Aromatherapy and essential oils have been in use for generations to alleviate symptoms of anxiety, insomnia and depression. Essential oils can also boost memory, improve moods and ease agitation in patients living with Alzheimer’s or dementia. 

Vineyard Henderson will utilize aromatherapy in our spa, as well as during massages and physical therapy treatments. Our life enrichment programs are designed to use cutting edge methods to enhance our resident’s physical and mental wellbeing. To learn more about this practice, read our guide on the benefits of aromatherapy and essential oils for memory care. 

Aromatherapy and Essential Oils: The Basics

Aromatherapy is both an art and a science. The practice offers a holistic approach to healthcare by using essential oils to balance the mind, body, and spirit. To briefly break down the science of aromatherapy: scents trigger olfactory receptors that stimulate the emotional center of the brain.

While aromatherapy and essential oils have been around for centuries, clinical findings proved its effectiveness in 1937, according to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy.

Essentials oils come from plants, herbs, flowers, and trees. In aromatherapy, patients inhale, ingest or apply oils topically. According to Healthline, some of the many benefits of essential oils include:

  • Relaxation
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Improved sleep quality
  • Stress reduction
  • Eased depression symptoms

Benefits for Those With Alzheimer’s or Dementia

While the search for comprehensive dementia treatments continues, studies suggest that aromatherapy and essential oils may treat symptoms of the disease. Aromatherapy can relieve general depression symptoms, according to recent research. As depression is a common side effect for individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other dementias, aromatherapy treatments can improve overall quality of life.

Aromatherapy and essential oils can also ease anxiety, which ultimately improves the quality of sleep. NIH research shows that restful sleep is imperative for Alzheimer’s patients as unrest can increase the protein associated with the disease.  

Agitation from memory loss is often one of the more difficult symptoms to treat. Recent studies show that several essential oils—including lavender, bergamot, and lemon—can calm memory care patients. The oils suppress both aggression and agitation.

Besides relieving symptoms associated with memory disturbances, aromatherapy can improve cognitive performance. A 2012 study shows that rosemary can boost overall brain performance. Additionally, a 2013 study provides evidence that rosemary may improve the ability to remember events and future tasks. A 2009 study of general aromatherapy and dementia patients also showed significant improvement in cognitive function for all those studied.

Best Essential Oils for Aging Adults

The world of essential oils can be overwhelming at first, with endless possibilities available for purchase. Don’t worry, just start slow with some of the basics. The following oils are widely available and effective at treating/controlling different dementia symptoms.


Lavender is associated with calmness—it can ease anxiety and lessen mood swings. Use lavender as a massage oil, lightly spray it on your bed linens, or simply inhale the scent at times of stress.


Peppermint is an energizing scent, used to stimulate the mind. Consider using peppermint oil in the morning with a diffuser or room spray. Additionally, topical application of peppermint oil has antiviral, antimicrobial, anti-fungal and analgesic properties.


Similar to peppermint, rosemary offers an uplifting and invigorating scent that stimulates the mind. Rosemary can also improve cognitive performance and memory.


Bergamot is a citrus oil that helps enliven the senses. Use this oil to treat stress, agitation, and anxiety. Consider putting drops of bergamot in a bath, using as a massage oil or clothing spray. When ingested, research also suggests that the oil may lower cholesterol.


Lemon oil is one of the more expensive essential oils, but also one of the most effective and well-studied options. It can increase relaxation, improve memory and ease indigestion.

Manage Dementia and Alzheimer’s with Aromatherapy and Essential Oils

The use of aromatherapy as a supplemental and non-pharmacological treatment for dementia and Alzheimer’s has become increasingly popular. Several studies show promising results that the practice can alleviate many symptoms for patients.