrich the patients daily life. I do want to mention a caution: in your recommendation of ylang ylang oil you suggested mixing with lemon, then advised that ylang ylang could be used in a bath which is awesome- but please be careful with lemon oil or any citrus oil in a warm or hot bath! It will sting the skin and can leave painful red marks. That is all.

    • Sue Sutherland

      good advice. Each essential oil has different properties so make sure you know the properties and contraindications of each one you use. xx

  • Eileen Hannon

    my mom is getting very confused and thinks people are visiting who are not. Is there a blend I can use to help her think clearer and not see things/people

    • Shirlsaw63

      Eileen – seeing people in hallucinations is a clear sign of Lewy Body dementia. If you haven’t taken your Mom to a doctor specializing in Memory please do so. My mother has the same condition

  • Pam

    What can be used for sundowning?

  • Guest

    MLM marketers, please refrain from making your ridiculous marketing claims about your oils all over the Internet. You are an embarrassment to real aromatherapists. There is no certifying body that grades essential oils. The terms clinical and therapeutic grade are nothing but marketing terms. And Young Living is not the world leader in essential oils. That’s true only in Gary Young’s mind. And both Young Living and Doterra are only average quality and very over priced. Notice that the folks hawking them on the Internet can only call themselves Wellness Advoctes not aromatherapists. And frequently their recommendations are unsafe and promote excessive use in order to get people to use up their oils in order to need to buy more. They are not trained in aromatherapy, only in how to market and their claims are bogus. Be afraid of them, be very afraid.

    • dorygold

      I am curious as to what EO you use. As Young Living and Doterra only produce average quality oils what company do you suggest makes the best essential oils.

    • Ezekiel’s Garden

      I am at the end of my training to become an Aromatherapist and have been using doTERRA for 3 years. I have yet to find a better brand!

  • swish

    Please, before you use any essential oil product, do your research. Make sure the brand you choose are grown, distilled, and tested by a company that owns it’s own farms. Many essential oil educators, including aromatherapists get their product from 3rd party brokers therefor you do not know if the oil has been adulterated with a claim to be pure therapeutic grade oil. Because essential oils are not regulated by the FDA, nor do we want them to be, the risk of adulteration by companies that gather their product from anyone offering a low price is great.

  • I think the ‘familiarity of scent’ has a profound impact on people and their memories. It can trigger parts of the brain that were once forgot. i.e. the smell of your mums lavender garden when you smell Lavender oil. This familiar aroma mixed with familiar memory is often overlooked as a good way to invigorate the mind.

  • Joanna Bristow-Watkins

    Lemon balm and lemon oil are not the same …

  • Graham Davenport

    I am thinking that these oils would be ideal when used with Lava Rock pendants, bracelets etc

  • Maureen Coulson

    My mom has dementia & night is worse for her. She gets anxiety so i’m thinking of buying the rosemary or peppermint. Also the lavender to help calm her & make her sleep better. I could also us this as i am very tired all the time! I work hard & i take care of my mom she lives next to me in a condo so i help her when i can. Do these really work & should i get a diffuser to just put in her room. What is best? Thank you

  • Sandra Wilbanks

    Young living oils are the best there is! Peppermint is awesome for head aches. Lavender is amazing. Runny nose? Put 1 drop across the bridge of your nose and no more runny nose!!

  • sharonthiel

    How would you best use these oils, alone or blended, as aromatherapy in a pad-holding pendant worn around the neck? My 89 year old sister is only demonstrating occasional, and most often mild, symptoms of confusion, memory loss and sundowning, and often gets up frequently during the night due to restless sleep and cravings/hunger. She still lives mostly independently, with incoming help a few times per week, so has no one to watch over her use of things like electric diffusers or to monitor how much she might put on her wrists, back of neck, etc. Putting the pads in the pendant is safest and simplest for her, and I can color code them and mark their little zip lock bags in big block letters to identify when to use them and for what. Just need a better understanding of what ones can be blended, etc. Thanks!

    • Tracy McPherson

      I would use them in a blended synergy and diffuse it in an oil diffuser of any type. An oil diffuser pendant would also work well with this. Blending can be tricky as each oil is different and would need to be added in differing amounts. Any chance you had any aromatherapy training? You would not blend all seven together but use maybe 2 or 3 depending on what you want to achieve with the blend.

  • Rachel Hawkridge

    Whoa! The author, and the half dozen doTerra WAs on the first page of comments are not trustworthy sources of info! Look at #5.

    Lemon BALM and lemon are entirely different plants, entirely different oils, different properties. Using lemon, when you need/want to use lemon balm is bad idea. REALLY BAD.

  • Ttatiana

    Thank you for the post. I always use oils and was glad to know that it’s not only pleasant but useful as well. Found more oils and their benefits here [Link Removed]

  • Mary Green

    I am currently studying to become a Registered, Master Aromatherapist. I would just urge caution in the use of essential oils on the elderly, due to their more frail constitution. Essential oils can be dangerous if used and administered improperly.

