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Aromatherapy and Cancer

The focus of an onco­lo­gi­cal cen­ter is the holi­stic tre­at­ment of peo­p­le suf­fe­ring from can­cer. In addi­ti­on to clas­si­cal medi­ci­ne, sup­port­i­ve inte­gra­ti­ve pro­ce­du­res have also been estab­lished for this pur­po­se in recent deca­des. For exam­p­le, aro­ma­the­ra­py in the hos­pi­tal. It is alre­a­dy an inte­gral part of inte­gra­ti­ve tre­at­ment in many hos­pi­tals in the USA, Eng­land and Australia.

Integrative Oncology

Many can­cer pati­ents ask them­sel­ves what they can do them­sel­ves to con­tri­bu­te to a posi­ti­ve cour­se of the dise­a­se and tre­at­ment. In par­ti­cu­lar, due to the com­plex dia­gno­stic and tre­at­ment pro­ce­du­res, pati­ents often feel power­less. Com­ple­men­ta­ry medi­ci­ne pro­ce­du­res can be a valuable sup­port during and after tumor the­ra­py in order to alle­via­te side effects and late effects of tumor the­ra­py and to impro­ve the qua­li­ty of life. The term “com­ple­men­ta­ry medi­ci­ne” encom­pas­ses a wide ran­ge of disci­pli­nes and tre­at­ment methods that are based on alter­na­ti­ve models of the deve­lo­p­ment of dise­a­ses and their tre­at­ment than tho­se of con­ven­tio­nal medi­ci­ne. Howe­ver, they do not replace con­ven­tio­nal medi­ci­ne. Fur­ther­mo­re, they are to be con­side­red as a sup­ple­ment. Com­ple­men­ta­ry medi­ci­ne includes natur­opa­thic advice, offers to streng­then self-heal­ing powers, rela­xa­ti­on methods and com­ple­men­ta­ry nur­sing applications.

It is now wide­ly accept­ed that the inci­dence of many tumor enti­ties can be redu­ced by appro­pria­te nut­ri­ti­on. This is how nut­ri­tio­nal advice has beco­me estab­lished in almost every onco­lo­gi­cal medi­cal faci­li­ty in Ger­ma­ny. Expe­ri­en­ced nut­ri­ti­on coa­ches advi­se pati­ents and empower them with know­ledge. What is new, on the other hand, is the area of com­ple­men­ta­ry tre­at­ment with aro­mas. So-cal­led aro­ma­the­ra­py can have various posi­ti­ve effects on pati­ents who suf­fer from the side effects of can­cer the­ra­py (che­mo­the­ra­py, radia­ti­on, etc.).

Aromatherapy and Cancer

In a hos­pi­tal atmo­sphe­re, whe­re the can­cer is trea­ted with strong drugs such as che­mo­the­ra­py, it is par­ti­cu­lar­ly good for the pati­ent to be cared for with insi­nua­ting, warm­ing and psy­che-enligh­tening scents. At the same time, the immu­ne sys­tem can be sti­mu­la­ted with the right aro­mas, so that fears, hope­l­ess­ness, men­tal stress, hel­p­less­ness and iso­la­ti­on fade into the back­ground. In con­nec­tion with a hos­pi­tal stay, various aro­mas are now known to be fac­tors that can redu­ce an immu­ne respon­se in the body. In a psycho-emo­tio­nal balan­ce, the body can coun­ter­act the tumor and sup­port onco­lo­gi­cal the­ra­py. Essen­ti­al oils obtai­ned from plants can be used as part of an indi­vi­du­al tre­at­ment and achie­ve posi­ti­ve effects.

For exam­p­le, in the case of nau­sea and loss of appe­ti­te, two com­mon accom­pany­ing sym­ptoms of che­mo­the­ra­py, gin­ger oil, pep­per­mint oil or fen­nel oil can be inha­led or appli­ed as a mas­sa­ge. Ano­ther opti­on is mou­th­wa­sh with aloe vera gel and a few drops of Cana­di­an turm­e­ric oil (Hyd­ras­tis cana­den­sis) to tre­at inflamm­a­ti­on of the oral muco­sa, which can occur as part of che­mo­the­ra­py due to the dama­ged gas­tro­in­testi­nal mucosa.

Many doc­tors would like to inte­gra­te aro­ma­the­ra­py or aro­ma­the­ra­py into their tre­at­ment con­cepts. It is the­r­e­fo­re important that the pati­ent hims­elf or the nur­sing staff have a sound edu­ca­ti­on. Essen­ti­al oils must be safe to use in pati­ent work. At the Cha­ri­té, inclu­ding at the women’s cli­nic on Cam­pus Virch­ow Kli­ni­kum, the­re are offers of a wide varie­ty of com­ple­men­ta­ry the­ra­pies. Stu­dies on the effec­ti­ve­ness and safe­ty of com­ple­men­ta­ry medi­cal pro­ce­du­res and the eva­lua­ti­on of inte­gra­ti­ve medi­cal approa­ches are car­ri­ed out in seve­ral insti­tu­tes and working groups. Rese­arch in this area is important becau­se alter­na­ti­ve medi­ci­ne is dis­ad­van­ta­ged due to the (still small) num­ber of stu­dies and the lack of sci­en­ti­fic evi­dence.
Nevert­hel­ess, the num­ber of open-min­ded (school) phy­si­ci­ans who also reco­gni­ze and inte­gra­te self-coll­ec­ted know­ledge and expe­ri­en­ces is growing.


Klaus Bahl­sen Cen­ter for Inte­gra­ti­ve Onco­lo­gy

C. E. Elson, D. M. Peff­ley, P. Hent­osh, H. Mo: Proc. Soc. Exp. Biol. Med. 221, 294–311 (1999). D. Big­ga: Mit äthe­ri­schen Ölen gegen Nach­wir­kun­gen der Bestrah­lungs- the­ra­pie. Forum Essen­zia, Heft 18: Kamil­le (2000).

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