  • Adriane Baldwin

    Yes, there are other high quality essentials oils available. I have compared lots of oils from several different companies. There isn’t just one company with the best oils. I have found that I prefer particular oils from various companies. I do have friends using mlm companies for their own benefit rather than selling. One, is very paranoid about using any other company and never believes anything negative about the company. When I began my own personal essential oil journey, mainly for scoliosis back pain and tension headaches, I knew that there had to be other EO companies that were high quality. To me this was pure common sense. There isn’t just one company and one distiller that can get it right. I was highly motivated to do my homework and buy from several companies to truely find out what works best for me and my family. I still continually do my homework and research and I am always continually learning. At the end of this comment, I will tell a few companies I like and favorites from them. If I had to choose to rank these companies, it would look like this: (My first and second pick could really be interchangeable, and has nothing to do with one being lower quality. My first pick is due to having such a complete line of organic oils, carriers, many things you may want for using your oils, very reasonable pricing, generous amounts of reward points, lots of coupons, oil of the month and week. Second pick is high quality and shouldn’t be looked over.)
    1. Plant Therapy
    2. Rocky Mountain Oils
    3. Mountain Rose Herbs Oils
    4. Florihana: does the job and very affordable but most oils are not as fragrant so these can be great depending on your need

    Therapeutic means that the oils are actually doing there job. There are many companies that have been around for a long time that sell oils that are therapeutic.
    For me, and my family (hubby too), we use mostly, frankincense, Copaiba, Valor (spruce, blue tansy, Frankincense and rosewood-not necessary), Eucalyptus Globulus, peppermint, lavender, chamomile, Immunity blends for kids and adults, PT kids line- I use these as well. I also use acv when there is sickness, diarrhea and stomach bug around the house. I use about 1T. In a half glass of cold grape juice. A tip: don’t diffuse all day unless in a large completely open room. When I began diffusing, I would diffuse all day in my kitchen. Even though my livingroom, family room and dining room…are all in seperate rooms, it was too much that I lost my sense of smell which is sad when you can’t smell your favorite oil. Within a half day of not diffusing, my sense of smell returned. 30 minutes a couple times a day is plenty.
    Here is more specifics for those interested. Some are kid and baby friendly for those that need to be cautious:
    -Lavender/Cedarwood (jojoba/5 drops each/5ml roller) -Baby and Me Time, and anxiety place on heart, spine and wrists
    -Lavender/Lemon/Frankincense (3 drops each, diffuse) -baby friendly, for boosting immune system
    -Chamomile: can use alone or blend with equal parts lavender (great for anxiety, shallow breathing and racing heart
    -Lemon (10 drops in 5ml roller) -Baby friendly, up and down spine for drawing out virus and sickness and boosting immunity
    -Valor: This blend can be found on pinterest (30 drops-more or less based on need and sensitivity/10ml roller or diffuse 3-10 drops) -helps with regeneration and soreness for scoliosis, use at least twice a day/exceptional for anxiety!
    -Frankincense: a booster, use last when layering – for tension headache use rollers for Eucalyptus Globulus, wait 30 seconds, layer on Peppermint, then Copaiba and/or Frankincense, I use this and carrot seed oil with jojoba oil at night on my face, neck and upper chest. About 10 minutes later, I notice a cooling and relaxing of my body. Massaging frankincense into your feet with a carrier oil can relax you even more.
    -Plant Therapy Kids line set of rollers: these are formulated buy a famous long time aromatherapist, Robert Tisserland.
    -Clove/Tea Tree/Helichrysum/and/or Frankincense: for acne -teenage sons ance has healed up tremendously. He still get acne but very minimal compared to only using dermatologist products
    -Clary Sage/Lavender for anxiety and stuff nose in inhaler
    Immunity Blend (A thieves or Onguard blend with Tea Tree, Lemon, Oregano): use in roller for when there is sickness around or when sick, roll on feet, and spine. Many swear by this and oils, saying they never ever get sick. Oils are not magical, but they do help your body do its job better. I have noticed when I am catching my kids sicknesses with slight runny nose here and there, but I have noticed that the oils help my body keep them at bay or fight them off quickly. Ever so often, I do get more than the sniffles. It is important to not pretend to others that oils keep you in perfect health. And do not listen to others that tell you to ingest them no matter how tempting it sounds. You can not see your insides nor the damage being done. I once used thieves to clean my Brazilian wood island. There were a couple permanent marker spots that I used a drop of it on. Shortly after, I began to rub it with soap and water dish cloth. It took off the marker and I was thrilled. I thought I had thoroughly taken up all the thieves but when I check it later, it had continued to eat through the entire finish! Very powerful! No one should ingest this even with an emulsifier.
    A few companies I use and at least one favorite from them (these companies have organic oils and on site test results):
    -Florihana: Ylang Ylang Extra, Spruce and Carrot Seed, Copaiba (for pain)
    -Plant Therapy: Organic Blue Tansy (smelling this from bottle makes me feel less stressed), Kids Line set (silky soft for helping to heal scabs and after shaving (diaper rash spray with coconut oil, let air dry before applying, let air dry a few minutes after spraying), better than kisses for fresh cleaned owiees, germ fighter as roller or use in diffuser for immunity, odor zapper for deodorant when not needing schmidt’s rose and vanilla, tummy all better helps release gas used in roller clockwise circles around tummy about 10 times getting everywhere, calming the child helps with anxiety
    -Rocky Mt. Oils: Organic Lemon (10 drops in a roller), Organic Frankincense Carteri (The organic set they have is great. Like many other high quality companies, they buy from non certified organic farms and are being to build up higher demand oils that are from certified organic farms)
    -Mt. Rose Herbs: Geranium and Vanilla Absolute

  • Terrence L Silver

    My mom is 89 & suffering from Alzheimers. I am her new to this and want to find out as much as I can. I am very encouraged reading these comments about essential oils. Which oil works best? I read the comments below about serenity and how it helped a woman’s mom. I want to try this but where do I find it? I live in the Kentucky/ Indiana area and would love to find these oils.[Link Removed] Thks

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